Category Archives: How Could Marx Be So Wrong?

May 3, 2013, 8:31 am

It Isn’t Easy To Be Marx: Recent History in the Nineteenth Century

14939251-karl-marx-image-in-a-cancelled-stampOn the way to the airport, I began one of my travel activities: catching up with the paper publications that accumulate despite my best efforts to keep up.  In this way I discovered John Gray’s review of Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth Century Life (Liveright, 2013).  It’s a beautifully written essay about what sounds like a must-read summer book. According to Gray, this is a major revision of Marx, of his impact on history, and of the various willful readings and misinterpretations that made Marx’s work such a powerful influence on the twentieth century.

From my perspective, this is particularly timely. If you are a subscriber to Jacobin (which you should be), you will notice that Marxism is undergoing a revival of sorts, as young left intellectuals try to grapple with the turns history is taking and how we might think our way through to activist interventions….

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July 9, 2010, 1:25 pm

Anger (Is Not A Good) Management (Style): A Meditation On The American Way Of Rage

Well, If LeBron James wasn’t sure it was a good idea to leave Ohio, he knows it now, doesn’t he? Historians, what does this picture remind you of?

I started thinking about why Americans feel entitled to their anger early this morning. At around 5:20 I turned right onto a road I normally take to go to my rowing club. As I approached a bridge leading to a major intersection, I saw that my lane was blocked with orange cones, and a sign that said “Road Work” was on the left hand sidewalk. I couldn’t see over the bridge because it was arched, and there was no one there to tell me what to do. Proceeding slowly and with caution, I drove to the peak of the bridge in the oncoming lane (often what one is asked to do, at the direction of a worker designated to help) and saw that the intersection was completely blocked by people resurfacing the road I needed to cross.
At that moment, a DOT…

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December 4, 2008, 12:27 pm

A Letter To the Academic Proletariat

Many well-wishers wrote in to sympathize with the hazards I encountered mailing recommendations to Ph.D. programs: thank you, I am better. Nothing was broken, and the bruises are fading.

But the pain is only beginning elsewhere. The thought that I was sending more unlucky holders of the B.A. down the chute to the slaughterhouse of graduate school raised this question for frustrated job-seeker and blogging comrade Sisyphus. “Do you ever feel like you shouldn’t be sending students on to grad school and contributing to the whole PhD ponzi scheme?” asks this industrious young scholar, who applied for over 60 jobs this year, fifty of which have fallen to budget-cutting. “Esp. when there are all these dire predictions about even undergrad degrees becoming priced out of affordability for the middle class? I’m trying to get an academic job right now and bad as this year is compared to other…

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March 7, 2008, 2:22 pm

Breakthroughs in Education Department

My partner N pointed me to this article in today’s New York Times about a new charter school in the Bronx where one of the innovations is: teachers will be paid well. The idea is that you could get high quality teachers to commit to teaching secondary school by paying them as though they were intellectuals who did valuable work.

Jeez, why didn’t I think of that? Teachers should be paid professionals, rather than robots reciting a set curriculum. Or recent college graduates looking to do a little social service before law school. Or grown-up lawyers who have made their bundle and think that teaching is going to be a snap after thirty years of doing wills and trusts. Each of these solutions, regardless of what their individual merits might be, relies on paying teachers as little a school district can get away with.

“The school,” writes reporter Elissa Gootman,

“which will run from fifth …

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February 24, 2008, 10:38 pm

College on $50 a Day: It’s a Great Way to Fly

In “The Skies Are Alive With Fees”, the New York Times’ Joe Sharkey writes about Irish airline Ryanair’s cutthroat pricing system. Boasting fares as low as $30 round trip on some European routes, Ryanair is also “the world champion among airlines in generating extra cash by charging customers fees for services and products that most airlines include in the ticket price: checked bags, beverages and — for a time before the idea was dropped amid public outcry — even using a wheelchair.” What is called in business-speak “differential pricing,” I believe, is not unknown to American travelers. Recently United offered me the opportunity to pay $25 extra for more leg room; there are special travel categories where travelers who pay more are checked in faster; and instead of the cute meals in little plastic dishes we used to get before 9/11, as Sharkey points out, flight attendants sell…

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August 26, 2007, 1:02 pm

Welcome to Relationships 101, New Professors

Hello New Professors!

Welcome to XU. Right now, your life is a rush of new knowledge, for which graduate school prepared you not at all. Sure, there are some experiences you have already had, like having to get a campus map in your head while you were unpacking and finishing your syllabus. (Actually — have your belongings arrived yet, or are are you balancing your lap top on your bicycle rack while sitting cross-legged on the floor? That’s what I thought.)

And there are other things you know — you have at least been a section leader at CU, or perhaps you have even run your own seminar, so you have some idea of what will happen on the first day of class. You are vowing to memorize all your students’ names in the first week, and you have even written a number of lectures in advance before things get crazy. Perhaps you have been assigned a mentor, having just escaped your graduate…

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