Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Books From Graduate School Vol. 2: Making Intellectual Sense of the Current State of Political Economy

We live in an epoch of uncertainty. The internet created Facebook and social relationships have been forever altered. The Soviet Union no longer exists, Castro is almost dead, North Korea has a 20 something leader, nations have gone bankrupt, China leads the world economy, the US has a President with a non-traditional last name, the Tea Party has changed conservative politics and the Occupy Wall Street movement has forced a widening of economic discourse. Further, previously demonized pop culture figures have become model citizens: Ice T, Ozzy Osbourne, Beats by Dre, Eminem, Rev Run, Dee Snyder, Alice Cooper, Diddy, Kid Rock, Chuck D, and FLAVAAAA FLAAAV! 

As if that isn't enough, the most reputable news comes from two sarcastic dudes, Luke Walton is still on the Lakers, Hillary is smarter than Bill, Uncle Luke coaches high school football, Magic is still alive and still has AIDS, reality stars have become real celebrities, Fox New is still on the air, Michael Moore has released another book, Lil Romeo plays ball for UCLA, Steve Jobs is cool, blacks have become the best quarterbacks, Rick Perry has been exposed but still feels confident enough to put out a homophobic television add, we still pollute, we still debate whether or not inequality exists, and many Americans still think a woman is biologically incapable of being president. 

NWA now stands for Nice Well behaved Attitude, Ice Cube directs children's films as does Fred Durst, students riot over the firing of a coach who covered up pedophilia and Americans criticize the youth of America for taking a political stance on corporate corruption. The governor of Wisconsin, a state with one of the top rated school systems in the nation, wants to reward his teachers by dismantling their union - and many American's want him to run for president because of it. 

Facebook posts read God Bless George Bush while Amnesty International urges the international community to arrest him for war crimes. Midwestern cities have been demoralized by capitalism but its residents continue to support tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. 

Yes, we live in a strange time but what can we do about it? We here at WUW? provide no solution except to say that we must look past Fox, CNN, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, O'Reilly, Matthews, Stewart, The Tea Party, Occupy Walls Street, debt ceiling rhetoric, birth certificates, liberal and conservative, republican and democrat and once again re-engage our minds in the philosophical underpinnings of our society. We must seek to understand what capitalism and socialism mean, look past terrorism to see humanity, and strive for a better world. 

"Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascist has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.' The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which can not be reconciled with one another."
George Orwell 1946 - Politics and The English Language

What we suggest is that citizens reengage the text. That those inside and outside of the academy return to books that are difficult but that struggle with what the good society is. We have to read Smith and Marx, Schumpeter, Rand, C. Wright Mills, Horkheimer and Adorno, J.S. Mills, Jefferson, Paine, and Arrendt. We have to look past the headlines and look towards true understanding. We need to develop knowledge not just seek information. 

"A revitalization of intellectuals required more than moral courage. 
In the Jeffersonian democracy of early America, Mills [C. Wright Mills] believed, 
intellectuals lived in and among the educated citizens, their audience." 
Russell Jacoby 1987 - The Last Intellectuals

Blah blah blah... you get the point... I sound (read would be a better word) like a disgruntled academic.

So, the WUW? book staff has compiled this list:

Great Books from Graduate School Vol. 2: 
Making Intellectual Sense of the Current State of Political Economy

What we do here is list our recommended list of academic books from must reads to dive deeper to Get Your Economic Theory On, and finally to Tackle the Legends. These are all books that we have read, discussed, and that have helped us make more sense out of our contemporary culture. So... without further ado!
Must Reads

"...yet campus politics of the sixties cannot be disassociated from books, ideas, 
or intellectuals, all of which suffuse a student universe."
Jacoby 1987 - The Last Intellectuals

Dive Deeper

 Get Your Economic Theory On

Tackle the Legends

Hopefully, after reading deeply into economic, political, and social history, we can place our thoughts and beliefs within a historical context. A thorough reading of Marx and Smith will reveal many similarities but more importantly an attentive reading will reveal the fact that both men were philosophers, looking into their world, and attempting to make sense of what they are experiencing. Most importantly, they both were theorizing how to create a better world. Is it possible for us to regain a language that articulates the possibilities of a better future? To look past what we believe is possible and envision what is best?

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better."
George Orwell 1946 - Politics and the English language 

This guy disregarded what was possible:

Or just keep watching Dallas Most Eligible,

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