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Identity, Inc.

Liberal Multiculturalism and the Political Economy of Identity Politics

Jacob Ertel

The Left in the United States is at a critical juncture. Then again, it has been for roughly the past 35 years. With the onset of neoliberalism and the dissolution of the class-based politics of the 1960s and 1970s, a new political framework has emerged typified by the politicization of identity. It is this discourse that has prevailed on the Left since the early 1980s, always in tension with popular currents Marxian critique but oft posited as the sole truly radical theory and practice. To be sure, identity politics comes with indisputable benefits, including the reclaiming and centering of historical narratives and a more nuanced understanding of interpersonal forms of aggression and abuse. At the same time, however, certain critical features of Marxian critique have taken a backseat to this framework, which largely abjures a substantive analysis of the material conditions central to capitalist social relations in lieu of the purported deconstruction of institutional norms. In other words, the critique of classism (the individual denigration of people not exhibiting behavior or values associated with certain social classes) has largely superseded the critique of capitalism. It is worth considering, then, whether there is anything inherent about identity politics that necessitates an abandonment of veritable anti-capitalism in lieu of a more individualized form of putative radicalism. Is it purely by chance that the rise of identity politics coincides with the imposition of neoliberalism? Many might argue that political movements have in fact secured significant victories since the 1980s. This sentiment often hinges on the successes of mainstream gay rights movements, but is perhaps most explicitly embodied by myopic utterances of 'post-racialism' since the beginning of the Obama presidency. However, victories such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the election of Obama, do nothing to prevent state violence or the conditions that...

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That Poverty Which is Deep

Recent Statistics on the Children of the Poor

Jeremy Brunger

The United States leads the world in child poverty with the exception of three countries which lead it: Mexico, Chile, and Turkey. In other words, in regards to child poverty, the United States is right behind countries firmly considered to be part of the underdeveloped world. Such statistics rarely make the headlines or feature in our cultural productions-it is difficult to find popular cinema depicting such despair, or to find spaces of conversation in which such facts might make a splash. To talk of such things is taboo, to depict them bad investments. Unfortunately, deep poverty, and its correlate relative poverty, is a fact of life for many if not most of America's children, and there is no reputable forecast suggesting a decrease in this trend. Instead, it looks as though poverty will either stagnate, or increase, as the middle classes find themselves outsourced or out-competed once again, and the working poor continue on in their material misery. 1 in 3 American children live in some form of poverty: is this not the social class of the propertyless proletariat, reproduced over time? If long-term statistics from the National Center for Children in Poverty concerning life outcomes are accurate, then being born into poverty is the surest way to stay in it over the course of one's life. It is also important to note that, echoing the school-to-prison pipeline, poverty affects non-white Americans at a higher rate than white Americans. Historical racism has always leveraged supremacy on economic grounds-it is no surprise that such emergent effects arise from generations of impoverished families, school systems, and media representation. Deep poverty has historically been associated with the unreconstructed Gradgrindian South, but such trends have lately emerged in other parts of the country. It is a cynical idea, if perhaps a true one, that when poverty comes to characterize a white America devoid of myth, policy considerations might finally redirect toward the bottom line of the suffering majority. In the meantime and in lieu of...

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The Common Core of Being

Part Five

Tod Desmond & Boyce Brown

In the Republic, Plato suggests a model of five types of government and how they evolve from one to the other. In chronological order of succession these are aristocracy (rule by the philosophers), timocracy (rule by the warriors), oligarchy (rule by the wealthy), democracy (rule by the majority of the people) and tyranny (rule by the vicious tyrant). Clearly, no Weberian "ideal type" can ever perfectly describe reality and not even a philosopher as great as Plato can escape this fact. The succession may not always happen precisely in this order and many political systems exhibit qualities of more than one type at any given time. It could be argued, for example, that the present day American government demonstrates an amalgamation of all five. Plato's feverish city is not really his conception of an ideally just city. His ideal is more likely some combination of the original healthy city with aspects of the feverish society. The Orphic imagery of the healthy city (the vegetarianism, the wreathes of ivy, the singing of gods, and wine) point to the god Dionysus. The feverish city culminates with the image of the idea of the good, which corresponds to the way the Orphics worshipped Dionysus. The implication is that you can open the mind's eye to a vision of the idea of the good by congregationally singing to the cosmic God understood in an Orphic-Pythagorean way. The Pythagorean aspects of the feverish city and the agriculturally and economically self-sufficient Orphic city that preceded it could conceivably be combined to form a transformational society true to Plato's vision. The other three images of the future - continued growth, collapse, and disciplined - can be correlated to the other regimes Socrates describes in Book VIII. As mentioned above, America today seems to contain elements of each of the five regimes..

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Revolutionary Critical Pedagogy and the Struggle against Capital Today

An Interview with Peter McLaren

Derek R. Ford

There are always personal struggles that shadow shifts in political perspectives. I think it is important to recognize, too, that theory doesn't just come to you through books alone but through an engagement with the authors, if you are fortunate enough to do so. I was fortunate that in my early formation there were individual scholars who took time out to acknowledge my interest in their work-I was impressed, for instance, that Michel Foucault gave me the time of day during a class of his that I audited while a doctoral student in Toronto; there were others, too, that were courteous and hospitable and patient with my naïve quesitons: Jean Francois Lyotard, Anthony Wilden, and Ernesto Laclau stand out. That they were willing to engage with me, however briefly, in person, while I was a young scholar certainly influenced my early "critical postmodernism" period from the mid-1980s to early 1990s since I was more inclined to gravitate to their work after having conversations with them. Henry Giroux was another scholar who befriended me early on when I was a doctoral student and later I had the fortunate opportunity to work with Henry for eight very productive years at Miami University of Ohio. Stanley Aronowitz's mentoring was significant in my early leftist formation. So I owe a great deal of my orientation-both in my postmodern period and in my current Marxist work-to the kindness of individuals who were humble and gracious enough to befriend a relatively unknown scholar from el norte. One of the biggest influences on my work other than Paulo Freire and the life and legacy of Che Guevara has been the formidable Marxist scholar and activist, Peter Hudis. Peter was secretary to Raya Dunayevskaya, who..

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