Greg 00:00 [Intro] As Toni Morrison has put it, “the destiny of the 21st century will be shaped by the possibility or collapse of a shareable world.” Welcome to our podcast where we explore the history, theory and practice of democratic socialism with our guide big Mike. What can we learn from the past to help us create a better, more shareable world in the future?
Greg 00:32 Okay, I think I’m ready. Are you ready?
Mike 00:36 I think I’m ready.
Greg 00:37 Welcome back everybody to A Shareable World. We are—you have something in mind, which I’m just going to learn about live, but it’s kind of a little bit of a step back to a more theoretical perspective.
Mike 00:51 I think last time we were talking about revolution. Yes. And I tried to make the point. I don’t know if I made it successfully but I tried to make the point that what a revolution really is is an interruption. So an interruption belonging to the same category of phenomena that someone like Peter Thiel talks about when they talk or and his ilk when they, when they talk about destroying or disrupting the, the standard way in which we do things in order to release creativity, the whole point that they make, after all is in order to release creativity.
Greg 01:43 Move fast and break things.
Mike 01:47 Move fast and break things exactly which we have had a tremendous amount of experience with now, in the last few years—
Greg 01:52 A lot of things got broken.
Mike 01:53 What? A lot of things got broken and you know, like Humpty Dumpty, this is rarely the case… that they won’t ever be put back the right way again. Well, what I was trying to get at last time was that this, that a revolution is a, an interruption. It’s a break in flow of things so the question that one then has to ask is, well what is this thing that it is a break in the flow of? And I want to argue that it is a break in the flow of history in a very particular way. Now I have this whole point was I want to say a few words about history—in this in this kind of context. It occurs to me, for example, that, you know, the French Revolution looms extraordinarily large in our minds, or in the minds of those of us, who consider ourselves to be people of the left. The revolution looms extraordinarily large, the French Revolution. Not quite with the romance say that the Spartacus slave revolt in Rome had, but nevertheless with a far greater amount of power. And what is the most important characteristic of the French Revolution is that it fractured, it disrupted reality as it was understood by everybody. Up to the moment the revolution took place. Now, in this perspective, the idea of revolution may refer to—the concept revolution may refer to a very rapid phenomenon that lasts 10 days or a year or four years, or it may last, it may refer to that technological revolution that lasted generation. But the crucial point is that it disrupts the expectations about reality that people up to the moment the revolution becomes a matter of awareness, because some revolutions don’t become—they take place, but you’re not aware of them until they reach a certain density.
Greg 04:18 Well, so if I could just for people who have a very vague image of the French Revolution, those disruptions are our political, religious…
Mike 04:26 They’re almost everything— the French Revolution. I think that’s a good point. The French Revolution really was, as was the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution. Those are the three great revolutions of the modern age. French Revolution was a disruption in everything. It was a disruption of the traditional political system. Not only threw out the king, they beheaded him. That’s quite a disruption. Think about it. [laughs] It was a tremendous disruption of religious expectations because if the French revolutionaries had any kind of what we might think of as faith at all, it was a kind of pantheism a kind of recognition that, that, you know, God was in nature and everywhere, it certainly was not a kind of deistic revolution, right? Deistic belief that Christianity, the Roman Catholic Christianity would have had. It was a social revolution because it brought to power, a new class and that new class, which was what we roughly call the middle class, may in its upper more, richer in its upper richer elements, dressed more like aristocrats than like lower middle-class bakers in Paris. Nonetheless, they were not aristocrats who inherited their wealth in land along with all the other accoutrements of hierarchical power that was characteristic of the feudal period, which was on its way out—the French Revolution being the revolution that puts Phineas to the pre-modern feudal period, if you will. So, it really—and by the way, another element which people are now beginning to write about is, it was also a technological revolution, which is to say that, that some kinds of technology, not just the guillotine, which was a very important technological development, but some kinds of technology also contributed to the possibility of, of the revolution.
Greg 06:51 What are what are examples of that?
Mike 06:53 Well, different kinds of, different kinds of guns that can be made cheaply enough for people to use, for example—forms of communication which are not technology in our sense of the term but certainly are technology in a more traditional world. So, it—this disruption this thing that is disrupted as I said is history. Now this, this is an extremely, in my mind and extremely important issue, the question of understanding history from this particular perspective.
Most bourgeois capitalist historians, that is to say the school of historians, that certainly dominates the American scene today have, in my opinion, a very particular view of history that is characteristic of this age. And it’s a field which is populated by events. And while—I’m simplifying, but I don’t think deforming—by and large, I think that most modern bourgeois historians look at events and try to understand what makes an event possible, and what its relation to other events may be. But one of the things that modern bourgeois historians by and large do is, first of all, eschew the idea of a theory of history. The bourgeoisie, in fact, must deny the existence of a theory of history. It sees events and it sees the relationships between events, personalities, etc. But the idea of a theory of history that describes history itself that is an attempt to describe, if you will, the laws and purpose of history is, is not part of the thinking of the bourgeoisie. And I think that’s an incredibly important point. The reason for that, in my opinion, is that the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie, has to insist on its legitimacy as the dominant class. Not by virtue of power, but by virtue of its very being. This is the way the world is. This is the way the world always was. And this is the way the world always will be with some minor shifts here and there, a little bit of democratization here, a little bit of equalization of income over there, but by and large, we have always had private property, we have always had a middle class. This all rests to a certain extent on a necessary confusion between the market and the marketplace, there have always been marketplaces, and we find marketplaces even in prehistoric, meaning preliterate societies. For example, there was a form of trade in, in Siberia called silent trade where you are in one tribe and I’m in another tribe and I have for pelts that you probably want to have to keep warm, but I want your fish. But we don’t want to talk to each other. I mean, you’re the enemy, you’re probably not quite human, just as I’m not quite human to you. So we don’t want to talk to each other, but we need to trade. So there’s that tree there in the forest, which has some wonderful limbs that make it stand out. And I come there in the darkness of the pre-morning pre-dawn, and I leave a pile of pelts there, and then I go hide in the forest. In about an hour or two, you show up with a couple of baskets of fish. And you take some of the pelts and you leave the fish. That’s a market.
Greg 11:09 It’s very different from Black Friday.
Mike 11:13 [chuckles] It’s very—that’s a market, right? And it’s called silent trade because we don’t want to talk to each other. We’re afraid of each other, but we have to trade. That’s different from the market. That’s different from the capitalist market. So marketplaces have always existed. But the market as a, as the primary economic mechanism of society has an historical existence that hasn’t always existed and won’t always exist in the future. In the Middle Ages for example, in Europe, the church had a very strong idea about what the just price—now the just price that, the price at which good, a good should be traded for another good was not a matter of market it was a matter of morality of ethics. And the idea was that people should be able to purchase things to keep themselves alive kind of sustaining form of trade, sustenance, form of trade. But the church had the responsibility to maintain that. And if you got out of bounds with that, that was a bad idea. So, you know, people out of greed not because of the market, but it’s out of sheer greed. Yeah, here I am a pauper and someone comes along with a loaf of bread and they’re gonna take more than they probably ought to take. And the church would step in—their paintings which show this, they show marketplaces with the steeple of the church and the local Bishop in the church. Overwhelming the marketplace—it’s not a perspective is one of demonstrating the power of the church in the marketplace, right. But that’s not the market. The market is an historical phenomenon. It’s an event but the bourgeois class cannot accept that—from the bourgeois point of view, the market has to always have existed and must always exist in the future, no matter how it might be regulated. Right? So, if it’s always existed, the only history you have is the history of regulation. You don’t have the history of the market itself. And that’s an extremely important thing to think about. Hegel, who is perhaps the first modern philosopher of history and perhaps the greatest philosopher of history, he posits a world in which leaving aside his idealism, but a world in which history is teleological, it has an objective and that objective is the return of, I don’t want to use this word it sounds too Marxist, but this return of alienated man to the unity with the Godhead, that at the end of the dialectic of mind of spirit in history—history comes to an end. And that’s going to be very important when we talk about Marxist theory. Yeah, at a certain point. In the late 19, late 1980s, Francis Fukuyama, a Hegelian comes along with this idea that history will come to an end because communism has been defeated and American capitalism is successful. And what that meant was that, he accepts this idea that history, unconsciously I don’t think he accepts the idea that history is a history of class consciousness or what have you, class, class conflict. Yeah. And eventually history will come to an end with the victory of American capitalism. And from then on, it’s administration. Politics comes to an end. The end of politics, history is about politics. When politics comes to an end, we no longer have history. We now have administration, we no longer have politics. That—but that that administration idea is the continuation of the raw idea of managing the distribution of things according to the market, this is to say according to a disembodied natural phenomenon remember that, that for the bourgeoisie the market is a natural phenomenon, which sometimes doesn’t work. So it’s like a river may overflow its banks. So, you have to shepherd it back, the waters back into the into the riverbed. So you have to help the market go, but the market exists independently, ahistorically. The socialist comes along and says, No, we, we think exactly the opposite of that. And the socialists insist upon the existence of a philosophy of history, a system of thought which says there are what some people like Marx called laws, but not laws in the prescriptive, but rather laws in the descriptive sense of the term. That is to say, there are laws which we can discern from examining history, which overall tell us how history functions, what are the contending forces at any given moment in history, they are structures which differ in their content from slave society, the feudal society to modern capitalism, but the—the content may differ, but the structure of relationships remains the same. History is about power relationships, and whether it was slave owner and slave, feudal lord and serf, capitalist and worker, the structures remain the same—the content changes, so we can then look at history and have a template and say, let’s look at any given period of time. And we can, using these laws as a kind of guide—which is what a theory is; the word theory comes from—etymology is it comes from the Greek for picture, for some kind of image that you abstract. It’s not the thing itself. It’s an abstraction of the thing—is we can use these laws to examine any period of history and discern what makes that period run and what makes it function. So that’s a very important element to keep in mind. And I think that distinguishes the socialist view of history from the capitalist view of history very sharply.
Mike 17:49 Another thing that distinguishes the socialist view of history, from the capitalist view of history is that the socialist view of history posits not a future state of utopia—that’s, that’s a sub-school and probably one that’s quite dangerous to pursue judging from recent experience—but it does posit a certain trend, which we are called upon to pursue. So in the early days of the 19th century, in the early 19th century, the idea of progress before we in the 20th century, late 20th century, we lost the idea of progress, probably because it was overwhelmed by the looming environmental crisis, the elements on which progress was based—economic expansion, economic growth, greater and greater conquest of natural fuel supplies, and so forth and so on—all those things that are very worrisome to us now. And so we began to doubt the idea of progress. But, but until relatively recently, it was commonplace to assume that history was a history of progress, which is to say that each generation would do better than the past generation; it would learn how to solve problems more easily. And while there may be no end to history, at least we can look forward to an improvement in the human condition.
Mike 19:15 Sometimes some of the experiments that improving the human condition went awry. Some of them are successful, some of them were acceptable at some time, and like eugenics were acceptable at some time. And then after World War II is obviously thrown out of the window for clear reasons. But there was a belief that history even if it had no end, at least had a general line of movement, and that movement was progressive. Today, we don’t have that anymore. And we’re, I think, in the bourgeois we’re kind of floundering trying to figure out what is all, what it all has to do… so I think that’s the socialist still argues that while given the reality of the material world that we inhabit, and of the looming ecological crisis, we can no longer expect that progress per se, is descriptive of the path that history will take. We can still talk about justice. So that whereas the bourgeois historian may be interested in justice as a topic of historical study, so I could do a study of the decisions of the Supreme Court, see how that worked to improve the condition of the blacks. But from the point of view of the socialist history, itself has as one of its absolute necessities is the overcoming more and more of inequality and the establishment of principles of justice and equality, to govern the relationships between human beings and human beings. And now, we could also add into that because it’s part of our present ethos, governing the relationships between human beings and nature. Yeah, you know, I was thinking that they—what do we mean by ecological justice? Now, young people are using the expression, we want ecological justice, well, what they have to mean by that, is it the same principle of equality, and a leveling of the field of power differential also has to govern our relationship with nature, we have to pay due honor to nature, just like we do to each other. So the socialist historian would argue still, that history has not an end, but it certainly has a definite trend which is built into the very concept of history itself for the socialist.
Greg 21:59 Yeah. So I have some questions.
Mike 22:03 And let me add one more point. Just to complicate it a little bit further. For the socialist historian, in my opinion, history is not just some act you perform in a library. History is socialist—socialist history is also a practice. It’s a practice so that and this is extremely important. In the bourgeois world it’s very customary for historians to speak about objectivity. And that objectivity is born, in my opinion, philosophically from this idea of, quote, “the marketplace of ideas,” as if all ideas could be evaluated through the market mechanism. That’s number one, which I would call and—and I would doubt very severely. I don’t believe it even exists. I think it’s a fiction of our imagination, we should… It’s part of the capitalist ideology, we should come back to that. But I think also, that if indeed, what history is, is simply events or people or movements and the relationships between them, but there are no descriptive laws that can tell us what to look for. So if there is no real theory of history from the bourgeois point of view, then you cannot use that theory of history as praxis. There’s no way of using history as a praxis in itself. From the point of view of the socialist, what I do with history is a practice; the kind of history I write, the way I, the way I analyze events, the way I evaluate personalities, all involves the idea that history’s purpose is to move us ahead to, to outline as it were, the path towards this this, let’s call it just for this morning’s purpose, to move us to a more just world. So the history is itself a Marxist history. I study history of the past and know how to move to the future in the direction that I as a socialist believe we have to move with greater justice.
Greg 24:22 Yes. Well, so I’ve been keeping track of my questions and maybe, maybe just working backwards from your last point. So praxis to use a more everyday term—so you’re saying that doing history, acknowledging that doing history affects history, doing history affects the future? From a socialist point of view. And then so from the bourgeois historian point of view, doing history is just some kind of account of the past.
Mike 24:56 Well, the purpose of history, the purpose of the practice of history. The purpose of the practice of history in bourgeois society is to produce knowledge about the past. And all of our disciplines are mechanisms for the production of knowledge about something. So a historian is producing knowledge about the past—that’s the product of the of the historians activity. But what kind of knowledge is it producing and what is the purpose of that knowledge? Most bourgeois historians I think I would include myself in this group… I take that back. Now that I include myself in it as a bourgeois historian I completely accept… I’m just thinking that most of them wouldn’t accept what I want to say. I think that the, the best raison d’etre for an historian is that it’s lots of fun. That from the bourgeois point of view, it’s fun! I enjoy doing what I’m doing. I enjoy telling students stories. And I enjoy getting students to think about problems the way I think about them, as a bourgeois historian, right. But since the market ultimately will determine what the value of these stories and the knowledge I produce is, I myself have to maintain a certain kind of objectivity. A curious parallel suggests itself so suddenly in my head that, that just as the merchant should not put his finger on the scale when weighing out how much bread or wheat or whatever to sell you, so the historian can’t put his or her finger on this thing. This is true and that’s false. You better believe that, don’t believe that. We have to be “objective,” but objectivity can only be about what exists; you cannot be objective about what doesn’t yet exist. So that objectivity is necessarily a characteristic of a kind of history writing, that does not necessarily project a future but only a past. The moment I say, well wait a minute, I’m very interested in the future and what I do has to move us ahead towards greater justice. And I can establish a scale of justice and I can say that the degree to which human beings have power over other human beings is the measure of injustice. So that as the new republicanism which is being pursued by people like Phillip Pettit at Princeton argue, that a true democracy or a truly just society would be one in which human beings cannot exert power over other human beings, they can arrive at commendable decisions through concerting their opinions. But I cannot actually dictate to you. That has profound implications when you think about it. Right? So for the social historian, there is a future that I want to reach. But that future doesn’t really exist for the bourgeois historian.
Greg 28:22 So I think that’s, the crucial difference, which then also, you’re saying guides your investigation of the past?
Mike 28:28 Absolutely. Absolutely.
Greg 28:30 But in the fair sense that you don’t make any outrageous claims about or unfactual claims about the past, but…
Mike 28:37 No, no, one must, after all—you can go into the battlefield, if you will, with fake plans and lose the battle. You know, a sure way to lose the battle is to produce facts that aren’t true, etc. But in telling a story, history—history is about telling a story—and telling a story, I can tell a story which will suggest to you what the object is or I can just tell you the story. I mean, you know, yeah, there’s a story of the three bears have a moral or not. For me history has a moral in that it points to the future and says, we need to create a more just society.
Greg 29:15 Yeah, yeah. So then on for, to talk a little bit more about the bourgeois historian or the current discipline of history in large—
Mike 29:21 In a kind of idealized form; no given historian or…
Greg 29:26 Yeah. But as it relates to this question, there’s a kind of, um, how about I put it this way, there’s a kind of agnosticism about the future, but in that very agnosticism it is—it is inclined to perpetuate current conditions. Does that make sense? Or do bourgeois historians just not have a story about where things should head?
Mike 29:54 Yeah, I don’t think they do have a story about where things should—I think most—given most academic historians tend to be but are not completely as a group progressive, you have conservative historians. You have, as I mentioned last time, I think you have a school of thought emerging that says the French Revolution was a bad thing, didn’t have to happen and it shouldn’t have happened. Russian revolution shouldn’t have happened. So you have conservative historians who, who just, who don’t want the kind of disruption that revolutions are, they’re going to look at history and suggest that there are excesses, which of course there are, excesses of injustice and so forth. By and large historians are, in the academic world and America, liberal. They’d like a better world, but I don’t think they see the writing of history itself as an act engaged in bringing about a better world. Right?
Greg 31:00 But they do, they do like so for example, to go back to something you said earlier. For them you said earlier the market as something a historical so they would be engaged in order to perpetuate the idea that the market is ahistorical. They will look at history in order to find it everywhere.
Mike 31:21 Absolutely. That’s absolutely the case.
Greg 31:29 So, they have an agenda, they kind of have—
Mike 31:31 But the agenda is about preserving, their agenda is pointed, is, it is aimed at preventing systemic change, profound systemic change. Whereas the socialist historian has to be the one who promotes profound systemic change, albeit over a long period of time. We’re not saying revolution overnight.
Greg 31:59 Yeah. So then there’s maybe—
Mike 32:03 But there, but I come back to the point that the, the bourgeois historian will argue for objectivity. I’ve got to present the facts the way they are, right? Socialist historian comes along and says, what are the a priori assumptions you make that tells you about the facts as they are? I want to know those assumptions, because that’s what defines… your objectivity, your objectivity doesn’t derive from the facts, it arrives from, derives from certain arbitrary assumptions you make about the world that tells you what the facts are, right?
Greg 32:39 Yes, I have this, this may be too subtle a point but so the. So we just distinguished two kinds of bourgeois historians, one who, one who is very aware of a certain kind of agenda, for example, to find the market everywhere—
Mike 32:55 And that isn’t necessarily a conscious agenda. That’s another point. Yeah, I think that the historian, that’s why I said, what are the a priori assumptions? So there’s an a priori assumption that yes, the market has always existed. I don’t have to prove it. Yeah. But that assumption means that when I look at Ancient Greece or China or, or the Inuit in Greenland 5000 years ago, I’m gonna find the market, it leads my, my, my inner eye to observe the existence of the market. The socialist historian comes along and says consciously… So that’s a big difference, right?
Greg 33:33 Yep. Which, yeah, I guess this is the point I wanted to get at. It’s that consciousness that the socialist historian brings, that can be attacked from this, from this idea of objective history, so part of your point is to be clear that the socialist historian, what they bring to the table does not have to interfere with objectivity as it relates to the past.
Mike 34:02 Well, I… Let’s play this game. Yes, it is a game. So let’s play it a little, another couple of minutes and be a little outrageous. I won’t deny. Objectivity as we’re using that term is a characteristic, in my opinion, first of all of the bourgeois historian. It is in intellectual harmony with the kind of objectivity that is supposed to be characteristic of chemistry, physics, mathematics and so forth and so on in an attempt to make history scientific in that in that peculiar way, right? The socialist historian is more like—I’m exaggerating tremendously to make my point. The socialist historian is not like the theoretical physicists, but the applied physicists. For the socialist historian, the writing of history is itself a political act aimed at a particular objective, right? The socialist historian looks at the bourgeois historian and says, “You’re doing the same thing I am but for a different purpose. You just don’t recognize it.” So that a bourgeois historian undergoing historical psychoanalysis, I mean, in other words, yeah, like kind of a psychoanalyst whose job it was to make your, you as a bourgeois historian conscious of what being a bourgeois historian was about, right, right about that was surface, the operatory assumptions, right? Whereas in my opinion, and maybe only idiosyncratic from my part, the socialist historian is up front about it. He says, Yes, I know. That’s what I’m doing.
Greg 36:01 Yeah, so if we just play the game with the French Revolution as an object, the socialist historian says, in our ongoing search for a greater social justice, there was this event in the past, this great disruption, which was in part motivated by a search for justice.
Mike 36:13 It was, it absolutely was. And it involved a great deal of tragedy and human suffering.
Greg 36:20 Right. Right. And then, and then, contrast that then, with the bourgeois historian looks at the French Revolution…
Mike 36:30 But not all. It’s, as I said, it’s a, it’s a new, evidently newly developing school. I mean, it had,
Greg 36:32 Or just the objective one, the non-socialist one—
Mike 36:37 That says, you know, that maybe it wasn’t necessary in the first place if natural processes had been allowed, you know, people used to make this argument about the Russian Revolution. “Russia would have been democratic anyway, it might have taken another few decades, but it would have become democratic anyway, and the communists and the Bolsheviks interrupted that,” right. That’s this idea that the history has its own way of being, it’s objective like the market, or it has descriptive laws that we have to use to…
Greg 37:12 Well so I want to jump to one of my other questions which is… and again maybe this is a subtle point but… you said, you talked a lot about a kind of non utopic future. But it does seem to be that what the socialist historian brings to the table consciously is a search for a kind of categorically different way for humans to relate. So for example if we see in the past various configurations of power relations, our goal is to disrupt that in some deep way.
Mike 37:50 What I meant when I said, when I mentioned utopia is that, there is that, school of, let me call it a sub-school of socialist theory, called Marxism. How’s that? Which posits—vulgar Marxism, I would add—not just Marxism, but vulgar Marxism; which posits a utopian society at the end of time, right? So once we destroy capitalism we pass through socialism, we arrive at communism, sun rises in the morning, boy and girl gets on tractor and rides off into the fields making love while their reaping the wheat to feed the workers in the city… you understand my point. The true socialist historian says now, no no that’s nonsense. Of course there’s no absolute future trend, we can find other ways of humans being to relate to each other, that does not mean we will arrive at the end of history, which is what the vulgar Marxist does argue, or used to argue. I can’t imagine many still argue it. But nonetheless, it projects a future, the future is an ongoing process, the ends of which we’ll never reach, but the basic trends of which… now I’ll go a step further, whereas in the end of the 19th century when people thought that progress meant more and better… that is to say we’ll have more goods, we’ll have better technology… today given the ecological crisis that we face and so forth and so on, we need to rethink what better may be, so it may well be that we need to start, we know that at our present level of technology we can’t simply increase production. So what do we need to talk about—and there is conversation about this going on everywhere now, we need to rethink the distribution of the product.
Mike 40:02 In other words we need to overcome the problem of inequality. And we need to talk about improving human relations; so that may not be the kind of progress somebody in the 19th century including Karl Marx, who thought capitalism was the Cat’s Meow because it improved production and made more goods available, it would also come to end. The point is that Marx understood that history didn’t stand still, nothing was a given forever. That’s why he is perhaps the greatest socialist historian. Nonetheless we define the path we’re following, we map it because if the material reality changes… but nonetheless, there is a map into the future of goals we would like to achieve that will always be retreating into the future but nonetheless we have to work towards them.
Greg 40:58 So it occurs to me to ask given we’ve been talking about theory of history, these high-flying things, and here we are having this conversation at the end of February 2020, so the Democrats are slinging mud at each other about who’s gonna be the candidate. So an issue like, for example, like Healthcare for All, it seems to reveal that everybody walks around with some idea of what’s possible, has a theory of history in their head about… ‘cause Healthcare for All, people will say “oh that’s nice but it’s not possible, not enough to go around… to ever happen,” all sorts of pre, pre- things people bring to the table about how history works and what can happen in the future. Whereas there’s another group of people who think that’s precisely what we need to change.
Mike 41:58 If I were a university professor, at a major American university, at this particular point in time, I would think about developing a course on the history of medical care delivery systems… and it would be a comparative course looking at Canada, Scandinavia, and so forth, and the U.S. and the purpose of the course would be to demonstrate to the students that in fact the ideological framework within which that discourse is taking place in our own political arena here in the US simply blinds us to the experience of other societies as good as our own elsewhere. The purpose of my history in that field would be to unmask the falsehoods which the political establishment of all stripes is putting out — and to give the students a grasp of knowledge, to produce knowledge that would be useful in this argument. Because we have many good examples of deliverable universal care. So another example I was thinking of was about labor unions. If you look at the history of the American labor movement, there was from about 1947 on a very concerted and successful attempt to destroy the American union movement. It’s been reduced to almost a nonentity, the exception of one or two unions, a nonimportant element in our society now. But imagine writing a history and putting into the students’ hand the knowledge that a vital labor movement was possible and therefore suggesting that it would be possible again so there’s… I’m not going to falsify history but the subjects I choose will certainly point students in a certain direction.
Greg 44:25 Right.
Mike 44:27 If I’m honest about it I have to tell the students that the purpose of this course is that there are a lot of successful examples of medical care at a universal scale and here are some examples of it and here’s the history of it.
Greg 44:41 Well wouldn’t it be wonderful, speaking of the university, rather than a class here or a class there that the university saw it as their responsibility… you know we face this environmental crisis, we have this problem of race, we have the problem of healthcare to offer a robust intro to all of the students who come to that university of the history and practice and future of those things… being argues in front of the students.
Mike 45:11 Yeah I would assume that that is the primary function of the university but that is a past and future idea… but I think that’s precisely the point, I think we have, that’s why I keep saying to my friends that the American university system has failed, Donald Trump—we have created Donald Trump. We have failed to educate, we say we’re educating the future leadership of our society but we fail to educate them in ways that make Donald Trump less likely to… occur as a phenomenon. And that’s very important. We have neutered education from that point of view. And our school systems are neutering our children intellectually that way.
Greg 46:03 Well, I totally agree. And I don’t even think it has to be as pointedly political as Trump’s name… if we face these crises, why aren’t—if you graduate from a major university you should be well educated in all of these things.
Mike 46:21 But, but, how can you teach a course on environmental policy without confronting capitalism, private property, you have to be able to — that requires what I would call an intellectual and ideological fracture that runs in directly the opposite direction from what our contemporary American universities want, which is, let’s all get together we can work on all these, we want consensus, so forth and so on.
Greg 47:01 Totally inside joke but I know of a university that has thought of its requirements, they call them WAYS requirements—
Mike 47:10 What does that mean?
Greg 47:13 Ways of Thinking, Ways of Knowing, ways of doing certain things. So what we’re talking about is wouldn’t it be great if a university offered a requirement on ways of delivering healthcare, ways of dealing with racism…
Mike 47:31 Ways of knowing—I would argue and probably will in one of our conversations, that Marxism and socialism are ways of knowing the world. They are intellectual tools.
Greg 47:47 I don’t think that’s what—the universities have in mind. [laughs] All right. Uh, thanks Big Mike.
Mike 47:56 Anytime.
Greg 47:57 See you all next time. [Outro] Thanks for listening to another episode of A Shareable World. To find out more about this podcast, visit us at ashareableworld.com.