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Adolph Reed; Nothing Left-- The long, slow surrender of American liberals

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Broadcast 3/11/2014 at 15:26:55
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Adolph Reed Jr. Professor of Political Science at University of Pennsylvania. 

He is the editor of Race, Politics and Culture: Critical Essays on the Radicalism of the 1960s and Without Justice for All: The New Liberalism and our Retreat from Racial Equality a nd he's been a columnist for The Progressive and The Village Voice, and has written frequently for The Nation.

He has a feature article in the march. Harpers, Nothing Left-- The long, slow surrender of American liberals

He's teaching courses at Penn on:

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  • Race and 20th-Century American Political Social Thought
  • Power, Culture, and American Cities
  • Labor and the Left in Postwar American Politics

Rob: In your article you describe a desiccated, hollowed out, vaporous, left. That's pretty brutal. 

What you describe as everybody gets a chance to work is what EF Schumacher wrote in his Small Is Beautiful chapter on Buddhist economics. 

You said, to Bill Moyers, that the left, as a significant force for shaping terms of debate, has been gone for a while. And your article suggests it's been since the 80s. 

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Apparatus for union busting was in place by the early nineties. 

Rob: What's the difference between a neoliberal and neoconservative?

Geography David Harvey 

Neoliberalism= Capitalism that has eliminated working class opposition. 

Capitalism that has no restraint from other social forces

Rob: What's the difference between a neo progressive and a neo-liberal?

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Rob: What's your take on redistribution and how that fits in with the left? Some characterize it as Marxism.

labels have come to take the place of thinking and argument. 

Rob: You've said "Our politics has been hollowed out-- one of the sources of the collapse of the left." What does that mean?

politicians are going to be holograms of the forces that they are accountable to. 

We've confused politics with the electoral realm and that with American Idol. 

Rob: Greg Palast has said that the shaping of Obama very much involved his shaping by the Pritzker billionaire family. 

Rob: Hyde Park liberals at the University of Chicago-- What does that mean?". 

Hyde park is a place where blacks and whites join forces against the poor-- neoliberals

Rob: Obama is rabidly for Free Trade and TPP and its Atlantic counterpart. Where does that fit in with liberalism and the left?

Lori Wallach-- Public Citizen

I want to throw in bottom-up 

Like speaking  in a foreign language. 

I don't believe the electoral domain is a police for building a social movement. 

Rob: And where does the bottom up aspect come in between electoral politics and movement building?

Fantasy of electoralitis; 

We've fallen further and further behind on the propaganda-- atrophy of information sources on policy" to alternative views to the neoliberal views on the facts of life" i

What we've lost is movement culture" 

Rob: What does movement building mean?

difference between an election campaign and a union organizing or community organizing campaign. 

politics-- drop literature, organizing-- want to connect, build contacts. 

Left has been basically liquidated as a significant force in American politics. We have to crawl before we walk. 

Most we can hope for in the electoral realm" to slow pace of liquidation. 

Rob: That's horrible. 

There's only thing 

Rob: Clinton was horrible-- a victory for right wingers and Obama is worse, right?

You say. since Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, "serious" Democratic candidates have insisted that, because appealing to the right's agenda is necessary to win, the responsible left must forgo demands for specific policies or programs as quid pro quo for their support. As its reaction to left criticism of his approach to health-care reform illustrated, the Obama Administration defines as "responsible" those who support it without criticism; those who do not are by definition the "far left" and therefore dismissible.

With the two parties converging in policy, the areas of fundamental disagreement that separate them become too arcane and too remote from most people's experience to inspire any commitment, much less popular action.

Obama's commitments to an imperialist foreign policy and Wall Street have only more tightly sealed the American left's coffin by nailing it shut from the inside.

Rob: You say in your article "a desiccated leftism capable only of counting, parsing, hand- wringing, administering, and making up "Just So" stories about dispossession and exploitation recast in the evocative but politically sterile language of disparity and diversity. This is neoliberalism's version of a left. Radicalism now means only a very strong commitment to antidiscrimination, a point from which Democratic liberalism has not retreated. Rather, it's the path Democrats have taken in retreating from a commitment to economic justice." Anitdiscrimination vs economic justice-- what's the difference?

Rob: In a sense it sounds like you are saying when you ignore the economic justice and focus on anti discrimination you are hollowing out the movement. 

You teach courses on: Race and Power. I'd like your ideas about race, the democratic party and Obama

Rob: Doug Rushkoff, in his book, Present Shock  describes a shift from linear narrative and stories to one which involves interaction with the world created-- like video games and Game of Thrones. 

The Pageantry of protest

Separation of performance of action to assessment of its impact. 


Should grow over times. 

Rob: it makes me think of Occupy, which did make a difference and did change the conversation. 

I'm not a conspiracy type" but" in the months run-up to occupy-- the Mainstream media were giving exuberant coverage to the Arab Spring-- people went into the street, had demonstrations and toppled the governments. I was curious about the hyperbolic constant coverage was going on.  This was also perpetrating a counterproductive, naive understanding of how change is made. --- articles on AdBusters and there was no left politics-- it was all about expression and the bizarre notion that you can can create a Facebook farm or dungeons and dragons version of anarchism. It struck me more like Children of the corn, to be honest. That said, it did draw people". who had the potential to go on from there and develop a serious politics. 

I go back to the anti WTO demos. Nobody expected that they would be as effective as they were. 

Todd Gitlin book: Whole World is Watching 

Rob: How were the WTO demos effective?

So it seems to me that what you are saying is the solution to the problem of the left, which you've described as desiccated, hollowed out, vaporous, is organization-- labor and community-- and connection-- face to face. How about digital connection?

Andrew Szaz- - book Shopping our Way to Safety

Rob: Are there people who have written about that, who are leading in that approach?

That's what the trade union has been all about. 

Rob: But haven't the unions become so top down that they back neo-liberals"

There are a lot of clear eyed, progressive trade union leaders" 

Rob: In fact, a lot of labor union leaders end up working for the company, getting the workers to get in line. 

You mentioned that your Harpers article was derived from a book chapter. What's the book?

Start with a book about Obamania and morphed into a book about what happens when compromises come home to roost. Book is under contract with Verso" 

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 


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