Me Too: The Economists Organize

Nancy Linsfarne and Jonathan Neale

This short post is to update our readers on the Me Too firestorm that is beginning in economic departments in universities in the United States. [1]

We report in this post on several allegations. We do not, indeed cannot, know how much truth there is to these allegations. But we do know that economists are only making such allegations because all the usual channels have proved useless. We also know that the proper response for the institutions involved is an immediate, exhaustive, transparent and fair external investigation, without any presumption of guilt, but also with firm promises that no whistle blowers will be victimized.

Jennifer Doleac is an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M University. That is to say, she has tenure. Which is good, because on October 20 she sent out a dynamite of a tweet:

“Recent allegations of sexual harassment and worse against Armin Falk & Philip Dybvig are super troubling, not least because the economics profession & academia more broadly have demonstrated *zero* ability to hold people accountable for such behavior.”[2]

Doleac was punching up. Dybvig has a Nobel prize.

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Defending Abortion Rights: Lessons from American History

By NANCY LINDISFARNE and JONATHAN NEALE

May 3, 2022. The news has just leaked that the Supreme Court is planning to overturn Roe v Wade. This is appalling, and enraging, and Americans have a massive fight on their hands. This booklet looks back at abortion politics in the United States since 1964, to show how Roe v. Wade was won in the first place, and how it was defended. You can download the booklet as a pdf here.

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One Day Strikes – A lesson from history

Jonathan Neale writes: One chapter on the 1982 hospital workers strikes from a book I wrote many years ago seems very relevant now. I hope it will be useful, in different ways, to university workers and hospital workers. You can download the chapter here.

For the university workers’ strikes right now, this chapter holds bitter lessons about why one day and five-day strikes will lose. But 2022 is not 1982. There is a way now to move to an indefinite strike and win. In this post I explain how and why that is possible. At the end of the post I also talk briefly about the relevance of the chapter to health workers now.

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Putin, Modi and Trump: Ukraine and Racist Right-Wing Populism

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale

The invasion of Ukraine is appalling. The resistance is heroic. The situation is moving fast, and each step is politically revealing. There remains a great deal of confusion about Putin and Ukraine in the United States and Britain. This long read aims to unpack some of that confusion and to explain Putin’s rise, how he fits into the global racist right, and his reasons for invading Ukraine.

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From Afghanistan to Ukraine

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale

Six months ago, in a post about the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, we wrote: “This is a turning point in world history. The greatest military power in the world has been defeated by the people of a small, desperately poor, country. This will weaken the power of the American empire all over the world.”

The consequences of the American defeat are now playing out in Ukraine. Putin, understanding the weakness of American power, is pushing to change the balance of power further.

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Harvard, Sexual Politics, Class and Resistance

A long read by Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale

As we write, the case of alleged sexual harassment by John Comaroff, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, is exploding. The Harvard case is particularly egregious, not least because of the elite status of the university.

In this piece we treat the Harvard case as part of a much wider set of problems concerning class, sexual politics, inequality and resistance. Our focus initially is on universities in the United States. But we need to remember that academic enterprise today is utterly international. Everywhere the industry relies on similar economic models, has similar intellectual concerns and fosters the considerable mobility of professionals and students from workplace to workplace around the globe.

We are particularly addressing anthropology and other graduate students in the United States and across the world. Our aim is to try to answer some of the difficult questions that come up again and again in online discussion of the case.

[You can download a pdf of this long read here.]

First: Why did Caroline Elkins, who wrote such an important book about the brutal suppression of Mau Mau in Kenya, sign the dreadful Harvard letter? And why did so many other people whose work you admire sign letters like the Harvard one?

The second question is one people seem to avoid asking directly, but it is behind so much of what is being said.  At Harvard, and with other abuse cases, a strange fact stands out. Most men are not abusers. But almost all male managers cover up and enable abuse. And so do almost all female managers. Why? What is going on here?

Third: The people who write the open letters, and others who want to defend abusers, go on about due process. But due process works as a Catch-22. Why should well-educated men accused of sexual harassment be the only ones to enjoy due process, when the apologists know full well that is exactly what we want for the victims of sexual abuse? Instead of banging on about due process for abusers only, shouldn’t we all be asking how can to build a genuinely fair process for everyone?

Fourth: Harvard, Columbia, and other universities in the United States and across the world go to extraordinary lengths to cover up abuse, protect abusers and thus enable further abuse. They do so even when most of the people who run those institutions don’t abuse. Why? Why does this matter so much to them?

Fifth, and finally, how can we do good work in the toxic environment of these institutions? Or to put it positively: what can we take from the struggles against sexual violence at Columbia and Harvard to help us do good, creative intellectual work as scholars and teachers?

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Can you help with the CHINESE, SPANISH or ITALIAN TRANSLATIONS of Fight The Fire?

The Ecologist published the English edition of Jonathan Neale’s Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs nine months ago. Because they feel it is important to share the arguments of the book, The Ecologist has been offering free downloads of the PDF here. So far more than 19,000 people have downloaded it.

Volunteer translators have been working together in teams to translate the book into other languages. Once the translations are finished, we will provide free downloads of the whole book in each language. Can you help us, or do you know someone who can?

The translations into Portuguese and Turkish are finished, and will be published soon. But the translators for the other languages need help. We have finished about two-thirds of the SPANISH translation, about half of the CHINESE translation, about almost half of the ITALIAN translation.

All the translators have worked for free, as a labour of love. We need a few more people to help with each of the three languages. Each person will do one, or two, or three chapters and we should finish the job quickly. If you can help, please write to Jonathan Neale at lindisfarne.neale@gmail.com.

EURIPIDES, WOMEN AND SLAVERY: GENDER TRANSGRESSION IN ANCIENT GREECE

The Trojan Women at the Flea Theatre, New York, in 2016

Jonathan Neale writes: We start with a theatre, and two moments of astonishing gender transgression. One happened in a theatre on a hillside in the center of Athens on a spring day in late March of 431 BCE. The second happened there sixteen years later, in March of 415 BCE. Both took place as the audience watched tragedies by the poet Euripides. These plays were about gendered oppression, sexual pain, rape, slavery and the horrors of war.[1]

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Women in Afghanistan / Frauen in Afghanistan / An Interview with Nancy Lindisfarne

Katharina Anetzberger

This interview was first published in the Austrian socialist magazine Linkswende as Frauen in Afghanistan. You can read it in German here.

LINKSWENDE: Since the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan, the situation of Afghan women has come back into focus. How does this situation look like at the moment concretely?

NANCY LINDISFARNE: I think a place to start is that we need to understand what does actually happen with the Taliban and the actual defeat of the US, militarily and politically. So we’ve got a group pf people who have fought a guerrilla war and they have actually taken over a government with the idea of continuing to be not democratic but ruling a state. And they couldn’t have done this without – nobody wins a guerrilla war, certainly not one where the two sides are so disproportionately powerful and weak – without popular support. And that means that people all over the country have decided that the Taliban are a better deal than either the occupation government or the warlords.

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Dancing in Damascus

Katharina Anetzberger

Based on the experiences and incidents she collected during her field studies in Syria, anthropologist Nancy Lindisfarne wrote Dancing in Damascus, a collection of short stories, in the late 1980s. [This review first appeared in German here in the Austrian socialist magazine Linkswende.]

Nancy Lindisfarne actually wanted to use the visit to a fellow student in the Syrian capital Damascus as an introduction to studies on the working class there. By chance, she got caught in the middle of the marriage policy of a wavering middle class, which fluctuated between tradition and “modernization” according to the Western model. In nine short stories, she describes the everyday life of a society under dictatorship, tells of the search for identity, gender roles, and the struggles for a self-determined life.

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WHAT DO WE DO AFTER THE COP?

kids-climate

Jonathan Neale

The COP26 United Nations climate conference in Glasgow is the third key moment in the history of the talks. At the Copenhagen COP in 2009 the movement was defeated, and we knew it. At Paris in 2015 the movement was fooled. Both COPs left the movement exhausted and demoralised. This time it is obvious going in that Glasgow will be a shitshow. So this time we need to think going in, how we can come out fighting.

My basic argument is this: the climate movement is at an impasse. The leaders of the world will not act. That means we must build mass movements from below to replace those leaders. But those mass movements will wither if they only protest. We have to fight for action that will halt climate change. Continue reading

Afghanistan – The Climate Crisis

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale

Last month we wrote about the end of the American occupation of Afghanistan and the Taliban victory.[1] This piece is about climate change in Afghanistan. The topic is urgent. Afghanistan is one of countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change.

This year a long-running drought caused by climate change has reduced the harvest by almost half. Hunger and famine threaten unless Afghans receive a great deal of aid, quickly. But there is the looming danger that US financial sanctions will make aid work impossible and combine with hunger to create economic collapse.

This article begins with the effects of climate change in Afghanistan over the last 50 years. Then we talk about the situation now. We argue that instead of making war for twenty years, the Americans could have worked to create climate jobs and prevent the climate crisis. We end with ideas of what people in other countries can do politically to help Afghans facing climate disaster.

In many parts of the world people see climate change as a terrible threat in the future. In Afghanistan that threat has been eating away at the fabric of the economy and society for half a century.

Since 1750 climate change has already warmed the world by an average of 1.1 degrees centigrade. Afghanistan is warming at more than double the global average. Scientists and the UN now urge us to keep the total increase below 1.5 degrees if possible, and absolutely to avoid the dangers of passing 2.0. Afghanistan warmed by 2.0 degrees between 1951 and 2020. By 2050, thirty years from now, temperatures in Afghanistan are likely to rise by another 2 degrees.

This is happening in what is already one of the poorest and most arid countries on earth. On the plains, and in the summers, it is already very hot. Only 5% of the land can produce crops, and most of that only with irrigation. Most people live on 2 dollars a day or less. Now that the crops have failed, the price of food will rise rapidly.

The most important effect of rising temperatures is drought. Andrej Přívara and Magdalena Přívarova write that, “Striking droughts in Afghanstan have become a solid feature of its climate. Several severe droughts have been recorded with a tendency to increase the frequency of the drought cycle, for instance, 1963–64, 1966–67, 1970–72 and 1998–2006. The period 1998–2006 appeared to be the longest and most extreme drought in the climate history of Afghanistan.”[2]

Notice that the drought from 1998 to 2006 lasted eight years. Since then, there has been the drought of 2013-14, and the drought that started in 2018 continues today.

Two accounts of the early days of climate change in Afghanistan can help us understand what that could mean. One account is from the north of the country, and one from the south.  

Nancy writes: In 1971 and 1972 Richard Tapper and I lived with Afghan villagers, the Piruzai, for nearly a year. Hajji Tuman was our host throughout our stay with the Piruzai. This is a picture of Tuman and his daughter, Maygol. They were crazy about each other.

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Translations of Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation into Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean, Slovenian and Spanish

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write:

Our recent post on Afghanistan has been translated into several languages, and there is a nice interview with Jacobin Radio and an interview in Chinese with The Paper. The links are below.

For the original post in English on this site, link here.

For the FRENCH translation, link here

For the GERMAN translation, link here

For the GREEK translation, link here

For the ITALIAN translation, link here

For the KOREAN translation, link here

For the SLOVENIAN translation, link here

For the SPANISH translation, link here

And for a longish interview with Jacobin Radio, link here. Our interview begins 21:15 in.

For an interview in Chinese, link here

In INDIA, it has also been republished here in English.

A big thank you to all the people who did this work.

For a selection of some of our other work on Afghanistan, link here.

Afghanistan: The End of the Occupation

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write: A lot of nonsense about Afghanistan is being written in Britain and the United States. Most of this nonsense hides a number of important truths.

First, the Taliban have defeated the United States.

Second, the Taliban have won because they have more popular support.

Third, this is not because most Afghans love the Taliban. It is because the American occupation has been unbearably cruel and corrupt.

Fourth, the War on Terror has also been politically defeated in the United States. The majority of Americans are now in favor of withdrawal from Afghanistan and against any more foreign wars.

Fifth, this is a turning point in world history. The greatest military power in the world has been defeated by the people of a small, desperately poor country. This will weaken the power of the American empire all over the world.

Sixth, the rhetoric of saving Afghan women has been widely used to justify the occupation, and many feminists in Afghanistan have chosen the side of the occupation. The result is a tragedy for feminism.

This article explains these points. Because this a short piece, we assert more than we prove. But we have written a great deal about gender, politics and war in Afghanistan since we did fieldwork there as anthropologists almost fifty years ago. We give links to much of this work at the end of this article, so you can explore our arguments in more detail.[1]

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Can you help with translations of Fight the Fire?

In the first two weeks since The Ecologist and AIDC co-published Jonathan Neale’s book, Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs, 7200 people downloaded it as a free pdf or a free e-book. We think there may well be a similar demand for the book in other languages. So we want to encourage translations.

We also want to encourage the model of publications we have used, with a free pdf and a free e-book for download in order to get the ideas to as many people as possible. There might also be a paperback edition for sale. We do not have any money to pay translators, so this will have be volunteer work. Continue reading

Fresh Apricots – A Syrian Prison Story

Jebel Druze – Landscape by Nancy Lindisfarne

Nancy Lindisfarne writes: Last week in Koblenz, Germany, a former Syrian intelligence officer, Eyad al Gharib, was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. It is an important verdict. It has formally exposed the scale, and appalling horror, of the crimes of the Syrian regime.

To mark this moment we are reposting a short story I originally published in Arabic in 1997. I did anthropological fieldwork in Damascus in the late 1980s, and from day one I saw the tyranny of the regime.  But I knew the whole time I was in Syria, and then again when I tried out the stories on friends in Damascus, that for their sake, I could only hint at the fear everyone felt.  As you can see here, the most politically explicit of my Syrian stories, ‘Fresh Apricots’, is little more than a bare whisper about a prisoner who has been fortunate enough to be released from Saydnaya prison.
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In 1997, Mamdouh Adwan, the Syrian poet and playwright translated into Arabic a collection of short stories I had written after my year of fieldwork. Al Raqs fi Dimasq was published in Syria before an English version, Dancing in Damascus, came out in 2000.[4] But though a bare whisper, I also knew Syrian readers absolutely understood what I was trying to say.

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Lithium, Batteries and Climate Change

Jonathan Neale writes: I have spent the last year working on a book called Fight the Fire – Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs. Most of it is about both the politics and the engineering of any possible transition that can avert catastrophic climate breakdown. One thing I had to think about long and hard was lithium and car batteries.

[This article was first published by Climate and Capitalism on 11 Feb 2021.]

I often hear people say that we can’t cover the world with electric vehicles, because there simply is not enough lithium for batteries. In any case, they add, lithium production is toxic, and the only supplies are in the Global South. Moreover, so the story goes, there are not enough rare earth metals for wind turbines and all the other hardware we will need for renewable energy.

People often smile after they say those things, which is hard for me to understand, because it means eight billion people will go to hell.

So I went and found out about lithium batteries and the uses of rare earth. What I found out is that the transition will be possible, but neither the politics nor the engineering is simple. This article explains why. I start by describing the situation simply, and then add in some of the complexity. Continue reading

Fight the Fire

Jonathan Neale’s new book Fight the Fire – Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs can be downloaded as a free pdf or a free e-book here. It can be ordered as a paperback for £15 here .

Advance Praise for Fight the Fire

“This is a timely book. At a time when the world is still reeling from the ravages of Covid-19 and the massive economic dislocation that it engendered, now is the perfect time to reinvigorate the campaign for climate jobs, or, as in the case of the Philippines, to launch it. And this book is just what any climate jobs campaigner would need. It provides the big picture, the science and the politics of climate change, as well as the nuts and bolts of how such a campaign would look like. More than that, it is replete with lessons that the author has gained from a life spent fighting in the trenches of various campaigns.” – Josua Mata, Secretary-General, SENTRO union federation, Philippines. Continue reading