Grace Lee Boggs

I’ve been cruising through Grace Lee Boggs’ autobiography, Living for Change. I’m not huge into autobiographies, but her book is less about who she is and more about why she wants what she wants for us.

Grace Lee Boggs

The book is trained on the struggle. Here is the first paragraph:
“I was born above my father’s Chinese American restaurant in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, on June 27 1915. When I cried, the waiters used to say, ‘Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl.’ Later they told me this as a kind of joke. But for me, even as a child, it was no laughing matter. Early on, it gave me an inkling that all is not right with this world. It also made me wonder whether going back to China was such a good idea.”
And it just goes from there, for DECADES. You see how her inkling is cultivated by luck, mentors, and studious labor. She appreciates in a charming way how people hold contradictions, e.g., she is both greatly indebted to and impressed by CLR James, and also found him increasingly petulant and self-absorbed in a way that got in the way of his scholarship and action.
A few bits stand out:
1) The black union activists in Detroit were black union activists. For decades, Jim Boggs works a full shift at Chrysler, gets home to write an article, go to a meeting, organize an action, then get up the next morning at 5 to go back to work.
2) You see the contingency of the Black Liberation struggle in America. It’s all really dicey. In the early 50s, it seems that we could just as easily be under some man’s thumb for another 200 years.
3) I find Chapter Six, Beyond Rebellion, to be the most enjoyable. She and her husband James had just gotten back to Detroit after the ’67 rebellion, and they were still trying to process the significance of it. How do you move from a rebellion to a revolution that changes the way people relate to each other?
They figured that they have to break with Marx. They interpret Marx as arguing that capitalist production disciplines and socializes workers for political action, and all the revolutionary leader has to do is expose the workers to the exploitation of their circumstances, and the workers will know what to do with their anger. In contrast, Boggs argues that you actually have to train workers as organizers and theoreticians, so that they transform themselves, and in transforming themselves into creative, responsible, disciplined political thinkers and actors, very little of which they will learn merely by working on the line, they will be able to act in accordance with their own revolutionary political vision that integrates all of the aspects of their human life, with an eye towards respecting humanity. In other words, we need workers who are trained in making moral and political choices.
Boggs’ goal for a worker-led democracy was that every worker be transformed into someone whom the community could depend on for theoretical and practical leadership.

It’s a good book. Political philosophers and theorists should read it. Her comportment is so spare and sincere. There is just not a lot of extra nonsense and defensiveness. It’s two hundred pages of a woman organizing and working and reading and speaking her way through the struggle.
That’s all for now.

I have some other knitting to do, but I’m going to post a Funky Academic video on marriage within a few weeks.

What Is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism, featuring The O’Jays and Slave.

For more information about Neoliberalism, check out Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos and Edgework, Foucault’s The Birth of Biopolitics, and Bernard Harcourt’s The Illusion of Free Markets. I didn’t get to talk about the transnational aspects of neoliberalism where market principles rationalize eroding state-sovereignty and use debt to manage a new form of colonialism, but David Harvey and David Graeber have written extensively on the subject.

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What Is Freedom?

Here it is:

I cover a lot of terrain in this video, but like the good doctor, Dr. Dre, said, “Things get funky when you add a subject and a predicate.”

Music Credits:
James Brown – Get Up
Uptown Funk Empire  – You’ve Got to Have Freedom
Most of this comes from Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Wood’s book “Hegel’s Ethical Theory,” and Richard Dien Winfield’s Hegel and the Future of Systematic Philosophy.

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What Are Discourses?


For more information about the distinction between a discourse analyst and a philosopher, check out Hanna Pitkin’s Wittgenstein and Justice.  For a theoretical take on discourse analysis, check out Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge and Austin’s How To Do Things with Words.

I hope this helps!

What Are Discourses?

What Are Institutions?

Veblen, Hegel, Maceo Parker,  and Lauryn Hill. That’s right, this episode is on institutions.

Music Credits:
Pass the Peas, Maceo Parker

Everything is Everything, Lauryn Hill

For more information about institutions as settled habits of thought and action, check out Thorstein Veblen’s The Place of Science in Modern Civilization, especially the chapters on the limits of marginal utility and the nature of capital.

For more on Hegel, check out the Elements of the Philosophy of Right, but it’s a bit of a job to get through without prior familiarity with Hegel. Lydia Moland just came out with a nice book that sketches the points you need for the video’s argument called, “Hegel on Political Identity: Patriotism, Nationality, Cosmopolitanism.”

What Is Structural Injustice? (3:37)

What’s structural injustice, how does it differ from conventional notions of injustice, and when was the last time you heard MC Breed? Check out our latest video!

For more information on the arguments, check out Iris Marion Young’s Responsibility for Justice.

Music Credits:
Sam and Dave – Hold on
MC Breed & DFC – Ain’t No Future In Yo Frontin’




What is Justice (2:59)

Here is The Funky Academic’s first video, explaining Aristotelian justice to a dope beat. If you like what you see, find The Funky Academic on facebook or follow me on twitter.

If you have any questions about the intellectual content, send me a message at, or check out Book V of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Book I of his Politics.

Music credits:
The Pharcyde –  She Keeps on Passin’ Me by

Incredible Bongo Band – Apache