Capitalism's New Economy: The Illusion of a Productive Economy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/08/2019 - 1:41am in

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Part four of this article was written before the biggest financial crash was followed by the biggest banking bail-out in capitalism's history, yet it is interesting to see that essentially the same economic profile presents itself today.

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Capitalism's New Economy: The Booming Financial Sector

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/07/2019 - 11:42pm in

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Part three of this series was published in 2005, two years or so before the great financial crash when the economic pundits were lauding the move away from manufacture to 'business and financial services'.

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Review of Akala’s ‘Natives. Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire.’ July 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/07/2019 - 4:41am in

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How will pan-Africanism help us when inequality between the rich and the poor is widening and more and more sections of the population become disenfranchised?

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Capitalism's New Economy: The Value of Capitalist Services

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/07/2019 - 9:35pm in

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This second article in our series examines what is meant by ‘services’ and their apparently key role in the richest capitalist states where moving away from production of commodities is regarded as essential to economic advancement. Indeed, despite the setback of the 2007/8 financial crash, World Bank figures show that ‘services’ represent a higher proportion of GDP for the world economy as a whole. For the UK 77.4% of GDP was attributed to ‘services’ in 2018.

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Capitalism's New Economy: The Case of the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/07/2019 - 10:17pm in

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The article here, the first in a series on what was then dubbed the "new economy", originally appeared in the CWO's political journal, Revolutionary Perspectives, in 2005.

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Class, racism and women’s oppression - Critical thoughts on intersectionality theory

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/06/2019 - 5:48am in



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Only the discovery of the fact that it is our cooperation under capital’s command that makes us poor and gives us the power to produce a different world turns class into a transformative and universal category.

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Working Class Decomposition and Gig Economy Work

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/06/2019 - 11:27am in

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On 8 May 2019 around 300 protesters, mostly Uber and Lyft drivers, blocked Market Street in San Francisco in front of Uber's international headquarters as part of a global strike by drivers timed to coincide with Uber's IPO. This brief analysis attempts to situate these struggles against working class decomposition, with its roots in neoliberal deregulation, and the rise of so-called "gig economy" work.

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Book Review: The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students by Anthony Abraham Jack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/05/2019 - 8:00pm in

In The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, Anthony Abraham Jack seeks to better comprehend the unnoticed heterogeneous experiences of first-generation, low-income students navigating campus life at elite universities in the United States. This is a significant contribution to debates on class and mobility, writes Malik Fercovic, that compels us to think carefully about the responsibilities of elite […]

Book Review: The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students by Anthony Abraham Jack

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2019 - 11:35pm in

In The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, Anthony Abraham Jack seeks to better comprehend the unnoticed heterogeneous experiences of first-generation, low-income students navigating campus life at elite universities in the United States. This is a significant contribution to debates on class and mobility, writes Malik Fercovic, that compels us to think carefully about the responsibilities of elite institutions when it comes to inequalities within their student bodies. 

The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Anthony Abraham Jack. Harvard University Press. 2019.

Find this book: amazon-logo

The field of social mobility studies lives through vibrant times. Against the backdrop of the dominant Nuffield ‘paradigm’ led by John Goldthorpe and primarily dedicated to measuring intergenerational mobility patterns at the national level, a plethora of recent work has uncovered the diversity of social mobility across class, gender and race, and both between and within national contexts. Though not entirely new, this concern in addressing diversity among the socially mobile appears to have taken on a heightened intensity. A cursory tour of fresh examples of this trend include Paul Pasquali’s Passer les Frontières Sociales, Diane Reay’s Miseducation (2017), Jules Naudet’s Stepping into the Elite and Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison’s The Class Ceiling. Significantly, the interest in social class and mobility has not been confined to narrow academic circles, but has also reached larger audiences via Didier Eribon’s penetrating 2009 essay Returning to Reims and Édouard Louis’s resounding novels.

Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students is part of this growing stream of scholarship and sensibility. Jack’s specific focus is to better comprehend the unnoticed heterogeneous experiences of first-generation, low-income students who have landed through perseverance and good fortune at an elite university in the United States – an institution referred to as ‘Renowned’. Based on extensive qualitative research, this book’s central message is as plain as it is substantial: access is not the same as inclusion. Increasing the number of low-income students in higher education is only the start of a university’s obligations. At least equally relevant is how disadvantaged students integrate themselves once inside elite universities. Attending an elite university for first-generation students is often accompanied by a painful and isolating dislocation between their class of origins and their current location at an Ivy League institution. With clear and vivid prose, Jack uncovers this lingering yet differentiated influence of class in shaping the lives of disadvantaged students in a wider context of escalating inequalities – racial, geographic and residential – in the US.

The Privileged Poor aims to provide a solid answer to the following question: how can students from similarly disadvantaged social backgrounds navigate the same elite university so differently? In order to better understand the lives of low-income students at Renowned, Jack’s main conceptual contribution is to distinguish between the ‘privileged poor’ and the ‘doubly disadvantaged’. The privileged poor refers to poor students educated at preparatory or boarding secondary schools in which they interacted with wealthy peers, immersing themselves earlier in the cultural norms and social rules that dominate privileged environments. The doubly disadvantaged, by contrast, designates those students who enter university from segregated and underfunded state schools, without any significant interactions with well-off students or teachers prior to higher education. In addition to addressing the unobserved diversity within low-income students, this typology brings to the fore the role of secondary schools in moulding the trajectories of disadvantaged student before and during higher education. This conceptual distinction sheds light not only on how but also when social class shapes inequality processes at Renowned.

The Privileged Poor is based on 103 interviews and two years of participant observation at Renowned. As both a first-generation African-American student from an underprivileged background and a researcher working at this prestigious academic institution, Jack is well placed to give a plural voice to the experiences of low-income students at elite universities. Jack’s methods and data-collecting techniques not only registered disadvantaged students’ narratives about their own experiences at university but also observed their daily practices on campus. This allowed him to uncover how disparate pre-university experiences affect the cultural and social resources economically disadvantaged students bring to elite universities, and how they use these resources when navigating campus life. But Jack also offers highly valuable, if initial, reflections on the heavy emotional burden involved in giving a voice to the painful experiences disadvantaged students face at elite universities. Jack’s fieldwork lessons suggest that a thoughtful and skilful researcher needs to know how to deal with this both intellectually and emotionally.

Image Credit: Flags of the Ivy League fly at Columbia’s Wien Stadium (Kenneth C. Zirkel CC BY SA 4.0)

The Privileged Poor puts forward revealing findings about the different experiences of first-generation students at Renowned. Jack shows that the encounters between disadvantaged students and their privileged peers are powerfully shaped by both a different sense of belonging and displays of wealth saturating university life. But the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged face these challenges differently. In the narratives of the privileged poor, there is a clear sense of continuity between secondary school and university in terms of socialising practices and cultural norms. This previous socialisation and early exposure to privilege help them to effectively smooth their transition to campus life. For the doubly disadvantaged, however, their encounters with wealthy peers are experienced as ‘colliding worlds’ or an intense ‘cultural shock’. The everyday exhibitions of wealth among their privileged peers – in the form of expensive clothing or lavish holidays abroad – only serves to remind them that, even though they have managed to gain admission to Renowned, elite universities are not their place.

But the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged not only differ in their sense of belonging at Renowned. They also diverge in taking advantage of all the resources available for them at university. Given their familiarity with elite spaces from an earlier age, the privileged poor actively consult their professors to help them when they were struggling in class, and equally devote time to join social clubs and network with people who could be vital connections in the future. The doubly disadvantaged, by contrast, consider these attitudes as ‘sucking up’, as one of the interviewees tellingly puts it.  Many of them exclusively focus on studying and obtaining good marks, but are inhibited from attending office hours or reaching out for help when needed. The different support strategies that low-income student undertake, Jack suggests, are not only significant for the transition to university but are also very likely to be consequential in shaping unequal trajectories after university is finished.

And yet, despite all their differences in their adaptation to Renowned, the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged also share similar experiences. Here the focus turns to how material hardships prevent both the privileged poor and the doubly disadvantaged from fully integrating to university life, and the role university policies play in exacerbating this. Jack draws our attention to the unintended consequences of policies aggravating the distress or exclusion of disadvantaged students. These policies include a job programme offering poor students to clean their wealthy peers’ bathrooms, an ‘inclusion’ initiative oriented to help poor students afford social events but making them picking up the subsidised tickets in a separate line from well-off students and the closure of dining halls during spring breaks, leaving low-income students hungry. In all three cases, Jack shows, pre-existing structural inequalities are reinforced by reckless policies not only harming disadvantaged students’ sense of dignity, but also effectively increasing their lack of integration at elite universities.

The Privileged Poor thus persuasively shows the complex and multidimensional influence of class inequality at Renowned. Elite universities in the US have increased the diversity of their student body over the past decade. But, as Jack painstakingly reminds us, this is not equivalent to inclusion for many low-income, first-generation students. Unlike the bulk of the existing research insisting on family backgrounds to account for the struggles of low-income students at selective universities, Jack’s distinctive contribution is to signal the role secondary schools play in these processes. As ‘immensely powerful socializing forces’, these institutions differently mould the lives of those poor students who graduated from resource-rich private schools and those from distressed public secondary schools at Renowned. As a skilful interviewer and insightful observer, Jack reveals deep-seated class disparities that manifest themselves not just in the clothes students wear and the holidays they take, but in what they expect of their professors and envisage for themselves while in university and beyond. In so doing, Jack opens up new ground to interrogate the ‘long shadow’ of class inequality throughout the educational system. For all these reasons, this book is a considerable achievement.

Still, notwithstanding its many qualities, The Privileged Poor comes with some limitations. Firstly, Jack’s findings concerning the role of secondary schools need to be considered within the wider sociological literature. As sociologists have long conceptually recognised and empirically documented the significance of socialisation processes outside the family, Jack’s contribution in this respect is somewhat overstated. Here, among other references, Jack could have very well consulted Bernard Lahire’s The Plural Actor – an important book similarly concerned with class and the plurality of socialisation experiences shaping individual lives over their life-course.

Secondly, for all its insistence on class, the book lacks an explicit approach to this key concept. Within sociology there is no consensus on how to define class – the discussion still being highly disputed between the perspectives developed by Erik Olin Wright, Goldthorpe and Pierre Bourdieu. Judging by the literature on which Jack relies, he seems to make his own the Bourdieusian framework – the idea that class is the resulting process of economic, cultural and social resources, allowing some people to accumulate advantages over time relative to others. But why exactly is the Bourdieusian approach the best way to make sense to Jack’s findings? Curiously enough, this mostly remains backstage in the analysis. Although the lack of a formal definition of class does not considerably hinder our understanding of his findings, I believe a clearer conceptual approach on class could have enhanced Jack’s overall argument.

Thirdly, considering the expanding amount of high-quality research on social mobility produced outside the US, Jack’s book is surprisingly unconcerned by it. Indeed, Jack neglects the rich literature cited at the outset of this review, which is directly relevant to the topic at hand and would allow him to place and interrogate his findings within a wider perspective. Why does Jack overlook, like so many sociologists in the US, the work of his non-US-based peers on social class and mobility? Without excusing Jack’s omissions, I think this is related to broader trends concerning the politics of citation and the disparities of academic recognition in the sociological field at the international level, which can limit the advancement of sociology as a whole.

Despite all this, The Privileged Poor remains a significant contribution to the debate on class and mobility as well as a timely provocation to further analysis. As Jack compels us to think carefully both about the campus lives of poor students and the responsibility elite institutions have in this, it is hard to read his book without wondering what LSE is doing to face these challenges. Although previous research has addressed some of the difficulties low-income student face at selective academic institutions in the UK, several points raised by Jack remain underexplored (for example, the role of office hours and employment opportunities, food (in)security for students, undetected stigmatising practices), particularly those related to policies implemented at elite universities. The extent to which universities can effectively contribute to integrate their diverse but highly unequal communities still remains to be seen.

Malik Fercovic is a MPhil/PhD student in the LSE Department of Sociology. He is also part of the Leverhulme Programme (2016/2017 cohort) at the LSE International Inequalities Institute and the NYLON project. His research investigates the experience of upward social mobility in contemporary Chilean society. Malik holds a MSc in Governance of Risks and Resources from Heidelberg University, and a BA in Sociology from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Malik’s wider academic interests are in interdisciplinary approaches to social mobility and inequality and cultural sociology.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 

More Tory Racism As Suella Braverman Rants about ‘Cultural Marxism’

More Eurosceptic racism from the Tories. On Wednesday, Zelo Street reported on yet another embarrassment for the Tories when Suella Braverman, the MP for Fareham and another Brexiteer, used another term from the Far Right in a speech she gave to the Bruges group. This is another section of the Tory party composed of Eurosceptic fans of Maggie Thatcher. According to Business Insider, Braverman told the assembled Thatcherite faithful that as Conservatives they were engaged in the battle against cultural Marxism, and that she was frightened of the creep of cultural Marxism coming out of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.

Cultural Marxism is one of the big bugbears of the Far Right, including Anders Breivik. The Groan’s Dawn Foster recognised the term, and asked her to talk a bit more about it, considering that it had been used by the Fascist mass murderer. Braverman responded by saying that she believed we were in a struggle against cultural Marxism, a movement to snuff out free speech from the Far Left’. The Sage of Crewe points out that this really means that Braverman would like to be able to say whatever she wants, without being called out for it. Which she then was.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews then criticised her for her use of a term that is used extensively by the Far Right with anti-Semitic connotations. They told a reporter in the Jewish Chronicle that the term originated with the Nazis, who called it Kulturbolschewismus, ‘cultural Bolshevism’, and used it to attack Jewish intellectual, who they accused of spreading communism and sexual permissiveness. It is now popular amongst the Alt Right and Far Right. It is associated with a conspiracy theory that sees the Frankfurt School of Jewish philosophers and sociologists as the instigators of a campaign to destroy traditional western conservatism and traditional values. It was used by Anders Breivik in his manifesto, and by the vile mass murderer in New Zealand.

Zelo Street points out that Braverman was a leading Tory MP before she resigned over May’s Brexit deal. She used an anti-Semitic term, and had to have it pointed out to her that it was anti-Semitic. She then dismissed the criticism as an attack on her freedom of speech. He makes the point that if she had been a friend of Jeremy Corbyn, the press would have had a field day. Instead they were silent all that morning. Which shows that not only does the Tory party have an anti-Semitism problem, but their friends in the Tory press don’t want the rest of us to know about it.

There are several aspects to this. First of all, everything the Board’s spokesperson said about the origins and conspiracy theory behind the term is correctly. However, the Frankfurt school, while certainly leftists, were anti-Fascists, who believed that Adolf Hitler had been assisted into power through popular culture. They were passionate supporters of traditional European culture against what they saw as the destructive, coarsening effect of low culture, like comics. Frederic Wertham, who was the leader of the anti-comics crusade in the 1950s, shared many of their attitudes. He attacked comics because he was afraid they were sexualising and corrupting American youth, leading them into crime and juvenile delinquency.

The conspiracy theory confuses them, who were actually culturally conservative, with Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was an Italian Marxist, who had been imprisoned by Mussolini. He believed that instead of the economic structure of society determining culture, as in classical Marxism, culture also helped determine and reinforce the economic structure. Thus, if you wanted to attack capitalism, you had to change the culture. It’s also been confused with post-modernism and the rise of Cultural Studies, which does attack western culture for its racism and sexism.

And like much pernicious right-wing drivel, it also seems to be partly influenced by Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher was determined to purge British universities of Communists and Trotskyites, and so passed legislation that no Marxist could get a job as a lecturer. What happened was that the Commies and Trots got round it by denying that they were Marxists. They were instead Marxians, people who were Marxist in their culture. Now I can sympathise up to a certain point with Thatcher’s intentions. It is one-sided to ban the genocidal race-haters of the Fascists and Nazis from teaching, while permitting old school Stalinists, who also supported genocide, to continue in their jobs. But not all Marxists stood for Stalinist dictatorship. In the case of the Trots, it’s the exact opposite, although I doubt that Trotsky himself would not have been a dictator if he’d succeeded Lenin as the president of the Soviet Union. In any case, Thatcher’s attempts to purge the universities of Marxism was itself an attack on freedom of speech and thought.

The attacks on cultural Marxism are also being mobilised to justify continuing attacks on left-wing, anti-racist and anti-sexist staff and organisations at universities. It’s come at a time when fake, astro-turf students’ organisations in the US have been demanding and compiling watch lists of left-wing and liberal professors with the intention of trying to get them silenced or sacked. One of those calling for this was the right-wing Canadian psychologist and lobster overlord, Jordan Peterson. At the same time US conservatives and the Trump administration have also been trying to force universities and colleges to permit controversial extreme right-wing figures like Anne Coulter and Milo Yiannopolis to speak on campus. Coulter and Yiannopolis are extremely anti-feminist, with very reactionary, racist views, although Yiannopolis has tried to divert criticism by pointing out that he’s gay and has a Black husband. There have been mass protests against both of them when they have tried to speak on college campuses. But if people like Coulter and Yiannopolis have a right to speak to students, then students also have the right to protest against them in the name of free speech.

And cultural Marxism is a good term for attacking a range of separate concerns, like feminism, anti-racism and class inequality. These are related, overlapping attitudes. The same people, who are concerned about racism, for example, are also likely to be concerned about feminism and challenging class privilege. But it may not necessarily be the case. And these issues can be pursued separately from Marxism. But one of the points Hitler made is that when addressing propaganda to the masses, you always simplify everything so that they are against a single person or cause. The trope of cultural Marxism allows the right to carry on a campaign against feminism, anti-racism and other left-wing ideas through lumping them together. 

Braverman’s use of the trope of ‘cultural Marxism’ shows that she either doesn’t know what it means, or does know and is content with its anti-Semitic connotations. It also shows she doesn’t know anything about the term and its falsification of history. And by claiming that ‘cultural Marxism’ is creeping through Britain’s universities, it also amply shows that she is an enemy of real freedom of speech. Attacking ‘cultural Marxism’ is simply another strategy for trying to force students to accept right-wing indoctrination, while making sure that anything left-wing is thoroughly purged.

Braverman isn’t just using anti-Semitic terminology, she’s also showing herself an enemy of free speech, even while proclaiming that she and her Far Right wing friends are its defenders.