In the United States, once we get through Thanksgiving, it’s all about the money, honey. There is Black Friday, when businesses hope to ensure a profitable year by offering deep discounts on holiday shopping, and people are occasionally maimed and killed trying to get to sale items ( I am sparing you the most click bait-y sites, but here is one compendium of shopping violence between 2006 and 2018.) Then there is Small Business Saturday, where Americans to visit any small businesses that Amazon has not yet bankrupted. Sunday, we rest, and on Cyber Monday, everyone is allowed to go back to what they do best, which is lie on the couch and have things delivered (although, according to the New York Times, 90,000 of these packages disappear every day.) Then, when none of us has any money left, here comes Giving Tuesday, when we are inundated with email asking us to give to everyone we have ever given money to.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
But here comes Public Seminar, which is free (although donations are welcome — phone lines are open!) and it always will be free. And have we got great issue for you this week. We are starting off another cluster on Democracy with a report from Laszlo Bruszt on the migration of the Central European University to Vienna, under pressure from the Hungarian government. Muriel Blaive continues Public Seminar’s series on the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989 with a reflection on Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, while Utku Balaban reports on authoritarianism in Turkey.
This week, we also reflect on violence, beginning with a powerful article about violence in prison by Brittany Friedman, an exciting young sociologist (yes, you heard about her first here). Friedman examines a recent court decision awarding damages to four young men, transferred from Rikers Island to Albany Country jail, who were beaten by prison guards. Friedman explains why this kind of violence is a routine aspect of mass incarceration, not a rogue act by a few bad actors. Next, Alyson Cole explains why “those who occupy positions of power and privilege” now claim to be victims. And in an essay originally published in 2016, McKenzie Wark asks: why is violence “useful to the perpetrator over and above coercion and compulsion towards some material aim?”
Our final selection turns to our very own neighborhood, beginning with an essay by Justin Wood on New York City’s proposed organic waste recycling rule. Fun fact: the city’s commercial establishments alone produce 650,000 tons of food waste every year. Clara Hemphill reports on New York City schools, and we end with an episode of our podcast, Exiles on 12th Street, that looks at what New York City’s future could look like.
So enjoy – because it’s Wednesday, and every week that means a new issue of Public Seminar.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The new School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical.