The Hutchins Center Explains: The Phillips Curve

By Michael Ng, David Wessel, Louise Sheiner

What is the PhilLips Curve?

The Phillips Curve describes the relationship between inflation and unemployment: Inflation is higher when unemployment is low and lower when unemployment is high. The underlying logic is that when there are lots of unfilled jobs and few unemployed workers, employers will have to offer higher wages, boosting inflation, and vice versa. The relationship was originally described by New Zealand economist A.W. Phillips in 1958, who examined data on unemployment and wages for the UK from 1861 to 1957.

The original Phillips Curve formulation posited a simple relationship between wage growth and unemployment. Since then, macroeconomists have formulated more sophisticated versions that account for the role of inflation expectations and changes in the long-run equilibrium rate of unemployment. The latter is often referred to as NAIRU (or the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment), defined as the lowest level to which of unemployment can fall without generating increases in inflation.

Why does the Phillips Curve matter?

The Phillips Curve is one key factor in the Federal Reserve’s decision-making on interest rates. The Fed’s mandate is to aim for maximum sustainable employment — basically the level of employment at the NAIRU— and stable prices—which it defines to be 2 percent inflation. Because monetary policy acts with a lag, the Fed wants to know what inflation will be in the future, not just at any given moment. The Phillips Curve is a tool the Fed uses to forecast what will happen to inflation when the unemployment rate falls, as it has in recent years.

What is the Phillips Curve telling us now?

In recent years, the historical relationship between unemployment and inflation appears to have changed. The unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low, but wage growth and inflation have not accelerated. The chart below shows that, from 1960-1985, a one percentage point drop in the gap between the current unemployment rate and the rate that economists deem sustainable in the long-run (the “unemployment gap”) was associated with a 0.18 percentage point acceleration in inflation measured by Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE inflation). However, from 1986-2007, the effect of unemployment on inflation has been less than half of that, and since 2008, the effect has essentially disappeared. This phenomenon is often referred to as the flattening of the Phillips Curve. In other words, a tight labor market hasn’t led to a pickup in inflation.

Phillips curve flattened over time

One big question is whether the flattening of the Phillips Curve is an indication of a structural break or simply a shift in the way it’s measured. Former Fed Vice Chair Alan Blinder communicated this best in a WSJ Op-Ed:

“Since 2000, the correlation between unemployment and changes in inflation is nearly zero. On average, inflation has barely moved as unemployment rose and fell. This is puzzling, to say the least. The Fed needs to know whether the Phillips curve has died or has just taken an extended vacation.”  

Could the Phillips Curve be dead?

The weak tradeoff between inflation and unemployment in recent years has led some to question whether the Phillips Curve is operative at all. In other words, some argue that employers simply don’t raise wages in response to a tight labor market anymore, and low unemployment doesn’t actually cause higher inflation. Here are a few reasons why this might be true.


Large multinational companies draw from labor resources across the world rather than just in the U.S., meaning that they might respond to low unemployment here by hiring more abroad, rather than by raising wages. Some research suggests that this phenomenon has made inflation less sensitive to domestic factors.

Decrease in worker power

Over the past few decades, workers have seen low wage growth and a decline in their share of total income in the economy. Many economists argue that this is due to weaker worker bargaining power. This could mean that workers are less able to negotiate higher wages when unemployment is low, leading to a weaker relationship between unemployment, wage growth, and inflation.

What if the Phillips Curve is just ‘missing’?

Alternatively, some argue that the Phillips Curve is still alive and well, but it’s been masked by other changes in the economy: Here are a few of these changes:

Inflation expectations are well anchored.

Consumers and businesses respond not only to today’s economic conditions, but also to their expectations for the future, in particular their expectations for inflation. As then Fed Chair Janet Yellen noted in a September 2017 speech:

“In standard economic models, inflation expectations are an important determinant of actual inflation because, in deciding how much to adjust wages for individual jobs and prices of goods and services at a particular time, firms take into account the rate of overall inflation they expect to prevail in the future. Monetary policy presumably plays a key role in shaping these expectations by influencing the average rate of inflation experienced in the past over long periods of time, as well as by providing guidance about the FOMC’s objectives for inflation in the future.”

Inflation expectations have generally been low and stable around the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target since the 1980s. This stabilization of inflation expectations could be one reason why the Phillips Curve tradeoff appears weaker over time; if everyone just expects inflation to be 2 percent forever because they trust the Fed, then this might mask or suppress price changes in response to unemployment. This is indeed the reason put forth by some monetary policymakers as to why the traditional Phillips Curve has become a bad predictor of inflation.

US expectation of inflation

The labor market isn’t as tight as the low unemployment rate suggests:

Some argue that the unemployment rate is overstating the tightness of the labor market, because it isn’t taking account of all those people who have left the labor market in recent years but might be lured back now that jobs are increasingly available. Indeed, the long-run slide in the share of prime age workers who are in the labor market has started to reverse in recent years, as shown in the chart below.

Primate age labor force participation rate

If the labor market isn’t actually all that tight, then the unemployment rate might not actually be below its long-run sustainable rate. Another way of saying this is that the NAIRU might be lower than economists think. Proponents of this argument make the case that, at least in the short-run, the economy can sustain low unemployment as people rejoin the workforce without generating much inflation.


Some economists argue that the rise of large online stores like Amazon have increased efficiency in the retail sector and boosted price transparency, both of which have led to lower prices. Because this phenomenon is coinciding with a decline in the unemployment rate, it might be offsetting the increases in prices that would otherwise be forthcoming. But that doesn’t mean that the Phillips Curve is dead.

Why is this so important?

It is clear that the breakdown of the Phillips Curve relationship presents challenges for monetary policy. If the Phillips Curve relationship is dead, then low unemployment rates now may not be a cause for worry, meaning that the Fed can be less aggressive with rates hikes. It also means that the Fed may need to rethink how their actions link to their price stability objective. If, on the other hand, the underlying relationship between inflation and unemployment is active, then inflation will likely resurface and policymakers will want to act to slow the economy.

There is some disagreement among Fed policymakers about the usefulness of the Phillips Curve. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari have argued that the Phillips Curve has become a poor signal of future inflation and may not be all that useful for conducting monetary policy. This view was recorded in the January 2018 FOMC meeting minutes:

A couple of participants questioned the usefulness of a Phillips Curve-type framework for policymaking, citing the limited ability of such frameworks to capture the relationship between economic activity and inflation.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has often discussed the recent difficulty of estimating the unemployment inflation tradeoff from the Phillips Curve. Here he is in a June 2018 speech:

“Natural rate estimates [of unemployment] have always been uncertain, and may be even more so now as inflation has become less responsive to the unemployment rate. The anchoring of expectations is a welcome development and has likely played a role in flattening the Phillips Curve. But a flatter Phillips Curve makes it harder to assess whether movements in inflation reflect the cyclical position of the economy or other influences.”

However, Powell also notes that, to the extent the Phillips Curve relationship has become flatter because inflation expectations have become better anchored, this could be temporary:

We should also remember that where inflation expectations are well anchored, it is likely because central banks have kept inflation under control. If central banks were instead to try to exploit the non-responsiveness of inflation to low unemployment and push resource utilization significantly and persistently past sustainable levels, the public might begin to question our commitment to low inflation, and expectations could come under upward pressure.”

What’s more, other Fed officials, such as Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, have expressed fears about overheating the economy with the unemployment rate so low. In a May speech, she said:

“In the past, when labor markets have moved too far beyond maximum employment, with the unemployment rate moving substantially below estimates of its longer-run level for some time, the economy overheated, inflation rose, and the economy ended up in a recession. Achieving a soft landing is difficult…”

It seems unlikely that the Fed will get a definitive resolution to the Philips Curve puzzle, given that the debate has been raging since the 1990s. How the Fed responds to the uncertainty, however, will have far reaching implications for monetary policy and the economy.

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China Has Reached 802 Million Internet Users, According to Country’s Internet Development Report

China's internet development has released a report stating the number of internet users in China reached 802 million at the end of June, an increase of 3.8 percent from six months ago. From China's news outlet Xinhua reporting today: "The increase brought the country's internet availability rate to 57.7 percent, with 26.3 percent of internet users living in rural areas, according to the 42nd bi-annual statistical report from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). It also highlighted the growing use of the internet among those aged from 30 to 49, as 39.9 percent of them going online in the first half of the year."

From China Internet Report, co-authored by the South China Morning Post: "The sheer scale of China’s internet population means that the number of mobile internet users in China is three times bigger than that of the US, and the number of mobile payment users is up to 12 times larger."

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Sedo weekly sales led by

Sedo released their weekly sales and led the way at $50,000. for some reason sold for $28,600. 37 .com sales 15 cctld sales 10 other gtld sales sold for $14,999 and sold for $9,999.   Domain name Price Currency .COMs 50,000 USD 11,088 EUR 10,500 USD 10,000 […]

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Cuba’s 3G Mobile Access Trial – Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

On August 14 at 11 AM ETECSA, Cuba's monopoly ISP, began a 9-hour, nationwide test of 3G mobile Internet access — anyone near a 3G-equipped cell tower with a compatible phone and a prepaid mobile telephony account could get free access until 8 PM.

As far as I know, the only notification was this post on the ETECSA Facebook page, but word of the test and instructions for getting online spread by word of mouth.

The word spread rapidly. Oracle-Dyn continuously monitors the Internet and Doug Madory, their director of Internet analysis, noted a two-peak spike in Cuban DNS server queries during the test period:

(Note that the service became unavailable for half an hour around 2:30).

Paul Calvano, a Web performance architect at Akamai, also observed a roughly 25% increase in their HTTP traffic to Cuba during the trial period:

The rapid spread of the news of this unannounced test and the existence of a Cuban hacker culture born of years of keeping old cars and everything else running in spite of poverty and the trade embargo attest to a pent-up demand for connectivity.

My friend Huxley enthusiastically noted that:

The news ran like incendiary gunpowder on the Island. Hundreds of thousands of ETECSA customers trying to get access to IMO, to Facebook to Google while walking down Calle 23, the Malecón or from P2.

However, he went on to describe slow (.5 Mbps) unreliable service.

Is the cup half full or half empty?

The signs are not promising. Tourists and some officials and journalists have had 3G Internet access for some time, but the speed and reliability have been underwhelming. Now ETECSA says they will provide nationwide service to anyone with a compatible phone by the end of the year. Have they the capacity to handle the volume?

They say the service will be available "nationwide," but mobile coverage is not available throughout the nation.

As of June 1, 2018, there were over 1,400 cellular base stations and over 520 of them were 3G compatible. For example, there are only 19 3G base stations in Las Tunas and 10 of those are in the capital.

Upgrading a base station from 2 to 3G requires both new equipment and a faster link between the base station and the Internet — a large investment will be needed to upgrade all 1,400 base stations.

They say there are over 5 million mobile customers in Cuba, but how many of them have 3G-compatible phones? ETECSA will sell a lot of new phones when 3G service becomes available.

Okay — enough with the half-empty news. Let's assume that ETECSA eventually installs the infrastructure to provide 3G mobile connectivity at an affordable price in the most populated areas in Cuba and they have the capacity to meet the 1-3 Mbps speed alluded to on their Web site.

Would that constitute a half-full glass?

Not really. Mobile connectivity at speeds of 1-3 Mbps is obsolete — too slow for today's modern Web sites, which are designed with faster speeds in mind. The speed mismatch is exacerbated by the relatively low speed of the phones that are affordable in Cuba. A slow phone with a slow connection is useful for consuming and sharing content, but not for creating it.

I've discussed the possibility of differential pricing and government policy encouraging Cubans to use their national intranet rather than the global Internet in previous posts and that plus the inability to run modern Web applications will encourage the formation of a Cuban walled garden.

Before he became Cuba's president, Miguel Díaz-Canel hinted at a walled garden strategy when he addressed the Parliament saying "We need to be able to put the content of the revolution online," adding that Cubans could thus "counter the avalanche of pseudo-cultural, banal and vulgar content." I can't argue about banal and vulgar content (and worse), but the cure of a walled garden in a nation with a government-monopoly Internet service provider is worse than the disease.

I'm willing to credit the forthcoming 3G rollout as a half-full glass if the Cubans regard it as a temporary stopgap while they plan for a truly modern Internet with the goal of providing affordable, next-generation connectivity to the Global Internet. I'd call it 3/4-full if they'd commit to making 3G mobile connectivity free in the long run.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

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A prescription for play

By Michael Yogman, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek

This week, the journal Pediatrics featured a clarion call to encourage play as a way to reduce stress, promote social skills, and to embolden cognitive growth in young children.

With increasing scientific evidence as a foundation, the new report challenges pediatricians to offer a “prescription for play” as a way to enhance the urgency of reintroducing play and playful learning back into the daily lives of families. We, along with our colleagues, suggest that data from brain science, social development, toxic stress, and academic achievement all point to the critical importance of play in children’s (and animals) routine experience. Excising play through a 30 percent drop in recess coupled with a 29 percent rise in test preparation creates classroom contexts that are driven by narrowly didactic goals with even kindergarten classrooms having little or no time for play or choice time. Home environments are increasingly confining children to the indoors and to screen time. Indeed, a recent report found that 98 percent of children under 8 years old now have access to a mobile device at home, and the average time children spend on mobile devices tripled between 2013 and 2017, from 15 to 48 minutes per day.

This is not the first time that the American Academy of Pediatricians has issued a warning call. In 2006, Dr. Ken Ginsburg wrote that “a variety of factors that have reduced play, including a hurried lifestyle, changes in family structure, and increased attention to academics and enrichment activities at the expense of recess or free child-centered play.” By 2012, Ginsburg was joined by first author Dr. Regina Milteer in a piece entitled: “The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty.The article made the case that, “Play is essential to the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being of children beginning in early childhood. It is a natural tool for children to develop resiliency as they learn to cooperate, overcome challenges, and negotiate with others.” Somehow the pressures of technology, narrowly defined academic criteria for success and parent fear of outdoor discovery eclipsed opportunities for play.

This new article highlights several key points that rise from the collected research.

The first is that “play is not frivolous; it is brain building.” One study, for example, shows that young rats who play have lasting changes in brain architecture that feeds thinking and social interaction. Further, just two hours a day with objects affected brain density and efficiency. In contrast, play-deprived rats demonstrate deficiencies in problem solving. Though much more data needs to be collected on humans, a randomized experiment shows that 3-to-4-year olds who engaged in active play are better adjusted during stressful transitions.

The second is that research now points to play as a key conduit for executive function skills of memory, attention, impulse control, and flexibility. These learning-to-learn skills can be honed in the context of playful learning that is delivered throughout the school day. Indeed, the well-researched Tools of the Mind curricula uses play to harness these skills.

The science of learning tells us that while free play is important for the development of social competencies, these learning to learn skills and many academic skills like language, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) emerge in the context of guided play—where the adult initiates a playful environment and the child directs the exploration within that environment. In these moments of constrained tinkering, the child has agency but also leans towards a learning goal. Several studies from our lab and others, now demonstrate how guided play might offer a rich pedagogical approach that also allows for deep curricular learning. This work is reviewed in the new article and demonstrates the utility of guided play for learning in language, spatial knowledge, and mathematics to name a few.

Play is difficult to define clearly. Indeed, a new article by Jennifer M. Zosh and her colleagues suggests we best think of play as something joyful, active, engaging, meaningful socially interactive and iterative. Their definition encompasses a spectrum from free play (child initiated, child directed) to guided play (adult initiated, child guided), to games (adult initiated, child guided) to more direct instruction. The first has no extrinsic goal and the latter three do. Further, only activities in which the child directs what is going on in a fun, iterative way would “count” as play.

Whatever our definition ultimately becomes, one thing is clear—children have diminishing playtime and the newer research suggests that this has real consequences for their healthy development. The new report adds to the choir of reports issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics but does so with more research force behind it. While there is still much to learn, pediatricians offer an important front line in carrying the message about the benefits of play to their families. Just as Reach out and Read brought the message about the importance of book reading to millions of families through the trusted doctor’s office, a “prescription for play” can message the importance of play to millions of young children and their parents.

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ICANN’s ePDP – An Insider’s Perspective

Amazingly enough, summer is rapidly ending as kids head back to school, the temperatures in the mornings are just slightly cooler, and soon enough jeans and sweatshirts will be upon us. It also means that the important work on ICANN's temporary specification regarding WHOIS relative to GDPR has already aged a few months.

The ICANN Board adopted the temporary specification in May 2018 and it became effective on the 25th of the month. As the name implies, it's designed to be a temporary measure (in place for no more than a year) while the community works to create a formal policy.

Shortly after the June ICANN meeting in Panama City, the Expedited Policy Development Process (ePDP) to address WHOIS began. The ePDP group is comprised of 31 individuals representing various groups within the ICANN community including intellectual property interests, the governments who participate in ICANN, as well as the at-large users and contracted parties.

As a participant in the group representing the Registrar Stakeholder Group, I've got a front row seat to this first-of-its-kind process addressing a topic which has been front and center at ICANN since its inception.

The work group is responsible for three main deliverables:

#1. To start, the group is working to create a triage document to identify where there is consensus on the language within the temporary specification. Each group has been providing input by way of surveys which ask for feedback on specific language to identify where there is agreement or disagreement. We are currently in the process of this now and a draft triage report has already been created. It's been good to get a view into where each group stands on every point within the temporary specification.

#2. Next, the group will prepare an initial report (and then a final report after public comments have been received) which documents items that have reached full consensus in the aforementioned triage report. The timeline for this initial report is shortly after the ICANN meeting in Barcelona in October, and this final report is expected in January or February of next year.

#3. The final deliverable will be a report detailing a proposed model for providing accredited access to non-public registration data. The temporary specification calls for registrars and registries to provide "reasonable access" to non-public WHOIS data, but there are no specific details around that requirement. It is very clearly something which needs to be expanded upon. There is no proposed timeline for this phase of the working group yet, but there are a number of "gating questions" which need to be addressed before work on this can commence.

To date, the group has conducted six calls and will carry on with at least two calls per week along with countless e-mail discussion threads. We have gotten through most of the initial review of the temporary specification and it's clear to me that we have got our work cut out for us.

Every group participating in this effort is coming to the table with its specific view and historical experience with WHOIS and that is shaping the input provided. WHOIS has been one of the most contentious issues at ICANN for the better part of its history, so to think we could undertake this effort with ease would be naive.

While we all understand that compromise is going to be required on everyone's part, I think what's concerning to me is rather than looking at WHOIS specifically in light of GDPR (and what's likely lawful under it) we are trying to simply fit what has existed historically into this new paradigm. Oh and by the way, it's not just the European GDPR we should be concerned with as countries around the world look to enact similar privacy-focused regulations.

I get it. Everyone is used to how things have historically been, and no one likes change, but if this group is going to be successful we have got to all be willing to take a fresh look and work together to get this across the finish line. In the creation of this policy, the goal really is for it to stand up against whatever privacy-focused regulations may come our way in the future.

To say failure is not an option here would be an understatement. There really is no clear path forward if this group is unable to produce a final report with specific policy to replace the temporary specification when it expires in May of 2019. If that were to happen, it's not a stretch to think it would call into question the overall ability of ICANN (and the community) to manage the global DNS. That's not a scenario I want to see play out.

I remain hopeful that we will seize this opportunity and the community will ultimately be proud of what comes from this group. I am confident all involved share this sentiment and will work collectively to get us there.

Written by Matt Serlin, SVP, Client Services and Operations at Brandsight

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Disordering Modernism: On T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land : A Closer Look at JML 41.3

This post is part of a series that takes a closer look at the scholarship behind IU Press Journals. Primarily written by journal editors and contributors, posts may respond to articles, provide background, document the development process, or explain why scholars are excited about the journal, theme, or article.

Matthew Scully’s article, “Plasticity at the Violet Hour: Tiresias, The Waste Land, and Poetic Form,” from the Journal of Modern Literature’s newest issue, is now available on JSTOR & Project MUSE. Below, Matthew elaborates on modernist anxieties, order, and a claim that Eliot’s poem contains its own critique.

A letter exchange between T.S. Eliot and Otto Heller about The Waste Land characterized the poem as a site of “a struggle” between order and disorder (242). The poem would require some kind of balance between the two poles in order to qualify as a successful poem. But because it strives for “orderly” balance, the relation between the two terms is loaded, asymmetric, and thus privileges order. Both Eliot and Heller seem to evince some anxiety about order. Transposing this anxiety to my discussion of The Waste Land, I would say that Eliot’s anxieties regarding the poem, that are evident in the role accorded to Tiresias, are less about the threat of a lost ordering principle than they are about the presence of real disorder. Tiresias is indeed, as I argue, a central figure of the poem, but rather than merely order the poem’s fragments into a meaningful whole, he embodies their persistent dispersal. Tiresias figures a bodily excess at the heart of The Waste Land and the presence of unprincipled disorder. He functions both as the poem’s structuring principle and as its structural antagonist.

Using Catherine Malabou’s theories of plasticity, I draw out this disordering force of Tiresias. As a “plastic” figure of erotic potential and embodied materiality, Tiresias exceeds the strictly linguistic register. At The Waste Land’s center, he points to the “rhythm” of eroticism and sexual violence throughout the poem (Malabou 49). Following some of the movements of this rhythm, my essay shows that The Waste Land engages in both the sensible and the insensible experiences of materiality. By focusing on such materiality, the language of the poem disseminates at the same time it figures its own dissemination. Although Eliot was always interested in order, as in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in which “[t]he existing monuments [of art] form an ideal order among themselves” (38), he shows himself in The Waste Land to be an exemplary thinker of the disorder structuring and de-structuring order.

In this reading, the essay has—perhaps as its unconscious—a claim that Eliot’s exemplary modernist poem contains within itself its own critique and potential undoing. While I do not want to get too entangled in debates on the meanings of modernism, modernity, and postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard’s “simplified” definition of the postmodern “as incredulity toward metanarratives” (xxiv) proves instructive here. In contrast to postmodern “incredulity,” modernism might be understood as a desire for metanarratives, that is, for some governing structure of meaning and order. Postmodernism names, in contrast, the suspicion of this desire and, potentially, its critique. Tiresias should be the figure who can offer a metanarrative for the poem in whose construction he participates. And yet the poem repeatedly and insistently disturbs this possibility. Tiresias’s material and figural excess overwhelms the various ordering schemas offered. In this way, The Waste Land can be read both as a modernist poem, in its jarring confrontation between order and disorder that remains governed by its desire for a formal order, and as a postmodernist critique of this desire, since it also undermines ordering principles with a disordering drive. Rather than as merely period concepts, I therefore understand modernist and postmodernist as names for the structural antagonism inherent in The Waste Land.

This essay grew out of my own ongoing interest in modernist anxieties toward ordering logics, as evident in Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Wallace Stevens’s Ideas of Order, Mina Loy’s Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose, and Louis Zukofsky’s “A”, to name only a few examples. Eliot’s The Waste Land is an exemplary text to engage this interest and these anxieties, and Malabou’s work on plasticity offers a way to read the poem against Eliot’s desire for order. However, this reading is at the same time grounded in Eliot’s own writing and thinking. Locating a pervasive plasticity in The Waste Land allows for a renewed mode of experience of this metamorphic poem in the wake of its own deconstruction.

Works Cited

Eliot, T.S. The Letters of T.S. Eliot, 1923-1925. Vol. 2. Eds. Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton. Gen. Ed. John Haffenden. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011.

---. “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot. Ed. Frank Kermode. London: Faber and Faber, 1975. 37-44.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

Malabou, Catherine. Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing: Dialectic, Destruction, Deconstruction. Trans. Carolyn Shread. New York: Columbia UP, 2010.

Matthew Scully teaches literature and literary theory as an affiliated faculty member at Emerson College.

More from the Journal of Modern Literature 41.3 JML_cov


The Poet as Rhetor: A Reading of Wilfred Owen's “Dulce et Decorum Est” 
Stephen Benz

Marianne Moore's Cabinets of Curiosity
Sarah Berry

Lola Ridge, American Modernism's Forgotten Radical
Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet by Terese Svoboda
Review by: Joshua Logan Wall

“The Secrets of Blood and Seed”: Primo Levi's Poetic Emergence
Barbara L. Estrin

Whose (Meta)modernism?: Metamodernism, Race, and the Politics of Failure
James Brunton

It is I: Robert Creeley's Deictic Subjectivity and the Sublime Self
Andy Weaver

Making Conjuncture
The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley by Robert Creeley, Rod Smith, Peter Baker, Kaplan Harris
Review by: Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Trailing through the Thicket
Intricate Thicket: Reading Late Modernist Poetries by Mark Scroggins
Review by: Zhaohui Liu

Conceptualisms in Crisis: The Fate of Late Conceptual Poetry
Michael Leong

Career Windows
The First Book: Twentieth-Century Poetic Careers in America by Jesse Zuba
Review by: Mike Chasar

A Book of Readings on Anne Carson 
Anne Carson: Ecstatic Lyre by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Review by: Calista McRae

Eliot Returns

“The Eliot we have is the Eliot we make”: A Review of The New Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot 
The New Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot by Jason Harding
Review by: Chen Lin

Ekphrasis, Cultural Capital, and the Cultivation of Detachment in T.S. Eliot's Early Poetry
Frank Capogna

Plasticity at the Violet Hour: Tiresias, The Waste Land, and Poetic Form
Matthew Scully

A Myriad of Critical Lenses on The Waste Land
The Cambridge Companion to The Waste Land by Gabrielle McIntire
Review by: Ping Song

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Video Book Trailer: Our Higher Calling by Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein

New from UNC Press Blog

As we approach the beginning of another academic year, UNC Press is proud to be publishing the latest book by Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein, Our Higher Calling:  Rebuilding the Partnership between America and Its Colleges and Universities.

Here’s the book trailer the authors have prepared for the book:

Our Higher Calling by Holden Thorp and Buck GoldsteinThere is a growing sense of crisis and confusion about the purpose and sustainability of higher education in the United States. Despite efforts to integrate business-oriented thinking and implement new forms of accountability in colleges and universities, Americans from all backgrounds are losing confidence in the nation’s institutions of higher learning, and these institutions must increasingly confront what has proven to be an unsustainable business model. In their important new book, Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein draw on interviews with higher education thought leaders and their own experience, inside and outside the academy, to address these problems head on, articulating the challenges facing higher education and describing in pragmatic terms what can and cannot change–and what should and should not change.

Our Higher Calling is available now in both print and ebook editions.

For more information about the book, visit the book website,


Holden Thorp is provost and Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.  You can follow him on Twitter at @holdenWU.

Buck Goldstein is Professor of the Practice and University Entrepreneur in Residence in the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  You can follow him on Twitter at @buckgold1.

Together, they are the authors of Engines of Innovation:  The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-First Century, now in its second edition.



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The Voices of Linor Goralik

August is Women in Translation Month–a time in which we celebrate and read works in translation by female authors. In appreciation of our women in translation, this week we’re featuring Found Life: Poems, Stories, Comics, a Play, and an Interview, by Linor Goralik. Edited by Ainsley Morse, Maria Vassileva, and Maya Vinokour. Last fall Music & Literature published a
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The allure of the peasant in organic farming

Idealizing pre-modern life has a long history in western culture. When Europeans discovered the vast new world of the Americas, new visions and possibilities arose in their imagination, not just of the Native Americans that populated the new continent, but of Europeans themselves. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes understood Native Americans to live in a pre-civil condition, savages ridden with violence. Sharing the same humanity in common with Europeans, he argued that humans avoided this condition only by absolute sovereignty, such as held by an absolute monarch. In the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau imagined Native Americans as peaceful utopians, practicing free love, devoid of property claims and thus devoid of violence. Thomas Jefferson envisioned a republic of yeoman farmers independent from degenerate courts and large cities who served as the future’s best hope for the newly minted United States. The allure of the peasant has endured to our present day in many forms. The organic farming movement, in particular, channelled these ideals of peasant simplicity into modern urban culture in the twentieth century.

Organic farming evolved in response to industrialization and the globalization of foodstuffs. The loss of soil fertility that accompanied industrial farming in the latter part of the nineteenth century also led to the perceived loss of nutrition in the food that farms produced. To organic farmers in the mid-twentieth century, the protocols devised by Albert Howard, the founder of the organic farming movement, did more than merely restore the soil. It meant recovering the simplicity of life that they imagined went hand in hand with a pristine, natural, and healthy peasant life. Organic activists contrasted the healthy peasant life as an antidote to canned milk, canned food, adulterated bread, and crops raised on “chemical dope.” To a growing army of savvy consumers, organic farming represented a connection to a lost way of life and to vanishing spiritual values. This ideal of peasant virtue transmitted seamlessly into the environmental movement from the 1940s to the present.

Critics rightly claim that the idealization of the peasant is allied to the myth of the “noble savage” and to a form of Orientalism, that is, to imagining peasant societies found in the East (and elsewhere) as exotic. But it would be a severe misreading to characterize the peasant ideal as merely looking down on the “other”. Rather it was clearly admiration, if oversimplification, of rural living. The founder of organic farming, Albert Howard, along with his second wife, Louise Howard, pointed to the Hunza valley in the western Himalayas as a place where peasants lived in spectacular health and whose natural farming techniques protected the fertility of the soil. The Hunzas served as an antidote to industrial farming and consumerism. Much like the myth of Shambhala valley, later popularized as “Shangri-La” by James Hilton in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, imagining a peasant paradise served as a needed refuge from the stress of an unnatural modern lifestyle.

Image credit: Fair Trade Laos Coffee by Fair Trade Laos. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

Today, when one walks into a coffee shop in an American or European city, one will often find coffee posters on the walls picturing a smiling Latin American coffee farmer with a weathered face. Often the farmer is holding coffee beans in his outstretched hand, as if to show you that he produced it just for you. These pictures persuade consumers to buy coffee that is “fair-trade,” ethically sourced, or sustainably produced, and thus is fairer to the worker and better for the environment. Although it is easy to write these pictures off as crass advertising that “green-washes” idealized peasant life, the pictures are also powerful indicators of the persistent allure of rural values in an industrialized urban world.

Myths and symbols are still important to organic farming and to modern consumers. Just as the myth of a pristine peasant life gave a sense of natural authenticity to organic protocols, small farmers today have become a totem of authenticity in a globalized, homogenized, and increasingly monotonous corporate market. Urban consumers live in suburbs and cities far removed from the location where colourful bananas, coffee, and chocolate are grown. Coffee advertising, which changed significantly from the eighteenth to the late twentieth century, is a good example of this detachment. Only in the last few decades have marketers in the United States linked quality coffee with certification schemes to highlight an ethical relationship between consumer and producer.

Today, the romanticizing of the small farmer reflects the cultural and economic dynamics of post-colonial globalization. It also reflects the remarkable allure of the peasant image that has endured as part and parcel of the western, and now global, heritage.

Featured image credit: agriculture asia countryside cropland by Pixabay. Public domain via Pexels.

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