Cover image of KPFA - Against the Grain

KPFA - Against the Grain

Award-winning program of ideas, in-depth analysis, and commentary on a variety of matters — political, economic, social, and cultural — important to progressive and radical thinking and activism. Against the Grain is co-produced and co-hosted by Sasha Lilley and C. S. Soong.

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Fund Drive Special: A Committed Life

Lynne Twist discusses her new book “Living a Committed Life: Finding Freedom and Fulfillment in a Purpose Larger Than Yourself.” The post Fund Drive Special: A Committed Life appeared first on KPFA.

7 Dec 2022

Rank #1

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Fund Drive Special: The Ebbing of Capitalism?

The world seems in dismal shape and only set to get worse. And capitalism appears to be the only option, spinning us further and further out of control. But Danny Dorling argues that if you take the longer view, stepping back and looking at measures like the rates of economic growth, innovation, debt, population growth, and more — the world is actually slowing down. He argues that it augurs a transition out of capitalism to a more stable society. Photo credit: Mc Gale The post Fund Drive Special: The Ebbing of Capitalism? appeared first on KPFA.

6 Dec 2022

Rank #2

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Sidewalk Planning and Politics

Sidewalks take us places, but they’re also places of their own, where all sorts of people come together and interact. Shannon Mattern, who has written about the history of the sidewalk, claims that we’re entering a new era of sidewalk planning, use, and politics, driven in large part by advances in communications, surveillance, and smart technologies. (Encore presentation.) Sarah Sharma and Rianka Singh, eds., Re-Understanding Media: Feminist Extensions of Marshall McLuhan Duke University Press, 2022 Shannon Mattern, A City Is Not a Computer: Other Urban Intelligences Princeton University Press, 2021 The post Sidewalk Planning and Politics appeared first on KPFA.

5 Dec 2022

Rank #3

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The Spoils of War

Why does the United States intervene militarily around the world? Supporters might claim that the U.S. acts in the interests of national security. For critics, a likely answer would be that the country wants to exercise influence and domination over others. Journalist Andrew Cockburn, however, argues that a great number of military decisions are based on financial benefit and profiteering, including for rival bureaucracies within the military. (Encore presentation.) Andrew Cockburn, The Spoils of War Power, Profit and the American War Machine Verso, 2021 The post The Spoils of War appeared first on KPFA.

30 Nov 2022

Rank #4

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Democratic Development

Where can one find an outstanding example of decentralized democracy? Richard Franke describes a remarkable initiative launched in the Indian state of Kerala that devolved power to the community level, made local development a bottom-up process, and drew on mass mobilizations to bring to light people’s needs and how best to address them. T.M. Thomas Isaac and Richard W. Franke, People’s Planning: Kerala, Local Democracy and Development LeftWord Books, 2021 The post Democratic Development appeared first on KPFA.


29 Nov 2022

Rank #5

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The Gentrification of Atlanta

Atlanta is a pivotal city for reasons cultural, economic, and political. And so the changes that the city and metropolitan area have undergone since the 1990s have been consequential, deepening class and racial inequality. As Dan Immergluck points out, these shifts were not the inevitable product of market forces, but the result of political decisions. He lays out the lessons that can been drawn from the gentrification of Atlanta. Resources: Dan Immergluck, Red Hot City: Housing, Race, and Exclusion in Twenty-First-Century Atlanta UC Press, 2022 The post The Gentrification of Atlanta appeared first on KPFA.


28 Nov 2022

Rank #6

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The Evolution of Belief

Belief conjures up political fanaticism and blind religiosity.  But evolutionary anthropologist Agustín Fuentes argues that belief is also connected to our capacities to imagine, create, and change the world for the better. He reflects on why the ability to commit passionately and wholeheartedly to an idea is a central part of what makes us human. (Encore presentation.) Agustín Fuentes, Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being Yale University Press, 2019 The post The Evolution of Belief appeared first on KPFA.


23 Nov 2022

Rank #7

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Nativism, Immigration, and Environmentalism

The Republican Party is gripped by a hatred of immigrants. But geographer Reece Jones argues it has not always been so. Instead, one man, the late John Tanton, was responsible for making nativism appear a central concern of conservatives, by propagating scores of anti-immigrant organizations, some which eventually helped staff the Trump Administration. And, as Jones points out, Tanton’s nativism originated from an unexpected place: the environmental movements of the Sixties. (Encore presentation.) Resources: Reece Jones, White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall Beacon Press, 2021 The post Nativism, Immigration, and Environmentalism appeared first on KPFA.


22 Nov 2022

Rank #8

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Preparing for Disaster

Bunkering and doomsday prepping, far from being eccentric or fringe activities, are baked into U.S. politics. So argues Emily Ray, who describes how Americans have been encouraged, by both Cold War administrations and today’s political elites, to think of doomsday preparation as an individual rather than collective endeavor, one that involves looking to the market for solutions. (Encore presentation.) The post Preparing for Disaster appeared first on KPFA.


21 Nov 2022

Rank #9

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Litigating Torture

Following the attacks of September 11th, the administration of George W. Bush instituted the widespread use of coercive interrogations of detainees, as well as kidnapping, forced disappearance, and sham commission proceedings. Yet for the first several years of the “war on terror” little was known about what the U.S. state was doing to prisoners, until hundreds of lawyers—some from the left, but others even from the military itself—challenged the U.S. government in court. Sociologist Lisa Hajjar describes the legal fight against torture and its legacy now. Resources: Lisa Hajjar, The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture UC Press, 2022 The post Litigating Torture appeared first on KPFA.


16 Nov 2022

Rank #10