• print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    Hegemony Changes Everything

    LAST YEAR, during a diversity workshop I was required to take for work, the facilitators asked each of us to share the moment we first became aware of class inequality. One of them gave her example to “get us started” and told us about the time she visited a wealthier classmate’s house and saw a bidet in the bathroom. I think we were meant to laugh, but I kept wondering if this “rich person” was maybe just Japanese. Details aside, I was confused. You would have to live in an absolute cultural vacuum not to realize until that point in life that rich people existed. The class divide was the very

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    The Thin Gray Line

    THE JOURNALIST EYAL PRESS HAS LONG BEEN FASCINATED by the vagaries of conscience. Why do some people speak out against misconduct while others stay silent? What price does such bravery exact? What distinguishes a genuine act of moral courage from a self-interested attempt to keep one’s hands clean?

    In Beautiful Souls, a tour de force of reportage from 2012, Press investigated the stories of “nonconformists” who chose to break rank when faced with grave wrongdoing. His subjects included those who helped Jewish refugees escape from Nazi Germany, rescued Croats from their Serbian tormentors, and

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2022

    The Old Jim Crow

    IN 1947, A YOUNG AUDRE LORDE and her family boarded a train from New York to Washington, DC. Along with their luggage, they carried a box of food, including roast chickens, bread, butter, pickles, peppers, carrots, a spice bun, peaches, iced cakes, rock cakes, iced tea, napkins, and a rosewater-dampened washcloth. “I wanted to eat in the dining car,” Lorde writes in her autobiography, Zami (1982), “but my mother reminded me for the umpteenth time that dining car food always cost too much money.” Her mother was hiding the full truth—that Black families could not eat in southbound dining cars—to

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  • print • Sept/Oct/Nov 2021

    Law and Border

    “THERE ARE POLICY CHOICES to be made about who should be an immigrant, and that includes removing folks who don’t qualify under the law,” said Cecilia Muñoz, a member of President Joe Biden’s transition team, and previously the face of President Barack Obama’s harsh immigration-enforcement policies, in a recent interview. She added, “That’s, I think, just the reality of being a nation.”

    Muñoz’s comment is true in the same way “all bachelors are unmarried men” is true—analytically, by virtue of the meaning of its constituent terms. When “a nation” is constituted as the nation-state, in the

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  • review • March 23, 2021

    Gabriel Winant’s chronicle of working-class Pittsburgh

    The past few years have seen the resurgence of the working class as a topic of interest, with pundits passing judgements and Ivy League–educated politicians posturing for proletarian clout, though all too often without any input from the workers themselves.

    If working-class people are present, they often get the Hillbilly Elegy–treatment. Real people are reduced to caricatures or abstractions; “the workers” become a catchall scapegoat for backwardness, racism, unwillingness to change, and, almost always, as a proxy for whiteness. Trump’s rise is blamed on the working class, an act of misrecognition

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    Prime Mover

    GET BIG FAST was an early Amazon motto. The slogan sounds like a fratty refrain tossed around at the gym. Jeff Bezos had it printed on T-shirts. More than twenty-five years after leaving his position as a Wall Street hedge-fund executive to found Amazon, Bezos’s size anxiety is long gone. (At least as it pertains to his company; the CEO’s Washington, DC, house has eleven bedrooms and twenty-five bathrooms, a bedroom-to-bathroom ratio that raises both architectural and scatological questions.) Bezos is now worth $180 billion. Amazon, were it a country, would have a larger GDP than Australia.

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  • print • Mar/Apr/May 2021

    Search and Destroy

    I REGRET TO INFORM THE READER that Andreas Malm’s new book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, does not in fact contain instructions on how to blow up a pipeline. The title is aspirational: how to get enough people to realize that (a) drastic measures are now required to prevent or ameliorate the worst effects of global warming, (b) the usual protests and appeals to institutional authority are getting nowhere, and therefore (c) direct action against the instruments and agents of climate disaster is justified.

    I’m not going to pretend to be impartial. News items pile up in my brain: three-thousand-year-old

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  • excerpt • February 04, 2021

    With Black Marxism, Cedric J. Robinson revealed how racial capitalism creates class difference

    Racial capitalism has been the subject of a robust body of scholarship and has become virtually a field unto itself since the re-publication of Black Marxism. In fact, the term has become so commonplace in Left circles that when the neo-Marxist philosopher Michael Walzer confessed his ignorance of “racial capitalism” in the pages of Dissent, social media lit up, shaming and schooling the professor for being a political and theoretical luddite. Walzer’s response, however, is typical of a number of leading Marxist thinkers who have dismissed as insufficiently anti-capitalist the decade-long

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  • excerpt • January 06, 2021

    How Black activists organized within the women’s suffrage movement

    New York women won the vote just as the Nineteenth Amendment campaign was gaining momentum in Washington. To push their cause over the top, the state’s suffragists met in Saratoga, New York, in fall 1917. With a reputation for spring waters that promoted health, the upstate village had been a fabled meeting place since the mid-nineteenth century, one popular with generations of New York’s political leaders. In 1917, the New York City Women’s Suffrage Party delegates might have taken time to drink in the salutary effects of the spas and they drew breath from the same air breathed by the state’s

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    Dull Access

    THE MARKETING COPY describing True Crimes and Misdemeanors as “a real-life legal thriller” sets up unfair expectations for a book rehashing recent news. The outcome is already known: Trump is still president, despite two investigations examining shady dealings with Russia and Ukraine. Early in his presidency, with liberal media at a fever pitch comparing him to twentieth century European dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler, it seemed that liberals really believed the headwinds of collective outrage would topple Trump before the end of his first term. As of this writing, two weeks before the

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    A Heart Is Not a Nation

    I REMEMBER BETTER THAN MOST where I was when I knew Donald Trump would win. Not just that he would win but that “the office” would not subdue him, that he was coming because he was the crest of a wave, a force made unstoppable by its mostly unseen mass. It was October 9, 2016, I was forty-four, and I was having a heart attack. On the TV above my hospital bed, at his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump loomed over Clinton’s shoulder. My nurse, a Trump supporter, gave me a drip of nitroglycerin. It was a slow-moving heart attack. It’d gathered strength across days, at first fooling the ER

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  • print • Dec/Jan/Feb 2021

    American History XYZ

    YOU MAY NOT HAVE BEEN thinking about American history on September 17, not in the longitudinal sense. Maybe you were taking a limited view of the historical arc, something like, “What the fuck?” That morning, as he often does, Trump connected the immediate and the long-view senses of history by announcing the “1776 Commission,” a body conjured from thin air and allegedly dedicated to the case of “patriotic education.” The proximate insult that Trump and his speechwriters were responding to was the New York Times’s 1619 Project, a collection of essays and study resources with a longer view that

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