Monday, September 21, 2009

CFP: Politics of Hope/Politics of Fear

Via the Society for Social and Political Philosophy:

FOR THE SOCIETY’S MEETING TO BE HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH
The Eastern APA (American Philosophical Association) in 2010

The SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to:

Politics of Hope / Politics of Fear

Hobbes famously wrote, “The passion to be reckoned upon is fear.” The connection thus established between the state and fear has been the basis not only of various political regimes, but of political theory by philosophers such as Spinoza, Hegel, Arendt and Massumi. In an age of color-coded warning systems, terrorism, and pandemic disease, the essential link between fear and politics seems beyond dispute, and demands investigation: How does fear work? Does it always reinforce authority, as Hobbes imagined? Can there be a revolt of fear? What is the connection between the fear that the masses fear and the fear they evoke in the corridors of power? More importantly, what remains of fear’s opposite, hope, in this Hobbesian world? How can hope function in a world overrun by fear? Does hope require a vision of a better world? Is there anything beyond the relation of hope and fear, a politics beyond the vacillation of these affects? For this panel we invite papers that examine either the “politics of fear” or the “politics of hope” in terms of both broad theoretical discussions (including examinations of the politics of the affects and imagination) and specific investigations into regimes of fear and hope.

Complete papers of 3000-5000 words (that can be summarized and presented in 20-30 minutes) should be submitted for consideration for the 2010 meeting (deadline: March 1, 2010). The APA Conference scheduled for December 27-30, 2010, in Boston, MA.

Authors should include their name(s) and contact information on the cover page ONLY.

Papers should be emailed as attachments in Word or RTF format to: papers_AT_sspp.us

CFP: Politics and Ontology

Via the Society for Social and Political Philosophy:

FOR THE SOCIETY’S MEETINGS TO BE HELD IN CONJUNCTION WITH
SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) in 2010

The SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to:

Politics and Ontology

We seek to explore and challenge the hypothesis that all political theory presupposes an ontology. From the presumption of universal rationality, to the potency of class consciousness, to the privileges shaped by the social existence of race, gender and sexuality, political order always is or implies an ontological order. In many respects, the ontological question is the political question. Struggles for political change are as much about the expansion (or contraction) of shared ontological categories as they are about the rewriting of legislation or the redistribution of power and resources . The traditional allocation of rights, for instance, has been determined almost entirely on the basis of who, or what, one is presumed to be. While ontology and politics share a long, interconnected history, for much of modern history the connection between them has been downplayed or denied, since liberalism is premised on bracketing such supposedly insoluble and inherently conflictual metaphysical questions. In recent decades, however, this has changed. The explicit investigation of political ontology has taken center stage and, as a consequence, what we understand to be political or ontological has changed as well. Politics is no longer limited to the state, but permeates all of social existence to include the terrain of imagination, emotions, and representation. Ontology is no longer an ultimate foundation, but is constituted through relations of power and affects. In the works of such authors as Gilles Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz, Giorgio Agamben, William Connolly, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Jean-Luc Nancy, Antonio Negri, and many others, the subject of political ontology has surfaced in an array of new formulations. For this panel, we invite papers that extend this investigation or that challenge this resurgence, both within the context of work that has already been done and in anticipation of work yet to be conceived.

Complete papers of 3000-5000 words (that can be summarized and presented in 20-30 minutes) should be submitted for consideration for the 2010 meeting (deadline: March 1, 2010). The SPEP Conference is scheduled for October 2010, in Montreal, Canada.

Authors should include their name(s) and contact information on the cover page ONLY.

Papers should be emailed as attachments in Word or RTF format to: papers_AT_sspp.us

Thursday, September 10, 2009

From Postmodernity to Aristotle

Here are some thoughts about what it means to live in postmodernity, taken from an essay I'm writing. I claim to identify three problems faced by "we postmoderns" which might motivate a return to the ancients, and especially to Aristotle. Thoughts?


The first problem of postmodernity that I would identify is the eclipse of the rule of law. Despite the resonance this might seem to have with a definitively liberal political discourse generated out of the Bush presidency, I am not referring to any empirical violation of the law, or even to the explicit Hobbesian argument that the chief executive is not bound by the law. Postmodernity is not marked by the return of extra-legal rule – tyranny or dictatorship – which was certainly a familiar-enough phenomenon during the reign of the modern consensus. Rather, to be postmodern is to suspect that the rule of law is, strictly speaking, nonsensical. The problem is conceptual, not empirical, as it were. The landmarks are not Guantanamo Bay and John Yoo, but Wittgenstein’s reductio ad absurdum of the notion of “applying” a rule, or Benjamin’s argument that all law is founded on and enforced by an essentially non-legal recourse to violence. The rule of law seems to be impossible to think, to be a sort of oxymoron. The universality of the law seems incommensurable with the singularity of the scene of its application. Hence, denizens of postmodernity feel the need for something like what Aristotle calls φρονησις, a sort of political wisdom or judgment that proceeds otherwise than by applying rules. This is the first call to return to Aristotle.

Moreover, postmodernity can also be characterized by the eclipse of the modern distinction between public and private. The division proposed by the liberal tradition, according to which the ends of action are private, while the means to those ends become public insofar as they impinge upon one another, seems to have lost its purchase. Again, the problem is not empirical; the liberal paradigm is founded upon diagnoses of and remedies for the empirical tendencies of the state to impose ends on its citizens and of those citizens to trespass on one another’s liberty. The postmodern problem arises when it seems that those very remedies only accelerate the tendencies they are supposed to check. We are forced, repeatedly, to choose between tendencies toward privatization and tendencies towards politicization that are equally merciless and asymptotically totalizing. The market increasingly subsumes not only the non-governmental institutions that are supposed to be the conservative bulwark of civil society – clubs, churches, families, universities – but even the very state functions – policing, soldiering, administering law, and even writing legislation – that are most central to public affairs. On the other hand, since everything seems to affect everyone (as revealed by the very cost-benefit analysis that articulates the calculative logic of privatization), everything seems to fall within the purview of administration and regulation by the state, or at least of political debate. Consequently, we postmoderns feel the need to rediscover some principle that would demarcate and harmonize the arenas of common being and private life. This is the second call to return to Aristotle.

Finally, postmodernity is marked by what I would call the eclipse of autonomy. Modernity was the era of the serene certainty that only those laws or norms were binding for a person which that person could be considered to have authored. We postmoderns, by contrast, experience a profound disquiet about the origin, force, and appropriateness of rules or norms, a disquiet that is not comforted by inquiring into whether we might ourselves have authored the rules and norms we obey. In fact, one lesson that could be drawn from the mid-to-late-20th century conjunction of a) rebellions against and flights from secular organizations of all kinds, and b) the metastatic growth of enthusiastic, fundamentalist, and evangelical churches of all stripes is this: the more we are told that we can, do, and/or should construct our own sets of rules or norms, the more oppressive and paralyzing such norms feel. We no longer trust ourselves with ruling ourselves. In this situation, the old questions – What is it to rule and to be ruled? Where do rules come from? Who should rule? – are questionable and interesting once again. This is the third call to return to Aristotle.