School starts at my school next week, and I’m excited and nervous. This week, most of the nerves have transformed into preparation, conversations, furniture arrangement, bulletin board visions, and rereading the key texts I’ll be teaching soon.
Natasha Lennard and Moira Weigel for ‘The Stone,’ a popular philosophy feature from The New York Times (August 16, 2017)
It has not, by any measure, been a Summer of Love; more like a Summer of Anxiety, Fear and Hate. It would be facile to respond to recent events — political upheaval, mass murder, police violence and festering racism — with a call to “love.” But in extreme times, it’s worth considering: Can love (as we know it) act as a radical force rather than a distraction? Does our current idea of love need revision? Is there a new kind of love emerging in new social movements, one that works against the narrow kind of love fostered by capitalism? I discussed these and other matters with Moira Weigel, the author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating.” — Natasha Lennard
M.W.: Historically, the mystification of romantic love has been particularly damaging to women. It is difficult to separate from the entire tangle of ideas about female nature that have served to justify the exploitation of our labor — for instance, that we are instinctively emotional and innately giving, whether to our lovers, our children, or our co-workers. (Convenient, isn’t it, that the very group of humans forced by their material conditions to smile and meet the emotional needs of others for centuries are so “naturally” adept at doing so?)
Marxist feminists have done a lot of important work elucidating the extent to which romantic and family relationships are labor relations. Even as stay-at-home wives or mothers, women contribute a great deal to the economy. By caring for family members who perform waged labor, they sustain and help reproduce the work force; giving birth to and raising children to be productive members of society increases gross domestic product in direct, measurable ways.
We are paid for none of it. The re-creation of the world reproduces a social good that people of all genders hold in common. Yet very few public conversations about women and family acknowledge that these activities do anything more than gratify a personal impulse. The fact that childbearing and child rearing are not paid or subsidized reinforces the idea that these activities are not valuable labors: they are love.
When I learned about the “American Dream” in high school, we were taught to assume it was fabrication.
I’ve talked to some of my students who think it’s a valuable construct, and it’s possibly achievable in some form.
A few links that scratch the surface on the current state of the Dream
“American Dreams” (personal accounts and photo essay from The New York Times, 7/2/2016)
“In Cleveland, the American Dream Melts Away” (The New Yorker, 7/22/2016)
“Why Growth Will Fall” review by William D. Nordhaus (I took his introductory economics class, btw) in The New York Review of Books on The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon
“The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult” from the Economic Policy Institute (11/12/2014)
(full report) A Status Quo of Segregation: Racial and Economic Imbalance in New Jersey Schools, 1989-2010 (This report is the fourth in a series of twelve reports from The Civil Rights Project analyzing school segregation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states)
Related highlights from recent Race/Related newsletter from The New York Times
from The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg
He was a mystery in smoke and flags
Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags,
Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
Yes to the hopes of government
Of the people by the people for the people,
No to debauchery of the public mind,
No to personal malice nursed and fed,
Yes to the Constitution when a help,
No to the Constitution when a hindrance
Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions,
Each man fated to answer for himself:
Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind
Must I choose for my own sustaining light
To bring me beyond the present wilderness?
Lincoln? Was he a poet?
And did he write verses?
“I have not willingly planted a thorn
in any man’s bosom.”
I shall do nothing through malice: what
I deal with is too vast for malice.”
Death was in the air.
So was birth.
“Is the Library of Things an answer to our peak stuff problem?” from The Guardian 23 August 2016