September 07, 2011

Commonalities - A New Series from Fordham University Press - timothy c campbell Commonalities - A New Series from Fordham University Press Is there any concern more pressing today than thinking what it means to have in common? From debates on biotechnology and shared gene pools, to the relation between the digital commons and public culture, to political and theological genealogies of the common and community, to the fraying European Community, one of the most decisive questions for contemporary life concerns what having and being in common entails. Why? When did the common become a question and not a declaration? The reasons are many. Certainly, the Fall of the Berlin Wall discredited the account Communism had provided of the common. A number of works written in the wake of Communism’s collapse also helped open the common to philosophical investigation: works from Giorgio Agamben, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Roberto Esposito, among others. One effect of their readings was to have made clearer the profound influence a certain language of sovereignty and the law enjoys over how we understand collective life. Where does that leave the political thought of the common today? Some continue to tell themselves the heart-warming story in which a return to communal life might still be possible and desired. Others sense the end of community, which often becomes the prelude to a hand-wringing Messianism. And then there are others who glimpse in the present moment an opportunity for thought; who believe that we are on the cusp of new modes of being-in-common. The name we will want to...
Why Inequality is the Real Cause of Our Ongoing Terrible Economy | THE 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal. When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar? The economy won’t really bounce back until America’s surge toward inequality is reversed. Even if by some miracle President Obama gets support for a second big stimulus while Ben S. Bernanke’s Fed keeps interest rates near zero, neither will do the trick without a middle class capable of spending. Pump-priming works only when a well contains enough water. Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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