Against the Grain

William Morris, Designer and Socialist

William Morris’s designs are still admired and revered, but his radical politics and utopian inclinations are less well known. Michael Robertson discusses the nineteenth-century Englishman’s insistence on craftsmanship, his critiques of industrialism, his turn toward socialism, and his utopian novel News From Nowhere. (Encore presentation.) Michael Robertson, The Last Utopians: Four Late Nineteenth-Century Visionaries and … Continued


What do college athletes, prison laborers, welfare recipients, and graduate students in the sciences have in common? According to sociologist Erin Hatton, they’re all workers who face a particular form of coercion. She discusses what these workers’ circumstances tell us about work under contemporary capitalism. She’ll also consider the situation of prisoners pressured into dangerous … Continued


Against the Grain

Innovation and its Discontents

Political elites and technocrats in many countries believe we can innovate our way out of poverty. But can problems of development be tackled by profit-driven entrepreneurialism? Lilly Irani’s book looks at what professional design is and isn’t doing for poor people and communities. She reveals who gets ignored and what goes unaddressed when innovation is … Continued


Two historic global economic contractions almost within a decade of each other would have been hard to fathom, if we weren’t living through them. Marxist geographer Richard Walker examines the shape of the United States and world economies during the coronavirus. He also discusses the effects of the crisis on the fossil fuel industry and … Continued


A special presentation to commemorate National Poetry Month, featuring poetry readings and discussions by iconic poets, established ones, and up-and-comers. Archival recordings of Allen Ginsberg, June Jordan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Kerouac are part of the mix, as are suggestions for how to approach and enjoy poetry. Minal Hajratwala Mira Martin-Parker Craig Santos Perez Matthew … Continued


Many in the U.S. are despairing over the Trump administration’s inaction and fumbling in the face of the pandemic  But political scientist Alex Gourevitch cautions that we should be careful what we wish for.  He discusses the imposition of authoritarian measures around the world, treating democracy as a luxury in the time of coronavirus. Resources: … Continued


There are many ways that the crisis brought about by the coronavirus is exceptional.  But as Peter Linebaugh reminds us, pandemics throughout history have been met both by attempts by elites to extend their domination and the people’s attempts to resist while surviving.  The noted historian weighs in plagues, from antiquity to Covid 19. Resources: … Continued