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  • In the conclusion of Ivan Ascher's interview about Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Mode of Prediction, the author discusses the definition of neoliberalism, the book's cover art, Donald Trump, and more.

    Since this book is published in Zone’s Near Futures Series, which is considering the consequences of neoliberalism: how do you define neoliberalism?

    Frankly, I tend to stay away from definitional debates over what constitutes neoliberalism properly so called. There is much to be said for recognizing neoliberalism as a distinct class project, and there is much to be said for recognizing it as a distinct form of rationality. Both strike me as reasonable approaches, so long as they help us acknowledge the continuities and discontinuities between our contemporary formations and what came before. I suppose I am closer to Wendy Brown’s line of thinking than to David Harvey’s, but I don’t think one always has to choose. My own contribution is to focus on one particular aspect of the story, which is financialization.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Wed, 12 Apr 2017 in history, political science
  • Ivan Ascher discusses his book, Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Mode of Prediction, a bold extension of Marx’s Capital for the twenty-first century: at once a critique of modern finance and of the societies under its spell.

    You suggest the excesses of capitalism might not have led to ruin for so many. As you write, “While it may be that the pursuit of profit is a defining constant in the history of capitalism, the precise forms of exploitation and predation that it produces are not.” Could you discuss this point?

    What I meant is simply that we must distinguish between what is old and what is new in today’s financialized capitalism. While I take the pursuit of profit to be a constant in capitalism, almost by definition, I also think the specific terms under which this profit is pursued can vary. Specifically, where the wage relation was once the main site of both profit-making and political struggle, it now seems the credit relation has taken its place—at least in much of the global North.

    Posted at 04:41 pm on Tue, 04 Apr 2017 in history, political science
  • In the second part of Melinda Cooper's interview about her new book Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, she discusses America's present moment. Revist part one here.

    It’s interesting to note in your work the many instances of American policy makers working across party lines to achieve legislation in a way that is impossible to imagine in the US at the present momentMoynihan and Nixon in the 1970s, Clinton and Gingrich in the 1990sbut do you think their work in some ways led to the gridlock and complete polarization we see today?

    I think the idea of “polarization” assumes that there are two poles. Really what you have is a center right (mostly represented by Democrats and a few pragmatic Republicans) and a far right that seems intent on jamming the parliamentary machine and sabotaging the whole process by which government decisions might be taken or funded. This is happening everywhere. And it tends to lead to the kind of far right authoritarianism of a Donald Trump, as executive power is the only way to unjam the machinery.

    Posted at 10:51 am on Wed, 22 Mar 2017 in political science
  • In the first of a two-part interview, Melinda Cooper discusses her new book Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, an investigation of the roots of the alliance between free-market neoliberals and social conservatives.

    Family Values shows how welfare policy in the US in the late 20th century doesn't fall easily along the obvious party lines as we understand them today: i.e. Democrats in favor and Republicans against. For instance, why did Milton Friedman call Nixon “the most socialist of the Presidents of the US in the 20th century?”

    It’s hilarious to think that Republicans and Tea Party-ers were calling Obama a “socialist.” Nixon—and even Milton Friedman in the 1960s—were much more “socialist” than Obama has ever been, in the sense that they supported the expansion of social welfare commenced by Johnson and were actively involved in designing a basic guaranteed income. These were social democratic rather than socialist policies but they appear extremely radical today. We forget how much consensus there was around the principle of social insurance and how powerful the extraparliamentary left was at this time, powerful enough to force both Democrats and Republicans to the left. Of course, a lot of this was pure pragmatism—Milton Friedman called Nixon the “most socialist president of the United States” because he was outraged that Nixon refused to adopt his monetarist policies of tightening the money supply. Instead, Nixon used loose monetary policy and tolerated inflation so that he could sustain social spending at a high level. Friedman was willing to compromise with the zeitgeist to a certain extent, but he thought that Nixon's pragmatic concessions to the left went too far. Today, pragmatism pushes all politicians to the right. It is the extraparliamentary far right that is the real undertow shaping political tides.

    Posted at 12:00 pm on Wed, 15 Mar 2017 in political science
  • In recent weeks U.S. federal agents have arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in several states in a series of raids that signaled the enforcement of Donald Trump's order to crack down on immigrants living here illegally. John Tirman explains why the "round them up, deport them, militarize the border” approach solves nothing. He is the author of Immigration and the American Backlash, which describes the “raid mentality” of our response to immigration that seeks violent solutions for a social phenomenon.

    The recent uptick in arrests, detentions, and deportations of unauthorized immigrants has alarmed the Hispanic community, civil liberties advocates, and a public concerned about illegal immigration but largely forgiving of its protagonists. The round-ups, carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seem unusually harsh. And they also seem to portend even more drastic expulsion policies.

    Posted at 12:30 pm on Tue, 21 Feb 2017 in current affairs, political science, public policy


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