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Hobsbawm’s Century

In 1902, the Rationalist Press Association issued a pamphlet entitled A New Catechism. Like the classic Roman Catholic statement of belief on which it was modeled, the document comprised a long list of questions and answers. However, the faith which it rehearsed was not belief in Christianity, but rather belief in secular human reason. The pamphlet opened with a stirring dedication:

We baptize the twentieth century—in the name of Peace, Liberty, and Progress! We christen her—the People’s Century. We ask of the new century a Religion without superstition; Politics without war; Science and the arts without materialism; and wealth without misery or wrong!… | more…

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The Triumph of Financial Capital

The announced subject of this conference is “New Trends in Turkey and the World.” I shall not try to say anything about new trends in Turkey, partly because of my ignorance but more importantly because Turkey is very much part of the world, and in this period the mother of all new trends is global in nature. To understand what is happening in any part of the world, one must start from what is happening in the whole world. Never has Hegel’s dictum “The Truth is in the Whole” been as true and relevant as it is today.… | more…

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The Financial Explosion

Credit where credit is due. For a long time now we have been harping in this space on the theme of a monetary system out of control; of the wild proliferation of new financial institutions, instruments, and markets; of the unchecked spread of a speculative fever certainly more pervasive and perhaps even more virulent than any recorded in the long history of capitalism’s get-rich-quick obsessions. With few exceptions, accredited economists, as is their wont, have ignored these bizarre goings-on: they are not part of the way the economy is supposed to operate and are hence unworthy of “scientific” attention. … | more…

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In Search of Critical Games

Sol Yurick writes radical novels, good ones, and loves to speculate on how culture gets inside people’s bones. In the early 1970s, Sol and I spend a lot of time musing over Monopoly, a game many leftists love to hate, others hate to love, and practically everybody plays. According to Shelly Berman, the comedian, “Monopoly evokes a unique emotion, the surge of thrill you get when you know you’ve wiped out a friend.” But what else is going on as we accumulate property and scheme how to beggar our neighbors? Are we simply expressing some atavistic urge for power, or tuning in, consciously or unconsciously, to the attitudes that are most highly prized in our business-oriented society?… | more…

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Social Security: The Phony Crisis

In a recent speech, the head of the main government workers union in the United States accused the Reagan administration of “bleeding” the nation in order to finance defense spending and tax breaks for the rich. It is now clear that one cherished national social institution which is scheduled by the Reagan crowd for a major blood-letting is the Social Security System.… | more…

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The Struggle to Save Social Security

Jacob Morris has effectively exposed the attack on Social Security for what it is, and he has done this within the framework of the existing system. The underlying assumption is that Social Security must be paid for out of an accounting reserve supported by payroll taxes. Based on this premise, generally accepted by liberals and conservatives alike, the financial integrity of the reserve is taken as equivalent to the integrity of Social Security itself. But the real questions are different. Why use an accounting reserve and why apply the test of financial integrity? No such tests are applied to any other part of the federal budget, surely not to the enormous armaments expenditures. Basically, what is at issue here is not a financial but a social problem.… | more…

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The Commitment of the Intellectual

What is an intellectual? The most obvious answer would seem to be: a person working with his intellect, relying for his livelihood (or if he need not worry about such things, for the gratification of his interests) on his brain rather than on his brawn. Yet simple and straightforward as it is, this definition would be generally considered to be quite inadequate. Fitting everyone who is not engaged in physical labor, it clearly does not jibe with the common understanding of the term “intellectual.”… in the public consciousness there exists a different notion encompassing a certain category of people who constitute a narrower stratum than those “working with their brains.” This is not merely a terminological quibble. The existence of these two different concepts rather reflects an actual social condition, the understanding of which can take us a long way towards a better appreciation of the place and the function of the intellectual in society.… | more…

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