On the replacement of knowledge and analysis by numbers


“ There’s nothing wrong with quantitative metrics. But they should be supplemented with qualitative yardsticks, and assessed with rigor. Instead, administrators use a narrow set of metrics to justify the neoliberal policies they endorse. For example, they defend the shift to STEM education on the basis of some empirical research while ignoring findings that would suggest a different set of educational priorities. Numbers have all but replaced analysis (…) Faculty end up worrying more about the number of articles they publish than their quality. Students end up focusing on grades rather than acquiring knowledge. Assessing a school’s performance comes down to enrollment numbers, grade distribution, and the introduction of new technologies. Intellectual curiosity, a passion for knowledge, and the pursuit of exciting questions have disappeared; no one has time to do anything except perform by the numbers (…) Schools and states are attacking the idea that faculty, who work in a setting where the free flow of ideas is vital, should be protected from controversy in their teaching and research ”

Harry Targ, ‘An Education Worth Fighting For’, Jacobin Magazine

On the divergent views within the Podemos movement


“ The calculation of the Errejonistas is that after forty years of neoliberalism, it is unrealistic in our atomized societies to expect a high degree of popular mobilization or sustained political commitment. In contrast, the radical municipalistas on the council (and to large extent, the Pablistas at Podemos’ national level) are betting on a new wave of social struggle developing durable forms of popular association capable of challenging the power of the Spanish oligarchy ”

Eoghan Gilmartin, ‘Governing Madrid’, Jacobin Magazine


On going beyond anger to counter neoliberalism


“ While we are all clicking and fixing our eyes on the never-ending Trump show – the handshake with Macron, the hand-holding with May – he is, she argues, enacting policies that are systematically moving wealth upwards, and crucial questions are not being asked loudly enough: Is your social security safe? Is your healthcare safe? Are your wages going to be driven down? He benefits so much from that focus away from economics (…) Anger and rejection of the status quo will never sustain people on its own. The triumph of neoliberalism is the idea that the alternative is always even worse. To overturn that there has to be a boldness and a recapturing of the utopian imagination. If we can’t do that, then I really don’t think we have a chance against these guys ”

Tim Adams & Naomi Klein, ‘Trump is an idiot, but don’t underestimate how good he is at that’, The Guardian

On the neoliberal ideology and how the Left can defeat it


“ Policy in the decades after World War II was rooted in a Keynesian ideology that saw capitalism as the best possible system and markets as generally efficient, but also advocated an active role for the state in shaping the economy. An active state was justified as necessary to prevent depressions, limit income inequality, increase individual economic security, and prevent such ‘market failures’ as environmental pollution. By the late 1970s, however, an extreme version of classical liberal beliefs had replaced Keynesianism as the dominant ideology. The newly ascendant neoliberal ideology held that individual freedom of choice in markets is the fundamental basis of human welfare, while the state is an enemy of individual freedom, a threat to private property, and a parasite living off the hard work of individuals (…)  A third possible direction of change, besides right-wing nationalism and progressive reform of capitalism, is the one every socialist wants: a transition beyond capitalism, to a system in which human wants and needs guide production rather than the profit motive of a small class of owners. We have learned a few things since 1917, among them the need for socialism to empower the people rather than just deliver some goods to them, and that priority must be given to building an economy that is environmentally sustainable. The critical need to move quickly to an environmentally sustainable path might not even be possible with capitalism’s powerful profit and accumulation drive, but it would be possible under socialism. Such a transition would resolve not just the crisis of neoliberal capitalism but the many contradictions of the inhumane system of capitalism itself, which has long since outlived its usefulness ”

David Kotz, ‘The Specter of Right-Wing Nationalism’, Jacobin Magazine

On the new Labour party and radical social program


“ If Brexit was a vague and contradictory call to ‘take back control,’ Labour’s program is the route to achieving it, recovering an alternative long buried by Thatcherism. It takes its inspiration from the most radical aspect of social-democratic politics — decommodification — and aims to remove staples of daily life from the market, making them public, universal, and free at the point of access. In doing so, the party’s program would radically lower the cost of living, placing workers under less pressure to accede to the demands of their bosses to work longer or for less. It would revive the idea of entitlement that conservatives have fought so hard to discredit and put the brakes on a slide towards an economy where even public goods are provided on a pay-per-service basis. It could also change how people relate to the provision of necessary things, challenging the idea that this must be done on the basis of exchange, where what you receive always relates to what you can afford. For forty-one years Britain has been governed, by both the Conservatives and New Labour, on the basis that the market rules, and that the growing marketization of public life was a natural development. By seeking to subordinate the market to the interests of the people, Corbyn’s Labour has fundamentally challenged the logic imposed upon the party by the International Monetary Fund in 1976 (…) In the more likely circumstance that Labour is defeated in the election, the party’s right will immediately argue that it was because its leadership was too left wing. But we now know this is not true. The vast majority of the country supports left-wing policies — it is the Labour right and their allies in the political, business, and media elite who are in the minority. The next battle will be to defend the manifesto from their attacks ”

Max Shanly & Ronan Burtenshaw, ‘The Blueprint’, Jacobin Magazine


On why we should go towards modernity, not escape from it


“ Modernity is an open-ended process that ends badly usually only when someone declares it complete (…) In response to the miseries brought by the bourgeois modernity of a globalized elite, the answer increasingly comes in shape of demagogues who would drag us back into the past, to the isolating languages of tribe and race; the modernity of a high-tech prison or a giant border wall (…) Nearly all the lights of modernist literature, whether fascists such as Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis or socialists such as Richard Wright and Muriel Rukeyser, felt that a grand transformation of society was not just possible, but that it was the only inevitable solution for the decay of liberalism. Whether or not we have modernist authors on the Left who are willing to lead the way, the crisis is the same: we will have modernism or barbarism ”

Benjamin Balthaser, ‘Modernism or Barbarism’, Jacobin Magazine

On using a common human nature to counter the alt-right’s discourse


“ The alt-right’s self-appointed leaders have exploited real economic pressures in service of their ideology. They hype dubious crime statistics, Islamophobia, and general racist and sexist nonsense to channel the real suffering that neoliberal policies have created over the past thirty years. People seduced by the far right experience this economic warfare, but they understand the struggle in racial or civilizational terms. Thus, they cannot perceive their common interest with the oppressed of other races and nationalities. Simply responding to economic pressure obviously does not suffice; we need to comprehend these pressures themselves. Against the alt-right, how do we assert that class struggle is more fundamental than membership in a particular racial or ethnic community? How do we argue that everyone should care about the exploitation and suffering of those from different cultural backgrounds? It is by advancing the one premise that racist and xenophobic ideologues most vehemently reject: a common human nature. Of course, positing a shared human nature will not guarantee political struggle either. Cheerily shouting “we’re all in this together” will not establish peace and harmony among all peoples. Handing a police officer a soft drink will not abolish racism. At best, this manner of thinking belongs to the utopian socialism of the nineteenth century; at worst, it bolsters today’s consumerist liberalism. The Left must both recognize our common humanity and perform a clear-headed analysis of oppressive societies’ historical contradictions. By acknowledging the invariant drives shared by all human beings — drives for physical well-being, education, and community — we can measure society’s relative progress in meeting those demands. At the same time, by understanding existing contradictions and current historical movements, we can chart the course toward greater human flourishing. We need to carefully determine the relationship between human nature — what Marx called “species being” — and its development in time and place. Human nature is not elevated to some heavenly ideal that can never be achieved in the fallen, material world. Instead, by human nature, we mean all the real and still latent capacities of the human species. (…) The Left cannot view these sites of conflict cynically — as mere instruments for class struggle — but recognize the role they play in building class consciousness. By demonstrating how diverse forms of oppression have a common root in capitalism, these struggles reinforce the fact that abolishing capitalism is the necessary condition for overcoming these forms of injustice ”

Harrison Fluss & Landon Frim, ‘Dialectical Enlightenment’, Jacobin Magazine