Lester Spence's "Knocking The Hustle"


I've been reading more about Lester Spence, a professor at John Hopkins University. His work is controversial. Although he is African-American, he frames political discourse in economic terms, such as pushing back against neoliberal capitalism, instead of identity, which has been the main political discourse in American politics. 

Because he is so out of the mainstream and pushes back against a lot of identity politics, his work is very contentious and incendiary. But I find a lot to like here. This passage from the link I found particularly enlightening and worth sharing: 

As Spence notes in his recently published book, Knocking the Hustle (Punctum), from the early 1970s to the present, American labor productivity has increased 80 percent while wages have stayed stagnant or declined. That we work more to earn as much as we once did—or even less—is a standard woe of the American economy in 2015. How these hip-hop celebrations of the hustler function in African-American communities, though, is what Spence finds disconcerting. Hustling is embraced as the appropriate adaptation to living in today's economy. The individual's having to learn whatever it takes to get by is a virtue in today's economy. Anybody who isn't constantly looking for ways to improve the return on his personal human capital simply isn't hustling enough. And for those people who are too lazy to maintain a level of at least subsistence hustle? Their failures and their poverty are a cul-de-sac of their own making. The black church will tell them that. Black elected officials and business elites will tell them that. Hell, Jay-Z himself will tell people that. In his song "Can't Knock the Hustle," he sneers at day-job drones who only work 9 to 5, "lunching, punching the clock."