Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Revolution

My First Book is Out

I’ve written a book! The Chronic Crisis of American Democracy: The Way is Shut is now out with Palgrave Macmillan. This book is not an adaptation of my PhD thesis. It’s written in plain language. If you like my blog, you’ll like the book. The paperback is the best deal, and you can find it on Amazon and on Springer’s website:

https://a.co/d/d59Zbkh

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-031-28210-2

The paperback should retail for no higher than $49.99. It’s never higher than $49.99 on Springer’s website, where they call it the “softcover.”

The argument of the book is provocative. Chapter 1, “The Unsolvable Problem,” argues that the American economic system is gradually subjecting Americans from many classes and backgrounds to enormous amounts of psychological stress. Chapter 2, “False Hope,” argues that none of the existing political movements in the United States are capable of responding to these economic problems. But because professionals in politics and in the media need to stay employed, they find ways to distract us from these problems and their inability to solve them. Despite all of this, Chapter 3–“Chronic Crisis”–argues that Americans remain committed to democracy as a political system. Even when we confront the system’s failures, we do not abandon it. Instead, we look for ways to revitalize it. We get excited about things like electoral reform, campaign finance reform, reforming the justice system, or devolving federal powers to state and local government. But most of the reforms we’re interested in don’t pass, and the ones that do pass do not actually enable us to solve the economic problems. Chapter 4, “Dream Eating Democracy,” examines how, over time, our understandings of liberty, equality, equity, and representation have been watered down, making it harder for us to use these terms to make meaningful critiques. Chapter 5, “No Escape,” argues that as the problem continues to go unresolved and our political discussions become more and more disconnected from it, most Americans sink into political despair. We go looking for other things to care about, and we try to hide from politics in enclaves. But the failures of the political system eventually affect every part of American culture, distorting every activity we get excited about. Chapter 6, “What If This Book is Wrong?” asks whether the book is too negative and explores whether there is any way out of the crisis.

I am really excited to talk about this book. If the argument is right, then the political professionals are failing the American people. It’s a critique that implicates every part of the political class–the left, the right, and the center. I wrote this book because I feel that people who write about politics have a duty to actually help ordinary Americans understand how and why the system fails to respond to them and meet their needs. The book is dedicated to all those who labor so that others may write.

I want to encourage people to get creative and imagine more fundamental ways of confronting our problems. I’m also interested in talking about this stuff. I would love to be convinced by somebody that there’s an easier way out of this mess than I think.

If you want to help me, there are three things you can do:

  1. Buy the paperback!
  2. Ask your library to buy the book.
  3. If you have a platform, invite me on it to talk about the book. I can request reviewer copies for people with some level of media presence. This includes podcasts! If you have a podcast, I’d love to do it.

Tell your friends!

How Changing Understandings of Democracy Create New Possibilities for the Left

Yesterday, I gave a short talk for the Platypus Society at Goldsmiths‘ in London about interactions between democracy and leftism. The following post is a transcript of that talk.

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Why Rebellions and Revolutions Don’t Work Very Well

Throughout the history of civilization, there have been people who have been tasked with providing the necessities of life–growing the food, collecting resources, making the tools, and so on. There have also been people who don’t do this kind of work, who instead have lots of free time. These people have free time because other people provide their necessities for them. In this sense, the first group of people serves the second. The precise social mechanic governing this service has shifted over the years. In the early days, the first group of people were slaves of the second group. Slavery was an astounding social invention–it made it possible for some of us to have large amounts of free time, and we used that free time to do art and science and high politics. But slavery only worked by denying the vast majority of people access to that free time. It precipitated largescale inequality. This made it difficult to sustain. The slaves were unhappy, and unhappy slaves are unproductive. The slaveowners eventually discovered a secret–happy slaves are more productive than unhappy slaves. And to make the slaves happy, you had to tell them a story about how they were free. Into this space steps capitalism, and the employer-employee relationship. You are free to work for any master–but you must work for one, or you won’t earn enough to make a living. The masters have pooled the slaves and shared them, and told the slaves this makes them free. And for the most part, the slaves buy it. Except when they don’t. This piece is about that.

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The Left Cannot Defeat the Right Through Violence and Suppression

In radical left wing circles, there’s this notion going around that the right can be intimidated into going away, through no-platforming and physical violence. “Bash the fash,” they say. “Make racists¬†afraid again.” “Any time, any place, punch a Nazi in the face.” In the past I’ve argued that this kind of censorship turns right nationalists¬†into martyrs and generates public sympathy for them. But today I want to make another, related point–the left is structurally physically weaker than the right and cannot prevail by force.

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How the Left Can Thrive Under Trump

In the previous post, we talked about the threats Trump poses and how the American left can meet some of those threats in the short-term. In this one I want to talk about opportunities, because there’s a case to be made that in the long-run a Trump presidency may be the best thing that ever happened to the left in America.

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