Category Archives: Contemporary Culture

Final Exam (220/415/425455)

General advice:

Look through the relevant posts on this blog since the midterm.

Seek out useful passages in the novels. Flag them.

Whatever notes you assemble should be IN YOUR OWN LANGUAGE. Doing so is a hugely effective way to prepare.

Have a conversation about the course with some of your classmates. This is actually the purpose of a university education: to arrive at a fuller understanding of the world via discourse.

If you’re still working on a paper, use it as an opportunity to rehearse arguments that might be deployed in some of your responses to prompts on the final.


Legalize Their Robbery (415/425)

“Give me a hundred capitalists just as you find them here in Ohio and let me ask them a dozen simple questions about the history of their own country and I will prove to you that they are as ignorant and unlettered as any you may find in the so-called lower class. They know little of history; they are strangers to science; they are ignorant of sociology and blind to art but they know how to exploit, how to gouge, how to rob, and do it with legal sanction. They always proceed legally for the resaon that the class which has the power to rob upon a large scale has also the power to control the government and legalize their robbery.”

— Eugene V. Debs, The Canton, Ohio Anti-War Speech (this is the one that got him charged under the Federal Espionage Act, the same law that Bush II, Obama, and Trump have used against whistleblowers).


I’m not all that enthusiastic about screen gore but the theme of cannibalism is particularly interesting given its obvious resonance with mass consumption, competition, violence, and other aspects of capitalist modernity. Down for the weekend with a vicious cold, I watched Raw, a 2016 French-Belgian production that tells the story of Justine, a first-year student at veterinarian school who discovers something about herself.  Without going into detail– see it for yourself– I can say that the most disturbing and beautiful aspects of Julia Ducournau’s arthouse film depend less on spatter than on atmosphere.

Theft And Robbery (415/425)

Looking in more detail, in the United States in 2012, there were 292,074 robberies of all kinds, including bank robberies, residential robberies, convenience store and gas station robberies, and street robberies.3 The total value of the property taken in those crimes was $340,850,358. Those are not the robberies that were solved; those are all the robberies that were reported to the police, anywhere in the nation.

No one knows precisely how many instances of wage theft occurred in the U.S. during 2012, nor do we know what the victims suffered in total dollars earned but not paid. But we do know that the total amount of money recovered for the victims of wage theft who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies was at least $933 million—almost three times greater than all the money stolen in robberies that year.

[note that the wage theft stats are of necessity conservative estimates due to incomplete information from several state agencies]

Even the nearly $1 billion collected is likely an under-count of the problem given that most victims don’t contract lawyers or file complaints. Relying on a study of low-wage workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, which found that workers were losing nearly $3 billion to wage theft, EPI generalized to the rest of the country and estimated that it’s robbing people of more than $50 billion each year. And even that may be a low figure, given that the three-city study found that two-thirds of workers experienced at least one form of wage theft each week, yet a recent poll of workers nationwide found nearly 90 percent of fast food workers had experienced it.