Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory
Wednesday, 24. June Thursday, June 25 Friday, June 26
SESSION 1 SESSION 2 SESSION 4
SESSION 3 SESSION 5

Friday, June 26

SESSION 5

 

5a Beyond “Traditional” Reflections: a Critical-Theoretic Perspective
Session Chair: Marjan Ivković
5b Discourse, Media and the Cultural Logic of Contemporary Capitalism
Session Chair: Tamara Petrović Trifunović
5c Reflections on Crises
Session Chair: Jovan Čekić
Sergio Mas
Critical Theory and Transdisciplinary Science. A Meta-Theoretical Analysis and a Vindication of Ideology Critique in the Name of Emancipatory Values
Peter Klepec
The Discourse on Crisis Analysis and its Outcomes
Florian Geisler and Alex Struwe
The Idea of “Crisis” and the Devolution of Theory
Matthias István Köhler
Reconstructing Georg Lukács’ Critique of Romantic Anti-Capitalism
Boris Traue
Against Decisionism – Rethinking Social Ontologies and Media of Assistance
Kevin W. Gray
Explaining Neoliberalism’s Stability
Sami Khatib
Undead Labor: Marx, Benjamin and the “Time of Hell”
Katarina Peović Vuković
Dialectical Materialism at the Gates of Technology
Nevena Jevtić
Still Defending Right of Extreme Need?
Goran Kauzlarić
New Age: a Modus of Hegemony
David Adler
Office Architecture as Capitalist Phantasmagoria

Sergio Mas
University of Barcelona

Critical Theory and Transdisciplinary Science. A Meta-Theoretical Analysis and a Vindication of Ideology Critique in the Name of Emancipatory Values

I intend to examine the articulation between normative and descriptive moments of
critical social theory comparing approaches that articulate different theories in a post- or
trans- disciplinary way. The Cultural political economy of Bob Jessop and Ngai Sum; the
neogramscian school (van der Pijl, van Appeldoorn, Wissel, Cox, Bieler and Morton), Bourdieu
and Wacquant, CDA and critical theories of right (Fischer Lescano, Brunkhorst, Kjaer) or critical
theories of education (R. Dole, S. Robertson, Ch.Laval). All of them are good examples of
theories that may appear to focus on specific areas (state theory, transnational governance,
neoliberal discourse or new constitutionalism) but actually all of them combine a multilevel,
multidisciplinary approach and a multiscalar, sociohistorical method aware of the role that
temporal and spatial scale play in the interaction of social forces. All of them are also aware of
the use of implicit normative concepts as descriptive pseudotheory to legitimize political
decisions (disguised in pedagogical, juridical or economical terms). All of them combine critical
discourse analysis, not always in the strict sense (Jessop or Susan Robertson do name
Fairclough, Wodak, Van Dijk) but in the ideological critique tradition, (the neogramscian school
or Bourdieu’s work are both fully aware of the role of discursive strategies as part of power
relations). A trend to interdisciplinary dialogue is visible most of these authors: Susan
Robertson and Wissel uses Jessop’s analysis, Harvey employs Dumenil-Levy’s studies. Joerges
and Petersman dialogue both with Habermas and Teubner. Recovering the idea of dignity as a
motor of social critique (Bonefeld, Holloway) implies a reconsideration of the role of agency in
new Marxist theories, a disputed issue.


Matthias István Köhler
Goethe University, Frankfurt

Reconstructing Georg Lukács’ Critique of Romantic Anti-Capitalism

In times of crisis the critique of capitalism and attempts to think beyond it are booming. This, however, is not a new phenomenon and as Michael Löwy argues, in romanticism we find the first anti-capitalist movement in history. It is thus not surprising, that anti-capitalist rhetorics is heavily leaning on tropes and argumentations from this epoch. Furthermore this means, that anti-capitalism does not necessarily come from the left of the political spectrum, nor is the left itself always free of this mode of critique.

In my paper I reconstruct Lukács’ critique of romantic anti-capitalism. Lukács never worked out a systematic critique of romantic anti-capitalism even though he used the notion from the early thirties on to the end of his life. This seems to give us the picture of a spectre haunting him, which he could never get a final grasp of, rather than a clear theoretical concept. I want to analyse the function of this notion in his overall theoretical and political work and finally to investigate its possible relevance in contemporary political struggles.


 

Sami Khatib
Beirut Institute for Critical Analysis and Research

Undead Labor: Marx, Benjamin and the “Time of Hell”

Capital is a purely social relation that valorizes itself while temporalizing its own historical time. The value of a commodity, as Marx put it, is defined by its substance which is itself a relation: abstract labor. The latter is produced through the employment of living labor. Value, however, is not simply congealed or dead labor. Within the accelerating cycles of capital accumulation, value as dead labor is valorized and survives its own death as undead labor. The undeadness of value as capital is not simply speculative but violently destructive. What Schumpeter called “creative destruction” is not only an immanent necessity within the process of capital accumulation but also the eternal recurrence of capitalism’s Urszene, which Marx calls “original accumulation.” If capitalism’s modus vivendi is actually a modus moriendi, its eternal resurrection has to always anew destroy earlier stages of capitalism and non-capitalist economies. Against this spurious infinity, Walter Benjamin proposed a different form of destruction – a peculiar non-violent or even messianic destruction, which could interrupt and finally end the undead temporality of capitalism, which he called the “time of hell.” My paper discusses how this sort of messianic nihilism could theorize a communist cessation of capitalism’s eternal modus moriendi.


Peter Klepec
University of Ljubljana

The Discourse on Crisis Analysis and its Outcomes

The presentation consists of two parts: the first examines the way one talks about economic crisis of 2008, the discourse on crisis. It tries to present psychoanalytic views on the question why the crisis came as such a surprise to practically everybody and why the neoliberalism is so stubborn. The reason for that can be found in the fundamental neoliberal illusion with which one should complement Benjamin’s thesis on the capitalism as religion, the stubbornness of this illusion is approached via the psychoanalysis. The second part presents some possible outcomes of this talk on crisis. It suggests that ‘discourse’ can be understood in Lacanian sense as a (new) ‘social link’, the outlines of the latter are approached via concepts ‘machinic enslavement’ and ‘society of control’ originally developed by Gilles Deleuze and taken up recently by Maurizio Lazzarato in his thesis on “economy of debt”. The paper tries to present fruitfulness of this concepts for the critical thought on neoliberal ‘thinking collective’ (Mirowski) and to open new perspectives on inner dynamics of capitalism.


Boris Traue
Lüneburg University

Against Decisionism – Rethinking Social Ontologies and Media of Assistance

One of the central underpinnings of contemporary capitalism is decision, understood as a social ontology and legal-economic procedure. The capacity to make decisions is the metaphysical kernel of the dominant ontology of the human and social sciences (e.g. “rational choice”, “bounded rationality”), and at the same time, the right to make decisions is institutionalized in the medium of law: positively, in the right to sign contracts, negatively in the duty to serve debts incurred by ‘decisions’. This social ontology and its legal procedures actively negate the recognition of the relationality and vulnerability of the human being, its need to revive and its capacity to give assistance, thereby jeopardizing individual and societal reproduction.

This implies that in capitalist societies, modernity’s achievement of immunizing (Esposito) the individual from the violence of community (making own decisions) is collapsed with the market model (making own decisions) – perversely even turning violence against those who question the market militantly. The defence of individual decision-making has today turned against the right to the collective negotiation of mutual assistance needed for the reproduction of bodies and minds.

To enable alternative interpretations of the current crisis, the ideological and legally entrenched metaphysics of decision must not only be critized, but theoretical and institutional alternatives should be strengthened and developed. First, as proposed by feminist and phenomenological critiques, a concept of social action based on the relationality and vulnerability of the person with its systems of human and technical assistance must be brought to bear. Secondly, media and procedures of legality must be described and developed which express the need and capability for mutual assistance and sustained reproduction.


Katarina Peović Vuković
University of Rijeka

Dialectical Materialism at the Gates of Technology

The major proponents of renewed interest in dialectical materialism, such as Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek, suggest that the ideological maneuver of ruled class does not lie in the production of the false consciousness, pure production of specific knowledges and orders that limit alternative world views. Since the capitalist universality is not limited by a particular culture, civilization, or world view, it functions in the same way in all possible cultural universes (Chinese capitalism, European capitalism, European-periphery capitalism, etc.). Starting from that, the paper will explore today’s media technologies as constitutive factor of predominant post-political model. Especially the Internet is seen as a tool for overcoming limitations of humanity rooted in some particular cultural, national, religious position (even a tool for overcoming a human position – the aspect that underlines trans-humanistic perspective). At the same time, it works as an ideal capitalist economic-symbolic machine. While post-political networked model functions as Universal model of inclusion and tolerance, there is one thing that must remain sacred and unchallenged – the question of profit and capitalistic way of production. The aim of the paper is to elaborate models and contexts through which such economic-symbolic machine became possible, and to focus on existing conflicts between capitalist mode of production and distributive non-hierarchical network, especially in the form of challenging dominant model of intellectual property rights.


Goran Kauzlarić
University of Belgrade

New Age: a Modus of Hegemony

New Age spirituality involves various kinds of religious syncretism, combined with self-help activities, elements of contemporary science and humanistic psychology. It arose in the context of countercultural movements of the sixties. By the mid-seventies, in parallel with the dissemination of the neo-liberal ideational models, it developed as a distinctive discursive formation organically tied to dialectics of globalization. Till nowadays it has continued to branch out through market, societal institutions and practices of everyday life. Looking at its ideological implications, as factors of social reproduction in late-modern societies, we will try to suggest that there is a functional connection between this type of religiosity and socio-material processes of neoliberalisation. In contrast to various reductionist or relativist interpretations, we aim to show how, in correspondence to the cultural logic of late capitalism, spirituality reflects the life situations and social relations, but also plays a role in their establishment, while pointing beyond them to other possibilities, as an index of human desires and utopian projections. Nevertheless, interweaved with managerial, entrepreneurial, ecological, activist, intimate, therapeutic, commercial, and other practices, New Age constitutes a particular type of governmentality, characterized by specific mechanisms of theodicy, naturalization and distribution of guilt.


David Adler
University Oldenburg

Office Architecture as Capitalist Phantasmagoria

With the rise of mass consumer societies in the 20th century culture has become more and more important for critical theory. Despite some exceptions, this turn to culture has often implied a tendency for more abstract and metaphorical concepts of political economy. With my analysis of contemporary office architecture and it’s role for the reproduction of post-Fordist capitalism I try to re-integrate the analysis of culture within an economic sociology, taking into account the practical and materialized importance of culture for a mode of production without reducing culture to a mere reflection of economy. I therefor draw on the Cultural Political Economy, which has been proposed by Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop. Methodologically I use a microsociologically extended dispositive analysis. While gauging the importance of a “post-disciplinary architecture” for the situated accomplishment of post-Fordist office work, it becomes evident that office architecture is discursively charged with a phantasmagoric surplus. Office architecture is materially staging rather than realizing the capitalist capacity to progressively transform human labour and creativity into economic productivity, thereby supporting a profound faith in the “futurability” of capitalism despite its omnipresent crisis.


Florian Geisler and Alex Struwe
University of Frankfurt

The Idea of “Crisis” and the Devolution of Theory

Crisis is the empty signifier of contemporary leftism. Wrapped into the legitimizing layer of Marx’ authority and fueled by the increasingly violent ruptures that are produced by European austerity measures, a supposedly materialist critique of the crises-prone character of capitalism has finally regained an audience. But how Marxist is the analysis of crises really? What political contents are really conveyed by the notion of ‘crisis’? Why do Marxists and conservatives agree so unanimously in their perception that there really is a crisis out there?

From a double perspective of an Althusserian critique of ideology and a truly materialist critique of political economy, one can easily observe just how wrong and possibly reactionary the notion of crisis actually is. In this paper, ‘crisis’ is revealed – with the help of an alternative discourse-analytical approach as well as by a close reading of Marx’ own theory of crisis compared with the starting point of newer, generally speaking Habermasian theories of crises especially in the case of the German discourse – as an ideological signifier which figures as the precise opposite of the Hegelian and Marxist critical principles of contradiction and dialectics.

The shortsighted reification of the existence of a crisis is both a link to the decisionist past of German theory which perpetuates itself into the contemporary forms Neogramscianism on the one hand, or in the never-ending repetition of the elusiveness of communism with Badiou and Rancière on the other. Until further developments, the whole analytical framework that surrounds the concept of crisis should be approached very critically and once again be replaced by the notion of productive contradictions between means and relations of production which is, in fact, the core of historical materialism.


Kevin W. Gray
American University of Sharjah

Explaining Neoliberalism’s Stability

Capitalism has created the conditions for great wealth through the revolutionary transformation of the means of production. Capitalism success depends not on that wealth, but on its continued capacity for self-recreation (Rosa 2010; 2013; Scheuerman 2004). I will attempt to develop, in this paper a theory of the stability of that system. I will argue that capitalism creates the conditions for its own continued success by drawing on underlying normative lifeworld orders in response to emergent steering crises in society.

I will begin with the work of Boltanski, Chiapello and Thévenot, and their work on the orders of worth which impregnate capitalist society (Boltanski and Chiapello 2006; Boltanski and Thévenot 2006). I will argue that capitalism’s stability is grounded in its ability to constantly incorporate critiques from the orders of worth imbedded in the lifeworld. I will use capitalism’s response to past crises as a way to theorize three issues in critical theory: first, the relationship between ideology and the stability of capitalism, second, the role a theory of ideology should play in critical theory, and third, the role of system interference and how the interchange between the economic system and the lifeworld can produce system ideology and vice versa.


Nevena Jevtić
University of Novi Sad

Still Defending Right of Extreme Need?

If we can diagnose that there is a certain level of “state of exception” rhetoric circling European left today (for example: the whole anti-austerity program of Syriza and the whole narrative of exceptionality of the so-called “Greek scenario”), what should we make of it? Is it mainly rhetorical figure as a political means of building the larger social consensus around necessity of anti-austerity program? Theoretically, state of exception names the lacuna which was mainly seen lying between legality and political practices. Today, we should say, the permanent state of exception still is the very space of our lives (in the so called Western democratic states). However, through history its mechanism could have equally been serving agents on the opposing sides of society’s internal conflict – oppression as well as subversion. Firstly, we will follow Agamben’s elaboration of historical development of modern state of exception as a product of democratic-revolutionary (political) tradition. Then we will see, in Hegel, how the problematic of state of exception is pushed towards the social. By the analysis of the phenomenon of Notrecht and poverty lying in its very basis, we can see how the current meaning of exceptionality could be understood not as a strategy of overcoming political discontinuity but rather a strategy of articulating social necessity.