Democracy vs. Irony, Tragedy and Pathos

Disturbing events in several countries around the world during this turbulent time sprang to my mind a sharp observation by a prominent and influential American thinker and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. In all nondemocratic political theories the state or the ruler is invested with uncontrolled power for the sake of achieving order and unity in the community. But the pessimism which prompts and justifies this policy is not consistent; for it is not applied, as it should be, to the ruler. If men are inclined to deal unjustly with their fellows, the possession of power aggravates this inclination. That is why irresponsible and uncontrolled power is the greatest source of injustice.
The democratic techniques of a free society place checks upon the power of the ruler and administrator and thus prevent it from becoming vexatious. The perils of uncontrolled power are perennial reminders of the virtues of a democratic society; particularly if a society should become inclined to impatience with the dangers of freedom and should be tempted to choose the advantages of coerced unity at the price of freedom.
The consistent optimism of our liberal culture has prevented modern democratic societies both from gauging the perils of freedom accurately and from appreciating democracy fully as the only alternative to justice and oppression. When this optimism is not qualified to accord with the real and complex facts of human nature and history, there is always a danger that sentimentality will give way to despair and that a too consistent optimism will alternate with a too consistent pessimism.” (Niebuhr 2011: xxxii-xxxiii)

This thought-provoking excerpt is from The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense, published in 1944. Niebuhr has extensively written and spoken about topics in the intersection of politics, policy, social ethics and religion. His criticism of capitalism has resonated widely and in the early 1930s he organized the Fellowship of Socialist Christians. I think the ES/PE community members might find an interest in The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr, Reinhold Niebuhr: His Religious, Social, and Political Thought, and Reinhold Niebuhr and His Circle of Influence (Rice 2012). Barack Obama, by the way, called Niebuhr one of his “favorite philosophers“.
Let’s conclude this post with a passage from the last chapter of Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History. Feel free to attribute the meanings of these words to any context you find suitable.

“Irony must be distinguished as sharply from pathos as from tragedy. A pathetic situation is usually not as fully in the consciousness of those who are involved in it as a tragic one. A tragic choice is purest when it is deliberate. But pathos is constituted of essentially meaningless cross-purposes in life, of capricious confusions of fortune and painful frustrations. Pathos, as such, yields no fruit of nobility… One who is involved in a pathetic situation may be conscious of the pathos without thereby dissolving it. We can after all, pity ourselves…
An ironic situation is distinguished from a pathetic one by the fact that a person involved in it bears some responsibility for it. It is distinguished from a tragic one by the fact that the responsibility is not due to a conscious choice but to an unconscious weakness…
Elements of irony, tragedy or pathos may, of course be detected in life and history without any guiding principle of interpretation. All three types of experience are occasionally so vividly presented that they compel the observer either to the combination of pity and admiration which implies tragedy; or to the pure pity which pathos elicits; or to the laughter and understanding which are the response to irony.” (Niebuhr 2008: 166-7).


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B&B: Piketty – Covid-19 is an opportunity // Gendered lens on Covid-19 // Economic histories of pandemics // Pharma and the shareholder value // Network, not skills // Nature’s economics

> “Inequality is neither random nor unfortunate; it is structurally engineered, legally enforced, and politically and ideologically driven.” Gendered impacts of COVID-19 on work and workers — by Joanne Conaghan

> What were pandemics’ effect on markets, prices and wages throughout the history? Jamie Catherwood presents concise economic reviews of the 14th century Black Death, the 1892 cholera outbreak and the 1918 Spanish Influenza.

> Thomas Piketty: Covid-19 crisis has exposed the “violence of social inequality… We should take this opportunity of this crisis, and after the 2008 financial crisis, to just rethink not only about our health policy and investing more in hospitals, which is a just conclusion from this crisis, but also to rethink about our economic model more generally and moving toward more equality, more sustainability.”

> “Like no other sector, the Pharma Industry puts a spotlight on how the political economy of science is a matter of life and death.” William Lazonick and his colleagues scrutinize the US Pharma’s financialized business model and its underlying the shareholder value idea.

> Following the collapse of socialist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, some new businesses have been driven by the networks and resources associated with former membership of the ruling party rather than with entrepreneurial skills — by Artjoms Ivlevs, Milena Nikolova and Olga Popova.

> Congratulations to notable political economist David Soskice, economic sociologist Victor Nee, and inequality and urban scholar Mary Pattillo on being elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences. On this festive occasion let us feature some of their important books: Democracy and Prosperity (Iversen and Soskice 2019) & Varieties of Capitalism (Hall and Soskice 2001)Remaking the American Mainstream (Alba and Nee 2005) & Capitalism from Below (Nee and Opper 2012); Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class (Pattillo 1999) & Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City (Pattillo 2007)

> An interesting, from various perspectives, move by a leading science journal Nature: “Nature will soon appoint an economics editor… Economists, natural and social scientists and engineers must all engage with and learn from each other”

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American Sociology’s Emergence and Separation from Political Economy

Rereading Philippe Steiner’s excellent, thorough and highly recommended Durkheim and the Birth of Economic Sociology (2011) — in which Steiner argues that there were two stages in Durkheim’s approach to the economy: a sociological critique of political economy and a sociology of economic knowledge — led me to recall an interesting paper by Cristobal Young “The Emergence of Sociology from Political Economy in the United States: 1890 to 1940” (2009). This informative research describes and explains the disciplinary and institutional history of the relationship between political economy / economics and sociology during the formative period for both professions in the U.S. academia. 

“Professional sociology in the U.S. began as a field area within economics, but gradually emerged as a separate discipline. Using new data on joint meetings and the separation of departments, I track interdisciplinary relations through three phases: sponsorship (1890–1905), collaboration (1905–1940), and disengagement (post-1940). In the early years, sociology was mostly a branch of economics departments. With the formation of the American Sociological Society, relations with economics began to be more characterized by professionally autonomous collaboration. The 1920s saw a large wave of sociology departments separating from economics. Still, joint annual meetings (including joint presidential addresses) remained the norm until 1940. Paradigmatic conflict between institutional and neoclassical economists was the major force that sustained the economics–sociology collaboration. As institutionalism faded from the scene in the late 1930s, so went interdisciplinary contact”.

As the abstract’s last sentence reads — and the article‘s last part contends — the downfall of institutionalism in economics corresponds closely to its disciplinary and institutional deviation from sociology. Yuval Yonay’s groundbreaking The Struggle over the Soul of Economics: Institutionalist and Neoclassical Economists in America between the Wars (1998) elegantly elaborates on this fascinating topic — how the confrontation between mathematical (what later would become, neoliberal) and institutionalist schools of economics  has prepared the ground for the overthrown of the latter.
The three interesting analyses mentioned above lucidly and soundly deal with a broader set of issues and illuminate hidden chapters concerning the foundations, mechanisms ans forces behind evolution and changes in academic knowledge.

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Great academic opportunities: 14 calls for papers, 7 postdocs, 2 jobs, 2 summer schools, PhD fellowship, an award

Dear ES/PE community member, see below a list of great academic opportunities:call for papers 14 calls for papers for online and off-line conferences (some are free or funded) and special issues, 7 post-doc positions, 2 job openings, 2 summer schools, a PhD fellowship, and an award in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with July 17 — August 31 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Best wishes and good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “The Academic Precariat: Understanding Life and Labour in the Neoliberal Academy“, British Journal of Sociology of Education‘s special issue. DL for proposals: July 17

> CfP: “The Power of Economic Ideas”, the 17th Italian Association for the History of Political Economy (Online) Conference, 1-3 October, 2020. Keynoters: Amos Witztum, Sheila Dow. There are no registration fees.  Scholarships for junior scholars and awards for best papers are available. DL: July 20.

> CfP: The 1st (In)Corporate Sustainability conference, Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain) and virtually, September 16-18, 2020.  No fee. DL: August 5

CfP: “Engels@200: Friedrich Engels in the Age of Digital Capitalism”, tripleC Communication, Capitalism & Critique‘s special issue. DL for abstracts: August 7

> CfP: “New Economic Questions“, the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s Young Scholars Initiative plenary, ONLINE, 6-15 November 2020. DL: August 15

> CfP: “Hidden Fallacies in Corporate Law and Financial Regulation“, an edited collection,  workshop in Copenhagen (or ONLINE) in December, and conference in New York in Spring 2021. DL for proposals: August 15

> CfP: The 5th conference of the French Association of Law & Economics, the University of Paris Nanterre (or Online), October 15-16, 2020. Session in English too. DL: August 17

> CfP: “The Socio-Economic Realities of Post-Industrial Capitalism“, Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology‘s special issue. DL: August 17

> CfP: “Banking and the State” conference by the European Association for Banking History & the Institute for Banking and Financial History, Frankfurt am Main (Germany), 23 February 2021. Accommodation and travel will be covered. DL: August 31

> CfP: “The Rise of the Illiberal Right in Central and Eastern Europe. A Countermovement to Neoliberal Capitalism?“, Forum for Social Economics – a Journal of the Association for Social Economics‘ special issue. DL: August 31

> CfP: “The Evolution of Transnational Private Rule-makers: Understanding Drivers and Dynamics” conference, Tilburg University (The Netherlands), 3-4 December, 2020. The travel costs and accommodation can be covered. DL: August 31

> CfP: “Towards a Global Intellectual History of an Unequal World, 1945-Today” symposium, Aarhus University (Denmark), June 10-11,2021. Keynoters: Adom Getachew, Siep Stuurman. No conference fee; some limited funds available to help with travel and accommodation costs. DL: August 31

> CfP: “What does the COVID-19 crisis reveal about Economics and the Economy?“, Regualtion Review – Revue de la Régulation‘s special issue. DL for papers: August 31

> CfP: “Financialisation in Developing and Emerging Economies: Manifestations, Drivers and Implications“, Cambridge Journal of Economics’ special issue. DL for papers: August 31

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoctoral researcher studying the Political Economy of Educational Policies, Department of Sociology, the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands). DL: July 17

> Research Associate in economic sociology or political economy to join ‘Foundational economy, citizenship and new forms of common ownership’ project, the Wales Institute for Economic Research and Data, Cardiff University School of Social Science (UK). DL: August 9

> Research Officer in Inequalities: Politics of Inequality, International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. DL: August 9

> Research Fellow in Inequalities: Politics of Inequality, International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics. DL: August 13

>  Two full-time Postdoctoral Associates in sociology of finance or economic sociology to join the project carrying out ethnographic fieldwork in blockchain firms, King’s College London (UK). DL: August 17

> Political Economist to work within a project “Social Classes in the Digital Age“, Directorate for Strategy, Work Programme and Resources, Joint Research Centre, European Commission (Seville, Spain). DL: August 17

> Social Scientist to work within a project “Social Classes in the Digital Age”, Directorate for Strategy, Work Programme and Resources, Joint Research Centre, European Commission (Seville, Spain). DL: August 17

PhD Fellowships:

> PhD fellowship “Impact of the Circular Economy on the Labour Market“, Research Institute for Work and Society, KU Leuven, Belgium. DL: July 31

Summer Schools:

> CfA: “From the Transformation of Economics to Economic Transformation: Pathways to a Better Future” summer school by the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s Young Scholars Initiative and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, ONLINE, August 15-23, 2020. DL: August 10 

>   CfA: “A Critical Assessment of the Faces of Inequality”, an online Pre-Conference for Young Scholars before the 32nd Annual Conference of the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy, 1st September, 2020. DL: August 15 


> The International Political Economy Annual Best Book Award, International Studies Association. DL: August 1

Job openings:

> Professor of Comparative Policy Analysis (tenure), Faculty of Social Sciences & Business Administration, University of Bamberg (Germany). DL: August 14

> Lead Scientist in social stratification / inequality / social classes / occupational change to develop a project “Social Classes in the Digital Age“, Directorate for Strategy, Work Programme and Resources, Joint Research Centre, European Commission (Seville, Spain). DL: August 17

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The Long Divorce Between the Economy and Financial Markets

by Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely*

As the coronavirus spread around the world, the global economy entered a recession unprecedented in scale. The World Bank predicts a 5.2 percent economic contraction by the end of this year—the largest downturn since World War II. The current crisis is so enormous in magnitude that it has been called the Great Lockdown. Yet, the stock markets worldwide have surged at a stunning rate since the end of March and the S&P 500 jumped near 40%. The rally took place amidst widespread job loss, disrupted global supply chains, and the absence of a probable cure or vaccine for a pandemic that kills thousands of people daily.
Pundits have speculated why the current
disconnect between the real economy and financial markets exists, whether it be the assurance provided by the Federal Reserve or the soundness of public corporations. But no one can deny that the widely held belief in financial markets as a reflection of the economy’s strength is mere fiction. Stock prices do not measure the value that firms can create from producing but the profits they can distribute from extracting. A shrinking economy hurts only the former and not necessarily the latter.
Divested Inequality in the Age of FinanceIn our new book, Divested: Inequality in the Age of Finance, we document how the United States has been taken over by finance. We show that the rise of finance represents a paradigmatic, regressive shift in how American society organizes economic resources. In this process, financial markets have channeled tremendous resources to investors and the financial sector, divesting ordinary households and states. The divorce between the economy and financial markets did not start in 2020 but in the 1990s. While the two were loosely linked between 1950 and 1990, financial markets began to decouple from the real economy during the Clinton administration, because of financial deregulation. Shareholder value became the corporate doctrine, mass layoffs become common practice, and economic inequality soared.
The Great Recession, following the 2008 financial crisis, exposed the consequences of this finance-driven economy. While the regulatory and monetary policies did steer the US economy away from a catastrophic collapse, the recovery was slow, painful, and highly inflation-adjusted relative growthuneven. Governmental stimuli, mostly in the form of monetary policies, first went to banks and large corporations, with the belief that credit would eventually trickle down to families in need.
The “banks and corporations first” approach worked, but only rescued the financial sector. Even though the financial crisis wiped out almost three-quarters of financial sector profits, the comeback was striking. Before mid-2009, the financial sector had brought in a quarter more income than 2007. Profits continued to grow in the following years. In 2017, the sector made 80 percent more than before the crisis. Similarly, the stock market began to rebound in 2009 and fully recovered in 2013.
To be clear, what was good for the stock market did not necessarily benefit American families. More than 80 percent of the stock market is owned by only 10 percent of Americans and foreign investors. Thus, the prosperity brought about by investing in the stock market does little for middle- and working-class families. The unemployment rate was still as high as 8 percent in 2013 and the single-family mortgage delinquency continued to hover above 10 percent. By 2016, a typical American family owed 30 percent less wealth than they did in 2007.

The racial wealth gap only widened during the recovery. The median household wealth of white, black, and Hispanic households all dropped around 25 percent after the burst of the real estate bubble. But white households recovered at a much faster pace. By 2016, black households had still lost about 30 percent of their wealth, compared to 14 percent for white families.
The unequal recovery shows that using monetary policy to address economy crisis creates a clear principal-agent problem by giving money to the banks and having them serve as stewards for the rest of the economy. This was particularly evident in the ineffectiveness of quan­titative easing.
The conventional wisdom held that banks—as well as corporations and investors—knew how to put the credit into best use. And so, to pro­vide liquidity and stimulate economic growth, the Federal Reserve increased the supply of money by purchasing treasury- and mortgage-backed securities from banks. What the banks did, however, was prioritize their own interests over those of the public. They were hesitant to lend the money out to homebuyers and small businesses, since the money would then be locked into long-term loans that paid low interest. Instead, they deposited most of the funds and waited for interest rates to rise.

As the nation faces another economic crisis, it appears that loose monetary policy and finance-centered welfare are again the default remedies. The Federal Reserve took action to cut the benchmark interest rate to near zero—a policy move that does not directly support those hardest hit by the crisis. Private banks have been tasked with distributing a majority of small business loans, which brought in $10 billion in fees.
These painkillers, after all, do not cure the disease; they merely deaden the symptoms. We show in
Divested that the US society has come to a turning point. Decades of economic transfer from productive to financial activities and from workers and the state to executives and shareholders has created an extremely volunerable society. Poor public health investments, crumbling infrastructure, flimsy social safety nets, and insufficient employment protection all contribute to the ongoing crisis in the United States. All these deficiencies not only put many lives at risk but also undermine the public’s confidence in the long-term prosperity of the US economy. All is made worse by a president who failed to enact a comprehensive government response to the virus, worrying that any action would scare investors.
While more urgent actions should be taken to lessen the economic impacts on American families, a new “New Deal” must be made. The coronavirus crisis shows that universal healthcare and paid sick leave are not just policies benefiting those who do not have them but also improves the safety and wellbeing of those who do. Having a more robust social safety net already in place would rescue a vulnerable population from unexpected economic turmoil. Importantly, the crisis reveals that we need to divest our resources away from financial markets and re-invest in institutions that support a prosperous society. One lesson of the on-going disaster: There is no true winner in a deeply unequal society.
* Ken-Hou Lin is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Megan Tobias Neely is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Organization at Copenhagen Business School and a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University’s VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab. (The emphases added by the editor.)

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What is Institutional Economics?

From William Dugger’s Underground Economics: A Decade of Institutionalist Dissent:

Institutionalism serves as the methodological conscience to the unrealistic neoclassicism that now dominates economics departments in U.S universities. Realism is the touchstone of institutionalism. Institutionalists may differ over many particulars, but on this we agree: economics should be realistic; it should deal with the real world, the world as we find it, not the world we must assume in order to build determinate models. This does not mean that institutionalists wish to be atheorectical. Institutionalism is not opposed to theory. Instead, the quest for realism means that institutionalism starts with history, with human economic experience. It is from experience, not a priori first principles, that institutionalists try to theorize, and we criticize those who take shortcuts that avoid the messy details of the human experience (p. xvii).
Little room for real disagreement was allowed within the neoclassical hegemony. So most economics departments in U.S universities became dread-fully dull places… When academic security is found in dullness, and when consensus is mistaken for scientific truth, disagreement and dissent are pushed below the surface of correct inquiry. And I suppose this is why institutionalism is usually kept in the underground. We [institutionalists] make too much of a fuss about realism, and a real world is a messy and, at times, unpleasant place. Digging into such things is considered decidedly unprofessional, particularity if the digger borrows tools from her sister social sciences, for them the digger has broken one of the strongest taboos in neoclassicism. He or she has become a sociologist!” (p. xviii)

— Dugger, William M. 1991. Underground Economics: A Decade of Institutionalist Dissent. London: M.E. Sharpe.

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B&B: Economists’ blindness to racism // We are all fast-food workers // For abolition of work // Arms purchase // Tests for profit // The financialized imagination // Gendered economics

This time, especially worth reading and sharing pieces:

> Racism is a system that manifests in norms, institutions, and policies. Economists who want to challenge it must abandon neoclassical assumptions and recognize the role of history, power, and institutions in shaping behavior — by Joelle Gamble

> Acquisitions of military style-weapons by local law enforcement agencies in the US increased over the past 10 years has exacerbated lethal use of force against black communities.  Olugbenga Ajilore explains how the US turned its police into an army

> Surveillance, speed, stress, and understaffing are the features of the neoliberal labor market. A powerful story of women-led Walmart strike, walkout, and struggle for workers’ rights — an excerpt from Annelise Orleck’s “We Are All Fast-Food Workers Now”: The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages (2018)

> “Investment” has become “a useful term to describe the transformation of ever more aspects of life into commodities and the orientation of our social imaginations towards individualized risk management and speculation” — Max Haiven tackles the monsters of the financialized imagination

> The work ideology has ruled our lives for centuries, and it does so today more than ever. But a new generation of “post-work” thinkers insists there is an alternative. Andy Beckett reflects on the radical idea to shatter an intense working culture, recalling Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality (1973), Bernard Lefkowitz’s Breaktime: Living Without Work in a Nine to Five World (1979) and Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work (1985), and reading Benjamin Hunnicutt’s Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream (2013), David Frayne’s The Refusal of Work: Rethinking Post-Work Theory and Practice (2015), Joanna Biggs’ All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work (2015), James Livingston’s No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea (2016), Ryan Avent’s The Wealth of Humans: Work and its Absence in the 21st Century (2016), Elizabeth Anderson’s Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (2017), and David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs (2018).

> The corporate history of personality tests: they have always been bound up in politics, business, and management. Kira Lussier on how corporations convinced us personality tests are fun and how that made Cambridge Analytica possible.

> Do research topics in development economics studied by men and women differ? Yes. Does this male-dominated discipline express less interest in topics that women are more likely to be studying? Yes. Seema Jayachandran and Jamie Daubenspeck present findings on and call for change and more diversity in the economics profession.

Refusal to work - No more work

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The Probable Implications of the Coronavirus Crisis — Bruno Latour, James Galbraith, Mike Davis

> Bruno Latour: “The [COVID-19] health crisis prepares, induces, incites us to prepare for climate change… What allows the two crises to occur in succession is the sudden and painful realization that the classical definition of society – humans among themselves – makes no sense. The state of society depends at every moment on the associations between many actors, most of whom do not have human forms… Once the entire network of which it is only one link is taken into account, the same virus does not act in the same way in Taiwan, Singapore, New York, or Paris. The pandemic is no more a “natural” phenomenon than the famines of the past or the current climate crisis…  What is more worrying is that we do not see how that state would prepare the move from the one crisis to the next.” // Recommended read: Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Latour 2018)

> James Galbraith: “Will we recognize, in time, the need to mobilize all our resources, to socialize our health system and keep the supply chains open until the virus can be contained? Will we realize that when this is done, life will not be what it was before, and that a vast reorganization of economy and society will be necessary? Or will the neoliberal ideologues in control succeed in squelching that debate—which they are trying to do, at this writing, by focusing on bailouts and stimulus in the belief that somehow the bubbles now bursting can be reinflated in a few months? Will we remain mired in illusions of growth, with or without equity and inclusion? Or will we now and finally displace those illusions, with a new wave that understands the nature of precarity capitalism.” These Galbraith’s remarks conclude his interesting review of Capitalism on Edge: How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Crisis or Utopia by Albena Azmanova (2020)

> Mike Davis: “The current pandemic expands the argument: capitalist globalization now appears to be biologically unsustainable in the absence of a truly international public health infrastructure. But such an infrastructure will never exist until peoples’ movements break the power of Big Pharma and for-profit health care… Since the Occupy days, progressives have successfully put the struggle against income and wealth inequality on page one, a great achievement. But now socialists must take the next step and, with the health care and pharmaceutical industries as immediate targets, advocate social ownership and the democratization of economic power.” // Recommended read: Planet of Slums (Davis 2005)


Photo by Frederic J. Brown / AFP

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The Feature of an Intellectual

F. Scott Fitzgerald:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true. Life was something you dominated if you were any good. Life yielded easily to intelligence and effort, or to what proportion could be mustered of both. It seemed a romantic business to be a successful literary man—you were not ever going to be as famous as a movie star but what note you had was probably longer-lived; you were never going to have the power of a man of strong political or religious convictions but you were certainly more independent. Of course within the practice of your trade you were forever unsatisfied—but I, for one, would not have chosen any other.” (“The Crack-Up”, 1936)

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. 2009. “The Crack-Up.” Pp. 69-84 in The Crack-Up, edited by Edmund Wilson. New Directions. (pp. 69-70).

F. Scott Fitzgerald The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function

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Great academic opportunities: 13 calls for papers, 8 PhD fellowships, 6 summer schools, 4 jobs, 2 postdocs

Dear ES/PE community member, I very much hope this post finds you well during this turbulent times. See below a list of great academic opportunities:call for papers 13 calls for papers for online and off-line conferences (some are partially funded) and special issues, 8 PhD fellowships, 6 summer schools, 4 job openings, and 2 post-doc positions in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with May 31 — June 30 deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought“, the 24th ESHET Conference, University of National and World Economy (Sofia, Bulgaria) 24-26 September, 2020. DL: May 31

> CfP: “Survival Pending Revolution: Historical Materialism in a Pandemic Age“, the 17th Historical Materialism Conference, SOAS London (UK), 12-15 November 2020. DL: June 1

> CfP: “Dwelling in the Intersections of State, Markets and Big Data” workshop, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (India), September 24-26, 2020. DL: June 7

> CfP: “Why private property? How does the ecological crisis challenge contemporary theories of property?” conference, Nuffield College, Oxford University (UK) , 5-6 November, 2020. Keynoters: Simon Caney, Catherine Colliot-Thélène, Catherine Larrère, and Stuart White. The organisers hope to be able to cover travel and accommodation costs. DL: June 9

> CfP: “Designing Futures of Money and FinTech” online workshop, July 7-8, 2020. No fee. DL: June 11

> CfP: “International and Comparative Political Economy”, an workshop for early career researchers, Cologne Center for Comparative Politics (Germany), November 26-27, 2020. It has four topical panels: 1) Inequality (keynoter & discussant: Charlotte Cavaille), 2) Political Economy of Gender (Frances Rosenbluth), 3) Governance and Power in the Digital Economy (Anke Hassel), 4) Trade and Migration (Stefanie Walter). Accommodation and travel expenses will be covered. DL: June 15 

> CfP: “Repugnant Behaviours“, World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research workshop, University of Montpellier (France), 24-25 February 2021. DL: June 15

> CfP: The 12th Critical Finance Studies (online) conference, 27-28 August, 2020.  Keynoters: Gargi Bhattacharyya, Annie McClanahan. DL: June 15

> CfP: The 3rd Toronto Fintech Conference, Scotiabank Centre, Toronto (Canada), November 5-6, 2020. Scholars of management, innovation, organization theory, sociology, and public policy are invited. Will be given five travel grants for the top PhD student papers and several prizes for the best papers. DL: June 15

CfP: “Zero Credit: Countering the Dreams of Techno-Finance”, a special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. DL: June 15

> CfP:  “A Post-COVID 19 Global-local Agenda for a Socio-ecological Transformation of Europe“, the 26th Annual (online) Conference on Alternative Economic Policy in Europe. No fee. DL: June 20

> CfP: “Elites and the Critique of Elites from the 19th to the 21st Centuries” workshop and Archiv für Sozialgeschichte‘s volume, Friedrich Ebert Foundation – Berlin (Germany), 29-30 October 2020.  DL: June 1

> CfP: “Good governance versus Corruption – Interdisciplinary Discussions“, an Inaugural conference of the European Institute for Socioeconomics, the European Academy of Otzenhausen (Nonnweiler, Germany), September 11-12, 2020. DL: June 30

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Post-doctoral position  in Economic Ethics, Department of Philosophy, University of Gothenburg (Sweden). DL: June 1

> Post-doctoral Scholars in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management of Intellectual Assets, Department of Economy and Society, University of Gothenburg (Sweden). DL: June 8

PhD Fellowships:

> PhD Programme in Comparative Analysis of Institutions Economics and Law, University of Turin (Italy). DL: June 4

> Doctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Political Economy, the Cologne Center for Comparative Politics at the University of Cologne (Germany). DL: June 5

> PhD Vacancy for Research on Basic Income, the Centre for Sociological Research at KU Leuven University (Belgium). DL: June 8

> PhD Fellowships in Social and Legal Aspects of Globalisation, University of Urbino Carlo Bo (Italy). DL: June 11

> PhD in Economic Sociology — How multi-level micro-work networks elucidate the social and economic dimensions of artificial intelligence, the University of Paris-Saclay (France). DL: June 15

> Doctoral student in Economic History with a focus on Marketization, Lund University (Sweden). DL: June 18

> Doctoral Research Position in Social Inequality and Social Policy, the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. DL: June 21

>  PhD studentship in “Management insights for tackling grand challenges: the case of climate-related financial risks in the financial investment industry“, Organisation and HRM  group, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick (UK). DL: June 30

Job openings:

> Assistant Professor in Economic Philosophy, The Ethics Institute, Utrecht University (The Netherlands). DL: June 10

> Assistant Professor in Economic Sociology & Sociology of Work and Organizations, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy). DL: June 11

> Assistant Professor in Economic History, University of Groningen (The Netherlands). DL: June 14

> Executive Director, Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), The Netherlands. DL: June 23

Summer Schools:

> CfA: “Anti-Monopoly and Regulated Industries“, an online summer academy organized by The Law and Political Economy Project, 8-week program with leading scholars, June-August 2020 (on Tuesdays, 6:00–7:30 pm). No fee. DL: June 1

> CfA: “Introduction to Post Keynesian Economics and Political Economy” online summer school organized by the Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre, June 23-26, 2020. No participation fee. DL: June 10

> CfA: “Repoliticising Capitalism: Contradictions, Critique and Alternatives” summer school, Roskilde University (Denmark), 27 July -7 August 2020. DL: June 15

> CfA: “Pensions, Social Services and Welfare: What future in the age of financialization?“, the 14th EAEPE  (online) Summer School, 13– 15 July, 2020. No fee. DL: June 15

> CfA: “American Political Economy“, an online Summer School organized by Paul Pierson, Kathleen Thelen, Jacob Hacker, and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez on August 10-13, 2020. DL: June 19

> CfA: “Mainstream Economics: Sold Out?“, The (online) Summer Academy by the Network for Pluralist Economics Germany and Protestant Academy of Thuringia, 10-16 August, 2020. No fee. DL: June 24

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How Did Corporations Spread CSR from the US to the Rest of the World?

by Rami Kaplan & Daniel Kinderman*

Why do firms adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices? How does CSR spread across the globe? Our paper “The Business-Led Globalization of CSR” provides surprising answers to these most fundamental questions, based on the comparative historical study of the world’s earliest non-U.S. countries where CSR has become a diffused, institutionalized practice: Venezuela and Britain.

Why do firms adopt CSR?
CSR is widely recognized as a “nonmarket strategy” that addresses challenges in the firm’s sociopolitical environment. We expand this notion by distinguishing between reactive CSR strategies, in which the individual firm conforms to external expectations of it to become socially responsible (e.g., as transmitted through activists’ attacks or certification schemes), and proactive CSR strategies that shape the external environment. With the latter, as we show, corporations try to gain control over social change based on collective adoptions of selected CSR practices.
Thus, we show that, in the mid-1960s Venezuela, hundreds of corporations confronted existential threats to corporate capitalism by collectively adopting community development practices. CSR practices were instrumentalized to undercut communist insurgency, check governmental intervention in the economy, and improve the public image of the business community.
Similarly, in the late-1970s Britain, corporations engaged in urban development and unemployment mitigation because they were facing social unrest, political radicalization, and labor militancy. With the rise of the Thatcher administration, the threat turned into an opportunity. Following lobbying by a group of multinationals led by Shell, the Thatcher government integrated CSR into its revamped, neoliberal employment policy. It was in the context of this neoliberal revolution that Business in the Community (BITC) and modern British CSR emerged.

spread of corporate social responsibilityHow does CSR spread globally?
While scholars tend to assume that CSR diffusion is driven by isomorphic pressure exerted by the institutional environment of firms, we advance an alternative view of the global diffusion of CSR. We understand CSR adoption as originating from “channels of diffusion” that transmit the aforementioned inter-firm proactive CSR strategies from one country to the other.
These channels are composed of business elites and experts who function as “exporters” and “importers” of the strategy. The importers learn from the exporters about the utility of the strategy and about how to implement it. The channels are driven by the interests of the actors composing them. For example, the solicitation and instruction of American oil multinationals acting as exporters was highly instrumental for the adoption of CSR by the Venezuelan business community. Similarly, among multiple other channels of diffusion that we trace, IBM UK was the pioneer organizer of inter-firm collective action on CSR in Britain. In both cases, the source country of CSR (of modern CSR, that is) was the U.S.
Notably, in both Venezuela and Britain, the exporters-importers established CSR-specialized national business associations (NCSRAs)—the Venezuelan Dividendo and the British BITC—to organize the diffusion of CSR practices throughout the importing country. Remarkably, Dividendo and BITC were world pioneering embodiments of what would become a world-spanning institution (by 2010, NCSRAs existed in 72 countries). This suggests the likely importance of our channels of diffusion theory to the understanding of how CSR has entered many other countries and become a global phenomenon.
More generally, our paper implies a grand perspective on the global rise of CSR, as a business-led process originating from the U.S. whereby global corporate capitalism as a whole has strategically reshaped itself and its environment so as to bolster and extend corporate hegemony in our societies.

— Kaplan, Rami and Daniel Kinderman. 2020. “The Business-Led Globalization of CSR: Channels of Diffusion From the United States Into Venezuela and Britain, 1962-1981.Business & Society 59(3): 439-488.
* Rami Kaplan (Tel Aviv University) is an organizational and economic sociologist studying CSR and sustainable development. Daniel Kinderman (University of Delaware) specializes in comparative political economy and CSR, with a focus on Europe. This post was originally published on Business & Society blog on April 28, 2020. The emphases added by the editor.

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Great academic opportunities: 16 calls for papers, 4 postdocs, 3 jobs, 3 PhD fellowships, a summer school, a research project

Dear ES/PE community member, I very much hope this post finds you well during this turbulent period of the global health and socio-economic crisis. As we’re trying to pull ourselves together and get along, see below a list of great academic call for papersopportunities: 16 calls for papers for online and off-line conferences (some are partially funded) and special issues, 4 post-doc positions, 3 job openings, 3 PhD fellowships, a research project and a summer school — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with April 30 — May 18  deadlines. Share this post with your colleagues and students. Stay safe and be solidary. Good luck!

Calls for Papers:

> CfP: “Categories, Transformations and Exchanges“, the ESA RN09 Economic Sociology Midterm Conference, University of Warsaw (Poland), September 7-9, 2020. Keynoter: Nina Bandelj. A few travel grants for PhD students and early stage postdocs will be offered. DL: April 30

> CfP: “The Evolution of Capitalist Structures: Uncertainty, Inequality, and Climate Crisis“. the 32nd European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy Conference, ONLINE event, 2-4 September, 2020.  Keynoters: Genevieve leBaron, Robert Skidelsky. There are several special and topical sessions. DL: April 30

> CfP: “Politics and Ideologies of Work“, the 5th Social Boundaries of Work conference, University of Warsaw (Poland), October 28-29, 2020. Keynoters: Ursula Huws, Ruth Milkman, David Ost. DL: April 30

> CfP: “It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy” workshop,  Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena (Germany), 7th – 8th October 2020. DL: April 30

> CfP: “Understanding Gender in Wealth Inequality“, ECSR Network Workshop, Humboldt-Universität Berlin (Germany), 1-2 October, 2020. Keynoters:  Sofie Waltl, Céline Bessière. DL: April 30

> CfP: The 6th Annual Conference of the International Corporate Governance Society,  the Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA, USA),  November 13-15, 2020. Keynoter: Nell Minow. DL: May 1

> CfP “Returning Realism to Economics“, Association for Evolutionary Economics conference at ASSA 2021 Annual Meeting (Chicago, USA), 3-5 January, 2021. DL: May 4

> CfP: “Stratification and Intergroup Inequality” Association for Social Economics conference at ASSA 2021 Annual Meeting (Chicago, USA), 3-5 January, 2021. DL: May 6

> CfP: “Postcolonial Perspectives on Protest and Reform in the Global Political Economy” workshop, Kassel (Germany), September 15 – 17, 2020. DL: May 8

> CfP: “Exploring Blockchain and the Cultural Sector” conference, University of Manchester (UK), 16 October 2020. Keynoter: Marcus O’Dair; no fee; meals will be provided. Bursaries for coverage of travel costs will be hopefully granted. DL: May 8

> CfP: “Cracking Financialisation: Housing, Crisis, Struggles and Rights“, a Special Issue of Housing Studies edited by Ozlem Celik. DL: May 11

> CfP: “Responding to Crisis“, an online Economic History Workshop, July 27-31, 2020. DL: May 15

> CfP: ““While There Is A Soul In Prison, I Am Not Free”: The History of Solidarity in Social and Economic Justice”, Indiana State University (Indiana, USA), November 13-14, 2020. DL: May 15

> CfP: “The World Transformed: The Contributions of Heterodox Economics Globally”, the 22nd Conference of the Association for Heterodox Economics, ONLINE event,  3-5 July, 2020. Keynoters: Dora Barrancos, Chantal Naidoo, Julia Steinberger, Ndongo Samba Sylla. DL: May 15

CfP: “Empirical Approaches in Platform Governance Research“, an online workshop by Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society, June 17, 2020. DL: May 15 

> CfP: “Developmentalism and the Developmental State“, a special issue of Istanbul University Journal of Sociology edited by Bai Gao & Emrah Yıldız. DL: September 30

Postdoctoral Positions: 

> Postdoctoral researcher for “Polarization and its discontents: does rising economic inequality undermine the foundations of liberal societies?” project, The School of Social Sciences at the Goethe University Frankfurt. DL: April 30

> Postdoctoral Researcher in Sociology or Economics, Department of Management, ETH Zurich.  The aim of the project is to find out under what conditions Technical Vocational Education and Training in low- and middle-income countries can contribute to improving the youth labour market situation. DL: May 6

> Two postdocs on “Coronavirus Bond, an Ethnographic Inquiry” project, as a part of “The Hau of Finance: Impact Investing and the Globalization of Social and Environmental Sustainability” research, University of Bologna (Italy). DL: May 7

> A postdoctoral research fellow to work on a project  “Management insights for tackling grand challenges: the case of climate-related financial risks in the financial investment industry” within the Organisation and HRM group at Warwick Business School (UK). DL: May 15 

PhD Fellowships:

> Five  funded PhD positions to be part of “Polycentric Carbon Pricing Governance: Cooperation, Contestation and Connectivity” research project, University of Leuven (Belgium). DL: April 30

> Two funded PhD candidates for the research project “The Making of Havana’s Property Market: Homeownership, Tourism Property & Transnational Investment“, the Division of Geography & Tourism, KU Leuven (Belgium). DL: May 4

> PhD Position “Social Inequalities, Child Development and Longitudinal Research“, Department of Sociology,  Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). DL: May 15.

Summer School:

> CfA: “Economics & Sociology“, PhD workshop, University of Lille (France), October 12-13, 2020. Work languages: French and English. DL: May 18

Research Project:

> Comparative Study of Legal-Economic Responses to COVID-19, an international research project by Association for Promotion of Political Economy and Law, Institute for New Economic Thinking Young Scholar Initiative, and International University College of Turin. DL: April 30 

Job openings:

> Teaching Fellow in International Business, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (UK). Researchers interested in comparative political economy are invited to apply. DL: May 14

> Lecturer in Political Economy of Development, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, London (UK). DL: May 17

> Research Analyst & Project Coordinator, The Brookings Institution (Washington, DC, USA). The applicant will assist a project designed to develop policies and practices to contribute to a neighborhood’s culture of health and economic mobility.

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“Herd Immunity” is Epidemiological Neoliberalism

by Isabel Frey*

While most European countries are imposing lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a few countries are opting for a different strategy: herd immunity. Instead of testing as many people as possible and implementing measures to increase social distancing, they want to purposefully let the virus spread among people who are at low risk, so that a large part of the population becomes immune. This approach was first proposed by UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson, who refused to implement social distancing measures until a few days ago. While the UK and then the Netherlands has officially distanced itself from this strategy, Sweden continues to hold on to this approach, despite harsh criticism by the WHO. However, the point of this article is to unravel the underlying paradigm of this strategy, not to make an argument about its effectiveness.
These countries argue that building herd immunity is the only long-term strategy for dealing with the virus, since the epidemic can no longer be contained and could always resurge again. Instead of putting the entire country under lockdown, only at-risk populations should be put into quarantine while the epidemic keeps spreading. However, countless epidemiologists and virologists have criticized the strategy for being risky, unscientific and likely to result in a high death toll. A recently published report by the Imperial College London, which led to the change in UK government policy, estimated the strategy to result in 250,000 deaths in the UK. Since it is not possible to effectively isolate at-risk populations, especially when the virus keeps spreading, the health care system is likely to become overwhelmed and at risk of completely collapsing.

Epidemiological Neoliberalism

Why would a country like the UK even consider such a risky strategy, and why are other countries still following this approach? The reason is neoliberalism. Since the 1980s, we have been governed by the political paradigm of neoliberalism, which has replaced state-led social policy with privatization and deregulation of the market. Its belief in the inherent justice of the market has led to a political rationale, which literally puts profit before people. And it has colonized peoples’ minds by making them believe it is their fault if they are poor, precarious or unemployed.
The irony of neoliberalism is that it creates the illusion of social mobility, while reinforcing and even deepening social inequality. It assumes that if anyone can “make it” in a free market, it must be peoples’ own fault if they are poor. But this belief is not only wrong, it is also violent. Neoliberalism has resulted in the rich getting richer, and the poor suffering more from disenfranchisement, precariousness and dependency. What might seem like laissez-faire policy, is a refined and complex system of automated structural violence against the weak, which also shatters any possibilities of resistance.
Herd immunity is epidemiological neoliberalism. Much like the unconditional belief in the free market, herd immunity relies on the assumption that an epidemic is best overcome by leaving it unregulated. But just like neoliberalism, it results in violence against the weak and the poor: elderly and disabled people, homeless people, refugees and people with severe health conditions – many of whom are likely to also have a lower socio-economic status because of the correlation between poverty and illness. These are the people, who are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 – especially if the healthcare system is overwhelmed and doctors have to perform triage.

Crumbling Welfare States

It is no coincidence that it was the UK and the Netherlands, two of the most neoliberal countries in Europe, which advocated for this approach. These countries have spent the past decades implementing policies that privilege economic over social interests, and systematically defunded healthcare, education and housing. Opting against economically-harmful lockdown measures fits perfectly into their political rationale. Sweden, however, is a more puzzling case: it is a country which is internationally Numbers of critical care beds per 100,000 inhabitantsacclaimed for its good social policy and generous welfare state. But even an archetypical social democracy like Sweden has not been immune to neoliberal policy. Like most European countries, its welfare state has systematically been dismantled in the past decades.
The biggest challenge of the corona-epidemic is “flattening the curve”, so that the capacities for critical and intensive care are not overwhelmed. But these three countries already have such low capacities for critical care, that they wouldn’t suffice even with strict lockdown measures. The UK and the Netherlands only have about half the capacity of Italy of critical care beds per capita. And Sweden, the supposedly best welfare state in Europe, has even less than half.
If these countries wanted to prevent their capacities from being overwhelmed, they would have had to act a long time ago. But that ship has already sailed. Enforcing strict lockdown measures would not only put the economy under strain, but would also expose the crumbling health system from decades of neoliberal policy. Opting for herd immunity allows governments to blame the failure of the health system on the virus, rather than on bad governance. Just like individual poor people can be blamed for not trying hard enough, individual sick people can be blamed for not following quarantine measures. It doesn’t matter whether its nature, fate, or one’s own fault – as long as it’s not the government which is held accountable for peoples’ deaths.
Herd immunity is not just bad science or bad policy. It is biological warfare. Many people will die because of it, and governments won’t take responsibility for it. But this strategy did not appear from nowhere. It is a logical continuation of the political rationale that has governed the world for the past decades, taken to an extreme as a laissez-faire Social Darwinism. Because people who trust in an unregulated market will also trust in an unregulated epidemic – even if it kills.
* Isabel Frey is a Vienna-based artist and social justice activist, with a background in medical anthropology and sociology. She specialize in Yiddish revolutionary songs, reviving the tradition of left-wing Jewish activism by connecting it to contemporary political issues. This article was originally published on her blog The Quarantimes on March 19, 2020. The emphases added by the editor.

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The Probable Implications of the Coronavirus Crisis — Mariana Mazzucato, Eva Illouz, Alain Badiou

> Mariana Mazzucato: “Capitalism is facing at least three major crises. A pandemic-induced health crisis has rapidly ignited an economic crisis with yet unknown consequences for financial stability, and all of this is playing out against the backdrop of a climate crisis that cannot be addressed by “business as usual.”… We desperately need entrepreneurial states that will invest more in innovation – from artificial intelligence to public health to renewables. But as this crisis reminds us, we also need states that know how to negotiate, so that the benefits of public investment return to the public. A killer virus has exposed major weaknesses within Western capitalist economies. Now that governments are on a war footing, we have an opportunity to fix the system. If we don’t, we will stand no chance against the third major crisis – an increasingly uninhabitable planet – and all the smaller crises that will come with it in the years and decades ahead.” // Recommended read: The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (Mazzucato 2018)

> Eva Illouz: “The bluff of neo-liberalism must be called out. The era in which each economic actor need worry only about filling his or her pockets with gold must end… The public interest must return to the center of public policy. And corporations must contribute to this public good, if they want the market to even remain a frame for human activities… They will have to contribute to research, to emergency preparedness, and to massive hiring drives, once the crisis passes… Capitalists have taken for granted resources provided by the state – education, health, physical infrastructure – without acknowledging that the resources they were squandering from the state could, in a situation like this, ultimately be responsible for withholding them from the world which makes the economy possible. This must stop. For the economy to have meaning, it needs a world.” // Recommended read: Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives (Cabanas and Illouz 2019) 

> Alain Badiou: “Despite the existence of some trans-national authorities, it is clear that it is local bourgeois states that are on the frontline. We touch here on a major contradiction of the contemporary world. The economy, including the process of mass production of manufactured objects, comes under the aegis of the world market – we know that the simple assembly of a mobile phone mobilises work and resources, including mineral ones, in at least seven different states. And yet political powers remain essentially national in kind. And the rivalry between imperialisms, old (Europe and US) and new (China, Japan…) excludes any process leading to a capitalist world state. The epidemic is also a moment when the contradiction between economics and politics becomes flagrant.” // Recommended read: The  Rebirth  of  History:  Times  of  Riots  and  Uprisings (Badiou 2012)


Photo by William Daniels, National Geographic

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Isaac Asimov on the thrill of learning and the peril of ignorance

While the Coronavirus pandemic and its probable consequences have caused many to recall the great Isaac Asimov‘s science fiction stories, his two beautiful and shrewd quotes which are no less relevant to our times sprang to my mind: 

[What’s exciting is] the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there’s now a little extra facet of the universe you know about and can think about and can understand. It seems to me that when it’s time to die, there would be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. There’s only this one universe and only this one lifetime to try to grasp it… What a tragedy just to pass through and get nothing out of it.” (p. 266)
People think of education as something that they can finish. And what’s more, when they finish, it’s a rite of passage. What’s wrong with it is you have everybody looking forward to no longer learning, and you make them ashamed afterward of going back to learning. There is no reason, if you enjoy learning,  why you should stop at a given age. […] I’d like to think that people who were given the chance at learning facts, at broadening their knowledge of the universe, wouldn’t seek so avidly after mysticism. I wonder how many people go for these mystical, nonsensical things simply because they must go for something.” (Moyers 1989: 269)

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’… Now we have a new slogan on the part of the obstructionists: “Don’t trust the experts!”… We have a new buzzword, too, for anyone who admires competence, knowledge, learning and skill, and who wishes to spread it around. People like that are called “elitists”… What shall we do about it? We might begin by asking ourselves whether ignorance is so wonderful after all, and whether it makes sense to denounce “elitism”… I believe that what we badly need is social approval of learning and social rewards for learning.” (Asimov 1980).

— Moyers, Bill. 1989. A World of Ideas: Conversations with Thoughtful Men and Women about American Life Today and the Ideas Shaping our Future. Doubleday. (This volume transcribes a series of provocative interviews with great thinkers most of which were never seen on television before: Barbara Tuchman, Chinua Achebe, Peter Berger, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Drucker, Noam Chomsky, John Lukacs, and more).
— Asimov, Isaak. 1980. “A Cult of Ignorance.Newsweek, January 21, p. 19.

Isaac Asimov

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