css.php

ARC Seminar: The Deep Determinants of Inequality by Charles Post

Talk Title: The Deep Determinants of Inequality: The Dynamics of Plant Closures in the U.S. Tire Industry, 1966-2008

Registration: https://tinyurl.com/ARC-Seminars

Description: It is well established that manufacturing plant closings are a major determinant of regional income inequality. This presentation examines the deep roots of capital mobility in the North American tire industry between 1966 and 2008.

Charles Post  is an expert in Historical Sociology. He’s Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Reflections on Language and Power – Tatyana Kleynat at ARC By Sara Vogel

Language and power are tightly intertwined. That was my takeaway from November 16th’s ARC talk featuring the thoughtful, engaged, and critical scholar Tatyana Kleyn, who is an Associate Professor and Director of Bilingual Education and TESOL in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at the City College of New York.

This message about language and power came through in the substance of Kleyn’s talk and the film she screened about how transborder young people navigate language, family, and school as their families repatriate small towns in Oaxaca, Mexico after years of living in the United States. The power of words was also a theme that resonated in the post-talk conversation, including in ways that revealed some tensions in our ARC community that we would do well to address moving forward.

I’ll unpack that conversation in a bit. But first: the talk.

Tatyana is someone I have had the privilege to work with through the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a project that brings K-12 teachers, administrators, and professors in bilingual education from across the CUNY campuses together to study and improve education for bilingual kids. As Don mentioned in his opening remarks, Kleyn’s work truly embodies the values and mission of ARC. Her research is interdisciplinary, straddling all of ARC’s clusters. She views phenomena such as immigration and multilingualism through the lens of theories that take into account racial, economic, and linguistic power hierarchies. And she is a public scholar, not content simply to write for narrow audiences of academics. Her films about the experiences of undocumented and transborder youth, as well as curriculum and guides for teachers based on the content of the films, are accessible for free online.

Before showing her film Una Vida, Dos Paìses (One Life, Two Countries), Kleyn asked us to consider the power of film as its own language. She argued persuasively that film can be mobilized as a research method, a medium of dissemination, and as service and activism. At the same time that she celebrated the capacity of the medium to “reprioritize whom we listen to” and to bring research participants’ stories alive for wider audiences, she also described some of the limitations and challenges of this type of scholarship. She has had to build strong relationships with her participants, many of them folks targeted in today’s political climate for their or their family members’ undocumented status. In addition, while she prefers not to use voice-overs in her films so that audiences hear participants “direct from the source,” she acknowledged her and her collaborators’ roles in editing and juxtaposing clips to create cohesive narratives.

The film she screened at ARC introduced us to a group of transborder young people living in Oaxaca, Mexico who call themselves “New Dreamers.” The film captures the complex, mixed emotions that come with “going home” — the feeling of belonging, but also of being “ni de aqui ni de alla” (from neither here nor there). One of the core themes discussed by participants was the role of language in their transitions to life in Mexico. Across contexts in the US and Mexico, languages are used for different purposes and have different statuses attributed to them. While the youth expressed love for the English language, and were often called upon by peers to tutor them in English, they also found themselves lost in classes delivered in Spanish, and felt peers and teachers in Oaxaca sometimes viewed them as stuck-up for their knowledge of English and experiences in the US. In her talk, Kleyn also described how indigenous languages, often regarded as less prestigious in their communities, are a key part of students’ linguistic repertoires, enabling them to communicate especially with older generations.

After Kleyn’s presentation, an audience member asked a question about the young people’s accents. It elicited a strong reaction from some of those present, including one who found it so offensive that he walked out. Rachel Chapman, a fellow ARC student, has provided her take on the question, and her response can be read on our blog here. Kleyn responded by critiquing the premise of the question, arguing that language ideologies about accent are rooted in socially and historically constructed hierarchies that rank speakers based on race, economic status, perceived education, ethnicity, and other markers (see Flores & Rosa, 2015 for more on this).

To me, the strength of ARC is its ability to foster critical conversations about dynamic and complex issues — immigration, inequality, multilingualism, and our digital world — with people at different stages in their academic careers, from different disciplinary, racial, and cultural backgrounds, in order to deepen research and practice in our fields.

Having conversations about complex issues across difference is not easy, however, and this moment at ARC brought those tensions into sharp relief.

Despite a professed desire for open, democratic dialogue, academic communities can reproduce many of the hierarchies they seek to dismantle. As we learned from the student when he returned to the conversation, for people of color, academia can be a violent space. Too often, people of color shoulder the burden and invest much emotional labor into correcting the oppressive dynamics which permeate our institutions. Others (read: white people) need to step up.

At ARC, there are some first steps we can take. There are many incredible organizations such as Border Crossers and the New York Coalition of Radical Educators, among others, which have figured out how to facilitate critical and constructive conversations across difference. I’ve drawn on resources from these organizations as I navigate my role as a white scholar and educator engaged in work with youth of color and their teachers, and have found them exceptionally useful.

To have critical and constructive conversations across difference, relationship-building and setting community norms are key. I noticed that when I began my time as an ARC student, there wasn’t a space devoted to building this community — perhaps such a space could be useful in the future. Some questions for ARC students and fellows to consider as we build community might include:

  • What are the challenges of coming together as an interdisciplinary community?
  • What norms might help ensure our conversations are both critical and constructive?
  • Who gets to study, publish about, and profit from research on inequality, multilingualism, and immigration? Why? In what ways does our community challenge those trends? In what ways does it reproduce them?
  • How might ARC fellows and students not just share our research, but work together to ensure we are also engaged in making our fields more equitable and just?

In many ways, Tatyana’s work offers us a compelling example of engaged, critical scholarship. She began her talk by discussing her own positionality — her own background and experiences, and how she arrived to her topic. She is transparent about how her own power and privilege shape her teaching and research. She forges strong bonds with her study participants, reciprocating in the communities that provide her with data. And her scholarship and teaching go hand in hand with her social justice activism.

I hope the talk from this week is a catalyst for some soul-searching at ARC. Not only might we strengthen and deepen our own work, but we might continue the hard work of dismantling oppressive structures within academia too.

Citation:

Flores, N., & Rosa, J. (2015). Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 85(2), 149–171. https://doi.org/10.17763/0017-8055.85.2.149

 

By Sara Vogel

PhD Student in Urban Education, CUNY-Graduate Center

Commentary on Catherine Mulder’s ” Mondragon, its Cooperatives, and its University’s Role” by Laxman Timilsina & Fadime Demiralp

An Alternative to Capitalist University: The case of Mondragon University

Presented By: Catherine Mulder

Professor Mulder claimed that most academic programs assume capitalist structure and they do not regard anything to its alternatives. Since workers are the ones who know their job the best and who run the companies, it is best for the companies and institutions to rely on its workforce to make various decisions. Therefore, one of the alternatives to a capitalist system, she believes, is cooperatives which are broadly classified into three types: consumer, producer and worker cooperatives.

By invoking, Yanis Varoufakis, she claimed that capitalism might be undermining itself! Due to technological innovation and other things, capitalism is becoming obsolete. Will the world fall apart if capitalism stops now? she asked. Probably not, we will have a different system and maybe we could have more time for fishing and voting? She introduced Mondragon worker cooperatives as an alternative the current system.

Mondragon is located at Basque Region of northern Spain.  Mondragon companies are worker cooperatives where workers make rules and regulations. First Mondragon firms were opened in 1956. There are now about 260 firms and 15 technological centers, which employs over 80 thousand people. While Mondragon companies are subject to market forces and business cycle, they have faced very little bankruptcy case. It is primarily because they value workers over capital and planned market over the free market. In the areas where there were Mondragon companies there was very little unemployment because, if workers were laid off, they were absorbed in another company or given retirement benefits. She summarizes her critique of capitalism: what is the difference between a government ruling top-down and private companies doing the same?

While Mondragon companies are all over the world, her main focus was on Mondragon University. It is a knowledge sector of the companies. It has bachelor`s, masters and Ph.D. with various subjects from mechanical engineering to culinary arts. All stake-holders administer the university including faculty, staff, and students. They apply Mendeberri Learning Model whose components are training students to work cooperatively in teams, to learn how to direct projects, how to make decisions, how to negotiate and communicate. In this model, students have the central role.

In classrooms, in all subjects, they do not just assume capitalist models, but they learn about strategic management, market forces and how to be cooperative. The objectives of the university are: Broad social access to knowledge about the company and the global economy, developing interpersonal as well as critical and quantitative analytics, and the art of communication, team decision making (how to come up with mutually beneficial projects) and democratic principles (which is the whole idea: economic justice.).

At Mondragon, they elect their general manager. They elect a board of directors and then those people pick a governor body that does the daily stuff. Everything is done in a democratic manner and with a focus on its employees and the sustainability of labor. Major roadblock on forming such cooperatives is the lack of funding. To overcome that, Mondragon has its own bank which itself is a cooperative. While the ratio of average worker to CEO often ranges from $300-700 to $1 in several western companies, at Mondragon, it can only be maximum of 7 to 1.

Following her remarks, one can raise some questions: Where does the money come from? Does it not follow the same capitalist system to generate its money? If so, then how is it different among other from the current capitalist model? Why does a Mondragon company abroad have low paid workers who are not members of the cooperative while workers in Mondragon are the members of the cooperative?

Authors: Laxman Timilsina & Fadime Demiralp

Commentary on Michael Paris’s “Radical Liberalism and School Desegregation”

Over sixty years ago, the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), determined that separating children into white and black schools was inherently unequal and that schools must integrate, “with all deliberate speed.” Despite the successes of the 1954 case, segregation based on race and class is on the rise, most especially for poor Latino students. Dr. Michael Paris, political scientist and professor of law at the College of Staten Island, presented on Thursday, October 19th at the Graduate Center, on the developments of his future book (working title), The Death and Life of School Desegregation: Racial Liberalism and American Constitutionalism. The book is based on his extensive research on the school desegregation case in Hartford, Connecticut: Sheff v. O’Neill (1996).

With the assistance of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Sheff v. O’Neill case originated with 18 school aged children and their parents (black, Hispanic and white) in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1989, they filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut (including Governor William O’Neill), citing the state had violated students’ state constitutional positive right to an equal educational opportunity, due to racial isolation and concentrated poverty. Specifically, the case cited the state spent fewer resources on public schools with majority Black/Latino populations, compared to schools with majority White populations.

The trial took 35 trial days, with testimony from 58 witnesses and some 1,000 documents of evidence. In 1995, the judge ruled in favor of the State, stating that the plaintiffs did not provide enough evidence to show that the state helped cause school segregation.  One year later, in 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the ruling and held that the state constitution “requires the legislature to take affirmative responsibility to remedy segregation, regardless of whether it has occurred de jure or de facto” (Paris, 2017). The court didn’t specify the particular remedies to be taken, but urged branches of state government to make de facto segregation a top priority. Due to the lack of specification, since 1996, the case has experienced five trips back to court, five consent decrees or agreements, several reform laws, approximately $2 billion in new expenditures and significant citywide school desegregation. The mechanism for desegregation has been voluntary for families and suburban districts, with the creation of inter-district magnet schools and a one-way urban to suburban transfer program. The result has been that by 2016, about 9,200 Hartford School District children or 45% total, attended desegregated schools, compared to 700 students or 3% in 1997. A desegregated school is defined as one in which the school population is 75% or less minority.

 Professor Paris’s analysis of why Hartford has been relatively successful at integrating schools where, in other cases, integration has failed so dramatically, starts with a critique of school desegregation efforts written by the legal scholar, Dr. Derrick Bell. Bell wrote his critique in 1976 in a Yale Law Journal article entitled “Serving Two Masters: Integration Ideals and Client Interests in School Desegregation Litigation.” Bell argued that these desegregation efforts were limited in several ways. The first is about the clients in cases like this, where Bell argues that these lawsuits claim to speak for the African American community as a whole, without actually establishing that the African American community shares the same goals as presented in the case. Paris believes that Sheff addressed this issue through community engagement, buy getting buy-in from the community, and having community members give vivid testimonies. Bell also believed that the focus of desegregation cases should be better education, not an ideological commitment to desegregation, per se. Sheff took this tact as well. Additionally, Bell made clear that previous desegregation efforts had been too legalistic and reliant on the courts, when the truth is that institutions and people don’t always follow the law in a way that is productive in meeting the goal of desegregation. Sheff made great efforts to have an educational and policy aspect to its work, thus avoiding the trap of relying too much on legalistic remedies. Lastly, Bell recognized the importance of focusing not on what courts say but instead what they actually do. Sheff took this into account through a framework of of moving from “needs to rights,” drawing on a previous court victory. Additionally, Paris argues that it was very important that Hartford built some excellent magnet schools in the central city, thus incentivizing suburban parents to bus their kids into the city for school.Despite the successes of the Sheff case and its attempts to uphold students’ rights to equal educational opportunities, Dr. Paris argues that schooling for students separated by race and class can never be equal. He cited the following social conditions: high rates of joblessness, crime & neighborhood violence, single parent households & family disruptions, recurrent evictions & housing relocations and frequent incidences of health problems, developmental disabilities and hunger. Additionally, schools where students are starkly separated by race and class, generally have less prepared teachers, high dropout rates, pre-packaged curriculum, high levels of student attrition, less parental involvement and fewer resources. Hence, Dr. Paris argues that housing policy is school policy. In order to achieve equal educational opportunities for all students, it is essential to re-create housing policy, the tax code for school funding and the distribution of social resources. What type of social movement is needed to achieve such legal changes? Who are the stakeholders that need to turnkey? What is the role of students and teachers in this movement? Where do we begin?

Written by: Rachel J. Chapman and Christopher Maggio

Paris, M. (2017). Racial Liberalism and School Desegregation: The Connecticut Case of Sheff v. O’Neill (1996). Presentation presented at the Advanced Research Collective, The Graduate Center, New York, NY.

David Howell, Lousy Jobs in the Rich World: What happened to shared growth? Commentary by ARC Student Fellows Sarah Kostecki and Orkideh Gharehgozil.

David Howell is a professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School. His recent research “Lousy Jobs in the Rich World: What happened to shared growth?” is focused on economic growth and the how workers have benefited from it. His research is driven by the following puzzle: if economic growth and productivity have been increasing over the last 3 decades during the era of neoliberal reform, why haven’t the effects of this growth benefited the majority of workers? Why should maximizing growth be the priority?

In the orthodox economic point of view, inequality is explained by globalization and outsourcing. The belief is that Skilled Bias Technological Change (SBCT) contributes to unequal levels of income shares (Howell, ARC Talk). However, in this setup there is no emphasis on institutions.

To challenge this orthodox economic point of view, professor Howell’s research emphasizes the effects of institutions on the evolution of lousy jobs across the United States and 4 additional rich countries since the early 1980’ to answer two interrelated questions. The first question is how has decent GDP growth, productivity growth, and decent jobs moved over the last few decades in each of the five countries? The second question is what is the institutional story that can be told? Howell hopes to show the decline in bargaining power for employed workers and institutional factors (rules, laws, organizational structures, policies, and social norms) are to blame for the decline in decent jobs in lieu of traditional economic explanations.

To carry out this research, professor Howell first created two new low-wage threshold measures and compares these to a more conventional low-wage measure commonly used in socio-economic research (2/3rds the median income of full-time workers). Howell’s new low-wage threshold measures are defined as 2/3rds of the mean wage of the bottom 90% of full-time workers and 2/3rds of the mean wage of the bottom 90% of full-time prime-aged earners (between 35-59 years of age). Howell then uses the two new low-wage measures to create the lousy jobs measure defined as low-wages plus those individuals working involuntarily part-time. He then showed descriptive results using these measures for the United States.

Interestingly, the alterative low-wage measures show the cut offs for individuals earning low wages should actually be much higher in the past 3 decades than those calculated using the more conventional measure utilized by the OECD, IMF and others. Particularly for the year 2014, for example, Howell’s new low-wage cut off defined as 2/3rds of the mean for the bottom 90% of full-time prime-aged earners, show that jobs defined as low-wage in the United States should be nearly 16 dollars versus the 12 dollar threshold obtain using the conventional measure. Overall, with these findings professor Howell shows that a much higher share of working men and women have been earning low wages over the last three decades than previous studies have shown.

Utilizing the lousy jobs measure, professor Howell highlights several interesting findings. The first is a tale of convergence. In the United States, women have typically held a higher share of lousy jobs since 1979, but men are catching up. Howell shows, for example, that around 50% of women held lousy jobs in 1979 compared to 45% in 2014. Around 20% of men held lousy jobs in 1979 compared to 35% in 2014. Moreover, professor Howell shows the share of prime-aged men with lousy jobs has been increasing steadily over the last 3 decades to converge with that of prime-aged women, especially for those without a college degree. In 1979 around 15% of low educated prime-age men held lousy jobs, compared with 32% in 2014. Nearly 50% of low educated prime-aged women held lousy jobs in 1979, and after declining slightly, rose to the same levels in 2014.

Perhaps most strikingly, professor Howell shows that in 2014, men and women in lousy jobs with a high education had similar median wages to those with low education. Wages for men and women ages 18-34 with a high education were around 11 USD an hour, while wages for men with a low education were around 10 USD an hour and a little more than 9 USD an hour for women. For prime-aged workers the numbers are even more similar. Median wages for men and women with high education were around 11 USD and hour, while median wages for men with low education was right under 11 USD and around 10.50 for women.

Professor Howell’s innovative study should continue to shed more light on the issue of job quality and work precarity. His findings should provide empirical evidence that shows in an era of rising inequality and rising growth, the bounties of this growth did not translate into more high paying jobs. Professor Howell’s preliminary findings also show that no one is safe. Men and women, and especially those with a low education, are not shielded from being stuck in a lousy job. He also shows that once in a lousy job, wages are similar for men and women with both a high and low education – especially for prime-aged workers.

The next step will be looking at other facets of job quality, including the issue of flexible schedules (when workers don’t know their schedule from one week to the next), and lack of or inadequate access to social benefits not tied to employment. Targeting such issues will help to lead researchers toward providing more concrete evidence that “bargaining power” and institutional changes are to blame for the rise in lousy jobs.

To conclude, it is our hope that in the case studies, professor Howell will look not just at institutional changes, but the politics surrounding the institutional changes that are correlated with the rise in lousy jobs, especially in the United States. If social science research is supposed to impact policy and policy change, researchers analyzing the United States need to ask themselves what is the most effective way to do this with the hyper partisan political climate we are currently living in where money rules and issues facing the general public are often ignored.

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Bruch & Marcia Meyers: “Unequal by Design – Socioeconomic Inequalities and State Level Safety Nets, 1994-2012”

The ARC Research Praxis Seminar Series Presents Sarah Bruch: “Unequal by Design: Socioeconomic Inequalities and State Level Safety Nets, 1994-2012”

The ARC Research Praxis Seminar Series Presents

Sarah Bruch & Marcia Meyers
Unequal by Design: Socioeconomic Inequalities and State Level Safety Nets, 1994-2012

Thursday, October 30, 2014
4:00pm – 6:00pm
ARC Conference Room
Room 5318
The Graduate Center, CUNY

Marcia Meyers
Photo and bio forthcoming

Sarah-Bruch

Sarah K. Bruch
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Iowa

Sarah K. Bruch’s research focuses on the processes and policies that ameliorate or exacerbate social inequalities. In this vein, she studies the political and civic consequences of social policy designs; the distributional and social consequences of US safety net policies; the role of racial marginality in state policy choices; authority relations and racial dynamics within schools; and how multiple dimensions of race can be used to identify different mechanisms of racial disparities in education and punishment. Her work has been published in leading academic journals including the American Sociological Review, Sociology of Education, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Child Development.

Behemoth: Giant Factories and Discourses of Modernity

Drawing from a variety of sources, from travel accounts and literature to paintings and photographs, Freeman presented preliminary findings to the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) on Thursday, October 9th. Rather than focusing on the singularity of modern Chinese factories, Freeman began with what might be called a genealogy of the gigantic factory, tracing it from its origins in 18th century Britain, through the United States and the Soviet Union in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the far-flung multinational producers of today’s electronics and consumer goods.

Controversy surrounding some of East Asia’ largest factories has risen in recent years, particularly on the heels of rioting and attempted suicides in plants operated by Foxconn in the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Taiyuan. Joshua Freeman, Distinguished Professor of History at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, was inspired to take a deeper look at the cultural significance these “behemoths” hold around the world.

Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry
Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry, 1932-33

Drawing from a variety of sources, from travel accounts and literature to paintings and photographs, Freeman presented preliminary findings to the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) on Thursday, October 9th. Rather than focusing on the singularity of modern Chinese factories, Freeman began with what might be called a genealogy of the gigantic factory, tracing it from its origins in 18th century Britain, through the United States and the Soviet Union in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the far-flung multinational producers of today’s electronics and consumer goods. To some observers a symbol of progress and national pride, and to others, a symbol of the satanic consequence of hubris, these edifices and the lives of those who operated their machinery have long presented questions and ambiguities.

Freeman’s project begins with simple questions which might bear much more complex answers: Why do we build such big factories in the first place? When and why have state authorities chosen either to concentrate workers in such numbers, or to disperse them into smaller, separate manufactories? How and why have these factories become poles for public discourse?

A brief historical overview reveals a familiar trajectory in Europe and the United States. Industrialists and state supporters saw that larger factories could increase production and profits exponentially. Leftists and conservatives alike often found a certain wonder in these industrial organisms; Freeman reminds us of the photo-journalist Margaret Bourke-White, who once claimed, “The beauty of industry lies in its truth and simplicity.” Some hoped these sites could produce a modern, rational, and even utopian lifestyle among its workers.

Homestead LOC 10140
Homestead Steel Works, Homestead, Pa. (Library of Congress)

Yet there seemed to be a limit to these “Promethean” enterprises: workers, when concentrated in such numbers, would chafe under deteriorating conditions. Gigantic factories had become unwieldy and costly, and eventually attempts were made to disperse manufacturing to more manageable suburban areas.

The recent resurgence of gigantic factories in East Asia cannot be explained by a simple “catching up” of “developing” world powers. Like the 19th century nationalists of Britain and Germany, modern governments continue to take pride in building massive projects like dams and bridges. Yet many of today’s largest factories do not evoke the same sort of pride they once might have. Freeman wonders whether this might be a consequence of the goods they produce: from Reebok shoes to iPads, these small products, mostly financed by multinational corporations and sold in foreign markets, are a far cry from the train cars and bridge girders of Pittsburgh’s heyday.

It seems that two overarching dimensions of these factories are at play: size, and location. Freeman’s ongoing work hopes to shed light on deeper layers of these dimensions. One observer noted that size can take many forms: number of workers, number and size of machines, and size of the finished products, for example. Location, too, will introduce enticing complications – to what extent can these “behemoths,” having spread around the world over the past three centuries, be linked together in a way that deepens our understanding of their role in social change and public discourse?

Storytelling as Resistance

From chapter 5 of her upcoming book, Dr. Fernandes’ talk centers around the increasing use of storytelling as a campaign strategy for social movements. As she explains, “stories are constructed in ways that promote reconciliation, provide a therapeutic release for the teller, and win sympathy in media circles, among politicians, and the broader public.” In precise details, Fernandes weaves through the ways in which storytelling was invoked in organizing meetings, public hearings and in press conferences throughout the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign. A much watered down bill was passed in 2010 guaranteeing the same basic rights as other workers. Despite its modest legislative success, Fernandes is concerned that the involvement of funders, coaches and advocacy groups in framing of the stories to win legislators over represents a retrenchment from the kind of (more confrontational?) organizing work needed to change the conditions for immigrant workers.

Many interesting points were raised during the Q&A: How effective is storytelling when much of the legislative negotiations tend to happen behind close doors between powerful stakeholders? How does the actual labor process of domestic work, where emotions play a significant role in the employer-employee dynamic, complicate campaign strategies? More broadly, is storytelling part of a larger cultural pattern in American society that valorizes the presentation of the “self” (e.g. reality TV shows, facebook, instagram, selfies)? If we agree on this point, then isn’t storytelling a manifestation of the liberal, and by extension, the neoliberal trope that the “self” must be worked on? This is particularly salient in the framing of victimization in individual stories to win over legislators and the public, as if to suggest only in extreme individual hardships can we make claims for social change.

Still, concerns were also raised over the use of the “American Dream” narrative in stories and public outreach. The idea that these domestic workers work hard and play by the rules and thus deserve basic human dignity effectively appeals to a broader sentiment, but, it also creates a distinction between “good” and “bad” immigrants, sectioning off a certain group to be the undeserving. Indeed, this contradiction speaks to Fernandes’ claim that perhaps storytelling represents the narrowing of space for which social movement work can operate, where the moral high ground is fought over individual troubles and injustices

Not all hope is lost though. The domestic workers campaign effectively brought these private troubles at home/work into the public consciousness. This is particularly relevant to my own research on undocumented Chinese restaurant workers who share some similar working conditions – small family-owned businesses, labor exploitation, abusive treatment, low wages and having to live in the shadows. I share in Fernandes’ interest in thinking through how political subjectivity is formed and in critically analyzing organizing strategies, even when they have progressive intentions. In the end, my take away message is that we should continue to be critical of the ways in which neoliberal thought can mutate and reappear, while keenly aware that we don’t operate in conditions of our own choosing.

Income Inequality LIS Book Launch

Income Inequality: Economic Disparities and the Middle Class in Affluent Countries, book launch. Panel with editors Janet Gornick, Director of LIS and professor at The Graduate Center, and Markus Jäntti, Research Director of LIS and professor at Stockholm University, and moderated by Branko Milanovic, expert on global inequality at The World Bank.

Contributing authors present their chapters: Arthur Alderson of Indiana University, Bloomington; Bruce Bradbury of University of New South Wales; Louis Chauvel of the University of Luxembourg; Nancy Folbre of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Vincent Mahler of Loyola University, Chicago; Stefán Ólafsson of University of Iceland; and Reeve Vanneman of the University of Maryland.

Inequality: The Enemy Between Us? | Richard Wilkinson

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, “Inequality: The Enemy Between Us?” was hosted at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

On Thursday, November 29, 2012, “Inequality: The Enemy Between Us?” was hosted at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and cosponsored by Advanced Research Collaborative; the Center for Humanities; (In)Equality Matters; The J. Max Bond Center for the Just City; Equality Trust; Public Science Project; Center for Human Environments; and the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in Environmental Psychology.