A Weekly Correction: June 25, 2019

“When the Ph.D’s can’t make a living, what hope is there for the rest of us?” - Hamilton Nolan

“U.S. hegemony in the post–Cold War era was like nothing the world had seen since the Roman Empire” - Fareed Zakaria

What we’re reading:

This week we’re reading an article in which Hamilton Nolan describes the large scale unionisation of adjunct professors currently taking place across the state of Florida. Nolan first and foremost provides an excellent description of the economic and political factors that have given rise to this new labour movement; since the financial crisis of 2008, state governments pursuing austerity measures have slashed higher education funding, leading to higher levels of student debt, and universities have increasingly eliminated full-time teaching positions in favour of cheaper adjunct ones. Responding to the question of how Florida’s higher education institutions have responded to adjunct teachers’ efforts to unionise, Nolan writes, “Union drives have woken colleges up to the suffering of adjuncts, and the schools’ typical response is to threaten them with further suffering.”

In this article, Fareed Zakaria discusses the rise and fall of American hegemony on the world stage, asking if the demise of America’s dominant position from the end of the Cold War to present day the result of external forces, or rather the product of bad habits and bad behaviour (alternatively, can it be attributed to the rise of new challengers, or to America’s imperial overreach)? The answer, he suggests, is a bit of both.

This week we’re reading a handbook from the Extinction Rebellion movement entitled This is Not a Drill, a book which outlines the vision on how to mobilise and respond to the current global climate and ecological crisis. Extinction Rebellion’s principle goal is to demand action from Governments on climate change, and they are best known for the sit ins they have staged in London this Spring. As the book states, the climate crisis requires widespread, unprecedented citizen mobilisation and action: “Now or never, we need to be radical. We need to rise up. And we need to rebel.”

What we’re watching :

This week we’re watching a documentary from Vitaly Mansky that follows a North Korean family living in Pyongyang. Using a technique of leaving the camera running to capture moments between the scenes staged by the North Korean government, Mansky shows powerfully the difference in what the regime wishes to portray about the nation and the more bleak realities of daily life.

What we’re listening to :

This week we’re listening to a lecture by Daniel on the “Meritocracy Trap,”  hosted at the London School of Economics and part of their podcast series of public lectures and events, on the Meritocracy Trap. The lecture discusses how meritocracy has come to replace aristocracy, now forming “a basic tenet of civil religion in all advanced societies.” As he tells the audience, “merit is not a genuine excellence but rather—like the false virtues that aristocrats trumpeted in the ancien régime—a pretence, constructed to rationalise an offensive distribution of advantage.”