Life in Late Capitalism

“Life in Late Capitalism” Podcast Worksheet


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1) Sarah Mirk (podcast host) gives a few examples of “late capitalism,” a Marxist term that was popularized by Ernest Mandel in the 1970s, meaning the “latest or most current stage of capitalism’s development” (Oxford). More recently, the term has been used both humorously/ironically and as a form of criticism regarding the current state of unequal modern economy and the growth of consumer culture. The Atlantic has defined its current usage as being “a catchall phrase for the indignities and absurdities of our contemporary economy, with its yawning inequality and super-powered corporations and shrinking middle class.”


Based on this definition/your understanding of the concept, what could another real-world example be?


2) What are the implications of the concepts of the “American dream” and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”? Why does Woodward say these concepts widely embodied in American citizens, yet largely unattainable? What are your thoughts on these concepts?


3) Mirk’s second guest, Lisa Gray-Garcia (Tiny), introduces herself as a poverty scholar based on her lived experiences with poverty, homelessness, and marginalization. What are the implications of Tiny (re)claiming the identity of scholar OUTSIDE of academic/professional spaces? How does this challenge our learned/preconceived notions of who can be a “scholar” and who is “allowed” to theorize?


4) What are some ways that poverty is criminalized (specifically in the United States)? Try and think of examples not provided by Tiny. Consider making connections between the podcast and the article on Kamala Harris.


5) In the interview with Jessica Lee, the host discusses the idea that we often associate our value as people with the amount of money we make/how much we can participate in the economy. Share your thoughts on this – do you think this premise is true? How so (examples)?


6) Lee talks about the tension between her anticapitalist community/teaching work, her relationship with her family (whose measure of success is often measured by economic prosperity), and living in a capitalist society. She also mentions the question a student posed to her: “How do you dismantle white supremacy in a white supremacist space? Thinking along this line of inquiry: how do/can we simultaneously dismantle harmful institutions while we are essentially forced to live/act within them?


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