rad!cles & rhizomes

Rorty–Achieving Our Country by musfs
June 12, 2007, 6:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you get a chance this is a great book and a pretty easy read. Richard Rorty is a Harvard Prof and one of Dewey’s offspring in American Pragmatism. In this book he lays out a history of the left, critiquing the disconnect between the cultural left and the reformist left, the latter dealing with labor issues, unions, and interested in economics while the former deals more abstractly with identity politics. He also makes a distinction between the reformist left and the “new left” of the sixties which was no longer interested in working within any current social system to achieve change.  Rorty’s view is that the fusion of the new left into the cultural and academic left have resulted in a movement concerned with “naming the stystem … over reforming the laws” (78).

Rorty doesn’t deny that we’ve made strides and counteracted sadistic ideas towards minority identities by naming that system and focusing on the way identity is socially and textually constructed, but states that”During the same period in which socially accepted sadism has steadily diminished, economic inequality and economic insecurity have steadily increased” (83). As far as this is relevant to SFS and to my own thinking, Rorty is implying what we should all be well aware of: that focusing on identity politics is a privledge and in labor organizing we will deal with a large number of people who don’t share the privilege of being immersed in the cultural left.

Besides naming the divisions of the left and calling for unified goals and a focus on campaings (which are finite because they can be won and lost) over movements (which by definition are infinite because they stay alive only through their resistance to claim to have won or lost) Rorty also strives to instill hope in our country, resisting the idea of unforgivable sin, or sin in general, and relying on a pragmatist’s idea of truth: truth is the way things “might best be described in order to meet some particular human need” (34). While the dangers of this thinking are suspect, although they are complexified in by Dewey and Rorty, Rorty makes some good points about the dangers of the left and its cynicism, especially when matched against the right’s mythologizing and amnesiac view of history: “We now have, among many students and teachers, a spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left rather than a Left which dreams of achieving our country” (35)

In some ways this book serves as historical and philosophical justifcation for what we’ve been doing with SFS. Rorty pats us on the back for being part of the academically unpopular reformist left and mending it with cultural concerns.  I’m tired of typing but haven’t done this book justice. The ideas are more complex than I make them seem, in part because I’m still grappling with some of them. But here’s a good quote to end with:

“All universities worth of the name have always been centers of soical protest. If American universities ever cease to be such centers, they will lose both their self respect and the respect of the learned world” (82).

P.S. Rorty names the following as a good book about the tactics of union busting: Thomas Geoghegan’s –Which Side Are You On? 


re-presenting radical student politix by stefilee
June 5, 2007, 4:47 am
Filed under: nuggets/quotes, stef's stuf

i’ve been playing with the idea of “re-presentation” [sic]

that is, to represent some things via media is quite different from the things themselves, and so, re-presented. and so, reimagined. the representation is itself a new thing.

this came out of my earlier idea to collaboratively write a book. tho now i am thinking that rather than getting submissions, we conduct the writing as an action in itself. we “speak” (rather than write) the book.

so check this out:

a book. (books are symbols of power, crystallized knowledge, authority. how to remove the weight of the text? (or, how to co-opt it?))

self-published by SFS (1. challenges the top-down structure of the media industry that mirrors the hierarchies of knowledge found in the educational system. 2. challenges notion of author/reader, performer/audience, producer/consumer. 3. active, rather than passive, participation in the generation of media, dissemination of knowledge)

containing conversations (VOICE! one thing i’ve noticed in my study of critical pedagogy is the concentration on theory and lack of PRACTICE. education is fundamentally social. education for the betterment of our society and its citizens – what could be more social?)

about our activism (“our.” “we” “us” “you” “me”. first person plural. positions my self, our selves IN the discourse. there’s no distance between me (the author) and you (the reader). i am part of the problem and solution, just as you are. draws reader in…)

thots? ideas? i’d really like to do this as part of my senior project, but would others be interested in dialoging with me?


taking back the academy! by musfs
May 24, 2007, 7:48 pm
Filed under: books, reading, stef's stuf

this book looks kinda interesting… what do you think?

i’m thinking of getting a copy for my senior project. from what i could tell from the excerpts on Amazon, it’s a compilation of essays written by scholars and professional academics, as well as students.

wouldn’t it be sooo cool if SFS published a book of our own? we could even self-publish one! hmm… this sounds highly appealing actually…

do ppl have essays and/or memoirs about the student activism they’ve participated in that could benefit from a little light? do you think you could write one in the next year?

hell, Ben K and i could even publish parts of our theses…

let me know what you think. i definitely want to do this!


the reading list!! by musfs
May 2, 2007, 4:34 am
Filed under: books, pdf/doc, reading

ok! so the suggestions are in and this is the compiled list of reading we can attempt this summer:

Murray Bookchin’s “Post Scarcity Anarchism”
Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony Or Survival”
George Orwell’s “1984” (this was huge for me)
*Jacob Riis’ “How The Other Half Lives” (a book of pictures of tenement dwellings)
*Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History Of The United States”
Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”
*Guy Debord’s “Theory of the Derive” (on the Drift) – here
*Walter Benjamin’s short essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (i think i found it here. and here.)
Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West
***Myles Horton’s THE LONG HAUL

*Mark Warren’s DRY BONES RATTTLING (read more here)

and maybe some Marx for good measure…?

anyway, enjoy! the ones with *’s are ones i am going to put a concerted effort into reading eventually, if not this summer. the ones that are bolded italicized and ***’d are the ones i highly recommend reading.

like, if i’m throwing stuff into a backpack for a trip to Mongolia and i forget to pack a canteen or something, it’s because one of those books took its place. it’s can’t live in the Mongolian wilderness without this kinda readin’.


SFS and empowerment by musfs
April 30, 2007, 11:16 pm
Filed under: pdf/doc, stef's stuf

for those of you interested in seeing the presentation i made to my capstone on “SFS and the complexities of advocacy, empowerment, leadership, and community-building”…



re: Paulo Freire by musfs
April 30, 2007, 5:04 pm
Filed under: nuggets/quotes, pdf/doc, stef's stuf, Steph's picks

as i mentioned in the previous post, Freire’s writing has influenced a lot of my work and research in the past year. his ideas have informed my own philosophy of empowerment and social activism, and i encourage you to read him.

that said, here is a paper i wrote on “Actualizing Activism.” that is, activism that realizes alternative subjectivities that may subvert existing social constraints on creative pursuits. ACTUALIZATION ACTIVISM (.doc)

you will see a lot of Freire’s influences at play here, and i encourage you to suggest alternative interpretations, to reflect on your own interpretations and experiences of Freire’s work, to share your own philosophies of empowerment, or formulate new ones.



Paulo Freire on the commodification of the student and the oppressed by musfs
April 29, 2007, 11:01 pm
Filed under: books, manifesto, nuggets/quotes, Steph's picks

if u haven’t already, i HIGHLY recommend reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

quite possibly one of my favorite tomes of the past year, Freire provides insight into why education’s in such bad shape, and why we’re so slow to fix it.

according to Freire, our educational system is dehumanizing. that is, we’re being alienated from our intellectual labors, “pseudo-citizens asleep at the unbreakable windows of their dreams” (–> jUStin!katKO, not Freire)

we learn to consume, rather than create, and thus it may never occur to us that the potential for change is our responsibility.

some quotes i find particularly compelling from PO:

p.74 – “the interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them”; for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated” (think about job enrichment, Bono’s RED campaign… completely palliative, do nothing to address the problems themselves. Bono’s attempts at ending hunger and poverty in Africa still keep hundreds of African men and women entrapped in factories, away from their families and homes, making over-priced t-shirts they will never see for people they will never know)

and this little nugget, which seems particularly useful right now, as i’m writing a final on the nature of empowerment and its complexities:

p.66 – “the insistence that the oppressed engage in reflection on their situation is not a call to armchair revolution. On the contrary, reflection – true reflection – leads to action… Otherwise, action is pure activism.

To achieve this praxis, it is necessary to trust in the oppressed and their ability to reason. Whoever lacks this trust will fail to initiate (or will abandon) dialogue, reflection, and communication… Political action on the side of the oppressed must be pedagogical action in the authentic sense of the word, and, therefore, action with the oppressed […] so that the oppressed may intervene critically in the situation which surrounds them” (this has largely informed and influenced my work in SFS in the past year, and my belief that we should work with workers, not for them)