Michael Schwalbe

Michael Schwalbe

Michael Schwalbe is professor of sociology at North Carolina State University. His most recent book is Making a Difference: Using Sociology to Create a Better World (Oxford, 2020).

Articles by this author

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Saturday, December 14, 2019
Medicare for All or Profits for a Few
For decades, tobacco companies conspired to sow doubt about the harms of smoking. It was a strategy designed to protect profits by fending off regulation. And it worked; while lawmakers dithered, profits soared and millions more tobacco users died. The fossil fuel industry followed suit. Long after...
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Monday, April 17, 2017
Nothing Beats Science for Explaining How the World Works
Scientific literacy is usually measured through surveys that ask questions about basic scientific facts, such as, “Do the continents move? Does water boil at lower temperatures at higher altitudes? Are radio waves used to make cellphone calls? Did humans evolve from earlier life forms?” In one...
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Escaping the Inequality Trap
You don’t have to be a Marxist to see that capitalism generates inequalities in wealth and income.
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Thursday, March 31, 2011
A Primer on Class Struggle
When we study Marx in my graduate social theory course, it never fails that at least one student will say (approximately), “Class struggle didn’t escalate in the way Marx expected. In modern capitalist societies class struggle has disappeared. So isn’t it clear that Marx was wrong and his ideas are of little value today?”
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Friday, March 11, 2011
School Woes Rooted in Boardrooms, Not Classrooms
Champions of public education often claim that student achievement drives the economy. Economic innovation and competitiveness supposedly depend on how much students learn in school. Investing in public education is thus wise policy because it ensures our collective prosperity. This conventional defense of schooling goes wrong in three ways: it misstates the relationship between learning and economic growth; it attributes too much power to schools and teachers; and it limits our understanding of what education is for.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Making a Place for Labor History
When teaching about social movements in America, I ask my students how many of them had to take a U.S. labor history course in high school. For the last twenty-five years the answer has been the same. Not a one. I ask the question to make a point about how we learn what's needed for social change to occur. If all we know about social change comes from celebrating the lives of Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King Jr., we may think that change results mainly from individual moral heroism.
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Saturday, April 04, 2009
No Armies Are Moral
People in every country want to see their soldiers as acting nobly. So perhaps it's no surprise that Israeli propagandists have tried to claim first place by calling the IDF the "most moral army in the world." The problem with this phrase is not just that it is risible in the case of the IDF, but that it implies the possibility of any army being moral. On the contrary, by virtue of how they are organized and what they inevitably do, all armies are moral failures.
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Friday, May 30, 2008
You Might Be a Progressive If ...
In the propaganda wars that surround elections, political labels often become detached from reality. The leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama, has been called a "leftist" by Republican flacks and a "progressive" by some of his supporters. Others see Obama as a moderate Democrat only slightly less friendly to corporate capital and to the military-industrial complex than the Republican John McCain. It would be no surprise, then, if many people were wondering, Just who is a progressive?
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Common Wealth and the 'Entirely Self-Made' Myth
Every year since 1982 Forbes magazine has published a list of the 400 richest Americans. Anyone who wants to attach names and faces to the abstract notion of a "ruling class" should pick up a copy of the October 8, 2007, special issue. In profiling these richest of the rich, Forbes serves its self-proclaimed function as a "capitalist tool" -- not by offering advice on management strategies but by helping to manage popular consciousness.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Six Lessons for Young Men on the Edge of War
Military service was a rite of passage into adulthood for males in my family. My grandfather and two uncles served in the navy. One uncle served in the air force. And my father spent three years in the army. As a boy, it seemed natural that I too would enlist when I finished high school. The only question was, Which branch? Then Vietnam came along.
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