In a new contribution to the Reading Racial Conflict series, N. D. B. Connolly analyzes an early gathering of black supporters in the new Trump administration, and much more about the contemporary political economy of race, through Robert Allen’s 1969 Black Awakening in Capitalist America. Drawing on Allen, Connolly makes a strong case for the relevance of (neo)colonialism—and its emphasis on both violence and the co-opting of sections of the elite among the “colonized”—as an essential framework for understanding America’s present.
Rachel Sherman is associate professor of sociology at the New School. She teaches and conducts research on social inequalities, service work, consumption, social movements, and qualitative methods. Her books include Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels (University of California Press, 2007) and Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence (Princeton University Press, forthcoming 2017).
In this 2006 essay from the Items archive, Paul Silverstein and Chantal Tetreault examine the social history out of which the November 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris (and across France) arose. In their analysis, they discuss the use of colonial era laws and broader parallels with overseas French colonial rule that constitute a form of internal colonialism with regard to migrant communities in France itself. The parallels with N. D. B. Connolly’s new essay on the contemporary relevance Robert Allen are clear—i.e., one way of understanding racial and ethnic marginalization and discrimination (in the United States or France) is through the lens of colonial relations and structures.
Adom Getachew engages in a close reading of Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery in our latest essay in the "Reading Racial Conflict" series. Getachew connects Williams’s classic argument for how the institution of slavery fueled capitalist development in the global North to recent demands, emerging from the Caribbean and other regions devastated by the slave trade, for reparations.
Why has climate change been so difficult to address through democratic institutions and processes? The SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program established a working group to engage this question. Robert O. Keohane and Nancy L. Rosenblum, cochairs of the working group, provide a sense of the issues that have animated its work thus far: mobilization for climate change, the politics of mitigation strategies, and the often neglected role of emotion in democratic participation.
In this contribution from the Items archive from 2007/8, Eda Pepi and Peter Sahlins reflect on an earlier Council program from the 1990s on the intersection of the environment with human action. In many ways ahead of its time, the SSRC’s Global Environmental Change program connected social scientists and climate scientists, and developed agendas that have shaped today’s interdisciplinary research on the human causes and consequences of environmental change.
Early proponents of the power of digital publishing celebrated the ways in which the Internet, and in particular the world wide web, democratized both access to information and the ability to disseminate knowledge to wide audiences. News organizations might evade government controls of the press by publishing on servers outside their nations’ borders. Dissidents could organize in the digital public sphere, evading controls that prevented freedom of assembly in the physical world. Scholars could disseminate work in progress directly to the web either outside of the process of peer review or under the aegis of new types of online journals.
This essay by Charles Taylor draws from a lecture sponsored by the SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program, called "Ways Democracy Can Slip Away," on October 17, 2016, at Roosevelt House in New York City, and is copublished in The Democracy Papers. Taylor was the program’s 2016 Democracy Fellow. Speaking in the weeks before the 2016 US election, Taylor discusses the character of modern democracies and their vulnerability to what he call “spirals of decline.” He concludes with a reflection on the present populist moment.
Nancy Rosenblum’s Items contribution is based on her response to Charles Taylor’s October Roosevelt House lecture, "Ways Democracy Can Slip Away," and also appears in The Democracy Papers. A member of the Anxieties of Democracy program’s Advisory Committee, Rosenblum reflects on Taylor’s arguments through the lenses of history and political philosophy. She ends on a note of contingent hope, emphasizing that democracy’s contemporary vulnerabilities are related to genuine advances in the quality of democracy over time.
Relevant to our new essays on democracy, we republish Adam Przeworski’s 1997 essay from the Items archive, which is based on a talk he gave at the SSRC in 1996. While focused more on the state of social scientific understanding of transitions to democracy at that moment, much of what he writes is relevant to issues raised by Charles Taylor and Nancy Rosenblum, not least the tendencies toward disenchantment with democratic institutions and the limits of what they can achieve.
President Obama’s constant calls for Americans to “disagree without being disagreeable” now feel like an ironic epitaph to a bygone era of somewhat better feelings. With the inauguration of our new Incivilitarian-in-Chief, a man who has apparently elevated ad hominem to new heights of electoral success, surely the once perennial bloom is, at long last, off the “civilitarian” rose?