Capitalism and the currency of convictions

Posted: 15 September 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Dr. Marianne Schulze, LL.M. is an independent legal consultant and human rights expert based in Vienna, Austria.* Many years ago, Marianne was a student in one of my classes, Economics for Non-Economists, at the University of Notre Dame. Last year, she wrote a response to my blog, which for a variety of reasons could not be included in the symposium that appeared in Rethinking Marxism. However, I am pleased to publish it here as a guest post.

The “Journal of Unsung Social Theories Irreconcilable with Contemporary Economics” (JUSTICE) was going to be the follow-up to a course on “Economics for Non-Economists,” which Professor Ruccio taught at the University of Notre Dame to a rather eclectic group of students. The course itself and the ensuing discussion over a journal and its title serve as an apt prelude as well as yet another variation on the theme of David’s blog of “occasional links and commentary on economics, culture, and society.”

“Economics for Non-Economists” is by its very title a testament to David’s teaching ethos as well as his continuous efforts to relate what economics is —and what it could be—and how enmeshed the field is with other approaches to and descriptions of being part of a larger system. The blog then is a logical —if not to say natural—continuation of David’s ethos and poise. To discuss the blog is to praise his ability to stay firm, yet open-minded, to embrace a good challenge and yet never waiver from certain tenets. There is that unique mix of quietude and calm derived from deep knowledge, and there is also the fierce passion fed by a distinct level of certainty as well as urgency in avoiding calamities designed by the dominating understanding of economics.

And then there is of course a sprinkle of Italian passion (the only fault with that being that it adds anchovies to the mix). That passion is deeply informed, incredibly caring about others—both in the sense of people as well as professional fields. It is that kind of passion that demands engagement, that excites and as such is contagious. That appears to be in stark contrast to the seeming sense of insulation in which a growing number of undergraduates appear to approach studying. It speaks volumes about David’s perseverance that he maintained his style of teaching and never wavered from loving it, against all odds. “Still, he persisted!”

Given the challenges posed by the changes in the student body’s attitudes there was a growing need for an outlet, for kindling that informed passion about situating economics within lived lives and experience. And thus the blog has a certain logic to it: to re-direct the insight(s), to relay the sense of urgency and the need for multiple perspectives through alternative means. 

To appraise David’s blog—also as a form of online teaching—in human rights terms is to talk about accessibility. Not in terms of the standard technical issues such as universal design but more in the sense of imparting knowledge in a way that invites in those who are not (yet) literate in the terminology and theories and make them feel comfortable (in spite of knowing nothing—and I mean nothing—about economics). To be aware and be comfortable with showing that awareness, that students come to learning and to insights in very different ways. To be keenly aware of how the diversity of biographies and “walks of life” affect perceptions and expectations. To try and maximize that social aspect of accessibility through deep awareness of barriers built on exploitation, discrimination, othering, and exclusion.

Writing about David’s blog from a human rights perspective also warrants mentioning that soccer is not only one of the fundamentals of society but that being invested in Manchester United is part and parcel of a human right. Yes, there is a right to sport. And, yes, it has some origins in the labour movement and its insistence on leisure time (Article 24 Universal Declaration of Human Rights). While reciting human rights provisions, it may also be important to note that driving cars of a certain brand designed in the South of Germany renown for being useless in snow (the author’s driving license is Austrian) in the hills of Vermont is that part of legal capacity that Pat Deegan has aptly termed “dignity of risk.” The fact that David likes to refer to those hills as “mountains” could be as much a lack of utilizing the right to health and having an eye-check as a use of freedom of speech that leans heavily on alternate realities as an art-form.  

One of the art-forms that David has perfected is that of dusting a good old black-board into a white landscape. Well before Vermont skiing was added to his equilibrium and therewith a source of sustenance for “occasional links and commentary on economics, culture, and society,” David’s hands dusted away any speck of black within the hour. It seemed like pure magic. The sheer passion of delivery turned those boards into. . .well, whiteboards.

That passion appears to also feed the immense resilience that David has shown teaching in an academic landscape increasingly hostile to his academic and pedagogical outlook. And it has fed and continues to sustain David’s dedication to the blog rightly celebrated in the symposium. There is another aspect that stands out and warrants mention as well as deep admiration: David’s ability to walk the tightrope between showing personal introspection and a critical habit as a professional. The willingness of making himself ever so slightly vulnerable as a professor is only one of the aspects that sets David’s teaching apart from others but I believe the one that has— indirectly—caused the most ire. The cliché that vulnerability is strength is particularly true in teaching. And while I have certainly picked up some incredibly important insights into the makings and sustainability of the machinations of neoliberal economic thought, it is that delivery of convictions with a personal edge that has left an indelible impression.

In a capitalist world it is the currency of convictions that will endure and, thus, “occasional links and commentary on economics, culture, and society” sets a benchmark that will find both more readers and also like-minded bloggers.  

*She also passionately dislikes anchovies and is working to meet DFR’s blueberry-harvesting expectations.

Comments
  1. Suzanne Bergeron says:

    Brilliant, funny and apt tribute!

  2. intraverse1 says:

    Yea, David! You’re the best of what a professor can be! Thank you for such fine words, Dr. Marianne Schulze; and yes, capitalism will endure in its various modes (market, regulated, civic). Also, just as there has never been and never will be a communist nation (Marx’s 5th stage), there’s never been and never will be a libertarian nation (Ayn Rand’s doctrine). Now, let’s get many more people higher educated so the current regressive-Republican cult will wither and U.S. society progresses with the rationally-humanist social contract. 🙂 http://www.intraverse1.com

  3. rca1910 says:

    Perfecto again. There is such a
    Extraordinary warmth and vitality that
    Leaps from the page. Love it. Grazie. Rita. 🌈⚖️

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