Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Panel to be held at the 2011 meeting of the Society for Existential and Phe-nomenological Theory and Culture, May 31–June 3, at the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, in conjunction with the Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
For much of the twentieth century, the concept of reification was a powerful tool in the intellectual arsenal of Marxist social critique. Beginning with Georg Lukács, and continuing through the work of figures such as Horkheimer, Ador-no, and Marcuse, the concept provided critical social theory with an incisive analytical capacity that also lent normative support to emancipatory goals. Along with much of the conceptual apparatus of Marxism, however, during the latter decades of the twentieth century the idea of reification grew increasingly marginalized within humanistic and social-scientific disciplines. With the new century, though, there are signs of renewed interest in the concept—for exam-ple, Timothy Bewes’ Reification, or the Anxiety of Late Capitalism (2002), Axel Honneth’s Reification: A New Look at an Old Idea (2008), and Kevin Floyd’s The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism (2009). While such contribu-tions differ considerably in terms of their disciplinary foci and underlying theo-retical commitments, they nonetheless jointly attest to the idea that there may be an important place for a renewed concept of reification within contempo-rary critical social theory. The aim of this panel is to explore — from phenome-nological and existential perspectives — the potential value and feasibility of such a conceptual retrieval. Papers may address any aspect of reification, al-though those with a contemporary focus and/or interdisciplinary approach are especially welcome.
Paper proposals should be sent to Bryan Smyth (email@example.com) by December 1, 2010. Proposals should include the title, author’s name, institu-tional affiliation, and a detailed abstract of approximately 250 words. Propos-als will be initially reviewed by the panel organizers, and acceptance will be conditional upon the author’s ability to submit a complete paper (not more than 4000 words) by February 1, 2011 for anonymous review.
For further information, contact Bryan Smyth (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Franz Fanon, in "On Violence," makes the following, arresting claim: “The violence which governed the ordering of the colonial world […] will be vindicated and appropriated when, taking history into their own hands, the colonized swarm into the forbidden cities.” (pp. 5-6)
This seems to say that colonialism will come to be justified, retrospectively, by decolonization. This theme in Fanon is an echo of a theme in Marxism and many other radical liberation movements: that of an eschatological redemption of history, or the justification of suffering by its overcoming.
Monday, September 20, 2010
I suspect that Scott has been mildly embarrassed by the libertarian enthusiasm for Seeing Like a State, and since its publication he’s been at pains to be clearer than he was in the book that the market can also be a force of high-modernist social flattening. But he has not (that I’m aware of) pushed the thought very far, or told his readers much about when the market is that kind of force on its own, and when it is so when joined to state power.My Marxist self jumps up and down and yells: when have there been extensive markets that were not joined to state power!?!?!?!?!?!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
And another post at CT, this one about James Scott vs. Hayek on markets and the loss of local knowledge. Scott, btw, is speaking here in Montreal this coming Monday, 20 September:
The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture at Concordia University announces: Professor JAMES C. SCOTT: "The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia." A lecture on Monday, September 20, 2010, at 7pm; Hall Building (corner of Bishop and de Maisonneuve), room 763.
Monday, September 6, 2010
- Universal, equal, and direct suffrage with secret ballot in all elections, for all citizens of the Reich over the age of twenty, without distinction of sex. Proportional representation, and, until this is introduced, legal redistribution of electoral districts after every census. Two-year legislative periods. Holding of elections on a legal holiday. Compensation for elected representatives. Suspension of every restriction on political rights, except in the case of legal incapacity.
- Direct legislation by the people through the rights of proposal and rejection. Self-determination and self-government of the people in Reich, state, province, and municipality. Election by the people of magistrates, who are answerable and liable to them. Annual voting of taxes.
- Education of all to bear arms. Militia in the place of the standing army. Determination by the popular assembly on questions of war and peace. Settlement of all international disputes by arbitration.
- Abolition of all laws that place women at a disadvantage compared with men in matters of public or private law.
- Abolition of all laws that limit or suppress the free expression of opinion and restrict or suppress the right of association and assembly. Declaration that religion is a private matter. Abolition of all expenditures from public funds for ecclesiastical and religious purposes. Ecclesiastical and religious communities are to be regarded as private associations that regulate their affairs entirely autonomously.
- Secularization of schools. Compulsory attendance at the public Volksschule [extended elementary school]. Free education, free educational materials, and free meals in the public Volksschulen, as well as at higher educational institutions for those boys and girls considered qualified for further education by virtue of their abilities.
- Free administration of justice and free legal assistance. Administration of the law by judges elected by the people. Appeal in criminal cases. Compensation for individuals unjustly accused, imprisoned, or sentenced. Abolition of capital punishment.
- Free medical care, including midwifery and medicines. Free burial.
- Graduated income and property tax for defraying all public expenditures, to the extent that they are to be paid for by taxation. Inheritance tax, graduated according to the size of the inheritance and the degree of kinship. Abolition of all indirect taxes, customs, and other economic measures that sacrifice the interests of the community to those of a privileged few.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
The Society for Social and Political Philosophy is pleased to issue a
CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS
for a Roundtable on Marx’s Capital
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, February 24-27, 2011
Keynote address by Harry Cleaver
Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Reading Capital Politically
The SSPP’s second Roundtable will explore Volume One of Marx’s Capital (1867). We chose this text because the resurgence in references to and mentions of Marx – provoked especially by the current financial crisis and global recession, but presaged by the best-seller status of Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Marx’s surprising victory in the BBC’s “greatest philosopher” poll – has only served to highlight the fact that there have arguably not been any new interpretive or theoretical approaches to this book since the Althusserian and autonomist readings of the 1960s.
The question that faces us is this: Does the return of Marx mean that we have been thrust into the past, such that long “obsolete” approaches have a newfound currency, or does in mean, on the contrary, that Marx has something new to say to us, and that new approaches to his text are called for?
The guiding hypothesis of this Roundtable is that if new readings of Capital are called for, then it is new readers who will produce them.
Therefore, we are calling for applications from scholars interested in approaching Marx’s magnum opus with fresh eyes, willing to open it to the first page and read it through to the end without knowing what they might find. Applicants need not be experts in Marx or in Marxism. Applicants must, however, specialize in some area of social or political philosophy. Applicants must also be interested in teaching and learning from their fellows, and in nurturing wide-ranging and diverse inquiries into the history of political thought.
If selected for participation, applicants will deliver a written, roundtable-style presentation on a specific part or theme of the text. Your approach to the text might be driven by historical or contemporary concerns, and it might issue from an interest in a theme or a figure (be it Aristotle or Foucault). Whatever your approach, however, your presentation must centrally investigate some aspect of the text of Capital. Spaces are very limited.
Applicants should send the following materials as email attachments (.doc/.rtf/.pdf) to email@example.com by September 15, 2010:
• Curriculum Vitae
• One page statement of interest, including a discussion of a) the topics you wish to explore in a roundtable presentation, and b) the projected significance of participation for your research and/or teaching.
All applicants will be notified of the outcome of the selection process via email on or before October 15, 2010. Participants will be asked to send a draft or outline of their presentation to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2011 so that we can finalize the program.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Aristotle, Politics [that is: “what is proper to the citizen”]
(1252a1) Since we see that every city is a sort of community and that every community is joined together for the sake of some good – for everyone does everything for the favor of what seems to be good – then clearly, as every community endeavors for some good, doubtless (5) the most sovereign of all will endeavor for the most sovereign of all goods and the one encompassing all the others. And this community is called the city or the political community.
And so those who suppose that what is proper to a citizen and to a king and to the head of a household and to a master are all the same do not speak beautifully. For they hold that each of these is (10) distinguished by being many or few, but not by its form, such that a few would be proper to a master, more to the head of a household, and yet more to a citizen or a king, as if there were no distinction between a large household and a small city. And as for what is proper to a citizen and to a king, whenever one is set above, this is kingly, and whenever, one in part rules and in part is ruled, (15) according to the account of science, this is civic. But none of this is true.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The IDF attacked the flotilla in international waters, [and there was no preliminary attempt to turn the boats back by other means -- commando raid was the tactic of first choice][Incorrect: see update]. When the soldiers boarded, they were met with stiff resistance -- the first ones were clubbed and and least one was thrown overboard. In response to this resistance, the IDF soldiers opened fire, and 10-19 activists from the flotilla were killed. No IDF commandos were killed.
The IDF maintains a blog, where you can see their portrayal of the event. It prominently features video of the raid, showing the first commandos aboard being beaten, and photos and video showing the assortment of kitchen knives, metal pipes, and sundry other weapons deployed by the activists in their attempt to ward off the raid. The blog refers to the activists' resistance this way: "the activists on board lynched the soldiers in a planned attack."
My project is to try to flesh out a neo-Marxian politics using resources from institutional and new institutional economics. I begin from the hypothesis that human beings are evil. I try to be a little deflationary about this; when I say we are evil, I do not mean that we are malicious – though we can be – but only that we are not very good cooperators. This is because we are, at least potentially, a) prudentially rational agents, b) who act independently of one another, but c) who are dependent on one another for realizing our desired outcomes. In other words, we face the persistent threat of coordination problems.
Monday, April 26, 2010
- 13 h - 14 h Pierre-Yves Néron, CRÉUM : Public Capitalism
- 14 h - 15 h Pablo Gilabert, Concordia University : Socialism
- 15 h - 15 h 15 : Pause café
- 15 h 15 - 16 h 30 David Casassas, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona : Property-owning Democracy
For example: Does the just society have neighbors? Does it have borders? If so, do these facts have any impact on what it means to be a just society? A just society has citizens; does it also have non-citizen residents? Does a just society engage in foreign trade, or does it produce all it needs? Either way, what does a just society produce? What does it need? Do trade relations or production relations ahve any impact on what it means to be a just society? Are its neighbors friendly or hostile? Does this matter for justice? Does a just society have a history? Is this history a history of justice? Does this history have any impact on the institutions of the basic structure? I just don't know how to bracket these questions in order to consider a just social order "in itself."
(Hell, even Plato didn't bracket these questions; the consideration that really gets the construction of the city in speech undrway in the Republic is the consideration that the city will be one of many, will have neighbors, and must be prepared to defend itself against them.)
Anyway, a very nice event anyway...
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
The earliest use of any of these variants that I know of is by Marx in his "1844 manuscripts." Discussing the development of English political economy after Adam Smith, Marx writes:
It is therefore another great achievement of modern English political economy to have declared rent of land to be the difference in the interest yielded by the worst and the best land under cultivation; to have [exposed] the landowner's romantic illusions – his alleged social importance and the identity of his interest with the interest of society, a view still maintained by Adam Smith after the Physiocrats; and to [have] anticipated and prepared the movement of the real world which will transform the landowner into an ordinary, prosaic capitalist, and thus simplify and sharpen the contradiction [between capital and labour] and hasten its resolution. Land as land, and rent as rent, have lost their distinction of rank and become insignificant capital and interest – or rather, capital and interest that signify only money.There is also a passage in Hegel's Logic (paragraph 961) that clearly has all of the elements:
Intelligent reflection, to mention this here, consists, on the contrary, in grasping and asserting contradiction. Even though it does not express the Notion of things and their relationships and has for its material and content only the determinations of ordinary thinking, it does bring these into a relation that contains their contradiction and allows their Notion to show or shine through the contradiction. Thinking reason, however, sharpens, so to say, the blunt difference of diverse terms, the mere manifoldness of pictorial thinking, into essential difference, into opposition. Only when the manifold terms have been driven to the point of contradiction to they become active and lively towards one another, receiving in contradiction the negativity which is the indwelling pulsation of self-movement and spontaneous activity.Neither of these texts, however, employ the phrase in the sense it came to have in 20th century Marxism -- promoting revolution by making the current state of things more intolerable. Rosa Luxemburg comes closer in Reform or Revolution (1900):
In other words, when evaluated from the angle of their final effect on capitalist economy, cartels and trusts fail as “means of adaptation.” They fail to attenuate the contradictions of capitalism. On the contrary, they appear to be an instrument of greater anarchy. They encourage the further development of the internal contradictions of capitalism. They accelerate the coming of a general decline of capitalism.As had August Bebel before her in Woman and Socialism (1879):
Since one industry furnishes the raw material to another and one depends upon the other, the ills that befall one must affect the others. The circle of those affected widens. Many obligations that had been entered upon in the hope of prolonged favorable conditions cannot be met, and heighten the crisis that grows worse from month to month.But these texts don't suggest accelerating or heightening contradictions as a revolutionary strategy, but only as part of the process of capitalist development.
Lenin comes closer, in "The Heritage We Renounce" (1897):
The enlightener believes in the present course of social development, because he fails to observe its inherent contradictions. The Narodnik fears the present course of social development, because he is already aware of these contradictions. The “disciple” [of dialectical materialism] believes in the present course of social development, because he sees the only earnest hope of a better future in the full development of these contradictions. The first and last trends therefore strive to support, accelerate, facilitate development along the present path, to remove all obstacles which hamper this development and retard it.So maybe the folk wisdom that attributes the strategy of accelerating the contradictions to Leninism is more or less correct!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Jason Stanley, a philosopher at Rutgers, has an article in Inside Higher Ed bemoaning the fact that philosophy is alienated from the rest of the humanities. This is a distillation of various complaints Stanley has aired in recent years on Brian Leiter's blog (which writings can be perused here). He forwards three bits of evidence for this sorry state of affairs:
- Philosophers don't win the big prizes in the humanities -- MacArthur grants, Guggenheim fellowships, ACLS New Faculty fellowships -- at the same rate as historians and other humanists. (The numbers with which he backs this up are questionable.)
- "Most American humanists are unclear about how the debates of philosophers are supposed to fit into the overall project of the humanities. We are ignored at dinner parties, and considered arrogant and perhaps uncouth." (I'm not sure why Mr. Stanley's unpopularity at dinner parties is an interesting topic for IHE.)
- "To add insult to injury, the name of our profession is liberally bestowed on those teaching in completely different departments." (By which he means, horror of horrors, that "Many academics use the term "philosopher" not as a description of the people working on the set of problems that occupy our time [i.e., the time of academic philosophers like Mr. Stanley], but rather as a certain kind of honorific [for anyone] who constructs some kind of admirable general theory about a discipline.")
It's clear to me why (say) someone working in metaphysics is not likely to have more insight into the human condition than the average mortal. It's because many people working in metaphysics are captured principally by the problem of working out the consistencies of an abstract problem space with only dubious connections to how we live our lives. Moral philosophers tend as a whole to be exactly the same as metaphysicians, except they have chosen a somewhat different problem space to explore the logical relations between theses.What is there for a humanist to take interest in here? Why should the logical relations among theses in a problem space be of any concern to a historian, anthropologist, or student of literature?
Monday, March 29, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Stalinists believe in the state, not in entrepreneurs.
Libertarians believe in entrepreneurs, not in the state.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
MARX AND PHILOSOPHY REVIEW OF BOOKS
- Announcing the launch of a new online review of books covering Marxism and philosophy
- First batch of reviews now online
- New reviews added regularly
- Part of the redesigned Marx & Philosophy Society web site
- Edited by Sean Sayers and members of the Society
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I don't know the precise form of basic income guarantee advocated by all of the speakers at the conference, but it is certainly worth differentiating between the negative income tax advocated by neoliberals and neo-classical economists (of which the US earned income tax credit is an instance) and the basic income guarantee, which would be unconditional (except, perhaps, ofr citizenship), and hence not means-tested or tied to employment.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
First up: the matrix of historicisms.
This is an attempt to present in a more articulate manner the introductory remarks to my paper on Virno and Aristotle, which were marred by my inability to remember how to draw a simple matrix on the chalkboard.
My talk was to have been, to some extent, concerned with the “family politics” of communists – the friends and enemies, lineages and filiations, by which we construct our identities. In asking about and proposing to discuss Aristotle’s communism, I wanted to avoid – or at least postpone drawing – the seemingly foregone conclusion that Aristotle was in his day, and is even now one of the preeminent anti-communists: critic of Plato’s communist scheme, defender of private property and slavery, basing his entire ontology on the “substance” of the landed proprietor. Either he is no ancestor at all, or, if some distant consanguinity must be admitted, then it must just as surely be renounced, and any holdings that come down from it sold off, used up, or simply abandoned to the elements. Besides, the anti-communists seem more than happy to enshrine Aristotle alongside their honored dead.
However – and this is the first complication – there are several distinct anti-communist Aristotles, each of whom is anti-communist by way of a distinct proxy for communism. Murray Rothbard’s Aristotle is anti-communist because his empiricism and pluralism are supposed to be anti-Platonist. Here, communism is figured as an extreme form of authoritarian rationalism. Ayn Rand’s Aristotle is anti-communist because his realism and elitism are supposed to be anti-Kantian. Here, then, communism is figured as an extreme form of Christian subjectivism. Leo Strauss’s Aristotle is anti-communist because of his proto-Machiavellian pessimism about the possibility of justice. Hannah Arendt’s Aristotle, on the contrary, is anti-communist because he is anti-Machiavellian in his non-instrumental understanding of political discussion. Obviously, then, there is no agreement among anti-communists as to what communism itself amounts to, and hence no agreement about just which aspect of Aristotle is supposed to align him with their cause. Communism is “bad,” and Aristotle, being “good,” must be a natural ally in the struggle against communism.
Amongst socialist and communist authors, similarly – and this is the second, and more interesting, complication – Aristotle’s situation tends to vary depending upon a prior determination of the character of the anti-capitalist movement. In particular, it seems to depend upon how capitalism and anti-capitalism are situated in history. To employ a simplifying schematism, it seems to me that you can force anti-capitalists to answer two questions about history and classify them on the basis of their answers.
Question 1: Is the anti-capitalist movement an attempt to realize a break in history that has already occured at some point in the past?
Question 2: Would the victory of the anti-capitalist movement constitute or presuppose a break in history that is yet to come?
Answers can be plotted in a matrix:
"Modernists" (Hans Blumenberg, Deleuze perhaps, and certainly many Deleuzians, Negri at times) see the struggle against capitalism as the struggle to extend or realize the historical rupture that inaugurated modernity. The problem with capitalism, then, is that it represents a lingering past. Since Aristotle is almost certainly part of this pre-modern past that lingers on and must be overcome, Aristotle is an enemy of modernists. (Marx's exhortation to let the dead bury their dead might be the fountainhead of this progressivism.)
"Catastrophists" (Horkheimer and Adorno anyone?) see history as monotononous and relentless and devoid of promise, and see the overcoming of capitalism as the unprecedented inauguration of something new, a break with all that has come before. (Marx's claim in the 1859 Preface that the end of capitalism will mark the end of pre-history might be read as precedent here.)
"Dialecticians" (Murray, Meikle, Postone, Arthur, and even Althusser at times) see capitalism as the manifestation of a historical rupture that must itself be suppressed, dismissed, repeated, or otherwise cancelled. The era of capitalism is an interregnum. Use-value romantics reside here, but so do most of the folks I most admire. Not all of them are Catholic, but a rather large percentage are. These are the friends of Aristotle, who was the first to criticize exchange because it abstracts from concrete usefulness.
"Natural Historians" (Virno, Althusser at other times) don't believe in historical ruptures, epochal befores and afters. The break between capitalism and communism is not a break between histories (eras) so much as a break within every history. The field of history is not, on this approach, subject to the sorts of progressions, leaps, or returns that characterize the pro- and anti-modernization stances taken by those situated in the other quadrants of the matrix. Because communism is not a referendum on modernity, Aristotle is not subject to valorization or condemnation for his proto- or anti-modern tendencies. Instead, there is a certain freedom to approach Aristotle – or any other thinker, for that matter – in a non-reductive way. What Virno says of Simondon could be said also of Aristotle: “At a certain point it is necessary to take leave of him and proceed alone (just as we must depart from many other ‘friendly’ thinkers). We do so with gratitude for his help but without nostalgia or regrets.”