Friday October 31st, 2014, 7:23 am (EDT)

Review of the Month

Review of the Month

Jeremiah Wright in the Propaganda System

Beginning in March 2008 and extending through the last Democratic primaries of early June, the United States witnessed the most brazen demonization in its history of a person based on his race, his creed, and his ties to a presidential candidate. One major purpose behind these attacks was to use the demonized figure to discredit the politician. But participation in the attacks also fed the voracious, twenty-four-hour-aday media appetite, and quickly took on a life of its own. When we look back at the ugly spectacle then taking place, the evidence suggests that, despite much optimism about narrowing racial divides and an emerging “post-racial” consciousness, something much closer to the opposite had gripped America.… | more |

The Only Road Is Practice: After the Venezuelan Referendum Defeat

I am certain that, like many people these days, the first thing on your mind is the question of the referendum on reform of the Bolivarian Constitution — what the defeat means and where do we go from here. What I want to talk about today is not on that topic specifically, but it is related.… | more |

The World Food Crisis: Sources and Solutions

An acute food crisis has struck the world in 2008. This is on top of a longer-term crisis of agriculture and food that has already left billions hungry and malnourished. In order to understand the full, dire implications of what is happening today it is necessary to look at the interaction between these short-term and long-term crises. Both crises arise primarily from the for-profit production of food, fiber, and now biofuels, and the rift between food and people that this inevitably generates…… | more |

The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis

With the benefit of hindsight, few now doubt that the housing bubble that induced most of the recent growth of the U.S. economy was bound to burst or that a general financial crisis and a global economic slowdown were to be the unavoidable results. Warning signs were evident for years to all of those not taken in by the new financial alchemy of high-risk debt management, and not blinded, as was much of the corporate world, by huge speculative profits. This can be seen in a series of articles that appeared in this space: “The Household Debt Bubble” (May 2006), “The Explosion of Debt and Speculation” (November 2006), “Monopoly-Finance Capital” (December 2006), and “The Financializ-ation of Capitalism” (April 2007). In the last of these we wrote…… | more |

The Iron Heel at 100: Jack London—The Artist as “Antenna of the Race”

Bad times inhibit good writers, but they also inspire them. Just look at the new and recent arrivals in bookstores and libraries. The double-barreled assault on civil liberties and human rights, by the administration of President George Walker Bush, has, if nothing else, spurred an outpouring of books, both fiction and nonfiction, condemning the erosion of American democracy and the perceived drift toward totalitarianism. Jack London—the best-selling twentieth-century American author, who was born in 1876, the year of the American Centenary, and who died in 1916, the year before the United States entered the First World War—would surely not be surprised. In fact, one might well anoint London the founding father of the contemporary body of literature about political repression, including Henry Giroux’s The Emerging Authoritarianism in the United States, Matthew Rothschild’s You Have No Rights, Chris Hedges’s American Fascists, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Crimes Against Nature, and Philip Roth’s disquieting 2003 novel The Plot Against America. Of course, there are many others that cover much the same terrain.… | more |

Rachel Carson’s Ecological Critique

Rachel Carson was born just over 100 years ago in 1907. Her most famous book Silent Spring, published in 1962, is often seen as marking the birth of the modern environmental movement. Although an immense amount has been written about Carson and her work, the fact that she was objectively a “woman of the left” has often been downplayed. Today the rapidly accelerating planetary ecological crisis, which she more than anyone else alerted us to, calls for an exploration of the full critical nature of her thought and its relation to the larger revolt within science with which she was associated.… | more |

The Injuries of Class

We live in a complex, divided society. We are divided by wealth, income, education, housing, race, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. These divisions are much discussed; in the last two years, there have been entire series in our major newspapers devoted to the growing income divide. The wealth-flaunting of today’s rich was even the subject of a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article (“City Life in the New Gilded Age,” October 14, 2007).… | more |

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West… | more |

More Unequal: Aspects of Class in the United States

The glaring increase in economic inequality evident in the United States over the past thirty years has finally made it into the pages of the major media. In the past three years, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times have each published a series of articles on the subject of class. The growing economic divide has also caught the attention of a few prominent economists, like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. Even Treasury secretary Henry Paulson has admitted that inequality is on the rise… | more |

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part I)

A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse)

The breakup of Yugoslavia provided the fodder for what may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years. The journalistic and historical narratives that were imposed upon these wars have systematically distorted their nature, and were deeply prejudicial, downplaying the external factors that drove Yugoslavia’s breakup while selectively exaggerating and misrepresenting the internal factors. Perhaps no civil wars—and Yugoslavia suffered multiple civil wars across several theaters, at least two of which remain unresolved—have ever been harvested as cynically by foreign powers to establish legal precedents and new categories of international duties and norms. Nor have any other civil wars been turned into such a proving ground for the related notions of “humanitarian intervention” and the “right [or responsibility] to protect.” Yugoslavia’s conflicts were not so much mediated by foreign powers as they were inflamed and exploited by them to advance policy goals. The result was a tsunami of lies and misrepresentations in whose wake the world is still reeling.… | more |

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part II)

Jump to Part: I, III, IV | Glossary | Timeline 3. The UN in NATO’s Service A striking feature of U.S. policy since the collapse of the Soviet deterrent is the frequency with which it relies on the Security Council and the Secretariat for its execution—before the fact when it can (Iraq 1990–91), but after […]… | more |

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part III)

Jump to Part: I, II, IV | Glossary | Timeline 7. The Milosevic Trial The four-year trial of Slobodan Milosevic was the culmination of ICTY service to the NATO program in the Balkans. It was designed to show the world by an elaborate procedure leading ultimately to the conviction of the top Serb leader—the first […]… | more |

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part IV)

Jump to Part: I, II, III | Glossary | Timeline 10. The Role of the Media and Intellectuals in the Dismantlement Media coverage of the Yugoslav wars ranks among the classic cases in which early demonization as well as an underlying strong political interest led quickly to closure, with a developing narrative of good and […]… | more |

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia

Glossary & Timeline

Glossary and Timeline for “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia”.… | more |

1: ‘Enemy Combatant’ or Enemy of the Government?

By introducing the concept of war into national law, the latest U.S. anti- terrorist law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), produces a turning point in the legal and political organization of the Western world. It puts an end to a form of state that succeeded in “establishing peace internally and excluding hostility as a concept of law.”1 It is the constituent act of a new form of state that establishes war as a political relation between constituted authorities and national populations.… | more |

2: A System of Wholesale Denial of Rights

As in the past, Americans owe Jean-Claude Paye a debt of gratitude. From his position, as a sociologist in Brussels, he has proven that he can see what is happening in George Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s America, more clearly perhaps than many who live in the United States.…As Paye notes, there are two important aspects to the regime created by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA) and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The MCA recognizes a distinction between “enemy combatants” who are citizens of the United States and those who are aliens. Alien enemy combatants are, as Paye notes, subjected entirely to the regime of military commissions and denied access to civil courts except under limited circumstances. Citizen enemy combatants have access to civil courts, but find their rights constricted in other ways. The alien-citizen distinction in the MCA is a congressional response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which a five-justice majority held that the president did not have the power to strip citizens and aliens alike of their right of access to civil courts and to the writ of habeas corpus. The Court invited the president to return to Congress to validate his claims of power, and Congress obligingly did so, thus proving that there are few persons in the elected leadership willing to raise a voice against the imperial powers of which Paye writes.… | more |

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities

egrettably, there are all too many candidates that qualify as imminent and very serious crises. Several should be high on everyone’s agenda of concern, because they pose literal threats to human survival: the increasing likelihood of a terminal nuclear war, and environmental disaster, which may not be too far removed. However, I would like to focus on narrower issues, those that are of greatest concern in the West right now. I will be speaking primarily of the United States, which I know best, and it is the most important case because of its enormous power. But as far as I can ascertain, Europe is not very different… | more |

The Imperialist World System

Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years

The concept of the imperialist world system in today predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries, was largely absent from the classical Marxist critique of capitalism. Rather this view had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth. Baran’s work helped inspire Marxist dependency and world system theories. But it was the new way of looking at imperialism that was the core of Baran’s contribution. A half-century later it is important to ask: What was this new approach and how did it differ from then prevailing notions? What further changes in our understanding of imperialism are now necessary in response to changed historical conditions since the mid-twentieth century?… | more |

The Financialization of Capitalism

Changes in capitalism over the last three decades have been commonly characterized using a trio of terms: neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. Although a lot has been written on the first two of these, much less attention has been given to the third.* Yet, financialization is now increasingly seen as the dominant force in this triad. The financialization of capitalism-the shift in gravity of economic activity from production (and even from much of the growing service sector) to finance—is thus one of the key issues of our time. More than any other phenomenon it raises the question: has capitalism entered a new stage?… | more |

Israel in the U.S. Empire

Any reader of Israel Studies’s recent issue on the “Americanization of Israel” would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of U.S.-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange.* U.S. commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of U.S. religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the United States on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavor to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been “Americanized” in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific U.S. forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society… | more |

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