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  • “Racial capitalism” is a concept that has become central to contemporary radical movements, from Black Lives Matter and the prison abolition movement to movements for climate justice. The concept was first developed by Cedric Robinson in his monumental Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, where he argues that “the development, organization, and expansion of capitalist society pursued essentially racial directions.” For Robinson, capitalism and racism evolved together and thus must be understood as inseparable from each other. Why, even at its origins, did capitalism follow racial lines? ...
  • Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man depicts one day aboard a New Orleans-bound Mississippi River boat the Fidele. The novel’s titular character assumes a variety of guises—from legless beggar to worldly “cosmopolitan” to bankrupt divorcee—as he perpetrates a series of petty cons on his fellow passengers. Written in the midst of the U.S.’s rapid industrialization, set on a vessel headed into recently acquired slave territory, Melville’s ninth and final novel satirizes a society in which neighborly norms of community and religion were being increasingly displaced by the impersonality of the cash nexus...
  • Written on the run from the Nazis, with few books beyond the cherished classics the author packed in a bag, Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis attempts nothing less than a comprehensive explanation for how the whole of Western literature “works”—from Homer and the Old Testament to Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf. With an imaginative sympathy that belied the surrounding calamity of World War II, Auerbach felt it possible to enter, from his time and place, into the lives and epochs of long-dead writers, to reconstruct from extant texts and political and social history the spirit (Geist) of an age and the ways its authors tried to “mimic” reality...
  • “The individual’s dangerous desire for aggression,” theorized Sigmund Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents, can only be “disarmed” by the establishment of “an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.” For some, Freud’s invocation of surveillance and military occupation were no mere metaphors: they entailed concrete approaches to social control. Indeed, throughout the 20th century, figures in surprising places—from military think tanks and the halls of power to prison cells and underground safe houses—turned to Freud and psychoanalysis more generally to formulate new strategies for state violence and guerilla subversion alike....

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Recent Posts

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 76: Translation is Art — A Conversation on Autonomy, Power, Responsibility, and Making Meaning

What does it mean to claim translation as an artform unto itself? In episode 76 of the Podcast for Social Research, recorded live at BISR Central while a wicked Nor’easter raged outside, BISR welcomed Ugly Duckling Presse, Barricade journal, and the Leipzig/Vienna-based collective TRANSLETTING for an evening of presentations and panel discussion addressed to the […]

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 75: The Piano Teacher

Late Light: Call for Art Submissions

(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 10: It’s Not Easy Being Green (Under Capitalism)