Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism seminar series @ Brighton

Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics (CAPPE)
University of Brighton


Neoliberalism Seminar Series 2013/14

Organised by the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics & Ethics, University of Brighton, this fortnightly seminar series aims to explore what it means to live in a neoliberal world. There is no need to register; entry will be permitted on a “first come first served” basis. The series begins on 15 October and takes place, for the most part, every other Tuesday, at 6.30pm. The first three sessions (15/10, 29/10, 12/11) will be held in The Old Courtroom, 118 Church Street, Brighton, which holds up to 165 people.

It is possible that two of the eleven sessions, the ones with Doreen Massey and Madsen Pirie, will begin one hour earlier, at 5.30pm rather than 6.30pm; this will be clarified one week before the sessions take place, respectively.

15 October 2013

Jo Littler (City University London)

Meritocracy as Plutocracy: The Marketising of ‘Equality’ under Neoliberalism

 

29 October 2013

Doreen Massey (Open University)

Neoliberalism, Hegemony, and the Current Political Moment

 

12 November 2013

Madsen Pirie (President, Adam Smith Foundation)

Living in a Neoliberal World

 

26 November 2013

Rosalind Gill (City University London)

Academic Labouring in the Neoliberal University

 

14 January 2014

(Different week!)

Emma Dowling (Middlesex University) and David Harvie (University of Leicester)

‘This little piggy went to market and this little piggy had none…’: Neoliberalism, Crisis and the Financialisation of Social Reproduction
21 January 2014

John Holmwood (University of Nottingham)

Neo-Liberalism and the Public University

 

4 February 2014

Selina Todd (University of Oxford)

The People: The Working Class in 20th and Early 21st Century Britain

 

18 February 2014

Mark Littlewood (Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs)

Paper Title TBC

 

4 March 2014

Dieter Plehwe (Senior Fellow, Project Group “Modes of Economic Governance”)

The Road from Mont Pèlerin: Origins and Evolution of Neoliberalism

 

18 March 2014

Mark Fisher (Goldsmiths, University of London / University of East London)

Libidinal Parasites: Neoliberalism and the Capture of Desire

 

1 April 2014

Ian Parker (Discourse Unit, University of Manchester)

The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Neoliberal Education

CFP: Aesthetic Education workshop

My partner is co-organising the following interdisciplinary workshop at the University of York on the the contemporary legacy and relevance in a UK context of the Enlightenment tradition of ‘aesthetic education’ – that is, of the idea of the morally and culturally educative and enriching effects of aesthetic experiences for individuals, and their consequent socio-politcal ramifications.  Below is the CFP for postgraduate and early career researchers, so if you’re working on something relevant, please do submit:

Call for Postgraduate Papers

CONTEMPORARY AESTHETIC EDUCATION IN THE UK

Workshop

University of York

10 December 2012

 

Deadline: 15th September 2012

Email: mhab500@york.ac.uk

The purpose of this inter-disciplinary workshop is to explore the role of aesthetic education in the UK today. The presence of the concept of aesthetic education in the thinking of British cultural critics can be traced to the profound influence of Matthew Arnold, who inherits the notion from its German Enlightenment proponents – Schiller, Herder, and Winckelmann. The tradition holds that instruction in art and literature can bring about real changes in society. In the UK today, however, education in literature and the arts is being increasingly threatened by social change rather than facilitating those changes. In Culture and Anarchy, Arnold prescribed culture as the antidote to a looming threat of ‘anarchy’ which lay chiefly, he suggested, in vulgar monetary concerns. In the fear of the neoliberalisation of the university driving the contemporary proliferation of neohumanist apologies for the arts and humanities, we hear the echoes of Arnold’s fear of vulgar monetarism. Another, contemporary inheritance of this tradition of aesthetic education is a rapidly expanding field of ‘therapeutic’ reading. Here, aesthetic education is not so much a politically decisive aspect of academic activity as a project of popular empowerment carried out at the level of public libraries, charitable education projects and health provision. These are just two of many lines of inheritance in the contemporary UK cultural situation of the Enlightenment tradition of aesthetic education.

The inter-disciplinary workshop will take place at the University of York on the afternoon of Monday 10th December 2012, where discussion will be led by Professor Philip Davis (English, Liverpool) and Dr Nick Jones (Philosophy, York). Two postgraduate speakers will be selected from submissions. We welcome abstracts from postgraduates and early career researchers working in all disciplines across the arts and humanities. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The contemporary significance of Matthew Arnold’s cultural education
  • Martha Nussbaum’s Not For Profit (2010) and other contemporary interventions
  • Elizabeth Prettejohn’s Beauty and Art, 1750-2000 (2005) and the question of why we should care about Beauty in the twenty-first century
  • Comparative contexts – Britain and elsewhere, e.g., Jacques Rancière’s notion of aesthetics as a space of political non-domination
  • The contemporary significance of morality and ethics for art and narrative
  • The social mission of English literature and its twenty-first century legacy
  • Therapeutic reading as cure for modern problems

Submissions should consist of an abstract of up to 300 words for a paper of 30 minutes in length, and be emailed as an attachment to Mildrid Bjerke at mhab500@york.ac.uk by 15th September.

Please direct any queries to Rafe McGregor at rdm503@york.ac.uk.

The workshop is being hosted by the Humanities Research Centre at York and has been funded by the Centre for Modern Studies.

Critical pedagogy in RP

Just a little plug for the latest volume (170, Nov/Dec 2011) of Radical Philosophy, which has some really interesting pieces on the philosophy and politics of education.  (I’m a bit busy for any extended commentary on any of these texts right at the moment, but I might post up some thoughts over the weekend if I get a chance.)

Most interesting from the perspective of my interests is Matthew Charles‘s article on the philosophy for children ‘movement’ (although this phrase might be a bit of an overstatement at this point) and the political consequences and limitations of the form it has taken thus far.  Charles examines the organisations involved in teaching philosophy to children in the UK – The Philosophy Shop and SAPERE – considering the differences in their approaches and the shared limitations of their more or less implicit political framework.  These are important issues, as teaching philosophy in schools is potentially very valuable, but only if it can be extricated from the limitations of an exclusively liberal conception of education and what it would be for education to be ‘critical’.

Also in RP 170 is a collection of articles prompted by the publication by Continuum of Emiliano Battista’s English translation of Jacques Rancière’s first book, Althusser’s Lesson.  In this work, Rancière distances himself from his former teacher, Louis Althusser, the father of so-called ‘structuralist Marxism’, through a cutting critique of the latter, both his theoretical work and his pedagogical practice itself.

The collection includes a reprint of the English translation of a 1964 essay by Althusser entitled ‘Student Problems’ – introduced by Warren Montag – in which he criticises the contemporary student movement for attacking the traditional, liberal, unidirectional form of university pedagogy, grounded in an essential epistemic inequality between the teacher and the student, instead of ‘the true fortress of class interest in the university‘ (p. 13, original emphasis), i.e., the ‘ideological’ content of that pedagogy.  For the Rancière of Althusser’s Lesson, this insistence on pedagogical inequality and refusal of any transformation of the very form of the university is definitive of Althusserianism, its deep opportunism and servitude to the cause of order and the authority of the Communist Party leadership.

The essay is followed by three very interesting engagements with Rancière’s critique of Althusser, by Nathan Brown, Bruno Bosteels and Stéphane Douailler.

A final note: somewhere in one of these papers – I can’t now remember which one – reference is made to Radical Philosophy‘s founding statement, a document which bears re-reading at this juncture of crisis for philosophy in the university.  While I don’t straightforwardly agree with this document’s partisan stance against analytic philosophy, its concern regarding academic philosophy’s isolation from other disciplines and from ideas and activities critical of the wider political, social and cultural setting – a concern which continues in the CRMEP’s ongoing project on transdisciplinarity in the humanities – is still a crucial one for the future of philosophy today.

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Occupied Europe

CFP: Thinking Feeling, May 2012, Sussex

Here is a call for papers for an interesting conference coming up next year at the University of Sussex on the political significance of emotions.  Here’s the blurb as it appeared on Philos-L:

CALL FOR PAPERS

Thinking Feeling: Critical Theory, Culture, Feeling

18-19 May 2012, University of Sussex

‘Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic’ (Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia)

As the recent UK riots indicate, there is no escaping the fact that economics provokes, amongst other things, strong feelings. Whether we like it or not, a neoliberal language of economics now pervades and colours our inner ‘private’ emotional lives; the government’s emerging plans to compile a ‘happiness index’ is a clear example of how a rhetoric of ‘feeling’ can be co-opted by capital. More than ever, then, it is important we do not simply accept ‘feeling’ as a spontaneous or natural phenomenon, but instead subject it to genuinely critical scrutiny. Are some feelings static, essential and ahistorical, or can we trace their genealogies? Are feelings entirely subjective and individual, or are they actually objective and social? If they are social, whose feelings are they?

By placing contemporary cultural and literary theory (especially as it deals with ‘affect’) alongside the tradition of Critical Theory, this conference asks what might be at stake politically, aesthetically and even experientially in the recent turn towards a discourse of feeling. With its roots in Hegel, Marx and Freud, Critical Theory has always been concerned with the role of feeling, in all its senses. Meanwhile, literary theorists and practitioners as diverse as Georges Bataille, Raymond Williams and Eve Sedgwick have also focused on relations between culture, society and felt experience.

The conference will therefore set out to utilise these approaches for a critique of modern and contemporary culture. Contributors are encouraged to engage notions of feeling as they relate to particular cultural practices, objects or texts, and are also invited to use recent work on the emotions to rethink aspects of the Marxist theoretical tradition. We welcome proposals from all relevant fields, including philosophy, literary studies, visual
culture, music theory, art history, sociology, political economy, psychology, etc.

Possible topics may include but are not limited to the following:

The intersection of emotion and economics in contemporary life, literature, film or art; the genealogy of feeling; feeling and revolutionary potential; the political economy of feeling; rhetoric and feeling; the commodification of emotion; culture and ‘modern’ moods (guilt, cynicism, ecstasy, indifference, anxiety, melancholia, depression, shame, boredom, paranoia, rage, paralysis, joy, (un)happiness, etc.)

Abstracts of 200-250 words should be sent to Dr Doug Haynes, University of Sussex: d.e.haynes@sussex.ac.uk (please mark the subject heading as ‘Thinking Feeling’)

Closing date: 31 December 2011

Darcus Howe on the riots

Writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe with incisive comments on the riots:

The BBC interviewer tries to plug the party line (so much for the BBC’s ‘neutrality’) and paint him as confused, but Howe’s having none of it.

Nina Power on the Tottenham riots

Nina Power (who blogs at Infinite ThØught) has written a good piece for The Guardian encouraging us to understand the riots in London in their proper context rather than simply to engage in self-righteous and ultimately pointless moralising.

Many of the online comments on the piece talk about ‘left wing apologists’, the ‘pointless’, ‘mindless’ and ’causeless’ nature of the rioting, and the fact that the riots of the ’80s to which many have likened them achieved very little.  But this misses the point!  This rioting is not political protest; it’s largely not politically motivated so far as I know.  This isn’t ‘the revolution’.  The point is that these riots are happening in areas where the economic conditions are dire and where young people have no good reason to expect to be able to lift themselves out of poverty, nor to expect the state to assist them in doing so, nor to trust the disciplinary tools of the state to work in their interests.  You can only expect people to take so much – and then there are consequences.  If you attack the economic and ideological preconditions for social cohesion and community, then don’t be surprised when the bonds that maintain social ‘order’ break.

The riots aren’t a solution to anything, but nor are they the root problem.  They are a symptom of repeated assaults on the fabric of British society by its ‘leaders’.  They are signs pointing us towards the root problems and we’ll ultimately resolve nothing unless we follow them to their source.  To ‘deal with’ the riots at a superficial level will only suppress these root tensions – until we encounter them again further down the line…

There is further commentary on the riots and the press’s coverage of them over at Richard Seymour’s blog, Lenin’s Tomb.

Deleuze and Guattari’s ambiguous relationship to neoliberalism

Reading Douglas Spencer’s contribution to the latest issue of Radical Philosophy, I was struck again by the unfortunate way in which Deleuze and Guattari’s work in their Capitalism and Schizophrenia project has come to reflect the present stage of global capitalism.  In his article, ‘Architectural Deleuzism: Neoliberal space, control and the “univer-city” ‘ (the beginning of which is available here), Spencer discusses the way in which Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts have been taken up by an architectural practice eager for a post-Derridean intellectual stimulus.  Inattentive to the critical political nuances of Deleuze and Guattari’s texts, however, this ‘architectural Deleuzism’ has read these concepts as an intellectualising vindication of the ‘progressive’ potential of the neoliberal expansion of market forces into all aspects of social reality.  Deleuze and Guattari’s vision of a ‘rhizomatic’ (as opposed to ‘arborescent’) practice of thinking and living – an opening up of reality and thought to its repressed potentialities, an exploration of and experimentation with what a body can do – becomes the philosophical alibi for the architectural (hence, spatial) production and promulgation of homo economicus and the ‘control society’ which Foucault and Deleuze respectively so keenly diagnosed and analysed.

This sort of (mis-/ab-)use of Deleuze and Guattari’s work isn’t just evident in the architectural sphere.  Spencer’s comments are remeniscent of those made by Eyal Weizman in an article for the May 2006 issue of Frieze, in which Weizman discusses the use of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts by the military strategists of the IDF (here).  Israeli military commanders, it would seem, have found rhizomatic thinking to be a productive approach in their ‘security’ efforts.  Once against, Deleuze and Guattari’s diagnostics of mechanisms of psycho-social and spatio-temporal repression, disciplinarity and control, along with their (quasi-)anarchist vision of a ‘smoother’, more open, more creative and productive social reality have been co-opted as a philosophical validation and even a source of inspiration and innovation for some of the most aggressive control apparatuses of contemporary capitalism.

Why does Deleuze and Guattari’s work find itself at the centre of this unfortunate ambiguity?  We might seek to suggest that either the word or the spirit (or both) of their work has been misinterpreted so as to serve a political end with which it is quite out of sorts.  This would be to cast the relationship between Deleuze and Guattari’s work and neoliberal capitalism as analogous to that between Nietzsche’s work and National Socialism: a (possibly opportunistic) misappropriation of a thinker’s work through (more or less deliberate) misreading.

Such a suggestion doesn’t seem to cut the muster, though, the reason being that an understanding of the market as the subversive/progressive core of capitalism – working, in a sense, against the ‘reterritorialising’ force of capital itself – does seem to be a legitimate interpretation of Deleuze and Guattari’s work.  This is evidenced in Nick Land’s ‘accelerationism’, which, it seems to me, does bring out a genuinely present aspect of the Capitalism and Schizophrenia project, at least its first volume.  Even if accelerationism is something of a selective exaggeration or amplification, I don’t think it’s a distortion in the way that Elisabeth Förster’s ‘Nazification’ of her brother’s work and Nietzsche’s subsequent popular reception as a ‘totalitarian’ thinker was a distortion.

Perhaps, then, we can read Deleuze and Guattari’s relationship to neoliberalism analogously to the way in which Juliet Mitchell reads Freud on women and femininity in her 1974 Psychoanalysis and Feminism.  In that text, Mitchell argues that Freud’s supposedly conservative and chauvinistic comments on women and femininity are in fact an important diagnosis of the actual state of women in the contemporary social milieu.  If Freud’s theories paint a picture of women which feminists deem repugnant this is only to be expected, since Freud’s aim is to describe the state and genesis of feminine sexuality in a social context in which the latter is stifling and oppressive.  Far from engaging in a conservative affirmation of anti-feminist views of women, Freud is seen by Mitchell as doing important diagnostic work, and thus demonstrating the need for feminism more effectively than the more ‘radical’ work of R. D. Laing and Wilhelm Reich.

Can we read Deleuze and Guattari as offering a diagnosis, rather than an affirmation, of neoliberalism?  The problem here is that Deleuze and Guattari’s work, unlike Freud’s, is more clearly already distinguished into a diagnostic element and a prescriptive or affirmative element (although these two elements are not so straightforwardly separable as this abstract description will suggest).  On the one hand there is a diagnosis of the mechanisms of control which contain and channel the productive power of desire and drive, and on the other there is an affirmation of this power as the subversive kernel of these mechanisms, their immanent limit and the potential agent of their overcoming.  The problem, then, is that it is the latter which seems to ring true with contemporary neoliberal capitalism; that is, it is Deleuze and Guattari’s positive vision of a rhizomatic social space which seems to have been realised in neoliberal capitalism.

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari painted a picture of the repression of productive desire through psycho-social neuroticisation and the containment of the free creativity of social production within the ‘axiomatic’ of capital.  Despite all the nuances of their picture it was, at base, a fairly simple dualism between deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation.  A Thousand Plateaus complicated matters a little further, but the fundamental dualism remained nonetheless.  Today the situation seems to have become more complicated, insofar as the two poles of this dualism appear to have been, as it were, ‘sublated’.  Today, the sort of language Deleuze and Guattari used in the 1970s and early 1980s to talk about the revolutionary power of desire bubbling beneath the surface of the global flow of capital has become largely indiscernable from the language of corporate capital itself, and so the emancipatory flavour of their words and concepts often seems to have dissipated.

The question is whether this is a sign of Deleuze and Guattari’s supreme prescience, and hence of the problematic character of this convergence of supposedly revolutionary deterritorialisation and capitalist reterritorialisation for capitalism itself.  If Deleuze and Guattari are right, and desire (in their anachronistic sense) is both the engine of capital and the spanner in the works, and if capitalism displays an inherent tendency to push the disintegration of social reality and organisation to its breaking point, then perhaps ever increasing neoliberalisation is as much of a threat to the stable persistence of global capitalism as it is to the billions of people hurt and exploited by capitalism around the world.  Certainly neoliberalism has made capitalism less stable, although this instability has often proved productive rather than destructive insofar as capital requires the perpetual or at least periodic creation of new markets in order to thrive; it has also thrown the exploitative character of capitalism into sharp relief and thus generated waves of resistance, more staunch the more virulently neoliberalism has been implemented.

All this raises further questions: Even if neoliberalism pushes capitalism to its limits, what is needed in order for those limits to be transgressed in a pernicious rather than productive way?  Will capitalism exhaust itself, or must it be pushed over the edge?  And who will push it?  Even if it will exhaust itself, what sort of social structures must we preparatively engineer if we are to capitalise on this exhaustion?

Despite the undeniably sharp edge of their critical diagnosis of capitalism and the originality of their synthesis of concepts from a myriad of fields, I’m doubtful as to whether Deleuze and Guattari can offer us satisfying answers to these latter questions, or at least, whether they can offer more satisfying answers than more traditionalist modes of radical left theory and practice.  A reappraisal of Marx’s economic insights and a politics of refusal and of taking and holding spaces (physical, social, virtual, conceptual) seem to me to be more likely avenues down which to seek a positive political future than the creative fluidity and openness of a ubiquitous sexuality.