Episode

3/16 Class, Culture, & Capitalism w/ Vivek Chibber

March 16, 2022

Sam and Emma host Vivek Chibber, professor of sociology at New York University, to discuss his recent book The Class Matrix: Social Theory After the Cultural Turn, on the postwar shift in the left from strategic takes on the material condition of the working class to an analysis of capitalist indoctrination, and the unproductive nature of this development when it comes to organizing for the downfall of capitalism. Professor Chibber situates leftist thought in the 1800s and early 1900s with an understanding that if you want people to change the systems of the world, you must look at their material conditions, the choices they have, and the constraints they face, before contrasting that thought process with the prominent academic thought after the cultural turn that put ideological indoctrination at the center, no longer seeing workers as rational responders to their material circumstance, but as victims to the whims of the state, media, and cultural elite. They walk through the obvious elitism that resulted from driving this wedge between workers who have been fooled and academic Marxists that perceive the world as it is, before jumping back to the end of the 1800s to see how this developed. They begin with a discussion on the socialist perspective that dominated the first half of the 20th Century, seeing revolutions and upheavals of social and political orders across the world that encouraged and reinforced the inevitability of capitalism’s downfall, only to come out of the devastation of the Second World War with the system more stabilized than ever. Prof. Chibber, Sam, and Emma then walk through the material contrast that organizing offered between the 30s and the late 50s, as the circumstances required for worker solidarity became riskier and riskier, and the jobs they held became more and more central to maintaining their livelihood – not duping workers into consent, but resigning them to the hand they’ve been dealt. They then dive into the strategic work, and unfortunate failures of the union left over the 70s and 80s, forcing them into retreat as the academic world took over the role of pondering capitalism’s faults despite their removal from the material issues central to those faults. Next, Professor Vivek Chibber looks to the ’60s as he takes on the internal contradictions of solving these material issues, as this period saw incredibly high wages in the wake of decades of union success, yet also saw some of the largest waves of striking in the west, as the capitalist class offset that development with a rampant increase in the speed and level of production. They wrap up the interview by taking on the modern-day implications of this shift, the differences in funding and supporting worker organizing versus telling workers they don’t understand their world, and why seeing organizing take a front seat again might signify a shift away from this resignation, as organizing becomes more and more worth the risks, before touching on the role of the legislative arena in bolstering this fight. Sam and Emma also touch on the US media’s insistence on making sure everyone knows how much Ukraine needs a no-fly zone to deal with their “bully,” and their willingness to have the hard discussions when it comes to other people’s livelihood.

And in the Fun Half: Sam and Emma run through some Republican Primary races, touching particularly on Herschel Walker’s touching analysis of why apes still exist if they evolved into humans, and why that’s going to help him reach the end zone of the general election for GA Senate. Arash from the 510 dives into the inability of anti-vaxxers to cite their sources, and how central a lack of scientific literacy is to their promotion of misinformation, Dave Rubin takes Crowder’s “bit” of pretending to be a woman, but still having political opinions – crazy, right? Ryan Grim questions Jen Psaki on what the US is doing to give Zelesnky leverage in negotiations with Russia, particularly on the material level, Tennessee fully commits to favoring rapists over bodily autonomy, and Candace Owens can’t get beyond the meanness of the criticism levied against her, plus, your calls and IMs!

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