The Brexit vote and Trump’s election both seem to mark a terminal crisis for the liberal cosmopolitan consensus that has obtained in the English-speaking world since the 1990s. In both cases, centrist elites have been quick to blame external agencies (Cambridge Analytica, Vladimir Putin, etc.), apparently unable to believe that it is the effects of their own policies that have led to them losing significant levels of public support. At the same time, concerns over national identity, and hostility to multiculturalism and immigration, continue to inform the politics of the Right in many ways: from the casual English xenophobia of UKIP the extreme racism of the alt-right. How can we make sense of all this and what can we do about it?
Well be back at Doomed Gallery for this one but do arrive early and / or be prepared to stand…last week’s session was packed and was in a considerably larger space.
This year also sees the publication of the English Edition of Lazzarato’s recent collaboration with philosopher Éric Alliez: Wars and Capital.
Here is the blurb from the publishers catalogue:
“We are at war,” declared the President of the French Republic on the evening of November 13, 2015. But what is this war, exactly?
In Wars and Capital, Éric Alliez and Maurizio Lazzarato propose a counter-history of capitalism to recover the reality of the wars that are inflicted on us and denied to us. We experience not the ideal war of philosophers, but wars of class, race, sex, and gender; wars of civilization and the environment; wars of subjectivity that are raging within populations and that constitute the secret motor of liberal governmentality. By naming the enemy (refugees, migrants, Muslims), the new fascisms establish their hegemony on the processes of political subjectivation by reducing them to racist, sexist, and xenophobic slogans, fanning the flames of war among the poor and maintaining the total war philosophy of neoliberalism.
Because war and fascism are the repressed elements of post-’68 thought, Alliez and Lazzarato not only read the history of capital through war but also read war itself through the strange revolution of ’68, which made possible the passage from war in the singular to a plurality of wars—and from wars to the construction of new war machines against contemporary financialization. It is a question of pushing “’68 thought” beyond its own limits and redirecting it towards a new pragmatics of struggle linked to the continuous war of capital. It is especially important for us to prepare ourselves for the battles we will have to fight if we do not want to be always defeated.
In this seminar Éric and Maurizio will introduce and discuss some of the key arguments and ideas from this important new work.
Maurizio Lazzarato is best known for having coined the term ‘immaterial labour’ as a way of describing the many forms of work in the contemporary economy that do not produce physical outputs, but are concerned with the production of knowledges, information-flows, moods, and experiences. But his work extends way beyond this analysis, drawing on the tradition of ‘autonomist’ Marxism and the ideas of thinkers such as Foucault and Guattari to offer one of the most powerful and engaged analyses of neoliberal culture, contemporary capitalism, and the organisation forms that resistance to it requires. This year sees the publication of the English translation of one of his most important works, Experimental Politics. This book provides an account of a key episode in recent French political history – the highly innovative struggle to defend the rights of precarious creative workers that emerged in the summer of 2003 – and uses it to offer one of the most profound analyses to date of the nature of advanced neoliberalism and its complex relationship to creative practice of all kinds. The book was translated by a team of Arianna Bove, Jeremy Gilbert, Andrew Goffey, Mark Hayward and Jason Read, with Jeremy providing a long critical introduction to the book and Lazzarato’s ideas. In this seminar Maurizio himself explores how those ideas have developed and why they are so relevant for contemporary radical politics.
May 1968 saw an escalation of protests and political actions by students and workers in France, leading a situation of near-revolution that lasted for several weeks and re-set the terms of political debate for a generation.
Although ‘the events of May’ are remembered as the most obvious and symbolic expression of the revolutionary spirit in that moment, ‘May 1968’ was only one episode in an international series of events and struggles against the bureaucratic cultures of post-war welfare capitalism and the Stalinist ‘socialism’ of the Soviet bloc, from the early 60s to the mid- 80s. This was the moment when the counterculture, student radicalism, Black Power and a new wave or working class militancy coincided with a wave of global anti-imperial struggle and the birth of the women’s movement, the green movement and Gay Liberation.
The consequence of these struggles, their partial defeats and limited victories have been colossal: arguably the adoption of neoliberal policies by governing elites across the globe was motivated as much as anything by the need to contain their demands for radical democracy and collective freedom. On the other hand, sceptics have argued that the counterculture and the New Left undermined working class solidarity, ultimately paving the way for a postmodern culture of narcissism, hedonism and futile identity politics.
The implications of these movements and the debates that they provoked were decisive and long-lasting for the development of radical philosophy, political theory and cultural studies . What is the significance of this history for contemporary radicalism? And would it be accurate to say that ‘1968’ didn’t happen in Britain until 1982?…
What does Harvey Weinstein’s exposure and fall tell us about our moment? How are gendered relations changing and what is the condition of feminism in the 21st century? What are the most useful ways of conceptualising gendered power today – is it sexism, misogyny, patriarchy or male privilege that feminism is fighting, or are they all the same thing? What has been at stake in the politicisation now, and for the historical women’s movement, of issues like sexual harassment alongside more ‘basic’ economic issues such as equal pay and access to childcare? And what are we to make of the growing tendency of centrist neoliberal politicians like Hilary Clinton appealing to liberal feminism as their main source of legitimacy?