You may have noticed that every week we have an illustration: it’s because we want to call your attention to something we think is special. It’s always hard to choose what is most special at Public Seminar, of course. Our writers, authors and editors work hard to produce the best content we can to keep you thinking all week. This week, we want to talk about money — and not just money, capitalism. We have two terrific articles that should help you think about how capitalism is working to secure your future – or not – as economists Teresa Ghilarducci and Duncan Foley discuss the financing of retirement and health care. Historian Matthew Ford shows how the life of a single ranch in California helps us understand the contemporary agricultural economy of that state, and Michael Zakim explains the rise of clerking in the 19thcentury United States – and the decline of loafing.
Our second pressing issue is nationalism – but with a twist. Reviving a roundtable discussion from last spring about Jill Lepore’s majestic survey of United States history, These Truths (2019), we ask: what is “the nation”? How do we study it – and who is included? Why do popular histories of the nation matter? And in her response, Jill Lepore discusses why we shouldn’t give up the nation to nationalists – and thanks a nation of readers for inspiring us to write in the first place.
Finally, we at Public Seminar note last week’s decision by President Donald Trump, apparently without consultation, to withdraw American support for the Kurds of Northern Syria.The New York Times has has characterized this move as “a moral and political disaster.” We won’t watch this unfold without bringing you more coverage, but while we reach out to writers who can inform us, we reached into our archives for articles that might remind us what is at stake. Marine veteran Jake Davis writes about what it means to leave allies behind; Dimitris Vardoulakis writes about the refugees that every wave of the forever war in the Middle East has produced, and a book written from a camp where forced migrants are held; and senior analyst Joseph Lombardo writes movingly about the tenuous situation of Kurds in Turkey.
The best part about our new platform is that we are able to give you a combination of old and new. When we do that, we go back and re-read too. Let us know what you think in the comments sections. Write us and let us know what your favorite articles are – and what you would like to see more of. Follow us on Instagramfor content you won’t see anywhere else. Tweet your favorite essays to your friends – and if you have something to say? Send us a pitch.
Claire Potter is co-Executive Editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The New School for Social Research. You can follow her on Twitter @TenuredRadical.