Is there a working class in the US?

There is certainly a working class in the United States, and it is a majority of the population (persons who earn their livelihood through wage-paying employment). But it is highly fragmented, mostly in the service sector, unorganized, and often disinclined to believe in the possibility of serious social change. A recent Brookings research report by …

English socialism

What were the social conditions that led many English intellectuals in the 1930s to engage in fundamental critique of the society in which they lived? Why was social criticism so profound and sustained in Britain from the time of Carlyle and Engels to the surge of English socialism in the 1930s? The answer, of course, …

Carlyle’s critique of modernity

What is wrong with life in the modern world? The complaint that modern society represents a toxic reduction of the importance of community in the lives of individuals is a familiar one. One version of this critique is the idea is that modern society has replaced all personal bonds and relationships with a single "cash …

Alternative social systems and individual wellbeing

Communism ... or Capitalism? A joke from Poland in the 1970s: "In capitalism it is a question of man's exploitation by man. In communism it is the reverse." A modern social system is an environment where millions of people find opportunities, develop their talents, express their beliefs, and earn their livings within the context of …

Did Marx invent “class conflict”?

Marx offered several theories of the modern world that he observed around him in mid-nineteenth-century Britain that have influenced much of turmoil that ensued in the following century and a half -- theories about the "capitalist mode of production," about the role that class conflict plays in historical change, about the determinants of the actions …

Responsible innovation and the philosophy of technology

Several posts here have focused on the philosophy of technology (link, link, link, link). A simple definition of the philosophy of technology might go along these lines: Technology may be defined broadly as the sum of a set of tools, machines, and practical skills available at a given time in a given culture through which human needs and …

Entertainment as a valuable thing

Quite a bit of the GDP of the United States goes into a broad category we can call "entertainment" -- television, video streaming services, books and newspapers, concerts, theatre, sports events (live and broadcast), and video games. The entertainment industry amounts to $717 billion in the US economy (link), and professional athletics adds another $73.5 …

The second primitive accumulation

One of the more memorable parts of Capital is Marx's description of the “so-called primitive accumulation of capital” — the historical process where rural people were dispossessed of access to land and forced into industrial employment in cities like Birmingham and Manchester (link). It seems as though we’ve seen another kind of primitive accumulation in the past …

The tempos of capitalism

I've been interested in the economic history of capitalism since the 1970s, and there are a few titles that stand out in my memory. There were the Marxist and neo-Marxist economic historians (Marx's Capital, E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Rodney Hilton, Robert Brenner, Charles Sabel); the debate over the nature of the industrial revolution (Deane and …

Development ethnography and the life of the poor

Indian economists V. K. Ramachandran and Madhura Swaminathan have edited a highly interesting volume, Telling the Truth, Taking Sides: Essays for N. Ram, that will be of interest to anyone concerned with the progress of India in recent years. The book is a set of essays dedicated to the impact and progressive legacy of N Ram, …

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