Past Events & Streaming

We Have Never Been Middle Class

We Have Never Been Middle Class Work hard, play by the rules, get ahead. You’ve heard that sermon from Obama, from Elizabeth Warren, maybe even internalized the unstated corollary. If you don’t make it, schmuck, it’s your own fault. Our panelists see it differently. Promises of social mobility in neoliberal capitalist America are empty. Working-class children without college degrees, as Jennifer Silva has shown, have no shot at the union jobs their parents or grandparents had, and struggle to manage their pain. Students form what Gary Roth calls an educated underclass. The so-called professional-managerial class, which saw itself as a neutral arbiter between Capital and Labor, as Gabriel Winant has noted, is decomposing into a few winners and an indebted, downwardly mobile majority. And Hadas Weiss argues that the so-often-invoked category of ‘the middle class’ itself is nothing more than an ideology, a fantasy produced by capitalism which instills the belief that anyone can ascend or rise entirely by his or her own efforts. Now — after the onslaught of Covid-19 and the steps taken to isolate it — economists are predicting a 30% unemployment rate, larger than the Great Depression. How will the already-frayed ideology of the American Dream fare under circumstances that demand resources far beyond individual merit? Will the loose conception of society as being composed of a broad, middle strata, surrounded by the fortunate rich and the unfortunate poor, give way to a relational picture of class, one that maps lines of class struggle more accurately and reveals whose foot is on whose head? Red May welcomes four actual social scientists to figure things out. Gary Roth, Hadas Weiss, Gabriel Winant, Jennifer Silva, Philip Wohlstetter (mod)
National Security after a Viral Pearl Harbor

National Security after a Viral Pearl Harbor Pundits have been comparing its effects to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. A surprise attack that overwhelmed American defenses. With forty-thousand dead and counting, one can’t help thinking that the multi-trillion dollars thrown at jets that don’t fly and space forces might be better allocated constructing a viable public health infrastructure. But the problems go deeper. Let us stipulate that the notion of "national security" as it has evolved since the onset of the Cold War, is a totally inadequate conceptual frame to guide our decision-making in an interdependent world facing a climate crisis of unprecedented proportions; that the supposedly hard-nosed technocratic concept provided, in practice, a convenient pretext for intervention anywhere in the world and a handy way to cover one’s ass afterwards; that the coexistence of a democracy subject to the rule of law and a state of arbitrary unlimited powers justified by national security and subject to no review is a house divided against itself that cannot stand: it will become all one thing or all the other. What concept should replace ‘national security’ as an omnibus term for the protection of the American population? What should we call that replacement? What principles should define it that would protect us from the long train of abuses that the concept of ‘national security’ enabled? What are the political obstacles (organizational, budgetary, etc.) to implementing those principles? Last of all, since this is Red May, let’s not shy away from use of the words, ‘empire’, ‘capitalism’, or ‘decolonization’, if they should prove relevant to articulating those obstacles. Join us for a lively conversation. Daniel Bessner, Jeanne Morefield, Andrew Bacevich, Adom Getachew, Nikhil Singh, Philip Wohlstetter (moderator)