Seattle is a city that demands we think outside the box, and few series exemplify this idea quite like Red May. For the month of May, speakers gather to interrogate contemporary issues through the lens of Marxism, political economy, feminism, race, and philosophy—and three of the festival’s marquee events are coming to paint Town Hall red.
On May 10, Bhaskar Sunkara and Nancy Fraser step up to bolster our faith in neoliberalism. They explore the building blocks of this ideal: the two central tenets of recognition (who deserves rights) and distribution (who deserves income). Sunkara and Fraser highlight the fraying of these ideals and break down the iconic words of political theorist Antonio Gramsci “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” Together Sunkara and Fraser outline ways we can combat the rising outsider populist politics on the right and left which represent a larger crisis of hegemony for neoliberalism.
Just one week later, the Red May City Council convenes for a panel discussion of our city’s rapid expansion. They address concerns from those who see Seattle as their home—concerns that a new high-paid, high-tech workforce is annexing the city’s spaces with rents and restaurants that only they can afford. They stoke this critical conversation and address the political, philosophical, and existential questions that define our city’s new urban struggle.
Following this discussion of a workforce takeover of Seattle, Red May brings us Down With Work! on May 23, an inquiry into the heart of the capitalist infatuation with work. This panel takes us on a deep dive into the activity we least like doing, questioning the idea that it’s normal and necessary to commit massive amounts of personal time and emotional energy to our jobs. They conceptualize the idea of modern society without work, envisioning alternatives to a civilization—and a population—free of the constraints of a workforce.
Many of us wonder about alternatives to capitalism, or the high-speed growth of Seattle’s buzzword culture. Red May offers us a refreshing idea: maybe we can’t move beyond capitalism right away, but at least we can take a month-long vacation from it.