Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE MUSICAL LEGACY OF AMIRI BARAKA: The Modern Jazz Critic As Cultural Historian, Creative Artist, Social Theorist, And Philosophical Visionary

© 2014

This essay is dedicated to the memory and eternal presence of Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones (1934-2014) who was not only a  great artist, mentor, friend, colleague, and comrade but  also-like he was for so many others around the world-a towering influence on my art and life

"Wailers"  (To Larry Neal and Bob Marley) by Amiri Baraka
David Murray--Tenor Saxophone
Steve McCall--Drums and Percussion
From the film "Poetry in Motion" (1982).  Directed by Ron Mann:

"Leroi Jones has learned--and this has been very rare in jazz criticism--to write about music as an artist."
--Nat Hentoff, Jazz & Pop magazine, 1966

“ ... Negro music is essentially the expression of an attitude, or a collection of attitudes, about the world, and only secondarily an attitude about the way music is made...Usually the critic's commitment was first to his appreciation of the music rather than to his understanding of the attitude that produced it. This difference meant that the potential critic of Jazz had only to appreciate the music, or what he thought was the music, and that he did not need to understand or even be concerned with the attitudes which produced it...The major flaw in this approach to Negro music is that it strips the music too ingenuously of its social and cultural intent. It seeks to define Jazz as an art (or a folk art) that has come out of no intelligent body of socio-cultural philosophy...”

--Leroi Jones, "Jazz and the White Critic," Downbeat magazine, 1963; later reprinted in his book of critical essays and reviews Black Music (William Morrow & Co. 1968)
“Jazz and the White Critic” was a challenge to jazz writers of all backgrounds to reckon with the lived experience of black Americans and to consider how this experience had been embedded in the notes, tones, and rhythms of the music.”
--John Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics (University of Chicago Press, 2006)


In the name of sheer historical accuracy and perhaps even ultimately a triumphant kind of poetic justice the following emphatic statement bears repeating as often as possible: For fifty years from 1963-2013 Amiri Baraka (also known as Leroi Jones) wrote and published the most profound, influential, and strikingly original body of musical criticism in the United States, as well as some of the most significant--and enduring--cultural and social criticism generally that this country has produced since 1945. This is especially true of his stunning and groundbreaking work in the musical genre of 'Modern Jazz' and his extensive, dynamic, and typically incisive examination of the music's rapid evolution since 1900 in both its visionary "avant garde" modes as well as its more traditional vernacular styles and expressions.

An essential aspect of Baraka’s critical writing on jazz however is also rooted in a deep consciousness and visceral understanding and love of the rural and urban blues/rhythm and blues traditions not only in formal and aesthetic terms but as a complex and historically cumulative social and cultural statement about the ongoing meaning(s) of the content of these musics in both their structural and lyrical dimensions. Thus an appreciation and respect for the ideological complexities and contexts of African American culture as an important economic, social, and political reality as well as an essentially protean artistic force is integral to fully engaging and grasping what Baraka is primarily focused on and concerned with in his writing about the music.

Thus it is not surprising that Baraka's first book about the music, originally entitled Blues People: Negro Music in White America became a seminal, widely acclaimed, and subsequently never out of print historical text. Published by the then 28-year-old writer in 1963, the book was also importantly subtitled in at least a few of its other many editions as "The Negro Experience in White America and the Music That Developed From It." Disdained and even dismissed in some quarters by some haughty and self-important highbrow critics, both white and black, as being too steeped in what they perceived as a fundamentally reductive sociological emphasis in Baraka's analysis of the blues as art and history (a highly inaccurate and quite dubious line of argument echoed in a particularly patronizing and intellectually self serving manner by the celebrated African American novelist and cultural critic Ralph Ellison) Blues People clearly marked a major new turning point in not only the history of Jazz and blues criticism in the United States but in its perception and intellectual appreciation and understanding by music critics generally. Not surprisingly this new consciousness was also beginning to be reflected to some degree in its public reception by audiences.

Despite its ill-informed detractors Blues People also firmly established Baraka as a major intellectual and literary force to be reckoned with because he was not afraid of expressing a strong and independently assertive viewpoint alongside a persistently sharp critical analysis of what the music has meant to black Americans from the standpoint of not only individual citizens or artists but of the mass culture generally. He insisted on an interpretive POV that saw class relations as well as "race" in terms that established a clear hierarchy and division of attitudes and values that informed one's deep affinity for or relative indifference to the various forms and expressions of the blues as creative/stylistic form and artistic identity as well as a distinct and thus substantive and independent sensibility in the larger society as a whole. Consequently Baraka declared that the purveyors of the blues sensibility and its primary cultural progenitors were not only the artists and the intellectual connoisseurs of the form (i.e. critics, academicians, and scholars) but the so-called 'ordinary citizens' who loved and represented and embodied the art themselves (the actual "Blues People" of the book's title). Therein, Baraka insisted, lay the music's true power and ultimate potential as both a creative and social/philosophical force.

In that light it is important to consider that as the great poet Langston Hughes and many other critics and commentators pointed out when the book made its initial appearance that Blues People was in many ways the intellectual and critical culmination of a contentious historical debate raging then (and even to a great extent today) within Black America as well as the larger society over the cultural and thus political and ideological value and meaning(s) of the African American experience and the role of its various artistic forms and artists who through their creative work publicly represent and embody this cultural history. In Baraka's analysis the music serves as both a crucial narrative record (literally as well as on vinyl) of what black people have experienced and an ongoing emotional and psychological register of the impact and effects this experience has had on them and their larger spiritual, existential, and philosophical conception of themselves. As he puts it in his original introduction to the book in 1963:

"In other words I am saying that if the Negro in America, in all its permutations, is subjected to a socio-anthropological as well as musical scrutiny, something about the essential nature of the Negro's existence in this country ought to be revealed, as well as something about the essential nature of this country, i.e. society as a whole...And the point I want to make most evident here is that I cite the beginning of blues as one beginning of American Negroes. Or, let me say, the reaction and subsequent relation of the Negro's experience in this country in his English is one beginning of the Negro's conscious appearance on the American scene...When America became important enough to the African to be passed on, in those formal renditions, to the young, those renditions were in some kind of Afro-American language..."

Baraka also was deeply concerned with how and why these specific musical traditions, techniques, and innovations took the various forms and stylistic identities that they did from the dialectical standpoint of their creators' dynamic, and critically informed engagement with their aesthetic material. One of Baraka's major strengths as a critic is his emphasis always on the process of the creative act in the course of expressing ideas and emotions via the integral elements of music making. This is a major even central aspect of Baraka's writing as a music critic that he strongly maintained and greatly enhanced in all future critiques and celebrations of Jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues following the publication of Blues People.

In Black Music (William Morrow, 1968), his second book devoted to the extraordinary social history and cultural identity of this musical art, Baraka lays out what amounts to a very erudite and casually elegant book-length manifesto on the most advanced, radical, and innovative developments in modern Jazz during the culturally and politically tumultuous 1960s. A trenchant and mesmerizing collection of many of the finest theoretical essays, feature articles, and music reviews that he had written for various national magazines and journals from 1959-1967, Baraka not only critically interprets the revolutionary music of this fascinating historical period but discusses its myriad meanings and values from the direct viewpoint of the individual musicians themselves. What results is a series of riveting, complex, and always critically challenging portraits of these musicians as dedicated cultural workers and the often visionary perspectives that these artists embodied and conveyed to their audiences. Baraka especially draws the readers' attention to the largely black working class and sometimes even more economically challenging (i.e. poor) social and cultural milieu that so many of these musicians and their peers and colleagues lived, created, and performed in. In doing so he reminds us that many of the most profound, lasting, and useful modern art expressions in the United States (and elsewhere) are not merely or exclusively the products of the academic “Ivory Tower” and foundation grant institutions nor are they dependent on the often fickle largesse of wealthy patrons. In fact as Baraka amply demonstrates in his analysis the evidence everywhere of the deep desire and demand for aesthetic, economic, and political self determination among this intrepid generation of musicians, composers, and improvisers is one of the major principles animating their work and overall vision. One of many brilliant examples of this analytical focus can be found in Baraka's intricate, detailed, and powerful dissection of the general aesthetics and cultural values of such legendary and even iconic musicians, composers, and improvisors of the post 1945 modern music era as John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Milford Graves, Don Pullen, Bobby Bradford, and Roy Haynes, among many others who emerged as a self consciously radical, innovative, visionary. and transformative force in the music since the late 1950s.

Dedicated to “John Coltrane, the heaviest spirit” Baraka's Black Music posed a tremendous intellectual and artistic challenge to a entire generation of artists, critics, and cultural/political activists (and I might add is still doing so some two generations and 45 years later!) to begin to seriously address and attempt to resolve many of the major structural and institutional problems and crises facing not only our creative artists in the realms of music, literature, dance, filmmaking, visual and media art, etc. but our larger communities as well. Toward that end the book provides an important ongoing subtextual narrative about the insidious political economy of the music business and its direct and indirect effects on the musicians themselves who not only have to withstand and tragically negotiate the oppressive and exploitive impositions of white supremacy/racism in all its guises but the even more comprehensive venality of corporate capitalism in the studios, clubs, theatres and general commercial venues where the music was being recorded and/or performed for various live audiences during an era when Jazz, despite its growing richness and vitality in a creative sense, especially was suffering greatly economically as a result of its clearly limited reception and appreciation by the larger society. This unfortunately also included the growing commercial interest in and support for pop, rhythm and blues, and rock musics (resulting in the increasing exclusion and marginalization of Jazz and blues) in the national black community.

Finally, the flagship essay of Black Music that opens the volume contains one of the most prescient, eloquent, historically significant, and intellectually honest essays ever written about the “Modern Jazz” dimension of African American music. Entitled "Jazz and the White Critic" the piece had originally appeared in Downbeat the largest national 'mainstream' Jazz magazine in the country in August, 1963 just before the appearance of his first book on the music Blues People later that year. What remains essential about this prophetic essay is its analytical insistence that the philosophical and cultural aspects of African American music like that of all major aesthetic traditions throughout the world is key to acquiring a genuine knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the art. As he states in his concluding paragraph:

“We take for granted the social and cultural milieu and philosophy that produced Mozart. As Western people the socio-cultural thinking of eighteenth-century Europe comes to us as a historical legacy that is a continuous and organic part of the twentieth-century West. The socio-cultural philosophy of the Negro in America (as a continuous historical phenomenon) is no less specific and no less important for any critical speculation about the music that came out of it...this is not a plea for narrow sociological analysis of Jazz, but rather that this music cannot be completely understood (in critical terms) without some attention to the attitudes which produced it. It is the philosophy of Negro music that is most important, and this philosophy is only partially the result of the sociological disposition of Negroes in America. There is, of course, much more to it than that.” (Italics mine)

The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues  (William Morrow, 1987)

The long awaited arrival of Amiri's third full volume of music criticism in 1987 published some twenty years after Black Music and twenty-five years after Blues People was not only well worth the wait but added still more brilliant wrinkles to his long-term critique of the music, its artists, and the larger social, economic, and political contexts that it existed and persisted in. Both a dynamic synthesis and extension of previous writing about its historical identity as well as an celebratory examination of its contemporary expressions, The Music is divided between a series of poems that center on Jazz and the blues by both Amiri and his wife, Amina Baraka, which takes up a third of the text, an extraordinary political play entitled The Primitive World: An Anti-Nuclear Musical by Amiri that uses both “avant-garde” as well as more traditional Jazz and blues elements, techniques, and styles in an updated and innovative operatic context. Most of the actors in the production are the musicians themselves who both play and sing their parts. Such important and highly accomplished 'avant' Jazz musicians of the post-1970 era as the tenor saxophonist David Murray, drummer and percussionist Steve McCall, violinist Leroy Jenkins, and the pianist/organist Amina Claudine Myers.

The last third of the book features 26 virtuosic and typically incisive essays, reviews, liner notes, and feature articles by Baraka written for and published by various national magazines, journals, and newspapers in the 1975-1987 period as well as some new and important critical essays written specifically for the book. Covering everyone and everything from Miles Davis (in a masterful 1985 article for the New York Times) to the history of Jazz and other African American musics in Greenwich Village in NYC to a series of briliant book and music reviews of books and recordings about and by such major musicians as Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Woody Shaw, Cecil McBee, Gil Scott-Heron, Chico Freeman, Ricky Ford, and Craig Harris. There are also a scintillating collection of extremely informative, lyrically written, and politically astute theoretical and critical essays like "Where's the Music Going and Why?", "Jazz Writing: Survival in the Eighties", "The Phenomenon of Soul in African American Music". "Masters in Collaboration", "Blues, Poetry, and the New Music" "AfroPop", "The Class Struggle in Music" and "The Great Music Robbery." There is simply not enough space in this piece to do justice to the crackling intellectual firepower and truly impressive depth and scope of Baraka's writing here; suffice it to say for now that he (re)proves all over and once again exactly WHY he is the preeminent American music critic of the past half century by a very wide margin with virtually no real contenders in sight. Long out of print (and criminally never republished in paperback!) one MUST track down this 1987 hardcover classic and read what it says about a massive range of issues and concerns with respect to the music in not only aesthetic and ideological terms but from the equally profound standpoints of literature (and rhetoric), social theory, cultural history, and political analysis and journalism. One will not come away disappointed. If only the academic departments of 'American and African American Studies' (and all other so-called "ethnic", "humanities", and "cultural studies" programs generally) had professors, public intellectuals, and social activists of Baraka's caliber and clarity running them instead of the often pretentious, biased, and myopic fetishists of "language and culture" who too often ride herd in these fields in U.S. colleges and universities today, we would all be much better informed about the actual strength, beauty, and complex reality of the multiracial and multinational society that we all in fact inhabit. As Baraka makes clear in the essay "Blues, Poetry, and the New Music" from what is finally a GREAT book:

"Each generation adds to and is a witness to extended human experience, If it is honest it must say something new. But in a society that glorifies formalism, i.e. form over content, because content rooted in realistic understanding of that society must minimally be critical of it--the legitimately truthfully new is despised. Surfaces are shuffled , dresses are lengthened or shortened, hair is green or blond, but real change is opposed. The law keeps the order and the order is exploitive and oppressive! The new music reinforces the most valuable memories of a people but at the same time creates new forms, new modes of expression, to more precisely reflect contemporary experience!"

Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music  (University of California Press, 2009)

After an astonishing forty five years of endlessly writing, teaching, and lecturing about African American music all over the world it was an absolutely thrilling and inspiring surprise to find yet another extraordinary volume of music criticism by Amiri in the 21st century. Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music (University of California Press, 2009) is an epic 411 page text of 84 essays, reviews, liner notes, articles, and precise literary portraits of and about musicians and their art over a fifty year period.. Taking on a huge canvas of critical themes and musical personalities Baraka carries off one can only be described as a penultimate triumph of the art and craft of music criticism at its highest possible level. In a stunning display and critical synthesis that includes an encyclopedic knowledge of the music, a razor sharp attention to the historical nuances of the music and how it it has stylistically evolved and mutated over the years, and finally a thoroughly independent theoretical and critical perspective on the music in aesthetic, historical, and social/cultural terms, Baraka compiled and summed up what constitutes a comprehensive philosophical treatise on Jazz and blues music in U.S.--and by extension the world-- over the past century.

In this quest Digging joyously and fastidiously examines the work, philosophy, craft, and vision of such GIANTS as John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, David Murray, Art Tatum, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Billie Holiday, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Andrew Cyrille, Barry Harris, James Moody, Jackie McLean, Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Hopkins, Pharoah Sanders, Charles Tolliver, Odean Pope,John Hicks, Von Freeman, Jimmy Scott, and Reggie Workman (WHEW!). Baraka also writes with great insight, intelligence, and passion about such exciting and important emerging musicians and composers of the past two decades as Vijay Iyer, Rodney Kendrick, Ralph Peterson, Jon Jang, and Ravi Coltrane,

Finally Digging is an intense, wide ranging, and deeply philosophical and scholarly meditation on, and relentless excavation of, the multidimensional aspects of the music's varied diasporic genealogies, and a celebration of its ongoing presence and importance on both a national and global level. Amiri incorporates everything he has learned and experienced in the both the music and his life (and their endless interconnections). This synergy of the personal and aesthetic gives the book an organic unity and focus that shapes and informs the text as the essays strive to fuse an understanding of politics, history, ideology, and art with a larger vision of "what it all means." Confronting this complicated task is handled beautifully in such sage and critical essays as "The 'Blues Aesthetic' and the 'Black Aesthetic: Aesthetics as the Continuing Political History of a Culture ', "Jazz Criticism and Its Effects On the Music", "Black Music As A Force for Social Change", "BoperaTheory", "Jazz and the White Critic: Thirty Years Later" , "Newark's "Coast" and the Hidden Legacy of Urban Culture", "Blues People: Looking Both Ways", "Miles Later" and "Griot/Djali: Poetry, Music, History, Mesage". "Cosby and the Music", and "The American Popular Song: The Great American Song Book" among others. In other words NO ONE has written about American music with a wider, deeper, and more informed LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and KNOWLEDGE than Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones or what ithis music means to the artists who create it and the millions of blues people/citizens from all over the world who listen, dance, sing and live their lives to and with it. On this and much much more besides, Amiri has--as always-- the 'last word' (for now) on the subject:

"...So Digging means to present , perhaps arbitrarily, varied paradigms of this essentially Afro-American art. The common predicate, myself, the Digger. One who gets down, with the down, always looking above to see what is going out, and so check Digitaria, as the Dogon say, necessary if you are the fartherest Star, Serious. So this book is a microscope, a telescope, and being Black, a periscope. All to dig what is deeply serious. From a variety of places,,,the intention is to provide some theoretical and observed practice of the historical essence of what is clearly American Classical Music, no matter the various names it, and we, have been called. The sun is what keeps the planet alive, including the Music, like we say, the Soul of which is Black."

Kofi Natambu
Berkeley, California
April 9, 2014
(Paul Robeson's 106th birthday)


Blues People: Negro Music in White Music. by Leroi Jones. William Morrow, 1963

Black Music. by Leroi Jones. William Morrow and Company, 1968

The Music: Reflections On Jazz and Blues. by Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka. William Morrow and Company, 1987

Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music. by Amiri Baraka. University of California

Nate Chinen On the Humanity, Depth, Power, and Clarity Of Amiri Baraka

The Gig:   Amiri Baraka, Blues Person 
By Nate Chinen
March 15, 2014
Remembering a poet and playwright of incandescent power

There were a lot of contested vantage points in the appraisals that surfaced in the wake of Amiri Baraka’s death, on Jan. 9, at 79. This was probably inevitable, and possibly fitting. Not to imply that Baraka—a poet and playwright of incandescent power, and a critic of dauntless conviction—should be reduced in memoriam to a firebrand. While he inhabited that role at times with a kind of fearless relish, his was a far more thoughtful, nuanced and necessary voice than any of his detractors could allow. The mere fact of that dissonance speaks to the central preoccupation of his life, which was the struggle of African-American society against systemic forces of oppression—and all of the ways in which black art held the tools of transformation, or resistance. How you received that message had a lot to do with how you saw the struggle.

Amiri Baraka
Photo by Jimmy Katz

Baraka was a jazz man to the bone; he recognized in the music an unsurpassingly potent and radical means of cultural expression. His writings on jazz, especially in the landmark 1968 essay collection Black Music, shed penetrating light on both the art form and its social context, which he understood to be more or less inextricable. His poems often made use of jazz rhythm, whether they were conveyed on the page or onstage. No one was ever better at bringing modern verse into performative contact with improvised music, as I was reminded most recently by portions of the superb five-LP set Call It Art: New York Art Quartet (1964-65) (Triple Point). (Reading his poem “Western Front,” Baraka sounds dispassionate but urgent, his intensity stretched taut just beneath the surface.) He had little patience for fashions du jour, and even less for the structural biases that slipped by under the guise of conventional wisdom. When he was wrong—everybody has his or her own tally of these moments—there was usually some value in determining precisely how wrong, and why.

He was born Everett Leroy Jones in Newark, N.J., a student of musical and literary inclination practically from the start. He served time at Howard University and the U.S. Air Force, taking away different dissatisfactions from each institution, before he settled into Greenwich Village, where he became known by his byline, LeRoi Jones. He married the former Hettie Cohen, a fellow writer, and they became a fixture in downtown bohemian circles, aligning with poets from the Beat generation (Allen Ginsberg), the Black Mountain scene (Robert Creeley) and the New York School (Frank O’Hara). Baraka’s subsequent repudiation of these relationships, including Hettie Jones, was a result of his deep dive into late-’60s black cultural nationalism. Feelings were hurt, and some in his previous white cohort judged him all the more harshly for it.

The common complaint was that Baraka, as he renamed himself, had jackknifed from the bluffs of poetry into the roiling sea of politics. There was some truth in this. “His writing didn’t go cold unattended (quite the opposite),” observes critic-bandleader Greg Tate, one of Baraka’s many heirs, in Ebony magazine, “but his writing career, as such, became enmeshed if not subordinate to his political fervor.” This enmeshing, made manifest in the Black Arts Movement, could produce riveting results—like Baraka’s immortal poem “AM/TRAK,” which claims John Coltrane as a kindred revolutionary spirit, “Malcolm X in New Super Bop Fire.” And if some of his politically charged jazz essays seem confined to their era, others stubbornly retain their relevance. A recent fracas over Terry Teachout’s biography Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham) sent me back to Baraka’s 50-year-old essay “Jazz and the White Critic,” and especially one of its chief assertions: “In jazz criticism, no reliance on European tradition or theory will help at all.”

It so happens that I met Baraka on my first-ever feature assignment, a 1997 profile of a journeyman alto saxophonist named Julian Pressley for the Philadelphia City Paper. I was 20, an English major marking time between junior and senior years, and thought I knew what I was in for. I’d pored over Baraka’s more anthologized poems, along with Black Music and its historic precursor, Blues People. Partly because of my reading and partly because of his extra-literary reputation, I was expecting a bristly reception.

But when I visited Baraka’s house in Newark, I was struck by its air of warmth and inclusion, which probably had something to do with his second wife, Amina, a poet herself. Pressley had been booked to play Kimako’s Blues People, a monthly series in the basement. I remember the delight on his face when he sidled up to the stereo console and noted a CD on which he’d appeared, by the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir. (Baraka had reviewed it, pegging it as “the kind of item you press on people who don’t know it to show how hip you are, digging out the deep ones, the unknown ones.”) I also remember Baraka’s introspection as we conversed in his laundry room, where he spoke quietly, a can of Miller Lite in hand. Regarding the series, he said: “We’re trying to foster a self-reliant alternative culture as a reaction to popular culture.”

It’s instructive to recall the terms of that statement, delivered not as a provocation but merely a principled stance. I subsequently heard Baraka speak in public more than a dozen times, and always kept it in mind. Two years ago, reporting a story, I took bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding to a Baraka reading in Lower Manhattan. With Adegoke Steve Colson on piano, he delivered poems of scathing wit and earnest sentiment, including “Play Dat,” for the memory of pianists John Hicks and Hilton Ruiz. Spalding seemed as transfixed as I was, marveling afterward at his vitality.

More recently, at last year’s awards ceremony for the Jazz Journalists Association, Baraka gave remarks to induct a fellow lifetime achievement honoree, Willard Jenkins, invoking the related legacies of slavery and black literary achievement. When it was my turn at the podium, I thanked him for the challenge he laid bare, calling it “something that we dismiss at our great peril.” Baraka caught my eye as I left the stage, wearing a smile of sly bemusement. But I meant what I said then, and I mean it now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Henry Giroux On Neoliberalism, Corporate Dominance, the Rise of Authoritarianism, and the Modern Surveillance State in the U.S.

Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability
08 April 2014
By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed

 (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Under the regime of neoliberalism, especially in the United States, war has become an extension of politics as almost all aspects of society have been transformed into a combat zone. Americans now live in a society in which almost everyone is spied on, considered a potential terrorist, and subject to a mode of state and corporate lawlessness in which the arrogance of power knows no limits. The state of exception has become normalized. Moreover, as society becomes increasingly militarized and political concessions become relics of a long-abandoned welfare state hollowed out to serve the interest of global markets, the collective sense of ethical imagination and social responsibility toward those who are vulnerable or in need of care is now viewed as a scourge or pathology.

What has emerged in this new historical conjuncture is an intensification of the practice of disposability in which more and more individuals and groups are now considered excess, consigned to zones of abandonment, surveillance and incarceration. Moreover, this politics of disappearance has been strengthened by a fundamental intensification of increasing depoliticization, conducted largely through new modes of spying and the smothering, if not all-embracing, market-driven power of commodification and consumption.
Citizens are now reduced to data, consumers, and commodities and as such inhabit identities in which they increasingly "become unknowables, with no human rights and with no one accountable for their condition."[1] Within this machinery of social death, not only does moral blindness prevail on the part of the financial elite, but the inner worlds of the oppressed are constantly being remade under the force of economic pressures and a culture of fear. According to João Biehl, as the realpolitik of disposability "comes into sharp visibility . . . tradition, collective memory, and public spheres are organized as phantasmagoric scenes, [that] thrive on the "energies of the dead," who remain unaccounted for in numbers and law."[2]

Economists such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich have argued that we are in a new Gilded Age, one that mimics a time when robber barons and strikebreakers ruled, and the government and economy were controlled by a cabal that was rich, powerful and ruthless.[3] And, of course, blacks, women and the working class were told to mind their place in a society controlled by the rich. What is often missing in these analyses is that what is new in the second Gilded Age is not just about the moral sanctioning of greed, the corruption of politics by big money, and the ruthlessness of class power.

What is unique is the rise of a brutal punishing-incarceration state that imposes its power on the dispossessed, the emergence of a surveillance state that spies on and suppresses dissenters, the emergence of vast cultural apparatuses that colonize subjectivity in the interests of the market, and a political class that is uninterested in political concessions and appears immune from control by nation states. The second Gilded Age is really a more brutal form of authoritarianism driven by what psychologist Robert Jay Lifton rightly calls a "death-saturated age," in which matters of violence, survival and trauma now infuse everyday life. [4]

... life has become completely unbearable for over half of the American public living in or near poverty.

Discarded by the corporate state, dispossessed of social provisions and deprived of the economic, political and social conditions that enable viable and critical modes of agency, expanding populations of Americans now find themselves inhabiting zones of abandonment marked by deep inequalities in power, wealth and income. Such zones are sites of rapid disinvestment, places marked by endless spectacles of violence, and supportive of the neoliberal logics of containment, commodification, surveillance, militarization, cruelty and punishment.

These zones of hardship and terminal exclusion constitute a hallmark signature and intensification of a neoliberal politics of disposability that is relentless in the material and symbolic violence it wages against the 99% for the benefit of the new financial elite. Borrowing from Hannah Arendt, one could say that capitalist expropriation, dispossession and disinvestment has reached a point where life has become completely unbearable for over half of the American public living in or near poverty.[5]

Evidence of such zones can be seen in the war against immigrants, poor minorities, the homeless, young people living in debt, the long-term unemployed, workers, the declining middle class, all of whom have been pushed into invisible communities of control, harassment, security and the governing-through-punishment complex.

The promises of modernity regarding progress, freedom and hope have not been eliminated; they have been reconfigured, stripped of their emancipatory potential and subordinated to the logic of a savage market instrumentality and individualization of the social. Dispossession and disinvestment have invalidated the promises of modernity and have turned progress into a curse for the marginalized and a blessing for the super-financial elite. Modernity has reneged on its undertaking to fulfill the social contract, however disingenuous or limited, especially with regards to young people. Long-term planning and the institutional structures that support them are now weakened, if not eliminated, by the urgencies of privatization, deregulation, flexibility and short-term investments. Social bonds have given way under the collapse of social protections and the welfare state and are further weakened by the neoliberal insistence that there are only "individual solutions to socially produced problems." [6]

"There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing."

Neoliberalism’s disposability machine is relentlessly engaged in the production of an unchecked notion of individualism that both dissolves social bonds and removes any viable notion of agency from the landscape of social responsibility and ethical considerations. Absorbed in privatized orbits of consumption, commodification and display, Americans vicariously participate in the toxic pleasures of a mode of authoritarianism characterized by the reactionary presence of the corporate state, the concentration of power and money in the upper 1% of the population, the ongoing militarization of all aspects of society, and the ongoing, aggressive depoliticization of the citizenry.

In its current historical conjuncture, the authoritarian state is controlled by a handful of billionaires (eg., the Koch Brothers), their families (eg., the Waltons) and a select class of zombie-like financial and corporate elite who now control the commanding economic, political and cultural institutions of American society.

Mechanisms of governance have been transformed into instruments of war. Violence has become the organizing force of a society driven by a toxic notion of privatization in which it becomes difficult for ideas to be lifted into the public realm. Under such circumstances, politics is eviscerated because it now supports a market-driven view of society that has turned its back on the idea that "Humanity is never acquired in solitude." [7] That is, society has come undone in terms of the social contract and in doing so has turned its back on most Americans whose lives and futures are no longer determined by social spaces that give them a voice and provide the conditions for autonomy, freedom and equality. This violence against the social mimics is not just the death of the radical imagination, but also a notion of banality made famous by Hannah Arendt, who argued that at the root of totalitarianism was a kind of thoughtlessness, an inability to think, and a type of outrageous stupidity in which, "There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing."[8]

The plight of disposable populations can be seen in the fact that millions of Americans are unemployed and are receiving no long-term benefits. Shockingly, the only source of assistance for one in 50 Americans "is nothing but a food stamp card." [9] Close to half of all Americans live on or beneath the poverty line while "more than a million public school students are homeless in the United States; 57 percent of all children are in homes considered to be either low-income or impoverished; and half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years old." [10] At the same time, the 400 richest Americans "have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined, that’s 50 percent of the entire country [while] the top economic 1% of the US population now has a record 40 percent of all wealth and more wealth than 90 percent of the population combined." [11]

Within this system of power and disposability, the ethical grammars that draw our attention to the violence of such suffering disappear while dispossessed populations lose their dignity, bodies, and material goods and homes. The fear of losing everything, the horror of the engulfing precarity, the quest to merely survive, and the impending reality of social and civil death have become a way of life for the 99% in the United States. Under the politics of disposability, the grammars of suffering, cruelty, and punishment have replaced the value of compassion, social responsibility and civic courage.

Young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.
The severity of the consequences of this shift in modernity under neoliberalism among youth is evident in the fact that this is the first generation, as Zygmunt Bauman argues, in which the "plight of the outcast may stretch to embrace a whole generation." [12] He rightly argues that today’s youth have been "cast in a condition of liminal drift, with no way of knowing whether it is transitory or permanent." [13] Youth no longer occupy the hope of a privileged place that was offered to previous generations. They now inhabit a neoliberal notion of temporality marked by a loss of faith in progress along with the emergence of apocalyptic narratives in which the future appears indeterminate, bleak and insecure. Heightened prospects and progressive visions pale and are smashed next to the normalization of market-driven government policies that wipe out pensions, eliminate quality health care, raise college tuition, and produce a harsh world of joblessness, while giving millions to banks and the military. Students, in particular, now find themselves in a world in which heightened expectations have been replaced by dashed hopes and a world of onerous debt. [14]

What has changed about an entire generation of young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations. Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. [15] The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being "at risk," they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.

The structures of neoliberal modernity do more than disinvest in young people and commodify them, they also transform the protected space of childhood into a zone of disciplinary exclusion and cruelty, especially for those young people further marginalized by race and class who now inhabit a social landscape in which they are increasingly disparaged as flawed consumers. With no adequate role to play as consumers, many youth are forced to inhabit "zones of social abandonment," extending from bad schools to bulging detention centers to prisons. [16] Youth have become a marker for a mode of disposability in which their fate is defined largely through the registers of a society that throws away resources, people and goods. These are zones where the needs of young people are not only ignored, but where many young people, especially poor minority youth, are subjected to conditions of impoverishment and punishment that underserve them and often criminalize their behavior. For example, with the hollowing out of the social state and the rise of the punishing state, the circuits of state repression, surveillance and disposability increasingly "link the fate of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, poor whites, and Asian Americans" to a crime youth complex, which now serves as the default solution to major social problems. [17] Within these "zones of abandonment" and social death, poor minority and low-income youth are viewed as out of step, place, and time and defined largely as "pathologies feeding on the body politic," exiled to spheres of "terminal exclusion." [18]

As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and atomization. Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in, and breakdown of, institutions and public spheres that have provided the minimal conditions for democracy. A generalized fear now shapes American society - one that thrives on insecurity, precarity, dread of punishment, and a perception of constant lurking threats. Americans occupy a historical conjuncture in which everything that matters politically, ethically and culturally is being erased - either ignored, turned into a commodity or simply falsified.

In the United States and many other countries, the state monopoly on the use of violence has not only intensified since the 1980s, but is unashamedly sanctioned by the new extremists in power. Under the regime of neoliberalism, this new-found embrace of social Darwinism and the culture of violence has been directed against young people, poor minorities, immigrants and, increasingly, women.

Abandoned by the existing political system, young people are placing their bodies on the line, protesting peacefully across the globe while trying to produce a new language, politics, long-term institutions, and "community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect that they see missing in a world that is structured by neoliberal principles." [19] Such movements are not simply about reclaiming space but also about producing new ideas, generating new conversations, and introducing a new political language. While there has been considerable coverage in the progressive media since 2001 given to the violence being waged against the movement protesters in Brazil, the United States, Greece and elsewhere, it is important to situate such violence within a broader set of categories that enables a critical understanding of not only the underlying social, economic and political forces at work in such assaults, but also makes it possible to reflect critically on the distinctiveness of the current historical period in which they are taking place. For example, it is difficult to address such state-sponsored violence against young people without analyzing the devolution of the social state, emergence of a politics of disposability, and the corresponding rise of the warfare and punishing state.
The merging of the military-industrial-academic-cultural complex and unbridled corporate power points to the need for strategies that address what is specific about the current warfare state and the neoliberal project and how different interests, modes of power, social relations, public pedagogies, and economic configurations come together to shape its politics of domestic terrorism, cruelty, and zones of disposability. Such a conjuncture is invaluable politically in that it provides a theoretical opening for making the practices of the neoliberal revolution visible to organize resistance to its ideologies, policies and modes of governance. It also points to the conceptual power of making clear that history remains an open horizon that cannot be dismissed through appeals to the end of history or end of ideology.[20] It is precisely through the indeterminate nature of history that resistance becomes possible and politics refuses any guarantees and remains open.

As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence.

A number of neoliberal societies, including the United States, have become addicted to violence. War provides jobs, profits, political payoffs, research funds, and forms of political and economic power that reach into every aspect of society. As war becomes a mode of sovereignty and rule, it erodes the distinction between war and peace. Increasingly fed by a moral and political frenzy, warlike values produce and endorse shared fears as the primary register of social relations. Shared fears and the media-induced panics that feed them produce more than a culture of fear. Such hysteria also feeds the growing militarization of the police, who increasingly use their high-tech scanners, surveillance cameras and toxic chemicals on anyone who engages in peaceful protests against the warfare and corporate state. Images abound in the mainstream media of such abuses.
As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence. Such legitimation is largely provided through a market-driven culture addicted to production of consumerism, militarism, and organized violence, largely circulated through various registers of popular culture that extend from high fashion and Hollywood movies to the creation of violent video games and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon. The market-driven spectacle of war demands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals and a largely passive republic of consumers. But it also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in the spectacle of violence.

As the pleasure principle is unconstrained by a moral compass based on a respect for others, it is increasingly shaped by the need for intense excitement and a never-ending flood of heightened sensations. In this instance, unfamiliar violence such as extreme images of torture and death become banally familiar, while familiar violence that occurs daily is barely recognized and relegated to the realm of the unnoticed and unnoticeable. As an increasing volume of violence is pumped into the culture, yesterday’s spine-chilling and nerve-wrenching violence loses its shock value. As the need for more intense images of violence accumulates, the moral indifference and desensitization to violence grows, while matters of cruelty and suffering are offered up as fodder for sports, entertainment, news media, and other outlets for seeking pleasure.

Marked by a virulent notion of hardness and aggressive masculinity, a culture of violence has become commonplace in a society in which pain, humiliation and abuse are condensed into digestible spectacles endlessly circulated through extreme sports, reality TV, video games, YouTube postings, and proliferating forms of the new and old media. But the ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies are also present in the material relations of power that have intensified across the globe since the 1970s. Conservative and liberal politicians alike now spend millions waging wars around the globe, funding the largest military state in the world, providing huge tax benefits to the ultra-rich and major corporations, and all the while draining public coffers, increasing the scale of human poverty and misery, and eliminating all viable public spheres—whether they be the social state, public schools, public transportation, or any other aspect of a formative culture that addresses the needs of the common good. State violence, particularly the use of torture, abductions, and targeted assassinations are now justified as part of a state of exception that has become normalized. A "political culture of hyper punitiveness" has become normalized and accelerates throughout the social order like a highly charged electric current. [21]

A symptomatic example of the way in which violence has saturated everyday life can be seen in the growing acceptance of criminalizing the behavior of young people in public schools. Behaviors that were normally handled by teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators are now dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system. The consequences have been disastrous for young people. Not only do schools resemble the culture of prisons, but young children are being arrested and subjected to court appearances for behaviours that can only be termed as trivial. This is not merely barbarism parading as reform - it is also a blatant indicator of the degree to which sadism and the infatuation with violence have become normalized in a society that seems to take delight in dehumanizing itself.
As the social is devalued along with rationality, ethics, and any vestige of democracy, spectacles of war, violence, and brutality now merge into forms of collective pleasure that constitute an important and new symbiosis between visual pleasure, violence, and suffering. The control/punishing society is now the ultimate form of entertainment as the pain of others, especially those considered disposable and powerless, has become the subject not of compassion but of ridicule and amusement. My emphasis here is on the sadistic impulse and how it merges spectacles of violence and brutality with forms of collective pleasure that often lend support and sway public opinion in favor of social policies and "lawful" practices that create zones of abandonment for youth. No society can make a claim to being a democracy as long as it defines itself through shared fears rather than shared responsibilities, especially in regards to young people. Widespread violence now functions as part of an anti-immune system that turns the economy of genuine pleasure into a mode of sadism that creates the foundation for sapping democracy of any political substance and moral vitality that might counter a politics of disposability more generally.

The prevalence of violence throughout American society suggests the need for a politics that not only negates the established order and the proliferating zones of disappearance and dispossession of subjects rendered useless or burdensome, but also imagines new radical visions in which the future diverges from the dark conditions of the present. [22] In this discourse, critique merges with a sense of realistic hope, and individual struggles merge into larger social movements.
At the heart of the oppression experienced by young people and others are ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that embrace a pathological individualism, a distorted notion of freedom, and a willingness both to employ state violence to suppress dissent and abandon those suffering from a collection of social problems ranging from dire poverty and joblessness to homelessness. In the end, these are stories about disposability in which growing numbers of young people are considered dispensable and a drain on the body politic, the economy, and the sensibilities of the rich and powerful. Rather than work for a more dignified life, most young people now work simply to survive - that is, if they can find work - in a survival-of-the-fittest society in which getting ahead and accumulating capital, especially for the ruling elite, is the only game in town. In the past, public values have been challenged and certain groups have been targeted as superfluous or redundant. But what is new about the politics of disposability that has become a central feature of contemporary American politics is the way in which such antidemocratic practices have become normalized in the existing neoliberal order. A politics of inequality and ruthless power disparities is now matched by a culture of cruelty soaked in blood, humiliation and misery. Private injuries are not only separated from public considerations by such narratives, but accounts of poverty and exclusion have become objects of scorn. Similarly, all noncommercial public spheres where such stories might get heard are viewed with contempt, a perfect supplement to the chilling indifference to the plight of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

As politics is disconnected from its ethical and material moorings, it becomes easier to punish and imprison young people than to educate them. From the inflated rhetoric of the political right to market-driven media peddling spectacles of violence, the influence of these criminogenic and death-saturated forces in everyday life is undermining our collective security by justifying cutbacks to social supports and restricting opportunities for democratic resistance. Saturating mainstream discourses with anti-public narratives, the neoliberal machinery of social death effectively weakens public supports and prevents the emergence of much-needed new ways of thinking and speaking about politics in the 21st century.

As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the biggest threat to the Gilded Age autocrats is solidarity . . .

Before this dangerously authoritarian mindset has a chance to take hold of our collective imagination and animate our social institutions, it is crucial that all Americans think critically and ethically about the coercive forces shaping US culture - and focus our energy on what can be done to change them. It will not be enough only to expose the falseness of the propaganda pumped out by the commanding neoliberal cultural apparatuses. We also need to create alternative narratives about what the promise of democracy might be for our children and ourselves. This demands a break from established political parties, the creation of alternative public spheres in which to produce democratic narratives and visions, and a notion of politics that is educative, one that takes seriously how people interpret and mediate the world, how they see themselves in relation to others, and what it might mean to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.

At stake here is more than a call for reform. The American public needs to organize around a revolutionary ideal that enables people to hold power, participate in the process of governing, and create public institutions and discourses capable of explaining and reversing chronic injustices and power relations evident everywhere in society. This is a revolution that not only calls for structural change, but for a transformation in the ways in which subjectivities are created, desires are produced, and agency itself is safeguarded as crucial to any viable notions of community and freedom. Democracy requires, at the very least, a type of education that fosters a working knowledge of citizenship and the development of individuals with the capacity to be self-reflective, passionate about the collective good, and able to defend the means by which ideas are translated into the worldly space of the public realm. It is not enough to wait for the Occupy Movement to revitalize itself. [23] That is important, but is too limited a call for change. Such a struggle is impossible without an alliance among unions, working people, students, youth, educators, feminists, environmentalists and intellectuals. In particular, organized labor, students, educators, and youth have to provide the base of a broader organization and social movement designed to dismantle casino capitalism.

Such an alliance has to be built around defending the common good, public values, economic and racial justice and environmental sustainability. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the biggest threat to the Gilded Age autocrats is solidarity and rightly so. The time has come for a surge of opposition in the name of democracy, one designed to save the planet from destruction and for a social order in which economic justice is matched with a reverence for care for the other. Politics becomes meaningless without a vision, a willingness to develop a radical collective imagination rooted in a formative culture that nourishes a vibrant sense of critique, civic courage, and sustained collective struggle. Any struggle that matters will have to reimagine and fight for a society in which it becomes possible once again to dream the project of a substantive democracy. This means, as Ulrich Beck has pointed out, looking for politics in new spaces and arenas outside of traditional elections, political parties, and "duly authorized agents." [24] It suggests developing public spaces outside of the regime of predatory corporatism and engaging in a type of counter politics that shapes society from the bottom up.

1. João Biehl, Vita: Life in A Zone of Social Abandonment, (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2005), p. 4
2. Ibid., Biehl, Vita: Life in A Zone of Social Abandonment, p. 10.
3. See: Robert B. Reich, “McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy,” The Guardian (April 6, 2014). Doug Henwood, “Our Gilded Age” The Nation, (June 30, 2008), pp. 14, 17.
4. Robert Jay Lifton, Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 479.
5. As indicated by a report from "the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of "persistent economic insecurity," that makes it "difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future." The CFED . . . report finds that 44 percent of Americans are living with less than $5,887 in savings for a family of four. Christopher Matthews, "Nearly Half of America Lives Paycheck-to-Paycheck," Time Magazine (June 30, 2014).
6. Zygmung Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), p. 14.
7. The quote by Karl Jaspers is cited in Hannah Arendt, The Last Interview and Other Conversations, (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House Publishing, 2013), p. 37.
8. Ibid., p. 48.
9. Jason Deparle and Robert M. Gebeloff, "Living on Nothing but Food Stamps," The New York Times (January 3, 2010), p. A1.
10. Editor, "75 Economic Numbers From 2012 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe," The Economic Collapse Blog (December 20, 2012). Online:
11. David DeGraw, "Meet the Global Financial Elites Controlling $46 Trillion in Wealth," Alternet (August 11, 2011).
12. Zygmunt Bauman, "Downward mobility is now a reality," The Guardian (May 31, 2012). Bauman develops this theme in detail in both Zygmunt Bauman, On Education, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012) and Zygmunt Bauman, This Is Not A Diary, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012).
13. Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives (London: Polity, 2004), p. 76.
14. See Steve Fraser, "The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation," (January 29, 2013). On the history of debt, see David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (New York: Melville House, 2012).
15. Ibid., Bauman, On Education, p. 47.
16. I have borrowed the term "zones of social abandonment" from Joäo Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); see also Henry A. Giroux, Disposable Youth (New York: Routledge, 2012) and Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The Free Press, 2012).
17. Angela Y. Davis, "State of Emergency," in Manning Marable, Keesha Middlemass and Ian Steinberg, Eds. Racializing Justice, Disenfranchising Lives (New York: Palgrave, 2007), p. 324.
18. Joao Biehl, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p.14
19. Kyle Bella, "Bodies in Alliance: Gender Theorist Judith Butler on the Occupy and SlutWalk Movements," TruthOut (December 15, 2011).
20. Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties (New York: Free Press, 1966) and the more recent Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 2006) .
21. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, "Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City," Antipode (2006), p. 757.
22. John Van Houdt, "The Crisis of Negation: An Interview with Alain Badiou," Continent, 1.4 (2011): 234-238.
23. This position has been taken up recently by former labor secretary, Robert Reich, see: Robert B. Reich, "McCutcheon took us back in time, but it might just birth the next Occupy," The Guardian (April 6, 2014).
24. Ulrich Beck, Democracy without Enemies (London: Polity Press, 1998), p. 38.

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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books include: On Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011), Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm 2012), Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty (Routledge 2012), Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm 2013), and The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), America's Disimagination Machine (City Lights) and Higher Education After Neoliberalism (Haymarket) will be published in 2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is


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