Don't be afraid to take a big step; you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps

Archive for the ‘Marx’ Category

David Harvey Interview on BBC HardTalk

In Anti-capitalism, economics, Interview, Marx, Marxism on May 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Outline of David Harvey’s central points regarding capitalism and its limits.


Marx and Philosophy Society Annual Conference

In Conference, Lectures, Marx, Marxism, Philosophy on April 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Marx and Philosophy Society‘s 7th Annual conference has just been announced for June 5th.

Details below

7th Annual Conference of the Marx and Philosophy Society

Abstraction, Universality and Money

Institute of Education, University of London
20 Bedford Way, London
Saturday 5 June 2010, 9.30-6.00

Plenary speakers:

Richard Seaford (Exeter)
Money, Abstraction, and the Genesis of the Psyche

Alberto Toscano (Goldsmiths)
The Dead Pledge of Society: Methodological Problems and Political Consequences of “Real Abstraction”

Christopher Arthur
Abstraction, Universality and Money

Graduate panels:

Jan Sailer (Freiburg)
Securities: The Purest Form of Abstract Wealth. A Re-evaluation of the Concept of “Fictitious Capital”
Nick Gray (Sussex)
Abstraction, Universality, Money and Capital: The Capital-Theory of Value
Marina Vishmidt (Queen Mary, University of London)
Art in and as Abstract Labour

Brian Fuller (York University, Toronto)
Materialism and Dialectic: Reading Marx after Adorno
Tim Carter (Sussex)
Alienation and Domination in Marx and Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Anthropologies
Chris Allsobrook (Sussex)
Meta-Maieusis: The Ideological Normative Grounds of Immanent Critique

£15 waged, £10 unwaged (provides annual membership of the Society).

To reserve a place in advance please email David Marjoribanks at


Audio from Zizek’s Lecture – Cardiff 3rd March

In Film, Ideology, Lectures, Marx, Podcasts, Zizek on March 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Introduction – Heiko Feldner and Fabio Vighi

Zizek’s Lecture

Questions and Discussion

Wendy Brown Interview

In Anti-capitalism, Communism, Interview, Marx on February 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

A superb short interview with Wendy Brown appeared on the Broken Power Lines Blog yesterday. It’s incredibly dense with lots of ideas in such a short space. I recommend everyone to check it out. She talks about, among other things, why the left should mobilise under the signifier ‘democracy’ rather than ‘communism’; populism, the right and the Tea Party; education; a critique of Cosmopolitanism; Marx and Religion; and, also, an interesting characterisation of Neo-liberalism.

CPS:  You have argued … that neoliberalism does not simply promote economic policies but to quote you “disseminates market values into every sphere of human activity.”  What distinguishes your perspective here from the despair found in someone like Adorno?  What would it require to translate the despair that many people experience in very personal and de-politicized ways into a form of political mobilization?

Wendy Brown:  That is an interesting question because it assumes that neoliberalism produces despair.  I wish it did but I am not convinced that it does.  I think that the process that some of us have called neoliberalization actually seizes on something that is just a little to one side of despair that I might call something like a quotidian nihilism.   By quotidian, I mean it is a nihilism that is not lived as despair; it is a nihilism that is not lived as an occasion for deep anxiety or misery about the vanishing of meaning from the human world.  Instead, what neoliberalism is able to seize upon is the extent to which human beings experience a kind of directionlessness and pointlessness to life that neoliberalism in an odd way provides.  It tells you what you should do: you should understand yourself as a spec of human capital, which needs to appreciate its own value by making proper choices and investing in proper things. Those things can range from choice of a mate, to choice of an educational institution, to choice of a job, to choice of actual monetary investments – but neoliberalism without providing meaning provides direction. In a sad way it is seizing upon a certain directionlessness and meaninglessness in late modernity.  Again, I am talking mainly about the Euro-Atlantic world: without providing meaning, it provides direction.  So I think it is quite a different order of things from the one that Adorno was describing.

CPS:  [re.] the crisis within the humanities.  You were arguing against the way that there is such a specialization and jargonization of what we do – where it becomes hard to explain what we do to people outside of academia.  Do you think this kind of insulation within academia helps feed political ignorance and this divide?

Wendy Brown:  Sure, we’ve really lost the ability – and I am not blaming us as individuals – it is really part of a creation of niche industries everywhere in capitalism today. But, we’ve really lost the ability as social and cultural scholars – I want to say humanists but I am trying to get social scientists in there too – we’ve lost the ability to be able to talk about what we do and promulgate the knowledge we have in an everyday fashion.  I think that happens in the classroom and it is not even just a question of what is outside. More and more, for example, political science educates its undergraduates in the profession of political science, rather than in the study of politics. That means we are cranking out students who may know how to behave like professional political scientists but they don’t really know how to analyze political problems.

[on a future project on Marx and religion]

Wendy Brown:  … I’ve been working for a couple of years on something I hope to finish in the next year, which is a rethinking of Marx’s critique of religion.  What I am trying to do there is think about what is often treated as an early and relatively unimportant concern of Marx, one that he is presumed to have dropped once he moves on to full-blown materialism and study of political economy.  What I am doing is tracing the ways in which his engagement with Feuerbach and his critique of religion extends all the way through his work right up into Das Kapital.  One of the things that has allowed me to see is the ways in which Marx can contribute to understanding a contemporary problem of ours, which is this: why is it that at the very moment that capitalism seems finally to have painted all the colors of the globe and really has ascended as a global power – why is that moment coterminous with the resurgence of world religions?   Marx is often thought to not be able to help us think that problem at all because Marx is usually thought to be saying that capitalism secularizes and even abolishes religion and that religion is one of the casualties – in his sense, good casualties – of capitalism’s desacralization of the world.  I think that is a wrong reading.  I actually think Marx has a deep understanding of just how religious capital is and how much it requires and entails religion.  That is what the re-reading of Marx is for, and I hope that book will be done in another year, but we’ll see.

New Issue of the Zizek Studies Journal – Johnston and Vighi

In Anti-capitalism, Badiou, Johnston, Journals, Marx, Marxism, Zizek on February 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm

The latest issue of the International Journal of Zizek Studies hit the net today.  It is the first of an annual special ‘Zizek and Ideology’ edition edited by Cardiff University’s Centre for Ideology Critique and Zizek Studies.  It has some great contributions including, Jodi Dean’s on  Zizek and the Internet (I’m hoping this will feature in her new book Blog Theory) . And an excellent breif exchange between Adrian Johnston and Fabio Vighi regarding the former’s new book on Zizek and Badiou, The Cadence of Change.

Anyone familliar with Johnston’s work will know that it offers a formidanble (and encyclopedically argued) critical reading of both Badiou and Zizek. His most important contribution, and one that Zizek acknowledges in several places, is that we must carefully supplement the notion of Event (as used by both Zizek and Badiou) to overcome the common criticism hurled at it (i.e. by describing a transformation so radical that it creates it’s own presuppositions retroactively, the event/act can only result in political quietism and the naive belief that change can and will occur ex-nihilo ).

Johnston’s argues that to prepare the ground for the radical (truly) historical otherness which flares up all too briefly in an Evental situation, we need to develop a mode of pre-evental awareness (in time/politics).  Rigorously outlined in his latest book, this will ensure that we will engage in practical action in the meantime and yet still be ready for the big event when it “seems suddenly to present itself”.

Vighi’s critical retort to this is that, although insightful, it fails to break out from the specifically Badiouian/Zizekian problem that Johnston initially aims to overcome. By limiting his intervention to merely outlining a philosophical problem and daring not to apply it in the current conjecture, Johnston is only really, in effect, repeating the problem.  (i.e once again in a formal way Cadence of Change succumbs to an awkward quietism whilst awaiting  the miraculous intervention of an Event.)

In this way, Vighi rightly questions, to what extent does Johnston’s intervention, finely balanced as it is, “address the real problem” in Zizek’s and Badiou’s work? Even with Johnston’s important contribution to the debate, it he appears to remain “stuck in a somewhat fetishistic use of critical theory”.

Vighi asserts that the gap between theory and practice which Johnston attempts to bridge is in fact a false dichotomy. Thus, whilst theory is undoubtedly vital, it can only go so far. As he argues, “by definition, a political theory that does no include ‘seeds of the future’ by defying the material and ideological framework from which it speaks, cannot even dream to connect with empirical reality in the struggle for radical emancipation.”

What I really like about Vighi’s argument is that it unabashedly affirms a necessarily Marxist stance.  Indeed, the whole direction of his argument is along the lines of Marx’s statement regarding the  significance of ‘practical-critical’ activity. To once again state Marx’s oft-repeated eigth Thesis on Feurebach: “all mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”