On today's program, Vince speaks with Charles Derber, who is a professor of sociology at Boston College.
Derber is a prolific writer. Derber's work falls into three major categories. One is a critique of individualism and American culture. In 2000, Oxford University Press printed a 20th year commemorative edition of 'The Pursuit of Attention', marking its status as a classic sociological work. It focuses on ego-centeredness and 'conversational narcissism' in everyday life as structured by class, gender and America’s individualistic culture. Derber's book, 'The Wilding of America', in its fifth edition, is a widely used text in American sociology. It offers a sharp critique of the American Dream and the crisis of hyper-individualism.
Derber is known as a public sociologist who writes for general audiences, offering not only sociological critiques but alternative visions. He appears frequently on talk shows, has written opinion pieces for media including the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Newsday and Tikkun, and is a regular contributor to Cognoscenti, the opinion page of WBUR, Boston's NPR station. He is one of the most prominent contemporary exemplars of the sociological imagination as championed by C. Wright Mills, and, like Mills, he believes in the importance of melding critical scholarship with social justice activism. Derber has long been active in the peace, environmental and labor movements, from his 1960s work to register African-American voters in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and his opposition to the Vietnam War to current movements such as Occupy and the struggle to prevent climate change and transform global corporate capitalism into a robust economic and political democracy.
Show Description - Monday, August 28th: On today's program, Vince finishes the series "Racism: A History -A Savage Legacy"
In the name of civilising 'the African,' 90% of Africa was divided among the European powers. Leopold II of Belgium set out to become personally wealthy through his seizure of the Congo, where extreme violence, mutilation and other coercive methods forced the local people to obtain rubber and other raw materials. Between 1880 and 1920 about 10 million people, were killed, yet Leopold built an opulent museum to the colonisation of the Congo, which became the venue of one of the first so-called Human zoos that toured Europe throughout the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.Then the words genocide, holocaust and racism became used in connection with the Nazi treatment of the Jews and it became clear that these were abhorrent. However, it did not change the way things were done towards people of colour.
In South Africa the system of racial classification did not have the intention of exterminating the black population created a bureaucracy to determine and enforce access to resources along racial lines. This included an illusory face of democracy which enabled the government to obtain the support of international governments. After the Sharpeville massacre, the banning of the ANC and arrest of Nelson Mandela, the attacks became increasingly violent and deaths mounted up. In 1976 student riots led to many schoolchildren being killed as well as Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko. Practically every family in South Africa was in some way affected by the killings and torture.
It comes as no surprise that many countries supported South Africa. In the United States African American soldiers returning from the war in 1946 were lynched at the rate of one a week. Protests led finally to the passing of anti-lynching laws. When schools were desegregated, violence erupted, resulting in the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, the photo of whose mutilated face, testimony of extreme viciousness and hate, bore witness of the white man's savagery towards blacks. Four months later the Civil Rights Movement was born, having to deal with years of violent resistance and the murder of two of its leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. However, even the civil rights legislation could not alleviate the ubiquitous poverty.
On today's program, Vince plays Part Two of "Racism: A History" - 'Fatal Impacts.
Part Two examines the controversial theories of Social Darwinism and Scientific Racism, concepts invented during the 19th century. Both ideologies that drew on now discredited practices such as phrenology and provided an ideological justification for racism, slavery and the violence of colonization. These theories ultimately led to eugenics .These same racial theories lived on into the 20th century to become part of the ideology that underpinned the Third Reich and Nazi racial policies of the master race.
On today's program, Vince plays Part One of the BBC documentary film, "Racism: A History - Part 1: The Colour of Money"
Part One of the series begins by assessing the implications of the relationship between Europe, Africa and the Americas in the 15th century. It considers how racist ideas and practices developed in key religious and secular institutions, and how they showed up in writings by European philosophers Aristotle and Immanuel Kant.
On today's program, Vince airs Wendy Brown's lecture, "In the Account of Neoliberalism."
Wendy Brown is Professor of Political Science at the University of California Berkeley. Her research interests include the history of political and social theory, Continental philosophy, and critical theory, together with the examination of contemporary capitalism. In her research into the problems that plague contemporary capitalism and neoliberalism, she employs theoretical works of Michel Foucault, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Frankfurt school.
On today's program, Vince quickly runs through some current events, shares his reflections on what turned out to be a really useful gathering of progressive activists and organizers over the weekend, and mentions about some of the upcoming events taking place at PARC - Politics Art Roots Culture during the month of August. He also shares some of his first impressions of Michael Albert's new book, "Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society."
On today's program, Vince plays Part 3 of Adam Curtis' documentary series, "The Trap."
The final program of Curtis' 2007 series focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin. Curtis briefly explains how negative liberty could be defined as freedom from coercion and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one's potential.
The program begins with a description of the Two Concepts of Liberty, reviewing Berlin's opinion that, since it lacked coercion, negative liberty was the 'safer' of the two. Curtis then explains how many political groups who sought their vision of freedom ended up using violence to achieve it.
Curtis looks at the neo-conservative agenda of the 1980s which argued that violence would sometimes be necessary to achieve their goals, except they wished to spread what they described as democracy. Curtis argued, although the version of society espoused by the neo-conservatives made some concessions towards freedom, it did not offer true freedom.
On today's program, Vince plays Part 2 of Adam Curtis' documentary film, "The Trap: The Lonely Robot."
Part two reiterated many of the ideas of the first part, but developed the theme that drugs such as Prozac and lists of psychological symptoms which might indicate anxiety or depression were being used to normalize behavior and make humans behave more predictably, like machines. This was not presented as a conspiracy theory, but as a logical (although unpredicted) outcome of market-driven self-diagnosis by a check-list based on symptoms, but not actual causes, discussed in part one.
On today's program, Vince features Part 1 of Adam Curtis' documentary series, "The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom?"
Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the world. But if you step back and look at what freedom actually means for us today, it's a strange and limited kind of freedom.
Politicians promised to liberate us from the old dead hand of bureaucracy, but they have created an evermore controlling system of social management, driven by targets and numbers. Governments committed to freedom of choice have presided over a rise in inequality and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to enforce freedom has led to bloody mayhem and the rise of an authoritarian anti-democratic Islamism. This, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain. In response, the Government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.