Charles Derber

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Charles Derber
Author. Sociologist

Charles Derber is a professor of sociology at Boston College and has written 25 books. Most recently, he coauthored Dying for Capitalism: How Big Money Fuels Extinction and What We Can Do About It (Routledge, 2023).

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Charles Derber is an American Professor of Sociology at Boston College. His work focuses on the crises of capitalism, globalization, corporate power, neo-fascism, American militarism, the culture of hegemony, the climate crisis, and the new peace and global justice movements.

Derber espouses a public sociology that brings sociological perspectives to a general audience. Derber lectures widely at universities, companies, and community groups, and appears on numerous media outlets. His op-eds and essays appear in The New York Times, Newsday, The Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, China’s People’s Daily , Truthout, and Tikkun, as well as other newspapers and online media, and he has been interviewed by Newsweek, Business Week, Time, and other news magazines. He speaks frequently on National Public Radio, on talk radio, and on television. His work has been reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Washington Monthly, and numerous other magazines and newspapers.

Derber is also a life-long activist for social justice. In the spirit of the great sociologist C. Wright Mills, he believes in the responsibility of intellectuals to speak truth to power and to match words with action.

Capital is coordinated and globalized. Our struggles against injustice and oppression must be the same.
Open Democracy | February 2020
In his book Internationalism or Extinction [edited by Charles Derber, Paul Shannon and Suren Moodliar], Noam Chomsky traces the duality of existential threats from nuclear weapons and climate change. He argues for the urgency of international climate and arms agreements, and shows how global popular movements are mobilizing to force governments to meet this unprecedented challenge to civilization’s survival.
Here's How That Might Play Out
Salon | October 2019

“Trump’s presidency has been treated as a fluke, but it actually represents a very old ideology of capitalism. When Trump became president, the media and liberals became nostalgic for Reagan, saying that Reagan would never do what Trump was doing. In reality, Trump was Reagan’s heir. Reagan appointed Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan’s five terms as Chairman included two reappointments by Bill Clinton, which suggests his paradigm was accepted by some Democrats." (Co-authored by Yale Magrass)

How Capitalism Teaches Us a “Security Story”
Salon | March 2019

The capitalist economy has always relied on an upstairs/downstairs architecture, which ultimately shores up beliefs about who is worthy of a decent standard of living and who isn’t.

Whether the worthy are defined as those with stronger moral fiber or greater creativity, the governing mythology is that people get what they deserve. Those living upstairs have earned their privilege and those below deserve their deprivation.  This architecture is so embedded in our society and so normalized that some of us barely notice it.

Our Bully Nation Long Preceded Trump
Salon | December 2017

We live in militaristic capitalism. Capitalism is bullying; it is a competition with winners and losers. Militarism is also bullying: violence, aggression, and submission to authority. Militaristic capitalism combines two bullying principles, which multiplies their effect. The United States openly views itself as the world police force, a benign hegemon morally ordained to impose its interests and values on the rest of the world and justified in the name of freedom, human rights, and antiterrorism to do whatever it wants to weaker countries. The United States spends more on weapons than its ten largest competitors combined. (Co-written with Yale R. Magrass).

Publications by this author
Why the Arms Race Doesn't Matter—And What Does
Co-author: William A. Schwartz | University of California Press | May 2021

This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1990.

Power and Ego in Everyday Life
Oxford University Press | June 2000

“Enough about me,” goes the old saying, “what about you? What do you think about me?” Hence the pursuit of attention is alive and well. Even the Oxford English Dictionary reveals a modern coinage to reflect the chase in our technological age: "ego-surfing"--searching the Internet for occurrences of your own name. What is the cause of this obsessive need for others' recognition? This useful and popular volume, now in a second edition that features major new introductory and concluding essays, entertainingly ponders this question. Derber argues that there is a general lack of social support in today's America, one which causes people to vie hungrily for attention, and he shows how individuals will often employ numerous techniques to turn the course of a conversation towards themselves. Illustrating this "conversational narcissism" with sample dialogues that will seem disturbingly familiar to all readers, this book analyzes the pursuit of attention in conversation--as well as in politics and celebrity culture--and demonstrates the ultimate importance of gender, class, and racial differences in competing for attention. Derber shows how changes in the economy and culture--such as the advent of the Internet--have intensified the rampant individualism and egotism of today. And finally, in a new afterword, he focuses on solutions: how to restructure the economy and culture to humanize ourselves and increase the capacity for community, empathy, and attention-giving.

(Universalizing Resistance)
Co-author: Suren Moodliar | Routledge | 2023

This is an original, accessible book for scholars, students, activists, and the general public on the greatest crisis the world has faced. The authors challenge the widespread notion that a green and peaceful set of technological reforms in the current economic and political systemperhaps a “green capitalism”can prevent disaster. Dying for Capitalism analyzes the “triangle of extinction” that links capitalism, environmental destruction, and militarism as a system that cannot sustain life on the planet. The authors analyze how the extinction triangle evolved historically, how it functions globally as integral to the world capitalist order, and how the United States has become the dominant “extinction nation.” They also show how recent anti-democratic and anti-scientific cultural and political forces intensify denial of the threat and subordinate health and survival to profit and extreme concentrated power.

The book offers a “slender path” of social and political transformation that can prevent catastrophe. The path requires moving beyond current ruling systems. But possibilities of survival arise from action at local, state, regional, and global levels through multiple strategies and movements that already exist. The authors draw on the history of abolitionism and emancipation from slavery in the United States to show how a system that appears unchangeable can be transformed, while describing organizations, movements, and practices that are models of hope and a shift from the triangle of extinction to the “circle of creation.”

A People's Sociology of the United States
Routledge | December 2013

Charles Derber introduces and vividly explains the idea of a sociopathic society and why the idea has become necessary to understand today s world. Sociopathic society is rooted in governments and economies, not psychiatry. The book offers a new sociology of societies organized around antisocial values, which ultimately lead to societal and planetary self-destruction. Most of the sociopathic behaviors are perfectly legal and are perpetrated by governments, financial institutions, and corporate capitalism.Focusing on the United States, Derber connects the dots of Wall Street meltdown, guns and murder, uninhibited greed, the 1 percent and the 99 percent, a new crisis of unemployable surplus people, Hurricane Sandy and global warming, cheating scandals, and more including the war on democracy itself. Although the book brings together a breathtaking set of stories of a system run wild, it also offers hope, showing pathways for confronting and avoiding the many ways a society can commit sociocide.

Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times
Routledge | June 2017

When the Women’s March gathered millions just one day after Trump’s inauguration, a new era of progressive action was born. Organizing on the far Right led to Trump’s election, bringing authoritarianism and the specter of neo-fascism, and intensifying corporate capitalism’s growing crises of inequality and injustices. Yet now we see a new universalizing resistance among progressive and left movements for truth, dignity, and a world based on democracy, equality, and sustainability.

Derber ​offers the first comprehensive guide to this new era and an original vision and strategy for movement success. He convincingly shows how only a new ​universalizing​ wave, a ​progressive​ and revolutionary “movement of movements,” can counter the world-universalizing economic and cultural forces of intensifying corporate and far-right power.

Derber explores the crises and eroding legitimacy of the globalized​ capitalist system ​and the right wing movements​ that helped create the Trump era​​. He shows​ how​ left universalizing movements canand mustconverge ​ to propel a​ mass base that can prevent societal, economic, or ecological collapse, stop a resurgent Right, and build a democratic social alternative.

Solving Climate Change and Remaking the Economy
Routledge | November 2009

This book shows how we can solve the climate change crisis, which is the greatest threat humanity has faced. Charles Derber, a prominent sociologist and political economist, shows that global warming is a symptom of deep pathologies in global capitalism. In conversational and passionate writing, Derber shows that climate change is capitalism's time bomb, certain to explode unless we rapidly transform our economy and create a new green American Dream Derber shows there is hope in the financial meltdown and Great Recession we are now suffering. The economic crisis has raised deep questions about Wall Street and the US capitalist model. Derber systematically explores the causal links between capitalism and climate change, a taboo subject in the U.S, and opens up new thinking to solve both the economic and climate crises.

How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives—And What We Can Do About It
Co-author: Ralph Nader | St. Martin's Griffin | April 2000

Foreword by Ralph Nader. In Corporation Nation Derber addresses the unchecked power of today's corporations to shape the way we work, earn, buy, sell, and think―the very way we live. Huge, far-reaching mergers are now commonplace, downsizing is rampant, and our lines of communication, news and entertainment media, jobs, and savings are increasingly controlled by a handful of global―and unaccountable―conglomerates. We are, in effect, losing our financial and emotional security, depending more than ever on the whim of these corporations. But it doesn't have to be this way, as this book makes clear. Just as the original Populist movement of the nineteenth century helped dethrone the robber barons, Derber contends that a new, positive populism can help the U.S. workforce regain its self-control.

Drawing on core sociological concepts and demonstrating the power of the sociological imagination, he calls for revisions in our corporate system, changes designed to keep corporations healthy while also making them answerable to the people. From rewriting corporate charters to altering consumer habits, Derber offers new aims for businesses and empowering strategies by which we all can make a difference.

Interview | October 2023

Hosted by Andrew Keen, Keen On features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the economic, political, and technological issues being discussed in the news, right now.

Andrew talks to Charles Derber, co-author of Dying for Capitalism, about how big money fuels extinction and what we can do about it.

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