Michael D. Kennedy, Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs, Brown University

6 responses to “Democracy without equality has led to ‘Ubermensch Escapism’”

  1. salgal

    Here’s your last paragraph: What stops us from generating the civic imagination to address the inequalities in educational opportunity facing Rhode Island’s residents? That’s a wicked problem, but the combined capacities of these institutions and social forces suggest an awesome capacity for cultivating a meaningful hope in these justifiably anxious times.

    You make it sound like all that has to happen is that we knock on Brown’s door and hand them a piece of paper printed with the above, smile, and we will be ushered into a luxe conference room and offered beverages while waiting for any number of administrators, faculty members, alumni….to join us. Why, they’ve never thought of this before! Brilliant. Let’s get down to business and DO THIS. That’s a lovely little movie isn’t it? Put it on your website.

    Nothing stops us, the proletariat, from generating our civic imaginations. What stops Brown University who never comes down the hill except to buy more real estate for the country club known as an Ivy League jewel. Brown doesn’t give a shit about civic imagination except as a concept discussed in class.

    I’m afraid your piece here only inflates the image of the clueless academic in an ivory tower.

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  2. cailin rua

    Yes, we are living in an unprecedented world and it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future as the great Yogi, Berra, once pointed out. One, however, should not lose sight of the fact that most of us live in towns without pity and like sands through the hour glass so are the days of our lives.

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    1. cailin rua

      but seriously, from:

      INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (Ed.)
      South End Press (2007)
      Reviewed by Noel Hawke

      “He[Dylan Rodriguez] decries George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, despite acknowledging its “breathtaking number of left-of center grants over 20 years,” as “formulaic, naïve and conservative” because it marginalizes radical forms of dissent and exerts a disciplinary force on social movement organizations. Rodriguez does not comment on how the Open Society Foundation does this, but implies that it is by selective funding. Rodriguez lists the incentives available to the NPIC including postal privileges, tax exempt status, and quick access to philanthropic funding apparatuses. Ties of financial and political accountability keep the NPIC’s organizations tethered to the state. The state, in turn, uses clandestinity and deception to persuade people that violent enforcement are necessary to preserve a free way of life, and teaches them that consent is necessary. Further, control of social movements by neoliberal state and philanthropic organizations is accomplished by forcing upon them reactive planning due to policy changes, and stringently quantified monitoring, which compels organized dissenters to replicate the bureaucratic structures of businesses and government agencies. The murkiness of Rodriguez’ writing nearly undoes points he wants to make. He shrugs off the opportunity to present a guiding conclusion, asking instead what activists, scholars, writers and intellectuals enmeshed in the disciplinary restrictions imposed by the NPIC should do. Just before closing with five more pages of polemics on colonialism, he suggests that “We might, for a fleeting moment, conceptualize the emergence of the NPIC as an institutionalization and industrialization of a banal, liberal political dialogue that constantly disciplines us into conceding the urgent challenges of a political radicalism that fundamentally challenges the existence of the US as a white settler society.””

      From Rodriguez, himself:


      “Soros’s conception of the “Open Society,” fueled by his avowed disdain for laissez-faire capitalism, communism, and Nazism, privileges political dissent that works firmly within the constraints of bourgeois liberal democracy. The imperative to protect–and, in Soros’s case, to selectively enable with funding–dissenting political projects emerges from the presumption that existing social, cultural, political, and economic institutions are in some way perfectible, and that such dissenting projects must not deviate from the unnamed “values” which serve as the ideological glue of civil society. Perhaps most important, the Open Society is premised on the idea that clashing political projects can and must be brought (forced?) into a vague state of reconciliation with one another. . . .

      ” Crucially, the formulaic, naive vision of Soros’s Open Society finds its condition of possibility in untied foundation purse strings, as “dissent” flowers into viability on the strength of a generous grant or two. The essential conservatism of Soros’s manifesto obtains “common-sense” status within the liberal/progressive foundation industry by virtue of financial force, as his patronage reigns hegemonic among numerous organizations and emergent social movements.

      “Most important, the Open Society’s narrative of reconciliation and societal perfection marginalizes radical forms of dissent which voice an irreconcilable antagonism to white supremacist patriarchy, neoliberalism, racialized state violence, and other structures of domination. Antonio Gramsci’s prescient reflection on the formation of the hegemonic state as simultaneously an organizational, repressive, and pedagogical apparatus is instructive: “The State does have and request consent, but it also ‘educates’ this consent, by means of the political and syndical associations; these, however, are private organisms, left to the private initiative of the ruling class.”[11]

      “Certainly, the historical record demonstrates that Soros and other foundation grants have enabled a breathtaking number of “left-of-center” campaigns and projects in the last 20 years. The question I wish to introduce here, however, is whether this enabling also exerts a disciplinary or repressive force on contemporary social movement organizations while nurturing a particular ideological and structural allegiance to state authority that preempts political radicalisms.”

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      1. cailin rua

        I also want to add, that I’ve been trying to listen to the live news feed all day long from the Great Cities Institute of University of Illinois at Chicago, which seems to be one of the most advanced urban studies programs in the country.

        Andrew Fisher is the speaker featured in their live newsfeed today. He’s the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups” Andrew Fisher is a leading national expert on community food security. In 1994, he co-founded and led the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). The title of the talk is, Hunger Incorporated: Why the Alliance between Corporations and Anti Hunger Groups Holds Us Back from Solving Hunger.

        Andrews lecture is titled:

        Hunger Incorporated: Why the Alliance between Corporations and Anti Hunger Groups Holds Us Back from Solving Hunger


        I find it extremely ironic how some of these academic institutions, which don’t seem to enjoy the reputations of the vaunted Ivy League non-profit PRIVATE institutions seem to offer analyses which are far more astute than those coming down from the hill here in Providence.

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  3. leftyrite

    Town Without Pity.

    Gene Pitney.

    Hence: “No, it isn’t very pretty what a town without pity cannnnnnnnnnnn doooooo.”

    True then;true now.

    What’s missing? The music.

    Madame Rua. I must call you this ’cause the spellcheck keeps turning you into


    …if I could go back to Big Al’s record store, i would.

    And, I would take the spirit energy of a compressed can thrown in the incinerator

    to rocket a garish 45, slathered with multicolored shiny paper

    to send it to my best friend in eighth grade.

    That brilliant essay girl.

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  4. leftyrite

    and send it

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