Study Guides

As the course goes on, I will be posting study guides on this page. These study guides are composed of questions to aid in your reading comprehension, and should be useful in your essays.

STUDY GUIDE # 1 (Due February 7th):

1. In Graeber’s “The Myth of Barter,” he argues that “there is no evidence that it [a “barter society”] ever happened, and an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that it did not.” (p. 28) Describe the “myth of barter” as presented by Smith or other economists, and summarize Graeber’s evidence for why such a mode of exchange is unlikely. In other words, how do people usually meet their basic needs in non-money societies?

2. What does money do? How does it gain its value? If you don’t agree with the way this was described in class, how do you think money gains its power?

3. In class, we discussed the concept of “enclosure” (we read the paragraph by Caffentzis, which is on the website). What does this term mean? How does Caffentzis think it explains the expansion of the power of money? Does this account of the growth of the power of money seem plausible to you?

4. What is the meaning of “subsistence”? How does it compare with and relate to wage labor?

5. Mies and Bennholt-Thomsen characterize the subsistence perspective as “a view from below.” What does this mean? Give one example from your own experience or from current events where there is a tension between “a view from above” and “a view from below.”

Study Guide #2 (Due March 17th)

1. In chapter 1 of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that the “racial caste system” in America has followed a path of “preservation through transformation.” She points to two major points of transformation: the transition from slavery to “Jim Crow” and the transition from “Jim Crow” to “mass incarceration.” Each of these transformations created new legal contexts, and she argues that white supremacy adapted to these contexts. Summarize her argument: how did the racial caste system adapt after these two points of transition? What is the significance in her argument of “law and order” and politicians being “tough on crime”?

2. In “Globalism and the Prison Industrial Complex,” Angela Davis suggests prisons perform a “feat of magic.” What is this feat of magic that prisons perform? What does this magical view of prisons prevent us from addressing?

3. In “Panopticism,” Foucault describes “the political dream of the plague.” Starting with a French town’s response to the Bubonic Plague, he uses the plague as a metaphor for any chaotic mixture, for “all forms of confusion and disorder.” What is the political dream of the plague, and how does it aim to control confusion and disorder?

4. Describe the “panopticon.” Foucault continually refers to it as a “machine.” What is the basic principle of the machine (i.e., how does it function)? What does it produce?

5. In “Post-script on Societies of Control,” Deleuze writes “man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt.” According to Deleuze, how is debt a mechanism of control? How does it differ from the disciplinary “panoptic” power described by Foucault?

2 thoughts on “Study Guides

  1. M. Hatch

    I am currently out of town and will not be back until Wednesday the 19th. I was curious to know whether I could turn Study Guide #2 in class Wednesday, or would you prefer a digital copy via email?


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