President Barack Obama Weekly Address Happy Thanksgiving from the Obama Family on November 27, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 27, 2014
On behalf of the Obama family -- Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and Sunny -- I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. Like many of you, we'll spend the day with family and friends, catching up, eating some good food and watching a little football. Before we lift a fork, we lend a hand by going out in the community to serve some of our neighbors in need. And we give thanks for each other, and for all of God's blessings.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because, more than any other, it is uniquely American. Each of us brings our own traditions and cultures and recipes to the table -- but we all share this day, united by the gratitude for the bounty of this nation. And we welcome the contributions of all people -- no matter their origin or color or beliefs -- who call America home, and who enrich the life of our nation. It is a creed as old as our founding: "E pluribus unum" -- that our of many, we are one.

We are reminded that this creed, and America itself, was never an inevitability, but the result of ordinary people in every generation doing their part to uphold our founding ideals -- by taking the blessings of freedom, and multiplying them for those who would follow. As President Kennedy once wrote, even as we give thanks for all that we've inherited from those who came before us -- "the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they posessed," we must also remember that "the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."

Today, we are grateful to all Americans who do their part to live by those ideals, including our brave men and women in uniform overseas and their families, who sacrifice so much to keep America safe. To our service members who are away from home, we say an extra prayer for you and your loved ones, and we renew our commitment to take care of you as well as you've taken care of us.

We are grateful to the countless Americans who serve their communities in soup kitchens and shelters, looking out for those who are less fortunate, and lifting up those who have fallen on hard times. This generosity, this compassion, this belief that we are each other's keepers, is essential to who we are, not just on this day, but every day.

It's easy to focus on what separates us. But as we gather with loved ones on this Thanksgiving, let's remember and be grateful for what binds us together. Our love of country. Our commitment to justice and equality. Our belief that America's best days are ahead, and that her destiny is ours to shape -- and that our inherited ideals must be the birthright of all of our children.

That's what today is all about: that out of many, we are one. Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 22, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Las Vegas, Nevada
November 22, 2014
Hi everybody. Today, I’m at Del Sol High School, in Las Vegas, to talk with students and families about immigration.

We are a nation of immigrants. It has always given America a big advantage over other nations. It keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

That’s why, nearly two years ago, I came to this school and laid out principles for immigration reform. And five months later, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Senate came together to pass a commonsense compromise bill. That bill would have secured our border, while giving undocumented immigrants who already live here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. Independent experts said it would grow our economy, and shrink our deficits.

Now, had the House of Representatives allowed a yes-or-no vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed with support from both parties. Today it would be the law. But for a year and a half, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now, I still believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together -- both parties -- to pass that kind of bipartisan law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President -- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me -- that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

I took those actions this week. We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings, and send home those who do cross over. We’ll focus enforcement resources on people who are threats to our security -- felons, not families; criminals, not children. And we’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check, and get right with the law.

Nothing about this action will benefit anyone who has come to this country recently, or who might try and come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. And it’s certainly not amnesty, no matter how often the critics say it. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -- millions of people living here without paying their taxes, or playing by the rules. And the actions I took this week will finally start fixing that.

As you might have heard, there are Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better. Well, I have one answer for that: Pass a bill. The day I sign it into law, the actions I’ve taken to help solve this problem will no longer be necessary.

In the meantime, we can’t allow a disagreement over a single issue to be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works. This debate deserves more than politics as usual. It’s important for our future. It’s about who we are, and the future we want to build.

We are only here because this country welcomed our forebears, and taught them that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -- that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country we inherited, and it’s the one we have to leave for future generations.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.


Hashtags and Holy War: Islamic State Tweets Its Way to Success

Interview Conducted By Britta Sandberg
Source: Der Spiegel

In an interview, Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who was a key figure in the arrest of the mastermind behind al-Qaida's 9/11 attacks, discusses Islamic State's massively successful social media strategy and serious errors made in the war against terror.

SPIEGEL: You recently conducted extensive research into Islamic State's media strategy, analyzing numerous documents including videos and Facebook and Twitter postings. What differentiates IS from other terrorist groups?

Soufan: They are very familiar with social media -- they know how it works. They are very smart in reaching out to the iPhone generation. They deploy different tools in different markets -- using mostly Twitter in the Gulf region, for example, and Facebook in Syria. It's very decentralized and that is interesting. It is the first organization of this kind that understands the impact of social media.

SPIEGEL: Do you know how many people are working in the IS propaganda department?

Soufan: We do know that a whole army of bloggers, writers and people who do nothing else other than to watch social media are working for IS. According to our research, most are based in the Gulf region or North Africa. The program was started by Abu Amr Al-Shami, a Syrian born in Saudi Arabia. And we know that at one point more than 12,000 Twitter accounts were connected to IS. This is one of the unique tactics used by this group: the decentralization of its propaganda work. The Islamic State has maximized control of its message by giving up control of its delivery. This is new.

SPIEGEL: What does that mean in reality?

Soufan: They use, for example, these so-called "Twitter bombs" by following the most popular hashtags on the social media service, like the one for the 2014 World Cup. They send out messages using those hashtags so that everybody following the hashtag #worldcup will receive messages from IS, even if they aren't interested in it.

SPIEGEL: And this method is successful? They are recruiting among World Cup football fans?

Soufan: There are millions and millions of people around the world who will get the message. They have amazing reach, but only hope to have an impact on 1 or 2 percent of the targeted population. In June 2014 they had only 12,000 foreign fighters, but today there are 16,000 foreign fighters within IS. They include recruits from China, Indonesia and, of course, Europe as well. They send their messages in many different languages, even Dutch.

SPIEGEL: Is it still possible to achieve anything with measures like shutting down Twitter accounts?

Soufan: It is very difficult. When Twitter closes one of their accounts, they open another. So how will you control such a decentralized network with thousands of supporters? Just take the example of the video of the murder of US journalist Steven Sotloff in Syria in September. We mention in the report that it took people two days to figure out what was going on. By then, it was already all over the social media and the message was out there. Islamic State is also using less known social media like Quitter and diaspora. They also put links on, a website based in Poland, to share links, films and lots of data.

SPIEGEL: Delivery is one thing. Why is Islamic State's message finding so much traction with young people?

Soufan: There are different motives that drive people to join this kind of organization. Most of today's IS followers were kids when 9/11 happened. You're dealing with a new generation that has a totally different view of global jihad. To them, al-Qaida is an assembly of old guys. I mean, look at Osama bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has no charisma. But IS now is new and modern, they succeeded in being the new guys -- at least relatively speaking. Nevertheless, Osama bin Laden is still their hero. His photo can be found on the websites of numerous IS followers. The ideology is the same, the strategy is different.

SPIEGEL: Are there any means for putting a stop to Islamic State's success?

Soufan: Our problem is that after 9/11 we never had a strategy that included fighting ideology, to counter their narrative. We had tactics designed to keep us safe, to disrupt their plans, to arrest and kill leaders, even to kill bin Laden. But there was no plan to counter their narratives. In 2004, bin Laden had around 400 fighters under oath. IS today has thousands fighters and followers in countries all over the world. This is an unfortunate failure.

President Barak Obama addresses the Nation on sweeping immigration reform (Video/Transcript)

Cross Hall
8:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities –- people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken -- and everybody knows it.
Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.
It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President –- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -– that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let’s be honest -– tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

Now here’s the thing: We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now, let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive -– only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -– millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty –- leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability –- a common-sense, middle-ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.

I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose –- a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.

I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back and forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it.

Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.

These people –- our neighbors, our classmates, our friends –- they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant –- so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows –- until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -– that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.


Daniel Dennett on Tools To Transform Our Thinking (Video)

Source:Intelligence Squared

Daniel Clement Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science.


Professor of psychology, UCLA
Source: Edge
When people ask me what I’m interested in studying, the first thing I tell them is that I have Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to science. They start out thinking that I have Attention Deficit Disorder, which I don't, but I do when it comes to science. So I tend to have ideas that range all over the place, and even though I was told early in graduate school to study one thing and study it very, very deeply, that never really worked for me, and I was lucky enough that I didn't have to.

My ideas tend to all focus on what we call loosely the "social brain." How is it that our brain evolved to make us social? How does it successfully make us social? What are its limitations? How does it lead to a context where we think we understand what's going on, but we're mistaken? That can lead to all sorts of interpersonal issues.

My research goes all over the place. My research stems from work that I've done with my wife, Naomi Eisenberger, on how we experience social pain, and I did that for several years. Now I a lot more of my questions focus on social thinking—how we understand other people and ourselves, and how our brain seems to be strongly predisposed to get us into the mindset for thinking about other people. It's not just one of many different programs we can call up. We can do that, too—I'm going to think about algebra now, I'm going to think about history—but one of the things that's really intriguing to me is that it seems like the brain, of all the things it could choose, seems to choose by default bringing up a way of thinking about the world socially, and perhaps getting us ready to walk into the next moment of our lives to think socially. That's pretty surprising, and it's something I don't think we would have known without looking at the brain. There's an argument to be made that we don't actually know that yet, but there's some really intriguing hints to suggest that that's what the brain is doing.

There's a whole line of work looking at how there's a specific set of machinery that is designed for thinking about the minds of other people. If you're playing poker with someone and you're trying to figure out if they're bluffing or not, what you're really trying to do is peer inside their mind and figure out, despite what they're showing on their face, despite what they've bet, what they really think, what they really believe. And we do it there. We do it when we're trying to empathize with a child who's suffering, or someone halfway around the world who's suffering that we see on TV, we're trying to mentally travel into their world and understand the world as they see and experience it.

We have lots of machinery that seems to be dedicated for that, suggesting it's really important. It helps us in enumerable ways in our daily lives, but it seems to have this tendency to come on and have a certain kind of primacy over other kinds of thinking. That's really interesting and that's one of the major thrusts of the work we do, and we have various different explorations there.

The other major thing that we are focusing on these days is thinking about how messages spread, and that could be in various different ways. That can be in the old notion of persuasion—showing you advertisements, what makes an advertisement sticky, what makes an ad that you see on TV make you change your behavior. We're bombarded with constant advertisements from people trying to get us to go see this movie, or buy this beer. In the case of the work we do—it's usually public health—getting people in Los Angeles to use sunscreen, helping people to quit smoking. People who are overweight and at risk for diabetes and cancer, how do you increase their daily activity levels? And so we're really interested in that.

You might think that the things that get people to change their behavior are things that are memorable, that they can use their analytical brain to set down a long-term trace, or even just emotional, but surprisingly what we see is the brain regions that seem to be involved in successful persuasion. We can predict who will use more sunscreen next week based on how their brain responds to an ad today. The brain regions that seem to be critical to that are brain regions involved in social thinking, in thinking about yourself and thinking about other people. So this seems to be more about our identity and the identities that we're capable of trying on. If I can't try on the identity that you're suggesting to me—being a sunscreen-using person, or a nonsmoker, or something like that—the ad is much less likely to stick. At least that's what we think is going on there. So we're interested in that straight-up kind of persuasion.

In the modern world, often what you're really more interested in is making messages spread, go viral, what's sticky, what has buzz. There again, we don't see the parts of the brain that are involved in analytical thinking or memory, we see the parts of the brain that are involved in thinking about other people's minds—the social brain. If I want to persuade you of something, what I need to be thinking about is not the merits of the thing itself that I'm trying to persuade you of, but rather how are you going to experience whatever I say to you? What am I going to say to you that makes you think it will be cool for you to be the guy to tell the next person, and so on, in the game of telephone that we play with new jokes, or new stories, or old stories. We've seen this work, suggesting that it's the more social parts of the brain that seem to be involved in helping to spread information virally. We can predict which messages, which advertisements will spread and get people to go on Facebook and tell their friends about a movie trailer that they just saw. We can predict that reasonably well from looking at their brains when they don't realize it.

You can also think about it from the context of increasing education. Education is all about the spread of messages, and we're very interested in that as well. How do we use what we're learning about the social brain and the fact that it helps people make messages more sticky? How can we use that to enhance education in, say, eighth grade? This, to me, is a national crisis. That's when we lose kids. I have a seven year old. All of his friends love school. Then they hit puberty and they have no interest in school any more. They tune out. They're interested in their friends. The teacher becomes the enemy. I think part of it is that we're not necessarily tapping into what are some more evolved historical ways to get people to learn better. Historical learning was all about story telling, and not just story telling, but knowing that you yourself would be responsible for telling that story to others. There's old behavioral work, and work that we're doing that looks at the ways in which we can get someone to think of themselves as a storyteller, to actually learn science and math better than if they think of themselves as an end receiver, who will never have to do anything other than take a test.

This is an opportunity, among many others, to really change the way certain kinds of education may be done. Obviously, the nation is very worried about having more well-trained scientists, and mathematicians, and engineers, and so on.

Those are some of the big questions that we can answer with data. There're always the questions that I have trouble thinking about how to answer with data. That's why I became a psychologist and not a philosopher, which was my original path in life. I think there're questions that we don't do a good job of answering with data because we don't know how to get close to the question. So those questions are still on my mind 35 years after I first was exposed to them from various philosophers, but I don't know that we're any closer to answers.
There's a huge problem in our society with educational interests and attainment dropping off. In every metric that comes out we're falling behind lots of the other industrialized countries of the world. They're either catching up faster than we're moving, or they've already moved past us in math, science, and reading. I think some of these things are predictable.

We are a much more comfortable country than we were 50 years ago. When you're multiple generations into immigrants in a country that the kids are more comfortable than the parents, who are more comfortable than their parents, there is an easing off. Perhaps maybe you start to emphasize personal happiness or your children's personal happiness more than you emphasize more societally mandated metrics of success, which usually benefits society more than the individual, in my opinion a lot of the time. There're a lot of doctors who do a lot of good for other people, and who aren't very happy being doctors, and I think that's part of what the social contract really is. You agree to do stuff that's going to help us, and you'll be compensated, but you might have made a different choice if you knew how all this was going to play out.

In a place like all the BRIC countries, and China, in particular, there's so much aspiration, there's so much expectancy that the next generation is going to take China to even greater heights than they already seem to be reaching. I don't think we expect that of our children, and I don't know that we should. I'm not sure that almost young adult adolescent phase of nationhood is necessarily the greatest thing. It does lead to, in America's case, inventions and inventiveness. It doesn't seem to be that way in China so much. It leads to a lot of activity, but it also leads to a lot of unhappiness. It leads to a lot of midlife crises and so on, and I'm not sure that's the ultimate goal, to get the country to be the most productive. I'm not really interested in gross domestic product as a real indicator of how my family is doing.
I was raised in the shadow of both my parents being young hippies in the sixties and early seventies, and so a lot of my life is either a continuation or a reaction. What they were doing was a response to growing up in the early fifties, and so on. I just think you can see those things recapitulated either in new immigrant groups coming to America or in other countries.
In terms of raising my child I do think about it quite seriously, and I'm a bit more authoritarian than I might have guessed. The data suggests that young children do need sort of authoritative guidance. I'm always happy to admit that I know a small, small portion of what can be known, and that he already knows things I don't know and will ultimately possibly know far more than me. I don't try to portray myself in any way as flawless, but I do say this is the rule, and you have to do this because you have to do it, and that's part of my job.

I spent a lot of time visiting drug rehab family group meetings at an earlier point in time in my life and it was fascinating to watch the guy who ran those, and to watch the kids. It was all boys. The boys who came in, you would think these were kids who had grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, and there were some, but many of the kids were the kids who had grown up on the right side of the tracks and had never been told no their entire childhood. So now, as young adults, they didn't know what to do with themselves. They had no direction, they had no incentive, and they had no self-control. So they got into drugs, and they were fooling their parents.

The guy who ran this facility was authoritative. He was authoritarian, and he basically said, "I care for you more than you understand, but doing that means not doing what's best for you today, it's about figuring out how to get you to be someone who can go live for the next 50 years."
The world of psychology these days is a strange one. When I got into psychology, and, of course, as a graduate student you probably just don't know some of the things that are going on, but when I got into psychology the internet didn't really exist yet. It just seemed like there were a lot of people turning the final screws on what their advisors had done, and their advisor's advisors. I work in social psychology, where technically that's about understanding other people and how they function, but a whole lot of social psychology is really just about understanding our own everyday experiences.
Clinical psychology studies maladaptive experiences—when you're too anxious or too depressed. Cognitive psychology studies isolated parts of mental processing—memory, reasoning. Social psychologists, for whatever reason, tend to be the folks who want to understand how we get along in everyday life. It's not always about social stuff, you can still be a social psychologist and study things that aren't social at all. For instance, how do you change your own attitudes? That's a social psychological thing. It should be a cognitive thing, but it's not. It's social. There are these tribes, and whatever members of the tribe do, that's still part of social psychology.

When I got into the field it didn't seem like there were any career-threatening giant debates going on, and now it just seems to be all over the place. Every 20 to 30 years my field of social psychology seems to go through another crisis. There was a crisis in the fifties, where somebody published a paper and it killed the most exciting area of research in social psychology for 20 years.

Then in the seventies there was something actually called "the crisis of social psychology". Now there's "the replication crisis", which is a replication crisis in science, if it's even a crisis. It's just that we need to be reminded sometimes that when you see the first flashy study published in science or psych science, it's just an anecdote. It's a scientific anecdote, and we should go collect some more. It can be a really exciting one that you want to tell all your friends about, but it's one little tiny piece of data. We've perhaps taken to assuming those things were facts, and then we're shocked when those things don't replicate in study number two.

There's a lot of stuff going on where there's now people making their careers out of trying to take down other people's careers. The replication isn't necessarily an unbiased process, as it's presented. There are camps, and suddenly now failing to replicate someone else is really seen as an indictment, in many people's eyes, of the person who did the original research, rather than saying there's expectancy effects. If I expect not to replicate someone's work, that's going to influence how I design my study, the measures I look at, it's going to influence how I interact with my participants. I've heard stories about participants saying that they've been told, "Oh, you're just in a replication effort, so it doesn't matter if you know more than you should." There are things going on, and it is troubling to me.

I haven't been targeted in those, but watching John Bargh, whose work I've admired for 20 years, be attacked in that way is hard to watch, and other folks in that camp as well.
These days the person who I think has most been in the crosshairs of the whole replication world that's bubbling up in social psychology is Simone Schnall. She's a professor at Cambridge. She's done work on what's called "embodied cognition," which is getting at the idea that certain kinds of concepts that we have might be linked to other representations that we might not expect. So the idea of being morally dirty may somehow be linked to our concepts for being dirty in the literal sense.

There are studies suggesting that washing your hands can affect your sense of being moral or immoral, and so on. These studies are very interesting. They're very counterintuitive, which I think leads lots of people to wonder whether or not they're legitimate, and that's a reasonable thing to wonder about whenever you see something that sort of confounds intuition. That's the way science works. I've never run studies in that area, so I don't really have a real horse in that race other than it's really interesting stuff. When it's really interesting I kind of always hope it turns out to be true, because that's more interesting, but we don't know. She's done work that seems to me to be a very good. Other labs around the world, not just she herself, but other labs have replicated versions of the work that she's done. That seems reasonably compelling to me, and then there's this ongoing replication effort. I do have some issues with the process of selecting who's going to do the replications—what their qualifications are for doing those things, have they done successful work in that area previously—because if they haven't shown that they can successfully get other priming effects, or other embodied cognition effects, how do I know that they can do this? I wouldn't go and try to do chemistry. I don't know anything about doing chemistry. There are issues like that.
There are issues with screening out people who have expectations that run against the original hypotheses, because we've known for 60 years that those expectations are going to guide results, and that needs to be taken into account. Be that as it may, her study was replicated in this effort, and it was unsuccessful; it didn't replicate her results. Some of what was done seemed very good. They got in touch with her. They tried to work with her to make sure that they were replicating her methods, and I think that the early steps in the process seemed great. Then at a certain point they seemed to have said you're out of the process, and the journal that was publishing all this work had pre-accepted all the paper. They didn't go through peer review, and that is very troubling. It's very troubling when the people who have the power to damn the original research aren't getting peer reviewed. I don't think they should have been reviewed by Simone. I'm a journal editor; I can always get someone else who's impartial and doesn't care which way the results come out to review these things, but it needs to be reviewed.

Had it been reviewed maybe it would have come out just the way it was, but with something this sensitive it's important to get the process right, and I think there's some recognition that the process wasn't right. What happened was that this all blew up on Twitter, something that couldn't have happened 30 years ago in one of these scientific crises. It spreads out into the world, the neuro-skeptics and can grab a hold of this and spread it, and it can spread in an uninformed way, and it can get nasty. People say things that they wouldn't say if they were in the room with each other, necessarily. Maybe they would, and they act as if they don't realize they're being watched, but they are, and so both sides have said things that maybe shouldn't have been said. And now there's this deeper motivational division, and there are people taking sides.

My first impulse—because I've been attacked before by folks who didn't understand the way we do our neuro-imaging work, and they didn't really take the time to get to know what we were doing—was to be very defensive for anyone whose work was unsuccessfully replicated, because I saw some of the personal ambition come in on the other side of trying to create a career out of a failure to replicate someone. Not create a career, enhance a career. And that concerns me. It will be interesting to see how this goes forward. Anyone who says that replication isn't absolutely essential to the success of science is pretty crazy on that issue, as far as I'm concerned. Making a public process of replication, and a group deciding who replicates what they replicate, only replicating the most counterintuitive findings, only replicating things that tend to be cheap and easy to replicate, tends to put a target on certain people's heads and not others. I don't think that's very good science that we, as a group, should sanction.

If we're going to do it as a group, we should perhaps have a set of nominated studies every year that should be replicated. Those studies should be assigned to labs that say, "I'll take whatever study you assign to me, and here are my qualifications," and we assign them to the qualified labs. We get them to give their predictions before they're assigned anything so we know what their predictions are, we know what their expectancy effects might be, and then maybe we do it that way.

Or maybe we do it the old-fashioned way, which is when studies are interesting people go replicate them, because they want to go build on them. If they don't work, then that brings attention to them not working.
When it's come to the replication crisis, as it were, in social psychology, what's made it distinctive from past issues in social psychology is the way that it's being played out on social media. Everyone quickly goes to these sound bites, and the sound bites are all exclamations. They're rarely genuine questions. They're rarely really thoughtful. This leads to an escalation on both sides very quickly. I said things that I probably shouldn't have said, things that I certainly wish I hadn't said, even just on Facebook, thinking that only my friends and colleagues would see those things and then suddenly it turned out that one person passed that on to the other camp, and suddenly I'm in the crosshairs when I didn't imagine that I'd possibly would be. It's a very leaky, fast-moving process.

Then there is this tendency for each of us to take to our blogs. I have a blog, lots of my colleagues have blogs, and they are unfiltered, they're unedited. When John Bargh was first criticized because a paper had come out not replicating his most famous priming study, I wrote a blog about it and it got a fair bit of attention. It is rewarding in a way that writing a book isn't … the fast and easy high versus the slow, perhaps long high. Writing a blog and getting attention, and even getting the other side riled up, is a way to \get that quick, fast burst that is, and can be, somewhat addictive, and bad for everyone involved.

On the other hand, blogging is a way to try to share science in a way that makes it interesting to a much broader audience, without having to wait for a book to come along to synthesize 200 different studies. Like everything—every weapon and every technology that's ever been developed—there's good and there's bad, but in the replication effort issue we've all, myself included, been responsible for some of the bad outcomes.
At this point we haven't done any studies on social media addiction or the high that comes from engaging in social media processes. We're looking to get a full-sized typing keyboard that you can take into the MR scanning environment, and at that point you can have touch typists who can't see their fingers, but could still fully engage with a Twitter feed or Facebook, and so on. We're very, very interested in seeing what happens when we see different kinds of people re-Tweeting something that we've re-Tweeted, or their responses to our Tweets.

For anyone who's engaged this is something that can take on a real big part of your life, and be very, very rewarding. There's a new thing that just came out in some biological journal called the Kardashian Index, in which you plot the number of times your scientific papers have been cited against the number of Twitter followers you have, and if you are an outlier on the Y Index, it may mean you have too many Twitter followers relative to the amount of science you're producing. So if Danny Kahneman has a whole lot of Twitter followers, that's okay, because he's been cited more than anyone else, but if you're a graduate student it's not okay, because you should be producing more science and not talking about it.

I don't buy that, but it sort of speaks to this idea that there is appeal to being famous for being famous, that the Kardashians seem to have. On Twitter you can become that, both because you're the right kind of DJ for the information and really do a good job of spreading certain kinds of ideas, but also because you can have a lot of fun going after people. There are a lot of people out there who love seeing anyone go after and take down anyone else in science. We're in a phase right now where there's a lot of taking down, and I don't think that's as useful as the constructive idea generation, which almost never comes out of such fights.
When I think about the next five years and what I want to accomplish, there's two different goals. The one goal is to try to develop more basic science in areas that are underdeveloped. For instance, here is a relatively radical area: If you look at the brain while it's dreaming, the regions of the brain that are most likely to be active are the social regions of the brain. We're learning some things that suggest that the social regions of the brain may be involved in developing and putting into memory new social information. Perhaps a big part of what sleep is about is making us more socially at ease with the social world that we live in during the day. No one has looked at this in any way.

That's something that we would like to go look at, and that would just be very, very basic science in a new area that hasn't been looked at. On the other hand, I am very, very interested in how we take the work that we and others have already done and figure out a way to go do something that's useful now or in the near term that can change the way we do education with kids, change the way that people in the military get training about other cultures, or get training about just the basic procedures of doing things so that anyone can learn to do their job better.
I'll tell you about my new favorite idea, which like all new favorite ideas, is really an old idea. This one, from the 1960s, was used only in a couple of studies. It's called "latitude of acceptance". If I want to persuade you, what I need to do is pitch my arguments so that they're in the range of a bubble around your current belief; it's not too far from your current belief, but it's within this bubble. If your belief is that you're really, really anti-guns, let's say, and I want to move you a bit, if I come along and say, "here's the pro-gun position," you're actually going to move further away. Okay? It's outside the bubble of things that I can consider as reasonable.

We all have these latitudes around our beliefs, our values, our attitudes, which teams are ok to root for, and so on, and these bubbles move. They flex. When you're drunk, or when you've had a good meal, or when you're with people you care about versus strangers, these bubbles flex and move in different ways. Getting two groups to work together is about trying to get them to a place where their bubbles overlap, not their ideas, not their beliefs, but the bubbles that surround their ideas. Once you do that, you don't try to get them to go to the other position, you try to get them to see there's some common ground that you don't share, but that you think would not be a crazy position to hold.

There's the old Carlin bit about when you drive on the road: anyone going faster than me is a maniac and anyone going slower than me is a jerk. That that's the way we live our lives. We're always going the right speed, and everybody else is missing the boat. We don't take into account that I’m going fast today because I've got to get to the hospital, or I'm going slow today because I know I had something to drink, and I shouldn't have, so I'm going to drive real slow. We don't take those things into account. We just think whatever I'm doing is the right thing, and we have to recognize there's this space around those, and if we can find that overlap we can get some movement. And so that's not a nudge idea, per se. It's really about finding when people are in a mental space where they're more open to other ideas, and what is often going on there is you're trying on identities.

William James said long ago that we have as many identities as people that we know, and probably more than that. We are different with different people. I'm different with my son than I am with you. We have these different identities that we try on, and they surround us. With some friends I can be more of a centrist, and with other friends I might be more of a liberal, depending on what feels like it would work in that moment, and they can all be authentic positions that I really believe at different points in time. I'm really interested in looking at that as a mechanism of persuasion when it comes to regular old persuasion, when it comes to education, when it comes to public health, and when it comes to international issues as well. It's finding that latitude of acceptance and finding out how to use it successfully.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 15, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 15, 2014
Hi, everybody.  Over the past year, more than 10 million Americans have gained the financial security and peace of mind that comes with health insurance. 

More than seven million people enrolled in affordable coverage by visiting, or going to the marketplace in their state.  On average, they’re paying just $82 a month for coverage.  For a lot of people, that’s less than a cell phone bill or a cable bill.  Insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage just because you have a preexisting condition, and they now have to cover free preventive care like checkups and mammograms. 

If you missed your chance to get covered last year, here’s the good news.  Starting November 15th, today, you can go online or call 1-800-318-2596 and get covered for 2015.  And we’ve spent the last year improving and upgrading, to make it faster and easier to use. 

If you already buy insurance through the online marketplace, now is the time to take a look at some new options for next year.  You might be able to save more money, or find a plan that fits your family’s needs even better than the one you’ve got now.  If you haven’t signed up for insurance yet, this is your chance.  Odds are, you’ll qualify for tax credits to help you afford it. 

But this window won’t stay open forever.  You only have three months to shop for plans, so it’s worth starting right away.  And it might make a big difference for your family’s bottom line.

Last year, I got an email from a woman named Amy Williams, in Augusta, Georgia.  She and her husband are self-employed in the trucking business.  For years, they paid about $1,200 a month for their health insurance.  Then they checked out  They found a plan with coverage they liked, and it was way less expensive.  She says that they’ve saved around $13,000 on their premiums this year alone. 

Stories like Amy’s are why we fought so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act.  To help more families breathe a little easier.  In part because this law is working, health care prices have grown at their slowest rate in nearly 50 years.  And this year, insurance premiums for families who are covered through an employer grew at a rate tied for the lowest on record. 

So spread the word.  Tell your friends and family members to get covered.  Talk to folks in your church or your classroom.  Tell them to take a few minutes to check out,, or call 1-800-318-2596 – it can make a big difference in their lives.  Let them know that it’s easy, it’s affordable, and that they have just three months, starting today, November 15th, to sign up.  Together, we can make sure that even more of America gets covered in the year ahead.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 8, 2014 (Video/Trascript )

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 8, 2014
Hi, everybody.  This weekend, I depart for Asia to advance American leadership and promote American jobs in a dynamic region that will be critical to our security and prosperity in the century ahead.  The democracies, progress and growth we see across the Asia Pacific would have been impossible without America's enduring commitment to that region – especially the service of generations of Americans in uniform.  As we approach Veterans' Day, we honor them – and all those who've served to keep us free and strong.

We salute that Greatest Generation who freed a continent from fascism and fought across Pacific Islands to preserve our way of life.  We pay tribute to Americans who defended the people of South Korea, soldiered through the brutal battles of Vietnam, stood up to a tyrant in Desert Storm and stopped ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

And we celebrate our newest heroes from the 9/11 Generation – our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.  For more than 13 years, we have been at war in Afghanistan.  Next month, our combat mission will be over, and America's longest war will come to a responsible end.

But the end of a war is just the beginning of our obligations to those who serve in our name.  These men and women will be proud veterans for decades to come, and our service to them has only just begun.  So as we welcome our newest veterans home, let's honor them by giving them the thanks and respect they deserve.  And let's make sure we're there for their families and children, too – because they've also made great sacrifices for America.

Let's honor our veterans by making sure they get the care and benefits they've earned.  That means health care that's there for them when they need it.  It means continuing to reduce the disability claims backlog.  And it means giving our wounded warriors all the care and support they need to heal, including mental health care for those with post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.  Some of the most moving moments I've experienced as Commander in Chief have been with our wounded warriors.  Some have to learn how to walk again, talk again, write their names again.  But no matter how hard it is, they never give up.  They never quit.  And we can't ever quit on them.

Let's honor our veterans by making sure they get their shot at the American Dream that they risked their lives to defend – by helping them find jobs worthy of their skills and talents, and making sure the Post-9/11 GI Bill stays strong so more veterans can earn a college education.  When our veterans have the opportunity to succeed, our whole nation is stronger.  And let's work together to end the tragedy of homelessness among veterans once and for all – because anyone who has defended America deserves to live in dignity in America.

Finally, let's honor our veterans by remembering that this isn't just a job for government.  It's a job for every American.  We're all keepers of that sacred trust that says, if you put on a uniform and risk your life to keep us safe, we'll do our part for you.  We'll make sure you and your family get the support you need.  We'l have your backs – just like you had ours.

So this Veterans' Day, and every day, let's make sure all our veterans know how much we appreciate them.  If you see a veteran, go on up and shake their hand.  Look them in the eye.  Say those words that every veteran deserves to hear:  "Welcome home.  Thank you.  We need you more than ever to help us stay strong and free."


Election 2014

It looks like we had another big money election.

I do not expect any changes as long as the American Election System continues this undemocratic system of winner takes all!
I believe it’s a system which favored the status quo. Those rich politicians don’t want any change because real change would mean that many would lose their jobs and with that the influence and money!

You may call me cynical but as long as money rules, the United States will continue on its path to an ever less democratic country.


What new power looks like

Jeremy Heimans 
TEDSalon Berlin 2014 

We can see the power of distributed, crowd-sourced business models every day — witness Uber, Kickstarter, Airbnb. But veteran online activist Jeremy Heimans asks: When does that kind of "new power" start to work in politics? His surprising answer: Sooner than you think. It’s a bold argument about the future of politics and power; watch and see if you agree.

Pope says he is not a Marxist, but defends criticism of capitalism

Pope Francis says trickle-down economics do not help the poor, in a wide-ranging interview with Italian daily La Stampa
in Rome The Guardian

Pope Francis has rejected accusations from rightwing Americans that his teaching is Marxist, defending his criticisms of the capitalist system and urging more attention be given to the poor in a wide-ranging interview.

In remarks to the Italian daily La Stampa, the Argentinian pontiff said the views he had espoused in his first apostolic exhortation last month – which the rightwing US radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked as "dramatically, embarrassingly, puzzlingly wrong" – were simply those of the church's social doctrine. Limbaugh described the pope's economics as "pure Marxism".

"The ideology of Marxism is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended," Francis was quoted as saying.

Defending his criticism of the "trickle-down" theory of economics, he added:

"There was the promise that once the glass had become full it would overflow and the poor would benefit. But what happens is that when it's full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing ever comes out for the poor ... I repeat: I did not talk as a specialist but according to the social doctrine of the church. And this does not mean being a Marxist."

In the 95-minute interview, conducted last Tuesday by the newspaper's Vatican correspondent, Andrea Tornielli, but published on Sunday, Francis touched on many of the issues that have dominated his first nine months as head of the Catholic church, such as the suffering of the poor and his reform agenda.

He also took the opportunity to knock down speculation that he was considering taking the radical step of creating a female cardinal, saying he had no idea where the suggestion had come from. "Women in the church must be valued, not 'clericalised'," he said. "Those thinking about women cardinals are suffering a bit from clericalism."

Francis, who was elected as the Catholic church's first Latin American pope in March, turns 77 on Tuesday, and will soon be celebrating his first Christmas as pontiff. He said that his thoughts during that time went above all to Christians living in the Holy Land, where he is expected to go next year.

He said he would like to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI's pioneering visit in 1964 – the first papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the first time a reigning pontiff had flown on a plane – along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian church.

He added that violence targeted at Christians in some parts of the world was forming the basis of what he called a new ecumenism of blood. "In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don't ask them if they're Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox," he said.

"Those who kill Christians don't ask you for an identity card in order to know what church you were baptised in. We must take this reality into account."
Christmas, said Francis, was a time of hope and tenderness that should shake people from indifference when they are confronted with suffering in the world.

Railing against food wastage, he said that at a recent general audience he had seen a mother with a hungry baby who was crying and had told her to feed the child in spite of being in front of the pope. "She was modest," he said. "She did not want to breast-feed him in public while the pope was passing by … I would like to repeat what I said to that woman, to humanity: feed those who are hungry! May the hope and tenderness of Christmas shake us from indifference."

Francis, who has made no secret of his desire to change the way the Vatican is run, said the Council of Cardinals – the eight advisers he picked to suggest ways of implementing change – was at the stage of concrete proposals and would be raising their suggestions at their next meeting with him in February. "I am always present at the meetings … but I do not speak, I just listen, and this does me good," Francis told La Stampa.

Speaking of the scandal-plagued Institute for Religious Works (IOR), known as the Vatican bank, the pope said the mission to make it more transparent "was on the right road" but left a question mark hanging over what its future role would be. "Regarding the future of the IOR, we will see," he said. "The Vatican central bank, for example, is supposed to be Apsa [the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which manages the papacy's assets]. The IOR was established to help with works of religion, missions and the poor churches. Then it became what it is now."

Last week Moneyval, the Council of Europe's body monitoring safeguards against money laundering and terrorist funding, gave the Vatican a mixed report, welcoming efforts to clean up its financial institutions but expressing surprise that the Holy See's regulators had not carried out more inspections of the Vatican bank or of Apsa.

Asked about speculation that he may change the rules that bar remarried divorcees from receiving communion, Francis said: "The exclusion from communion of divorcees in a second marriage is not a punishment. It's good to remember that. But [contrary to speculation] I did not speak of this in the exhortation." The pope said marriage as a whole would be discussed in the coming months and many things would be examined in more detail and clarified.
The interview with La Stampa is not the first time Francis has chosen to speak to the media. In September, he talked extensively to Antonio Spadaro of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, while the newspaper La Repubblica published what it described as an interview with him in early October. The article was later taken down from the Vatican's website, with a spokesman, Federico Lombardi, saying: "The information in the interview is reliable on a general level, but not on the level of each individual point analysed."

The journalist, Eugenio Scalfari, later said he had neither recorded the interview nor taken notes but had tried to relay the pope's thoughts faithfully after their meetings. Tornielli, in a video on La Stampa's website, said he had recorded his papal interview.

Marx and Weber: Critics of Capitalism

Michael Lowy 
Published in New Politics   Winter 2007    Vol:XI-2    Whole #: 42  

MICHAEL LÖWY, a French citizen born in Brazil, is the Research Director In Sociology at CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) and also a lecturer at the Ecole des Hautes, Etudes en Sciences Sociales. His latest book was The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx (Haymarket, 2003).

In spite of their undeniable differences, Marx and Weber have much in common in their understanding of modern capitalism: they both perceive it as a system where "the individuals are ruled by abstractions (Marx), where the impersonal and "thing-like" (Versachlicht) relations replace the personal relations of dependence, and where the accumulation of capital becomes an end in itself, largely irrational.

          Their analysis of capitalism cannot be separated from a critical position, explicit in Marx, more ambivalent in Weber. But the content and inspiration of the criticism are very different. And, above all, while Marx wagers on the possibility of overcoming capitalism thanks to a socialist revolution, Weber is rather a fatalist and resigned observer, studying a mode of production and administration that seems to him inevitable.

          The anti-capitalist critique is one of the main force-fields which run across Marx's work from the beginning to the end, giving it its coherence. This does not prevent the existence of a certain evolution: while the Communist Manifesto (1848) insists on the historically progressive role of the bourgeoisie, Capital (1867) is more inclined to denounce the ignominies of the system. The usual opposition between an "ethical" young Marx and a "scientific" one of the mature years is unable to account for this development.

          Marx's anti-capitalism is based on certain values or criteria, generally implicit:

          a) universal ethical values: freedom, equality, justice, self-accomplishment. The combination among these various human values builds a coherent whole, which one could name revolutionary humanism, that functions as the main guiding principle for the ethical condemnation of the capitalist system.
          Moral indignation against the infamies of capitalism is obvious in all chapters of Capital: it is an essential dimension of what gives such an impressive power to the book. As Lucien Goldmann wrote, Marx does not "mix" value and fact judgements, but develops a dialectical analysis where explanation, comprehension and evaluation are rigorously inseparable.[1]

          b) the viewpoint of the proletariat, victim of the system and its potential gravedigger. As Marx clearly asserted in his preface to Capital, this class perspective is at the root of his critique of bourgeois political economy. It is from this social viewpoint that values as "justice" are reinterpreted: their concrete meaning is not the same according to the situation and the interests of different classes.

          c) the possibility of an emancipated future, of a post-capitalist society, of a communist utopia. It is on the light of the hypothesis -- or the wager, according to Lucien Goldmann -- of a free association of producers that the negative features of capitalism appear in all their enormity.

          d) the existence, in the past, of more egalitarian, or democratic, social and cultural forms, destroyed by capitalist "progress." This argument, of Romantic origin, is present for instance in all Marx and Engels' writings on primitive communism, a form of communitarian life without commodity, State, or private property and without patriarchal oppression of women.

          The existence of these values does not mean that Marx holds a Kantian perspective, opposing a transcendental ideal to the existing reality: his critique is immanent, in so far as it is developed in the name of a real social force opposed to capitalism -- the working class -- and in the name of the contradiction between the potentialities created by the rise of productive forces and the limitations imposed by the bourgeois productive relations.

          Marx's anti-capitalist critique is organized around five fundamental issues: the injustice of exploitation, the loss of liberty through alienation, venal (mercantile) quantification, irrationality, and modern barbarism. Let us examine briefly these issues, emphasizing the less known ones:

          1) The injustice of exploitation. The capitalist system is based, independently of this or that economic policy, on the workers' unpaid surplus labour, source, as "surplus value," of all the forms of rent and profit. The extreme manifestations of this social injustice are the exploitation of children, starvation wages, inhuman labor hours, and miserable life conditions for the proletarians. But whatever the worker's condition at this or that historical moment, the system itself is intrinsically unjust, because it is parasitic and exploits the labor force of the direct producers. This argument takes a central place in Capital and was essential in the formation of the Marxist labor movement.

          2) The loss of liberty through alienation, reification, commodity fetishism. In the capitalist mode of production, the individuals -- and in particular the laborers -- are submitted to the domination of their own products, which take the form of autonomous fetishes (idols) and escape their control. This issue is extensively dealt with in Marx's early writings, but also in the famous chapter on commodity fetishism in Capital.[2]

          At the heart of Marx's analysis of alienation is the idea that capitalism is a sort of disenchanted "religion," where commodities replace divinity: "The more the workers estranges himself in his labour, the more the estranged, objective world he has created becomes powerful, while he becomes impoverished . . . The same happens in religion. The more man puts things in God, the less he keeps in himself . . .[3] The concept of fetishism itself refers to the history of religion, to the primitive forms of idolatry, which already contain the principle of all religious phenomena.

          It is not by chance that liberation theologians, such as Hugo Assmann, Franz Hinkelammert and Enrique Dussel, extensively quote from Marx's writings against capitalist alienation and commodity fetishism in their denunciation of the "market idolatry."[4]

          3) The venal (mercantile) quantification of social life. Capitalism, regulated by exchange value, the calculation of profits and the accumulation of capital, tends to dissolve and destroy all qualitative values: use values, ethical values, human relations, human feelings. Having replaces Being, and only subsists the monetary payment -- the cash nexus according to the famous expression of Carlyle which Marx takes up -- and the " icy waters of egoistic calculation" (Communist Manifesto).

          Now, the struggle against quantification and Mammonism -- another term used by Carlyle -- is one of the key loci of Romanticism.[5] Like the Romantic critics of the modern bourgeois civilization, Marx believed that capitalism has introduced, in this respect, a profound degradation of social relations, and an ethical regression in relation to pre-capitalist societies:
At last, the time has come in which all that human beings had considered as inalienable has become the object of exchange, of traffic, and may be alienated. It is a time when the very things which before were conveyed, but never bartered; given, but never sold; conquered, but never purchased -- virtue, love, opinion, science, conscience etc. -- when, in short, everything has finally become tradable. It is a time of generalized corruption, universal venality or, to speak in terms of political economy, the time when anything, moral or physical, receives a venal value, and may be taken to market to be appraised for its appropriate value.[6]

The power of money is one of the most brutal expressions of this capitalist quantification: it distorts all "human and natural qualities," by submitting them to the monetary measure: "The quantity of money becomes more and more the unique and powerful property of the human being; at the same time that it reduces all being to its abstraction, it reduces itself in its own movement to a quantitative being."[7]

          4) The irrational nature of the system. The periodical crises of overproduction that shake the capitalist system reveal its irrationality -- "absurdity" is the term used in the Manifesto: the existence of "too many means of subsistence" while the majority of the population lacks the necessary minimum. This global irrationality is not contradictory, of course, with a partial and local rationality, at the level of the production management of each factory..
          5) Modern barbarism. To some extent, capitalism is the bearer of historical progress, particularly by the exponential development of the productive forces, creating therefore the material conditions for a new society, a world of freedom and solidarity. But, at the same time, it is also a force of social regression, in so far as it "makes of each economic progress a public calamity."[8] Considering some of the most sinister manifestations of capitalism such as the poor laws or the workhouses -- those "workers Bastilles" -- Marx wrote in 1847 the following surprising and prophetic passage, which seems to announce the Frankfurt School: "Barbarism re-appears, but this time it is created inside civilization itself and is an integral part of it. This is the leprous barbarism, barbarism as the leper of civilization."[9]

          All these criticisms are intimately linked: they refer to each other, they presuppose each other, and they are combined in a global anti-capitalist vision, which is one of the distinctive features of Marx as a communist thinker.
          On two other issues -- which are today of the greatest topicality -- Marx's anti-capitalist critique is more ambiguous or insufficient:

          6) The colonial and/or imperialist expansion of capitalism, the violent and cruel domination of the colonized people, their forced submission to the imperatives of capitalist production and the accumulation of capital. One can perceive in Marx a certain evolution in this respect: if, in the Manifesto, he seems to celebrate as a progress the submission of the "peasant" or "barbarian" (sic) nations to the bourgeois civilization, in his writings on the British colonization of India the somber aspect of the Western domination is taken into account -- but still considered as a necessary evil.

          It is only in Capital, particularly in the chapter on primitive accumulation of capital, that one finds a really radical critique of the horrors of colonial expansion: the submission or extermination of the indigenous people, the wars of conquest, the slave trade. These "horrifying barbarisms and atrocities" -- which according to Marx, quoting M.W. Howitt, "have no parallel in any other era of universal history, in any other race, however savage, brutal, pitiless and shameless" -- are not simply presented as the cost of historical progress, but clearly denounced as an "infamy."[10]

          7) The Manifesto rejoices with the domination of nature made possible by the expansion of capitalist civilization. It is only later, particularly in Capital, that the aggression of the capitalist mode of production against the natural environment is taken into consideration. In a well known passage, Marx suggests a parallel between the exhaustion of labor and of land by the destructive logic of capital:
Each progress of the capitalist agriculture is not only a progress in the art of exploiting the worker, but also in the art of plundering the soil; each short term progress in fertility is a progress in the long term destruction of the basis of this fertility. ( . . ) Capitalist production thus only develops . . . but at the same time exhausting the two springs from which flow all wealth: the land and the laborer.
One can see here the expression of a really dialectical view of progress -- also suggested by the ironical way the word is used -- which could be the starting point for a systematic ecological thinking, but this was not to be developed by Marx

Quite different is Max Weber's approach. His attitude towards capitalism is much more ambivalent and contradictory. One could say that he is divided between his identity as a bourgeois which fully supports German capitalism and its imperial power, and his statute as an intellectual, sensitive to the arguments of the Romantic anti-capitalist Zivilisationskritik so influential among the German academic mandarins at the beginning of the 20th century. From this viewpoint, he could be compared to another split -- if not schizophrenic -- German bourgeois/intellectual: Walther Rathenau, Prussian and Jew, capitalist entrepreneur and sharp critic of the mechanical civilization.

          Rejecting any socialist idea, Weber does not hesitate, on some occasions, to use apologetic arguments in defense of capitalism. This is particularly obvious in his description, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, of the origins of capitalism as the result of Protestant work ethic, i.e. the combination of hard work, methodic economic activity, frugal life and the reinvestment of savings: a description which is very close to the idealized self-image of the bourgeois! Usually he seems to lean towards a resigned acceptance of bourgeois civilization, not as desirable, but as inevitable. However, in some key texts, which had a very significant impact on 20th century thought, he gives free rein to a insightful, pessimistic and radical critique of the paradoxes of capitalist rationality.

According to the sociologist Derek Sayer, "to a certain extent his critique of capitalism, as a life negating force, is sharper than Marx's."[11] This is an exaggerated assessment, but it is true that some of Weber's arguments touch at the foundations of the modern industrial/capitalist civilization.

          Obviously, the issues raised by Weber are quite different from those of Marx. Weber ignores exploitation, is not interested in economic crisis, has little sympathy for the struggles of the proletariat, and does not question colonial expansion. However, influenced by the Romantic or Nietzschean Kulturpessimismus, he perceives a deep contradiction between the requirements of the formal modern rationality -- of which bureaucracy and private enterprise are concrete manifestations -- and those of the acting subject's autonomy. Distancing himself from Enlightenment's rationalist tradition, he is sensitive to the contradictions and limits of modern rationality, as it expresses itself in capitalist economy and state administration: its formal and instrumental character and its tendency to produce effects that lead to the reversal of the emancipatory aspirations of modernity. The search for calculation and efficiency at any price leads to the bureaucratization and reification of human activities. This diagnosis of modernity's crisis will be, to a large extent, taken over by the Frankfurt School in its first period (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse).

          What is striking in Weber's pessimistic/resigned assessment of modernity is its refusal of the illusions of progress which were so powerful in the European consciousness at the beginning of the 20th century. Here is, for instance, what he said in one of his last public interventions in 1919: "It is not the flowering of Summer that is waiting for us, but a polar night, icy, somber and rude."[12] This pessimism is inseparable from a critical view of the nature itself of capitalism and its dynamics of rationalization/modernization.

          One can distinguish two aspects -- intimately linked between them -- in Weber's critique of the substance itself of the capitalist system:

1) The inversion between means and ends. For the spirit of capitalism, of which Benjamin Franklin is an ideal- typical figure -- almost chemically pure! -- to win money, to gather more and more money (to accumulate capital would say Marx) is the supreme good and the ultimate aim in life:
The pursuit of riches is fully stripped of all pleasurable, and surely all hedonistic aspects. Accordingly, this striving becomes understood completely as an end in itself -- to such an extent that it appears as fully outside the normal course of affairs and simply irrational, at least when viewed from the perspective of the 'happiness' or 'utility' of the single individual. Here, people are oriented to acquisition as the purpose of life: acquisition is no longer viewed as a means to the end of satisfying the substantive needs of life. Those people in possession of spontaneous (unbefangene) dispositions experience this situation as an absolutely meaningless reversal of 'natural' conditions (as we would say today). Yet, this reversal constitutes just as surely a guiding principle of [modern] capitalism as incomprehension of this new situation characterizes all who remain untouched by [modern] capitalism's tentacles."[13]
          Supreme expression of modern aim- oriented rationality -- Weber's Zweckrationalität or, according to the Frankfurt School, instrumental rationality -- capitalist economy reveals itself, from the viewpoint of the "substantive needs of life." or of human happiness, as "simply irrational" or "absolutely meaningless."[14] Weber returns several times to this issue in The Protestant Ethic, always insisting on the irrationality -- his emphasis -- of the logic of capitalist accumulation: a comparison between the spirit of capitalism and economic traditionalism -- for whom business is simply "indispensable to life" -- "renders obvious the irrationality, from the viewpoint of one's personal happiness, of this way of organizing life: people live for their business rather than the reverse."[15]

                    Of course Weber believes that this "absurd" and "irrational" system has its own formidable rationality: his remarks show nevertheless a deep critical distance towards the spirit of capitalism. Obviously two forms of rationality are in conflict here: one, the Zweckrationalität, purely formal and instrumental, whose only aim is, in capitalism, production for production, accumulation for accumulation, money for money; the other, more substantial, which corresponds to the -- pre-capitalist -- "natural conditions," and refers to values (Wertrationalität) such as: people's happiness, the satisfaction of their needs.

          This definition of capitalism as irrational is not without certain affinities with Marx' ideas. The subordination of the aim -- the human being -- to the means -- the enterprise, money, commodity -- is an argument that comes very near to the Marxist concept of alienation. Weber was conscious of this similarity, and refers to it in his 1918 conference on Socialism: "All this [the impersonal functioning of capital] is what socialism defines as the 'domination of things over the human beings.' which means: the means over the aim (the satisfaction of the needs)."[16] This explains, by the way, why Lukacs' theory of reification in History and Class Consciousness (1923) is based on both Marx and Weber.

          2) The submission to an all powerful mechanism, the imprisonment in a system which oneself has created. This issue is intimately related to the former one, but it emphasizes the loss of freedom, the decline of individual autonomy. The locus classicus of this criticism is to be found in the last paragraphs of The Protestant Ethic, doubtless the most famous and influential passage of Weber's work -- and one of the rare moments where he permitted himself what he calls "value and faith judgements."

          First of all Weber considers, with a resigned nostalgia, that the triumph of the modern capitalist spirit requires the "renunciation of the Faustian multi- dimensionality of the human species." The acknowledgment of the rise of the bourgeois era has, for Goethe -- as for Weber -- the meaning of a " farewell to an era of full and beautiful humanity."[17]

          On the other hand, capitalist rationality creates a more and more constraining and coercive context: "The Puritan wanted to be a person with a vocational calling; today we are forced to be." The modern -- capitalist -- economic order, with its technical conditions of mechanical and machine production, "determines the style of life of all individuals born into it, not only those directly engaged in earning a living." This constraint, Weber compares it with a sort of prison, or "iron cage," where the system of rational production encloses the individuals: "According to Baxter [a Puritan preacher -- ML] the concern for material goods should lie upon the shoulders of his saints like 'a lightweight coat that could be thrown off at any time.' Yet fate allowed a steel-hard casing (stahlhartes Gehäuse) to be forged from this coat."[18]

          The expression became famous. It strikes by its tragic resignation, but also by its critical dimension. There are different interpretations or translations for the words sthahlhartes Gehäuse: for some it is a "casing" for others a "shell" or a "cell." But it is probable that Weber borrowed the image of an "iron cage of despair" from the English Puritan poet Bunyan.[19] In any case, it seems to describe, in the Protestant Ethic, the reified structures of capitalist economy as a sort of steel-hard prison -- rigid, cold and pitiless.

          Weber's pessimism leads him to fear the end of all values and ideals, and the advent, under the aegis of modern capitalism, of a "mechanized ossification, embellished with a sort of rigidly compelled sense of self-importance."[20] He foresees the process of reification as extending, from the economic sphere, to all areas of social life: politics, law, culture.

          Well before the Frankfurt School, Karl Löwith had already grasped, in his brilliant 1932 essay on Weber and Marx, the "dialectics of reason" at work in the Weberian critique of capitalism, and its affinity with the Marxian one:
The peculiar irrationality formed within the process of rationalization (…) also appears to Weber in terms of this relation between means and ends, which for him is the basis for the concepts of rationality and freedom -- namely, in terms of a reversal of this relation. (…) Means as ends make themselves independent and thus lose their original 'meaning' or purpose, that is, they lose their original purposive rationality oriented to man and his needs. This reversal marks the whole of modern civilization, whose arrangements, institutions and activities are so 'rationalized,' that whereas humanity once established itself within them, now it is they which enclose and determine humanity like an 'iron cage.' Human conduct, from which these institutions originally arose, must now in turn adapt to its own creation which has escaped the control of the creator.

          Weber himself declared that here lies the real problem of culture -- rationalization towards the irrational -- and that he and Marx agreed in the definition of this problem but differed in its evaluation. (…) This paradoxical inversion -- this 'tragedy of culture,' as Simmel has termed it -- becomes most clearly evident when it occurs in exactly the type of activity whose innermost intention is that it be specifically rational, namely, in economically rational activity. And precisely here it becomes plainly apparent that, and how, behavior which is purely purposive-rational in intention turns inexorably into its own opposite in the process of its rationalization.[21]

To conclude: what Weber, unlike Marx, did not grasp, is the domination, over human activities, of exchange value. The mechanisms of valorization and the automatisms inscribed in the commodity exchange lead to a monitarization of social relations. The sociologue from Heidelberg does not conceive the possibility of replacing the alienated logic of self-valorizing value by a democratic control of production.[22]

          Both Weber and Marx shared the idea of a substantial irrationality of the capitalist system -- which is not contradictory with its formal or partial


1. L. Goldmann, "Le Marxisme Est-il une Sociologie?" in Recherches Dialectiques (Paris: Gallimard) 1955.
2. It is true, as Ernest Mandel observed, that there is an evolution between the Manuscripts of 1844 and the economic writings of the later years: the passage from an anthropological to an historical concept of alienation. See E. Mandel, La Formation de la Pensée Economique de Karl Marx (Paris: Maspero) 1967.
3. K. Marx, Manuscrits de 1844 (Paris: Ed. Sociales) 1962, pp. 57-58.
4. H. Assmann, F. Hinkelammert, A Idolatria do Mercado. Ensaios Sobre Economia e Teologia ( S.Paulo: Editora Vozes) 1989. See also the fascinating text by Walter Benjamin -- largely inspired by Weber -- "Kapitalismus als Religion," Gesammelte Schriften, (Suhrkamp Verlag) 1991, Band VI, pp. 100-103
5. See M. Löwy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism Against the Current of Modernity (Durham, N.C.:Duke University Press) 2000. Carlyle is one of the typical representatives of the Romantic/conservative critique of capitalism.
6. Karl Marx, Misère de la philosophie (Paris: Ed. Sociales) 1947, p.33.
7. K. Marx, Manuscrits de 1844, pp. 101, 123.
8. K. Marx, Le Capital, Livre I (Paris: Garnier Flammarion) 1969, p.350.
9. K. Marx, "Arbeitslohn," 1847, Kleine ökonomische Schriften (Berlin: Dietz Verlag) 1955, p. 245.
10. K. Marx, Capital, pp. 557-558, 563.
11. D. Sayer, Capitalism and Modernism. An excursus on Marx and Weber (London: Routledge) 1991, p. 4.
12. M. Weber, Le savant et le politique, 1919 (Paris: C. Bourgeois) 1990, p. 184. In a comment on this phrase, Enzo Traverso writes: "Against the Fortschrittsoptimismus of many of his contemporaries, both liberals and socialists, which contemplated with satisfaction the march of history towards what they considered as a natural and inevitable progress, his warning was of pitiless clear-sightedness." See E. Traverso, L'histoire déchirée. Essai sur Auschwitz et les intellectuels, (Paris: Ed. du Cerf) 1997, p. 47.
13. M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, translated by Stephen Kalberg, (Los Angeles: Blackwell) 2002, p. 17 (slight correction by me ML).
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid. p. 31. See also p.37.
16. Max Weber, "Der Sozialismus," in Schriften für Sozialgeschichte und Politik (Reclam) 1997, p. 246.
17. M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic..., p. 123.
18. Ibid. p. 123
19. See. E. Tiryakian, "The Sociological Import of a Metaphor. Tracking the Source of Max Weber's 'Iron Cage'," in P. Hamilton (ed.), Max Weber. Critical Assessment (London: Routledge, 1991) vol. I, 2. Pp. 109-120.
20. M. Weber, The Protestant Ethic..., p. 124.
21. Karl Löwith, Max Weber and Karl Marx (London: George Allen & Unwin) 1982, pp.47-48.
22. See on this Jean-Marie Vincent, Max Weber ou la democratie inachévée, (Paris: Ed. du Felin) 1998, pp. 141, 160-161.
23. Marx does not ignore the affinities between capitalist accumulation and the Puritan ethics, although he does not give it the same importance as Weber. In his Grundrisse he refers to the "connexion" (Zusammenang) between capitalism and English puritanism or Dutch Protestantism.
24. I developed this viewpoint in my paper "Figures of Weberian Marxism," in Theory and Society. Renewal and Critique in Social Theory, vol. 25.3, June, 1996, pp. 431-446.