For the past two and a half years I have been studying everyday inequality between people in three cross-class civic communities. I’ve been a participant observer among and conducted interviews with the parents of a public school, the members of a church, and the participants in a neighborhood council.
At the Democratic National Convention, disability activist Anastasia Somoza told enthusiastic audience members that “in a country where 56 million people so often feel invisible, Hillary Clinton sees me. She sees me as a strong woman, a young professional, a hard worker, and the proud daughter of immigrants.”
Media personalities, political insiders, and the candidates themselves have talked about the 2016 presidential primaries as a departure from what we normally expect from presidential primaries. The difference is often attributed to how Donald Trump “doesn’t play by the rules” – something we are frequently reminded of by pundits on both the left and right. Continue reading
There is nothing like finding yourself unable to get out of bed, alone in a foreign country, to make you realize how vulnerable a migrant is. A flash of panic strikes through your mind. Then, some unexpected lucidity born out of the urgency of the situation reemerges to make you start listing your options.
My first thought is: ‘Make sure you have the phone and the charger next to you.’ If need be, with a phone, you can call an ambulance, your employer, or one of the couple of friends you have made in the short amount of time you have spent in your host country, which reassures me. Continue reading
Staying at the Best Hotel in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco is a sociologically informative experience. The Best Hotel is splendidly located only two blocks away from the two ASA conference hotels and it is relatively cheap ($120 per night as opposed to $300), booked only ten days in advance; yet, I am guessing, it is not among the most desirable housing options for conference participants. The hotel reviews depict the place as located in an area where homeless people, drunks, and drug addicts loiter. Some reviewers even report bed bugs, which horrifies a San Francisco friend of mine most of all. While waiting for my room to be ready−I was being treated to a brand new bed [a sigh of relief!]−the manager, who is also a concierge, repairs guy, and anything else that he needs to be, regretfully informs me that “My only problem is the homeless and the drug dealers in front”. Indeed, the place isn’t that bad. The room is large and clean (I am not a fan of the smell of the cleaning products used but I can live with that for a few days, I try to convince myself). It has a bathroom en suite, free Internet, and coffee 24 hours: the traveler’s essentials. Continue reading
I will never forget April 29, 1992. In Atlanta, “the city too busy to hate,” we eagerly awaited the verdict for the police officers who beat Rodney King. When the decisions were announced, everyone I knew was aware that vastly different reactions were unfolding among blacks and whites.
That same week Freaknik was held, which was a large annual gathering of students from historically black colleges. Thousands of kids came to Atlanta to party. They were known for riding around on top of cars and disrupting traffic downtown, which of course drove the city’s leadership crazy. Out of curiosity I took a walk in Piedmont Park one afternoon to check it out. The whole thing seemed pretty familiar (a bunch of drunk college students having fun and trying to hook up) and notably less dramatic than the media coverage had suggested. As I walked back to my car, several young black men drove by. One yelled: “hey man, what you think about that verdict?” The car slowed as I kept walking. I said: “It was fucked up.” “You don’t sound like you mean it,” he said, with a note of menace. I got focused as I took the last few steps to my car, got in, and left. Continue reading
On August 27, David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss why, despite healthy corporate profits and stock market gains, wages remain stagnant. After addressing the usual suspects, such as globalization and technological change, he claimed that the best solution to wage stagnation “is the old-fashioned one: a faster growing economy.”
So, does the old adage remain true that “a rising tide lifts all boats”? To believe this, you have to ignore a lot of data. Exhibit A is the chart that the Economic Policy Institute updates every year, which shows wage growth relative to productivity growth. Since productivity growth is the measure of the economy growing, we would expect wages to rise as productivity goes up if the cure for wage stagnation was in fact a growing economy. But what do we actually see?
Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011
A few weeks ago, students in Montreal protested against the tuition increase proposed by the Québec government. But might there me more to this student mobilization than simply a protest against a fairly small (particularly by US standards) increase in tuition? A series of recent newspaper articles allude to this possibility by calling into question “the real” nature of, or motivation for, student mobilization.
Although the government and student leaders called a truce, protest, which included vandalism, continued. An April 26th Globe and Mail article by Alexander Panetta claims that “the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they spearheaded.” CLASSE, which is considered a hard-line student group, was excluded from negotiations with the government because they continued to promote protest despite the education minister’s ultimatum. CLASSE’s spokesperson claims that the government really had no intention of negotiating which is why they have continued to promote the use of disruptive tactics. Continue reading
By Edwin Amenta
Social movements seek social change, often through politics. With Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in the news since October, it is time to take stock of its political impact: Has it had any influence? If so, what accounts for its influence or lack thereof? Is it likely to be influential in the future? Anyone seeking to assess the impact of social movements has to ask a counterfactual question: What likely would have happened had the movement or protest campaign not existed or taken the specific actions that it did.
It is my belief that in order to understand where the occupy movement is headed, it is important to remind ourselves of where we’ve been these last several years. Here in New Orleans, we witnessed the imposition of disaster capitalism in the form of demolition of public and affordable housing after Katrina. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said there would be fewer black people in New Orleans after Katrina, and he set about to make it so by keeping most of the 5000 units of public housing closed. Iberville public housing residents, located next to the French Quarter, reopened their own development, and several hundred units, by returning on their own, cleaning their units, and living without electricity for a time. Activists and residents of public housing valiantly fought back against demolition plans for 2 years after Katrina. It was pepper spray, tasers and a vote by the city council to demolish, all occurring on December 20th, 2007, that finally ended the movement effectively. The council chambers were shut down before the seats were filled, keeping out activists, who staged a protest of their own and were pepper sprayed and tasered for their efforts; some were badly injured and tasered more than once. Inside council chambers, activists started a chant, “Let the people in”, and were violently evicted with the use of tasers. When I showed that video to a national blog, one person remarked, in so many words, “look at how valiantly you guys fought; this is our future.” Even then it was clear, at least to some, that we were headed for a showdown with the ruling class. Continue reading