American Labor’s Death

American Labor’s Death

A U.S. Supreme Court decision set to come out this summer could decide the fate of the nation’s public sector unions, and judging by the temperament of the court’s conservative five-member majority, it looks as if labor is bracing for a powerful punch to the gut. The court’s acceptance of the idea of that money is tantamount to speech means that a decision in Harris v. Quinn could mean the end of the “closed shop” in government employment. More»

How Not to Defend Spoilers

How Not to Defend Spoilers

A seemingly endless pattern has developed. Somebody on my Facebook feed gives away a development from a television program, and another person complains. Then, the discussion starts. It’s always the same thing, the same arguments, and the same discourses that prevent any meaningful exploration from taking place. More»

Facing Multicultural Europe

Facing Multicultural Europe

When you see them all lined up in a row, staring out at you with faces of cheer and goodwill, the pressure to identify with them is strong. To identify with them as Europeans. To identify with Europe. And that’s surely the point behind this ad campaign, because the bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg who signed off on it need to cultivate a sense of continental belonging. More»

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Qutb's Communism

Qutb’s Communism

For all his shortcomings, I find Sayyid Qutb to be treated somewhat unfairly. This was probably inevitable. After all, Qutb’s prison writings as a disenchanted member of the Muslim Brotherhood helped inspire two of the region’s most fear-inducing ideologies: Islamism, and Salafi jihadism. More»

Are the Mekons a Meal?

Are the Mekons a Meal?

The other night I saw Skull Orchard, the latest side band of the Mekons’ Jon Langford, in Brooklyn. I was hungry for some good music, and the show was filling—but not the same way even the best reunions, such as Flag’s recent set, or the Avengers show a few years back, have been. More»

Austerity Rising

Austerity Rising

The broad European response to the economic downturn of the last few years has been various programmes of economic austerity: reductions of national expenditure through intense budget cuts. History shows that this is a risky tactic. Policies like this played an important role in aiding the Nazis’ rise to power at the end of the Weimar Republic More»

Concentrated Wealth

Concentrated Wealth

The publication of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by French economist Thomas Piketty, has come at a crucial moment. In the US,  there have been suggestions from the White House that income inequality is a matter of concern. Europe today has become a sort of mad scientist’s laboratory in which defunct theories from the past (austerity, the gold standard, German hegemony) are redeployed in the hope that they’ll work better this time around. More»

Nostalgic for Nirvana

Nostalgic for Nirvana

Over the past month, pieces marking the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide have built to a crescendo. For those who remember the initial coverage of his death, when his face stared out from publication after publication, the commemoration inspired a disturbing sense of déjà vu. We were being asked to relive something that wasn’t pleasant to begin with, but also, inevitably, to compare that period with our own. More»

Muhammad the Anti-Capitalist

Muhammad the Anti-Capitalist

Would the Prophet Muhammad have been anti-capitalist?  Obviously, we cannot know. The Prophet’s experiences with mystical poetry, called “Revelation” by believing Muslims, are firmly grounded in their historical setting. They cannot offer direct insight on capitalism any more than they can provide a critique of Italian Futurism More»

Farewell to Café Aleppo

Farewell to Café Aleppo

“So how are you leaving Armenia?” Levon asked, with a smile. After six months in Yerevan, I was soon to return home. I regretted my decision. Levon, the composite character of Syrian-Armenian refugee and kebab stall owner I had come to know during my stay, was arranging triangular Khachapuri, Georgian cheese pastries, on a baking tray. When tessellated, he grinned at his handywork, then up at me. More»

Treatises of Fascism

Treatises of Fascism

If we are to maintain our vigilance in the face of the possibility, of the return of fascist forms of government to Europe, it is important to understand some of the structural causes that facilitated the rise of fascism and allowed it to gain such a hold of the populations in the countries involved.  One of these is philosophical, and another is simply how it spreads. More»

Putin's Asia

Putin’s Asia

Last year, many commentators in the West were aghast at the Russian stance on the Syrian civil war. It was in early 2013 when Russia and China presented a united opposition at the UN Security Council to intervention in Syria. Then it was flabberghasted at the Russian opposition, in the summer of 2013, to Obama’s proposed ‘punitive measures’ (e.g. indiscriminate bombing). More»

Sustain This

Sustain This

Despite what the longbeards growing arugula on their rooftops in Brooklyn — or Berlin — would have you believe, there may be nothing less sexy than sustainability. That’s no dis. We are programmed, whether biologically or culturally, to seek out the sort of bliss that is, by definition, gone right after it comes. And that’s a problem for any politics that wishes to depose the prevailing social order. More»

Soviet Neocons

Soviet Neocons

One of the difficulties of critically discussing the Soviet-Afghan war is conceptually imagining Soviet imperialism. Many leftists are hesitant to condemn the nature of Soviet militarism in countries like Afghanistan. While there are understandable reasons for this, it misses the crucial point. More»

Trafalgar Square in Pakistan

Trafalgar Square in Pakistan

Bahria Town in Lahore is the tackiest place I’ve been to in Pakistan, with the possible exception of the resort town in Murree. It wasn’t necessarily bad for it, especially since the infrastructure clearly made Bahria Town a great place to live. However, it was irritating, as the child of formerly working-class parents, to see the absurd machinations of people with no idea how to spend their money.  More»