Tag: US politics

Weekly Round-up | January 20th, 2017

Starting today, we’ll be posting a weekly round-up of cool stuff from around the web that the editorial collective thinks might be interesting to readers of the blog: posts from other blogs, news stories, art objects, internet ephemera. If you stumble across anything that you think might fit here, just shoot a link to editor@castac.org. Help break us out of our habitual media itineraries and parochial corners of the internet! (read more...)

Populist Outsiders in the U.S Presidential Election

Editor’s note: This post was written prior to the New York state primary on Tuesday, April 19, in which Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both won majorities. Against all pundits’ bets, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders each stand a chance of winning their parties’ nominations. Writing in disbelief, media analysts and scholars have attempted to explain the allure of both candidates to the disenchanted masses. Some write about the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, and the increasing disconnect between party elites and their constituents to explain the rise of political outsiders; others write about racial backlash against President Obama. And still others write about how years of merciless and cynical political manipulation within the parties has polarized political discourse in the U.S. “Populism!” analysts decry, Peron-style banana republic populism, has taken over U.S. electoral politics. But where should we draw the line between populism and campaigning for a presidential election more generally? Many scholars in anthropology and media studies (especially those from the so-called “banana republics”) have pointed out that populism is a slippery analytical category that can mean many things, and that lends itself to many ideological projects (Mazzoleni, Stewart, and Horsfield 2003). For example, Ernesto Laclau (2005) sharply observes that populism is a rationale, a way of crafting public discourse based on a “us versus them” logic built upon a “chain of equivalences.” What Laclau means is that populist discourse ties together disparate social claims under a single message, and through this, the populist leader crafts a public identity that resonates with many types of social and political groups that have very different kinds of grievances. In this process, the leader embodies an aggregate version of “the people” based on the lowest common denominator, like national belonging. (read more...)

Silicon Valley as Ally or Foe? Reflections on the Politics of Income Inequality

The meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries—and the Occupy movement before that—have officially put income inequality on the political radar in the U.S., after years of slow wage growth and a near-catastrophic financial crash. In keeping with the times, Silicon Valley too has begun thinking about inequality. Resident philosopher Paul Graham, venture capitalist and founder of the famous YCombinator startup incubator, wrote an essay on inequality that caused a bit of a ruckus (in Silicon Valley and without). The short version: Graham is not happy with the current rhetorical war on inequality that politicians are waging. He thinks inequality is a natural product of a culture that values startups and innovation, and that a full-scale political fight against inequality is inadvisable. YCombinator recently put out a “Request for Research” to sponsor social science research on Basic Income guarantee schemes. Such a scheme—Silicon Valley’s go-to solution for the rise of inequality and artificial intelligence—would mean every citizen receives a basic income that insulates them from the rise of automation and the progress of technology. (You can apply for the job here.) In this post, I want to reflect on Silicon Valley’s political leanings, which allows me to bring in the fascinating political surveys of start-up founders that journalist Greg Ferenstein has conducted. There are some obvious (and important!) things to say about Graham’s essay and the Basic Income advertisement: that these writings take technology as an autonomous force that shapes society rather than seeing technological change as an outcome of negotiations between interest groups. They are articulations of very Silicon Valley notions of progress. What I really want to talk about, however, is good old-fashioned electoral politics. In the kinds of political alliances and interest groups that will come to define the United States over the next few decades—perhaps as inequality takes an even bigger role in political discourse—could it be possible that Silicon Valley might be an ally for progressive causes rather than a foe (as it often emerges in critical theory analyses)? (read more...)