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KPFA - Against the Grain

Progressive Talk

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.

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.


Berkeley, CA


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.




Fund Drive Special: Participatory Economics

Michael Albert discusses his vision of an equitable, sustainable, and participatory economy. The post Fund Drive Special: Participatory Economics appeared first on KPFA.

Fund Drive Special: Noam Chomsky on Wealth and Power

Over the past half century, the US economy has undergone a profound change: wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a few, inequality has skyrocketed, and insecurity has reigned. And yet it’s a story mainly downplayed by mainstream pundits and the media. Noam Chomsky, arguably the most important public intellectual in the world, says that any discussion of democracy is pointless if we don’t recognize the corrosive effects of this class war from above. The post Fund Drive Special: Noam...

Fund Drive Special: Ram Dass on “Polishing the Mirror”

In “Polishing the Mirror,” the influential spiritual seeker and teacher Ram Dass shares his insights into human consciousness and awakening. The post Fund Drive Special: Ram Dass on “Polishing the Mirror” appeared first on KPFA.

Fund Drive Special: The Living Legacy of Slavery

The history of slavery in the United States casts a pall over our present. Berkeley-based documentary filmmaker Frances Causey illustrates how and why that is in a compelling and personal work, that traces four centuries of racial oppression in the United States. The post Fund Drive Special: The Living Legacy of Slavery appeared first on KPFA.

Fund Drive Special: Mushroom Expert Paul Stamets

Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets talks about mushrooms, human health, bee populations, psychoactive fungi, and more. (Image by Alan Rockefeller.) The post Fund Drive Special: Mushroom Expert Paul Stamets appeared first on KPFA.

Half-Earth Socialism

As the world rushes headlong into the climate emergency, what might a liberatory approach look like, that would avert ecological disaster while making another world possible? Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese have laid out one vision for eco-socialism that takes on the difficult question of how to plan society in a radically different way. Resources: Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese, Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics Verso, 2022...

Caregiving in Neoliberal Times

What do neoliberal policies and institutions do to people’s ability to care well for others? According to Sarah Clark Miller, caregivers experience moral precarity and moral injury, brought on by the fact that they can’t care for loved ones in ways that are consistent with their ethical principles. Maurice Hamington and Michael Flower, eds., Care Ethics in the Age of Precarity University of Minnesota Press, 2021 Sarah Clark Miller, The Ethics of Need: Agency, Dignity, and Obligation...

Amnesia and U.S. Intervention in Central America

With the passage of time, some things are remembered and others forgotten. In the case of Central America, argues historian Aviva Chomsky, amnesia has been consciously fostered. The long history of United States support for repressive regimes and policies often vanishes in discussions about contemporary violence in Central America and migration from the region. Chomsky contends that the history of resistance to U.S. intervention, both in Central America and the United States, also needs to...

Financialization & Student Anxiety

Various explanations have been offered for what’s been called an anxiety epidemic among university students, but Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou believes a crucial causal factor is financialization, the way the financial sector and its logic has permeated our social, economic, and individual lives. He sees signs of optimism in the proliferation of student mobilizations around the issue of anxiety. Max Haiven and Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, “An ‘Anxiety Epidemic’ in the Financialized University:...

The Labor of Veterans

Veterans are a prominent symbol in U.S. politics, evoking patriotism and military might. The right recruits them and they populate the police, private security, and often militia groups. But the struggles of veterans, and those currently working for the military, should be of concern for the left, argues Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early. They discuss the always non-union labor of military work, attempts to privatize veterans’ healthcare, and the political orientation of veterans and the...

Contemplating Incarceration

What happens when meditation and yoga are taught behind bars? Are the imprisoned student-practitioners prodded to view their suffering as generated solely by their thoughts and actions, or do the classes foster an awareness of the structural and systemic factors that contributed to their incarceration? Farah Godrej taught yoga and meditation in prison and interviewed both fellow instructors and formerly incarcerated practitioners. Farah Godrej, Freedom Inside? Yoga and Meditation in the...

Labor, Race, and the South

The failure to unionize the South, to organize Southern workers in the 1930s and ’40s on the basis of interracial worker solidarity, had momentous and enduring consequences for race relations and worker well-being in the U.S. as a whole. So argues Michael Goldfield, who in his new book points to the marginalization of leftists within unions and federations like the CIO. (Encore presentation.) Michael Goldfield, The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s Oxford...

Not Enough to Retire On

Retirement is something many of us don’t think much about, hoping we’ll have enough to live on when the time comes. But chances are, unless we’re lucky, we won’t. James Russell argues that the widespread shortfall in retirement income is the result of a bipartisan effort going back decades to move our savings away from traditional pensions to accounts like 401(k)s that enrich the financial services industry at our expense. (Encore presentation.) Resources: James W. Russell, The Labor Guide...

Dreams of Liberation

A 20th-anniversary edition of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, by the UCLA-based historian Robin Kelley, has just come out. Kelley spoke about his book shortly after it was published. Kelley later joined Against the Grain to talk about Aimé Césaire, one of the thinkers featured in Freedom Dreams. Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination Beacon, 2022 (Image on main page by Ivan Radic.) The post Dreams of Liberation appeared first on KPFA.

Conquering Outer Space

What can our fantasies about space tell us about life on earth? Fred Scharman discusses competing visions for long-term space occupancy over the last century and a half, many of them emanating from Russia and the United States even before the Cold War, and now monopolized by billionaires like Elon Musk. (Encore broadcast.) Resources: Fred Scharmen, Space Forces: A Critical History of Life in Outer Space Verso, 2021 The post Conquering Outer Space appeared first on KPFA.

The Nation, Reconsidered

Is a world of nation-states desirable? If ultranationalism is pernicious, are some forms of nationalism beneficial? Should struggles framed in terms of national liberation be lauded and supported? Nandita Sharma emphasizes the exclusions inherent in all nationalist politics, exclusions dictated by considerations of who does and does not belong to the nation. (Encore presentation.) Nandita Sharma, Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants Duke University...

The Words of Politics

Neoliberalism, centrist, radical, intersectionality, the people — these are all words that are used to mark out someone’s understanding of the world. Yet many of these words are fuzzy and obscure more than they illuminate. John Patrick Leary breaks down some of the key political words of our time. Resources: John Patrick Leary, Keywords for Capitalism: Power, Society, Politics Haymarket Books, 2022 The post The Words of Politics appeared first on KPFA.

Thrown Into Solitary

Who gets put into solitary confinement, and why? What roles do race, racism, and mental health diagnoses play? Terry Kupers describes what spending time in solitary does to the human psyche; he also cites recent changes in attitudes toward, and laws regulating, solitary confinement. (Encore presentation.) Bruce Arrigo and Brian Sellers, eds., The Pre-Crime Society: Crime, Culture, and Control in the Ultramodern Age Bristol University Press, 2021 Terry Kupers, Solitary: The Inside Story of...

The Legacy of the New Democrats

Historian Lily Geismer looks at how the the Democratic Leadership Council and Clinton-era Democratic Party increased inequality, through development zones, charter schools, welfare “reform”, and microfinance. Creative commons image The post The Legacy of the New Democrats appeared first on KPFA.

Anarchist Visions and Realities

According to James Martel, what anarchism opposes is “archism,” a form of politics based on rule and hierarchy. He points to three instances in which anarchism – by which he means horizontalist and collective politics– took hold: the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s; the Rojavan Revolution in contemporary Syria; and a region of Papua New Guinea where a man named Yali once held sway. James Martel, Anarchist Prophets: Disappointing Vision and the Power of Collective Sight Duke University Press,...