Weekend Reading

Let’s read. First. a list of writings on Lincoln:

When Lincoln sets about abolishing slavery–out of the goodness of his heart, essentially–his first adversaries turn out to be the radical abolitionists, in whose number the movie is careful not to place the great emancipator. Before anything can happen, in other words, the first order of business is to steamroll men of principle like Thaddeus Stevens and James Ashley into doing what Lincoln wants them to do. Stevens is too wildly idealistic and unrealistic to be allowed to speak his mind; he isn’t quite a caricature—if only because Tommie Lee Jones brings too much gravitas to the part—but he’s the uncle everyone is embarrassed of, even if they love him too much to say so. He’s not a leader, he’s a liability, one whose shining heroic moment will be when he keeps silent about what he really believes. And James Ashley is portrayed as too cowardly and weak to even bring the amendment to a vote (while casting David Costabile for the part speaks volumes for what kind of a role they think it is). The two radical abolitionists in the film, in other words, cannot be trusted to take charge of a radical project like the abolition of slaves. A radical and revolutionary change must be placed in the hands of a compromising moderate.

The number of Purdue administrators has jumped 54 percent in the past decade—almost eight times the growth rate of tenured and tenure-track faculty. “We’re here to deliver a high-quality education at as low a price as possible,” says Robinson. “Why is it that we can’t find any money for more faculty, but there seems to be an almost unlimited budget for administrators?”

Purdue is among the U.S. colleges layering up at the top at a time when budgets are tight, students are amassing record debt, and tuition is skyrocketing. U.S. Department of Education data show that Purdue is typical: At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities.

Tuition versus Earnings for Workers with a BA

The friends we mobilize to support our projects appear to us as a community, but to Kickstarter they are raw material to be converted into commodity—a conversion we must also embrace. Members of our networks become investors, not so much in our projects, but in Kickstarter itself. Every fundraising campaign that is launched reaches into our intersecting communities. Newer and newer layers of people are extracted to invest in Kickstarter. Like any other for-profit entity, its goal is to make money. Our projects that facilitate the funding are a side effect, a cost of doing business—the business of drilling our relationships for all they are worth. This is the logic we are allowing to dictate the whos, hows, and whats of cultural funding in our society.

Clearly, Kickstarter extracts value from our communities—10 percent of the capital raised and an unknown amount of networked and social value—but it does something less obvious as well. It converts support and community building into a shopping experience. By building a commodity-based rewards system into the platform, Kickstarter naturalizes the idea that supporting a friend is similar to any other online purchasing experience. You charge your credit card and something cool shows up in the mail in the future.


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