Monthly Archives: March 2017

Infelicitous Phrasing (202/303)

In other words, how do X and Y use that SOCIAL CONTENT and NARRATIVE DISCOURSE to construct YOUTH as a cultural category?

Some of the papers I’m reading simply restate the prompt as their thesis. I don’t think that’s the best opening move, frankly– it lacks originality– but as I understand it this tactic is a result of standardized testing, which encourages students to reproduce dominant forms of thought rather than to conquer new territory.

Unfortunately the phrase “use social content” is a pretty crude approximation of what happens to the social when it is appropriated for aesthetic ends. A text’s social content is not “used” but is instead the product of the creative tension between formal techniques, cultural traditions, and socio-historical context.


The best essays are written in such a way that they provoke a sense of obligation in their readers. Reading becomes a dialog, necessitating an effort to build on the ideas discussed and to carry the insights presented even further. This co-creative response is part of the pleasure of reading.

ABCs (HUM415)

Jacobin Magazine and Verso Books are producing a series of weekly podcasts over the course of March that address chapters from one of our required texts, The ABCs of Socialism. Nivedita Majumdar’s remarks are significant for a number of reasons, though in a US context one insight here might be that capitalist identity politics is a core element of the defense of socioeconomic inequality (see also Touré F. Reed’s Why Liberals Separate Race from Class or Nancy Fraser’s article “The End of Progressive Neoliberalism” on the course information page).