Political Economy

At the Weave we believe that politics and economics have always gone hand in hand. Political economy is about structures of power and how these structures shape the conditions within which all of us live our lives. This section of the Weave is devoted to analysis and discussion of current issues that reveal the dynamics of power, from the local to the global and everywhere in between.

What Do We Do? Pt. II

              US poverty is on the rise, says the US Census Bureau. The question that remains, then, is: What will Americans do to stop it?

            As I mentioned in an earlier post, Buffalonians have approached the problem of urban poverty from above and below. In the latter case, citizen activists like Joseph Augstell have chosen to raise awareness through art. His film, "Buffalo, New York" (see video), offers a visual representation of Buffalo's urban poverty. What do the images accomplish that government reports and statistics do not? What kind of story is Augstell trying to tell in his film? Can a film like this affect political, economic, and social changes or does it merely sensationalize and/or sentimentalize the problem? 

US Poverty Rises

Poverty: As American as apple pie...About a week ago Forbes.com writer, Joshua Zumbrum, reported that the current recession has "redrawn the contours of poverty." Whereas abject poverty had once been primarily the scourge of the South, Zumbrum explained, poor cities on the US-Mexico border and in the North Midwest in recent years have shown "comparable levels of poverty." In turn cities like McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, El Centro, California, Yuma, Arizona, and Saginaw and Flint, Michigan, comprise six of "America's 10 Poorest Cities." The southern cities of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and Albany and Macon, Georgia complete the list. With climbing unemployment and poverty rates the suggestion is that urban poverty has been rising and will continue to in the coming years. 

Defining Poverty

 Those who know poverty rarely care to define it          

If indeed the World Bank's definition is only in part useful, then how exactly should we define poverty? For an answer to this question I have turned to social scientists who have been working on this issue now for more than a century. As you can imagine they've created a vast literature on the topic, way too much for me to consume and then re-present to you. Nonetheless several excerpts from encyclopedias have been helpful; below I cite from these articles.

The Problem of Urban Poverty


Perhaps the notion of poverty has been one of the most elusive in the modern era. What exactly is it? Does it have particular characteristics? Who would one identify as poor? How does one avoid or overcome poverty? Is s/he personally to blame or are society and its structures responsible? These are only some of the questions that men and women around the world have asked and sought to answer, usually to no avail. In the following weeks I will join them, as I explore urban poverty, its history, its current manifestations, and its future.

Should we really "send those immigrants back to where they came from"?

To say that America revolves around capitalism and economics is not a stretch of the imagination. When these issues are possibly threatened, Americans look for someone to blame or something to punish in order to fix the problem, and unfortunately, immigrants, or individuals who "look" like immigrants, have become a primary target for this blame. Is this a legitimate claim or an extension of racism and discrimination in the US?

Summit of the People?

We all saw the interesting frame of Obama and Chavez shaking hands and smiling to each other in the Summit of the Americas.  This is an interesting frame given the countries increasing differences and after Chavez called Bush “the devil” in many occasions.  The US is ready to change its approach to Latin America, and start working with them, after the greater distance created after the events of 9/11.

Death of Zionism

On March 30 Dr. Ronnie Olesker gave a presentation on the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. It began with an informative historical introduction, but focused primarily on the situation for those Arabs, whom she referred to as minorities, within Israel. I left the presentation upon coming to some conclusions, and some questions.

Interweaving: Ronnie Olesker on the Israeli elections

22 Dr. Ronnie OleskerI recently interviewed Dr. Ronnie Olesker about the results of the national elections held in Israel and their implications both for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for US policy in the region.  Dr. Olesker is an Assistant Professor of Government at St. Lawrence University and has done extensive research on Israeli politics and majority-minority relations in Israel.  On March 30 she will deliver a lecture titled "One Land - Three Peoples? Future Prospects for Jewish-Arab-Palestinian Relations in Israel" as part of St. Lawrence's Contemporary Issues Forum.

How Sustainable is Turkish Foreign Policy?

Since the Justice and Development Party government took seat in 2002, Turkey has entered a new phase in foreign policy where a new mediator role is claimed and a zero-problems policy is adopted as advised by DavutoÄŸlu (1). Through examples such as the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform formed after the 2008 Georgian Crisis, the Alliance of Civilizations Initiative for countering Huntington's "clash of civilizations" thesis, or the Ankara Forum meetings that brought together Palestinian president Abbas and Israeli president Peres in November 2007 (2), Turkey is attempting to increase its weight in the region and gain a decisive role by highlighting and making use of its geographical centrality and cultural multiplicity.

Enhancing Security in Latin America?

The US has had a great presence in Latin America since the region's independence. Latin America was not only regarded as the US' backyard, but a strong territory for security, natural resources and human resources. Throughout the years, the US has intervened in Latin America for many reasons and in very different ways. In Mexico for the revolution from WWI to WWII, supporting a change of regime to enhance its security against German forces; in Bolivia in the 50's revolution to "fight communist forces", in Central America in the 80's supporting the contra-revolutions, etc.