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.

History as an Underreported Story (Part III)

If only poverty were fun.When I began this blog I knew very little about urban poverty. In fact that was the challenge. It was one thing to experience poverty growing up; quite another to treat it as an intellectual, academic problem. And I promised myself to learn the issue, study it, and keep a web log to chart my journey. The idea was that others could learn with me, perhaps teach me along the way.  

With that said I’ve tried to answer two questions. First, what are people currently saying about poverty in the news? Second, what have historians said about poverty throughout American history? In the blog I’ve mainly addressed the first question, because America needs change more than it needs a poverty historiography. Poverty is a problem for millions of Americans in the *present*. By reporting on current issues I feel we can transform our awareness into informed decisions about how we organize and mobilize, what solutions we propose, and who we entrust with our votes when poverty-related policies hang in the balance.

Comic Relief: When Italy's best opposition is a stand-up comedian

 Browsing the net for English-language reporting on Italy under Berlusconi, I found this 8-minute piece by the New York Times. Italy's most effective opposition these days are a gaggle of independent journalists and some brilliant stand-up comedians. Controversial comedian-environmental activist-former accountant Beppe Grillo is a very good example of the latter, and his citizen journalism blog is the most read in Italy, and according to the NYT, the tenth most read in the world.

Holy Moly in Burlesqueoni Land


Lieberman "How's it going with Turkey?" Netanyahu "If only they were like the Italians..."

Not that anyone seriously credits Italian foreign policy these days, but Berlusconi’s words during his recent visit to Israel must have been music to the Israeli government’s ears.

Yuppie Food Stamps

My first credit card was an MBNA card.Do you remember your first credit card? I remember mine. It was a grey, black, and red MBNA Master Card with a $1,000 limit. It felt like gold in my wallet…

 I got it way back in ’97, when Guess jeans were in and every dude in the ‘hood had to have the beef’n’broccoli Timbs. I was sixteen with no job and no sense – so your boy put his Master Card to work. In no time I was in debt. Deep in debt. I bought whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. New discman. New beeper. New cds. A nice little necklace for my high school sweetheart. Dates at the movies, the ice skating rink, the steakhouse. Truth be told,  it was one of the best months of my life.

Italy and Iran: Democracy and Protest In the "I" of the beholder

Last summer the world looked on as millions of people took to the streets of Tehran (and other cities) to protest against the blatant abuse of an election, a crucial democratic instrument. What grabbed the headlines was the scale of the protest, and the way in which the resistance forced the political leadership of the opposition to, well, oppose the result,and in particular the way people power could combine with new technologies. The media focused on the use of mobile phones, of Facebook and Twitter to organize‘from below’, hackers joining in with the US DoS' actions. The crucial element was the sheer size of protests, particularly early on: hundreds of thousands if not millions of people taking to the streets to protest all across the country. The regime attempted to counter as best it could: shutting down mobile phone networks, slowing down the internet as well as the ‘usual’ methods of bussing in supporters and using batons and even bullets against the massive outpouring of disgust with a regime left with no credibility in their eyes. The struggle was a momentous one, and the casual observer should not make the mistake it was fruitless simply because Ahmadinejad was eventually allowed to remain President. 

History as an Underreported Story (Part II)

I admit, I love history.To my mind journalists too often eschew the past in their reports. In so doing the current issues and events that they write about enter the public domain as if they had no antecedents, no context within which they developed—no historical contingency. 

I feel the problem acutely when I write about urban poverty. I often try to raise awareness of the struggles of the poor in America’s cities. So I comment on food, clothing, and shelter, as well as employment and the cultural representations of the poor in the news. Rarely, however, do I bring up the history of poverty in America; not one of my posts has been about how the poor have gotten to where they are today. I’m not even sure that I’d even know where to begin…

Unemployment, spelled XXX

Here’s a sad indictment of what Italy has been reduced to after two decades of joint rule by the current majority and the equally parasitic current opposition. Two days ago a flurry of articles hit the Italian press about a forty-year-old teacher who gave up on her profession after two decades of short-term contracts, and what was her best employment option after teaching? Porn.  No word of a lie.

Michelle Liò, her stage name, comes from Venice’s Lido, and lives and worked with her family in the rich north-east of the country, in prosperous provincial towns like Treviso and Conegliano. And yet, even here the combination of nearly three decades of economic mis-management and the current recession has driven people to make drastic choices such as this.

History as an Underreported Story (Part I)

Philip GrahamIn more than a few history seminars I’ve heard the claim that “Journalism is the first draft of history.” This is in fact a much distilled version of the idea from which it came. Speaking to Newsweek magazine’s overseas correspondents in 1963, Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, delivered the now clichéd remark. His exact words were: “So let us drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand.”



What bedeviled journalists, Graham thought, were their attempts to explain a world in motion; that is, to write about present phenomena without the benefits of hindsight. In the race to publish a story journalists could *only* write a “first rough draft of history” and then move on. The rest was for the historian, for whom the journalist left traces of the past. Indeed newspaper and magazine accounts offer historians at least two insights, a view of the phenomenon under investigation, and the perspective of at least one witness.

Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.One of my intellectual and spiritual inspirations has been, and will continue to be, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To my mind the best way to commemorate him is to revisit and reflect upon his words, some of which speak directly to issues this blog attempts to address. Below is an excerpt from Dr. King’s sermon, “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution,”


which he delivered before the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1968, less than a week before his life was taken:


".…I remember some years ago Mrs. King and I journeyed to that great country known as India. And I never will forget the experience. It was a marvelous experience to meet and talk with the great leaders of India, to meet and talk with and to speak to thousands and thousands of people all over that vast country. These experiences will remain dear to me as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.

The Sunny Acres Controversy

Mr. Dan de Vaul Let me propose a scenario:

You’re a juror in a county court. In the case that you’re deliberating the county is prosecuting a local resident who willingly provides shelter to the county’s rapidly growing homeless population. According to the sheriff’s department several residents have complained about the crowds on the defendant’s property, reporting public intoxication, theft, battery, and disturbing the peace, among other problems. Additionally county officials have cited several housing code violations like missing fire detectors, faulty wiring, and flammable sheds used as bedrooms for the poor. Would you convict this man of a crime?