Why German Economic Thought Made the Greek Crisis Inevitable

"Contrary to popular misconception, rules were not meant to be broken"

Yesterday, after months of negotiations, Greece's Syriza government relented to the demands of its creditors and offered a set of “reforms” in exchange for continued loans. This reform package, which essentially matches the content of the draft plan Greek voters voted down on Sunday's referendum, will force the country to slash pensions, make further budget cuts, and adopt a series of regulatory changes designed to make the Greek economy more “competitive.” In the lead up to Sunday's referendum, many observers hoped that a decisive vote against the proposed measures would force the Troika—Greece's creditor institutions, the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International … [Read more...]

Stroking the Platypus

Time Enough at Last

What is information, though? And what is intellectual property? These questions bring us back to the issue of alienation, and the purported difference between industrial and service or knowledge labor. The celebrated sociologist Manuel Castells acknowledges that “information, in its broadest sense, e.g. as communication of knowledge, has been critical in all societies,” but he also maintains that the late twentieth century saw the rise of “a specific form of social organization in which information generation, processing, and transmission became the fundamental sources of productivity and power…”[1] What does it mean that information (and the handling of information) is the main source of … [Read more...]

The Thing Called Information: Understanding Alienation in the Post-Industrial Economy

Knowledge workers?

“Here, and shockingly few other places in this country, men are paid to increase knowledge, to work toward no end but that.” “That’s very generous of General Forge and Foundry Company.” “Nothing generous about it. New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become." Had I been a Bokononist then, that statement would have made me howl. - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cat’s Cradle, 1963[1] The late Kurt Vonnegut loved to skewer the irrationality of both science and religion in his novels. In the acclaimed Cat’s Cradle, he invented Bokononism—a faith that encouraged its adherents to believe in lies or, at least, “harmless … [Read more...]

South Asian American Femininity: Who Can Play?

Desi Hoop Dreams Cover

The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book Desi Hoop Dreams: Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity (New York University Press, 2015) from Stan Thangaraj, a City College professor of Anthropology and friend of Tropics of Meta.  This passage comes from Chapter 5, "Breaking the Cycle." which consists of a series of fascinating vignettes about contests over identity among Asian American basketball players in the South. Women are present at [desi basketball] tournaments. Their presence constitutes part of the pleasure men take in performing athletic masculinity. The men become the main targets of gaze for a wide audience. Additionally, many women play an … [Read more...]

13 Great Books on the Post-industrial Society

industrial vs postindustrial

Since at least the 1950s, scholars have speculated about what the economy might look like when and if manufacturing came to play a smaller role in employment, output, and so forth. Though we often think of the early years after World War II as the heyday of a high-wage, unionized, mass-production economy, the most perceptive observers at the time noticed that manufacturing was already shrinking as a proportion of employment by the late 1950s; even if the absolute number of industrial jobs was holding steady at the time, employment was growing fastest in services such as retail, education, healthcare, and so forth. The young radicals of the New Left took note of these trends in their 1962 … [Read more...]

Journalists vs. Academia: The Case of William Deresiewicz and Lawrence Buell’s The Dream of the Great American Novel

Great_Books

Everybody seems to have a problem with academics these days.  We've known for a long time that the American right hates us for our intellectual elitism and armchair radicalism, but now the mainstream left-leaning media has also acquired a taste for the game.  A number of recent articles and op-eds in newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic have taken humanities professors to task for everything from their "tin-eared arrogance" (Ron Rosenbaum) to their "bat-shit analysis" (Rebecca Schuman), for being "too sociological" (editors of N+1) and for not paying enough attention to contemporary society (Nicholas Kristoff).  We are condemned for our tenured loafers … [Read more...]

From Bauhaus to Your Mouse: Fred Turner’s Brilliant New Book on the Origins and Politics of Interactive Media

glimpses of USA

Democracy is a funny word.  In the strictest sense, it means “government by the people,” with decisions made by direct choice of those governed (in the classic Athenian or New Englandian sense) or by elected representatives. “Democratic” can mean inclusive; it can mean egalitarian.  It can mean diverse, in the sense that a democracy includes multiple voices, even if some end up prevailing over others.  It can also be a cultural sensibility—blue jeans, sloppy joes, and general unostentatiousness. “I know you like to line-dance, with everything so democratic and cool,” David Berman sang sixteen years ago, “but baby there’s no guidance when random rules…” The classic Silver Jews tune makes … [Read more...]

The Process of Belief?: Evolution, Creationism, and “Truth”

20140208_usp509

I didn’t watch the debate about evolution and creationism between science educator Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham this past Monday, but I have had a few general thoughts about this topic lately as this seems to have stirred up a necessary conversation about the nature of science. Science is not a belief system.  People mistakenly say that they believe in evolution but that is not an appropriate way to phrase it.  We think that evolution provides the best explanation for the data we currently have on the diversity of life. It is an intellectual process that should be based entirely on what we can observe or measure.  Of course, scientists are people too so they make mistakes in … [Read more...]

Race and Racism in the Early Medieval World

invention of racism in classical antiquity

Many people have a love/hate relationship with their undergraduate or graduate introductory historiography class.  I have taken three versions of the class now and each has had amazingly insightful weeks combined with dreadfully unhelpful weeks.   In the most recent iteration, a week spent discussing race allowed me to read some classic works, but also involved sitting mutely while modernists debated the intricacies of theory, particularly as it applies to the United States.  As an early medievalist, I had little to say.  After sitting mutely for most of the session, the professor turned to the pre-modernists in the room and asked, “what about the middle ages?” I only managed to muster a … [Read more...]

The Case Against “Bodies”

mannequins

I have never gone to see the Bodies exhibit.  Although the spectacle is tempting—to see the human form revealed in its purest muscularity, in a wild variety of poses—I could never quite reconcile myself to the idea of seeing the remains of people executed by the Chinese Communist Party stripped down and put on parade for American onlookers.  If I had to meet the misfortune of a death sentence from the local Politburo (or the grinning executioner here in Georgia), I would hate to think that I suffered insult as well as injury by having my body made to do tricks for a bunch of gawking tourists. Some might say it doesn’t matter because the postured objects down at Atlantic Station are just … [Read more...]

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