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Many of the critical issues of our time—from clean water to health care to schools—are about public goods, things that are owed to the members of a democratic society. In the United States, these goods are endangered and access to them is constricted by class and race. Against this background, Trump’s nearly empty White House stands as a symbol of the crisis our democracy faces. In this Forum we consider public goods: what they are, how to provide them, how to ensure equitable access. The debate about public goods is at heart a debate about what it means to be an American. What is at stake is not only what we owe to each other but who we are.
Technology and the loss of manufacturing jobs have many worried about future mass unemployment. It is in this context that basic income—a government cash grant given unconditionally to all—has gained support from a surprising range of advocates, from Silicon Valley to labor. Our contributors explore basic income’s merits, not only as a salve for financial precarity, but as a path toward racial justice and equality. Others, more skeptical, see danger in a basic income designed without attention to workers’ power and the quality of work. Together they offer a nuanced debate about what it will take to tackle inequality and what kind of future we should aim to create.
Walter Johnson, Harvard historian and author of the acclaimed River of Dark Dreams, urges us to embrace a vision of justice attentive to the history of slavery—not through the lens of human rights, but instead through an honest accounting of how slavery was the foundation of capitalism, a legacy that continues to afflict people of color and the poor. Inspired by Cedric J. Robinson’s work on racial capitalism, as well as Black Lives Matter and its forebears—including the black radical tradition, the Black Panthers, South African anti-apartheid struggles, and organized labor—contributors to this volume offer a critical handbook to racial justice in the age of Trump.
“In time of crisis, we summon up our strength,” wrote poet Muriel Rukeyser. This collection gathers poems—from the eve of the twenty-first century to the month following Trump’s election—to mark a moment of political rupture, summoning the collective strength found in the languages of resistance and memory, subversion and declamation, struggle and hope. Poetry is a counterforce. We offer these poems to readers as Rukeyser did—“not walls, but human things, human faces.”
Donald Trump claims to "cherish women," but his gendered insults suggest otherwise. But what if there was a clear rationale behind his apparent doublethink? In our forum "The Logic of Misogyny," Kate Manne argues that misogyny is not about hating women. It is about keeping them in “their place”—below men—in the patriarchal order. Vivian Gornick, Christina Hoff Sommers, Tali Mendelberg, Doug Henwood, Imani Perry, Susan J. Brison, and Amber A'Lee Frost respond. Michael Bronski argues that if gay liberation hadn't happened—with its impractical desire to upend society—then the gay rights movement would never have won its legal battles. Mike Konczal challenges a guiding principle of conservatives, pointing out it is absurd to believe that problems created by global deregulation can be solved at the local level. Donna Murch shows how personal debt is once again landing people in jail, even though debtors' prison was outlawed more than a century ago. Also: Anne Fausto-Sterling asks how soon is too soon for trans kids to transition; Colin Dayan on the cruelties the South doles out to animals, children, and black folks; and Oded Na’aman describes how Israel tricks itself into believing war is necessary. Plus new poetry by John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Charif Shanahan, Rebecca Liu, and more.
Public education should make citizens, not workers. So says Danielle Allen in our new forum—and she thinks that the focus on STEM can't accomplish that goal, only the humanities can. Respondents include Deborah Meier, Clint Smith, Michel DeGraff, and Rob Reich. Alex de Waal, one of the nineties' leading humanitarian reporters, has had a radical change of heart: almost all humanitiarian interventions go horribly wrong, he mourns, so maybe we're doing more harm than good. Samuel Moyn worries we focus too much on rights and not enough on duties, and James G. Chappel proposes that our obsession with secularism has made religion more inscrutable—and out of control—than ever. Plus a celebration of 2016's 92Y/"Discovery" Prize–winning poets, and new work from John Ashbery, Jorie Graham, and Brenda Hillman.
Black Lives Matter! Robin D. G. Kelley leads this issue's forum by suggesting that grassroots political education would strengthen the black student movement, while also questioning the movement's reliance on the language of personal trauma. Michael Eric Dyson, Randall L. Kennedy, Christopher Lebron, Aaron Bady, and others respond. Major Jackson offers a surreal, arresting take on police violence in his new poem, "Ferguson." Anne Fausto-Sterling notes how racist stereotypes are embedded in medical school curricula, and Peter James Hudson critiques recent books on slavery and capitalism for overlooking the vital contributions of radical black scholarship. Joy James reviews a long-lost nineteenth-century memoir that reveals the roots of black incarceration, and Carina del Valle Schorske notes the importance of the historical archive (or lack thereof) to black American poets. Plus, Sarah Hill offers a tribute to her teacher, Sidney Mintz, who made vital contributions to scholarship on the black Atlantic; Stephen Kinzer interviews Andrew J. Bacevich about how we will lose the war for control of the Greater Middle East; Jonathan Kirshner skewers Niall Ferguson's voluminous new book on Kissinger; and erica kaufman celebrates Eileen Myles's skill as a poet.
In our first forum of 2016, Jedediah Purdy accepts that there is no longer a nature independent of human meddling—so how then, he asks, do we make that condition more democratic? Alisa Reznick reports on how clean water is being used as a weapon in Syria's civil war, and David G. Victor questions whether university divestment from fossil fuels really brings us closer to a greener future. In an arresting personal essay, Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey reports on an experiment in the humane raising and butchering of pigs. Also, Nick Bromell asks whether we should enshrine dignity as a critical democratic right, Robert Archambeau reviews two new collections from Charles Simic, and more. Join us in the New Nature!
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