Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Bernie Sanders

Thinking More Clearly About the Idea of “Rights”

I have a new piece out for Current Affairs about rights, and whether we ought to think of them as natural, human, or civil. You can read it here:

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2022/05/thinking-more-clearly-about-the-idea-of-rights/

On the State of the Left in 2022

This past weekend, I did a couple panels for the Platypus Society at the University of Chicago and Northwestern. These included two prepared ten-minute talks. The talks focus on the relationship between Marxism and liberalism, and on the degree to which the Millennial Left is and was Marxist. The scripts for those two talks are below. If you watched the panels live (or on YouTube), I did ad-lib a bit in places. This is not a transcript.

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What it’s Like to See Bernie Sanders in 2021

On August 27th, Bernie Sanders decided to come to West Lafayette, Indiana, to do a town hall. Indiana is my home state. Bernie is 79. This could be the last time he visits, for all I know. My girlfriend is a few years younger than me. She’d never seen Bernie in person. We decided to drive down. Let me tell you the story.

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Jimmy Dore, AOC, and Medicare-For-All Strategy

The American left is finally discussing Medicare-For-All strategy again, thanks to Jimmy Dore’s suggestion that House Democrats could demand a floor vote on the legislation in exchange for backing Nancy Pelosi’s next term as Speaker. For too long, we haven’t been discussing our substantive goals and the available strategies for pursuing them. We’ve been locked in grim, repetitive discussions of coronavirus and the presidential election. But Dore got Medicare-For-All back on the front burner. And how have we rewarded him? He’s been subject to a slew of malicious, personal attacks. Instead of engaging with Dore’s argument, many of Dore’s opponents have turned to ad hominem, arguing that we shouldn’t listen to the argument simply because it comes from Jimmy Dore.

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The Rump Professional Class and Its Fallen Counterpart

I’ve been thinking about the professional class–the class which sits between the wealthy billionaires and the ordinary workers. The professionals are college-educated and they are traditionally paid more than ordinary workers. But as economic inequality grows and the position of workers becomes more precarious, the professionals are less secure than they used to be. A university degree no longer guarantees a stable, robust standard of living, but it still separates those who have it from those who do not. Why? Because college students are socialised to pursue the degree as a means of demonstrating their merit. When that merit goes unrewarded, young would-be professionals grow very cross. They want their virtue to be recognised. Unable to earn more or enjoy a higher living standard than the workers, the would-be professionals retreat into the cultural realm. They use the language and ideas they learned at university to assert their moral superiority, gaining an imaginary victory over the workers. This condescension leads the workers to resent the professionals in turn, and makes it very difficult for these downwardly mobile professionals to form political alliances with the workers. All of this, of course, perpetuates the dominion of the rich.

To use a metaphor, the professionals are the house slaves of capitalism–they identify with the owners because they live better than the field slaves and are invited to participate in and contribute to the culture of the owners. But once they are deprived of their superior living standard and opportunity to culturally contribute, they can defend their feeling of superiority only by mocking the field slaves for being unable to read.

This is not to say that the whole of the professional class is going this way. Some college educated people still enjoy the economic and cultural advantages which historically belonged to all or most college-educated people. I want to explore how this group–what I call the “rump professional class”–interacts with the downwardly mobile group, which I call the “fallen professional class”.

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