Winter School 2023
Eight courses taught June-July
When: June 12 - July 21
Where: ONLINE. All courses will be taught via Zoom. Video recordings will also be available within a few days after each seminar for those who can't make the schedule. Readings are made available online before the school begins. Links to the Zoom classroom are sent out with the registration email. All payment must be made via credit card during enrolment. Also it's worth noting that Melbourne (AEST) is 10 hours ahead of UTC (5pm here is 7am in Berlin and 10pm in LA).
2 hours per week for 5 weeks
(*First week will be held on Friday 16th, final four weeks will run on Thursday evenings.)
2 hours per day for 5 days
Uninhabited: Science Fiction and Decolonialism
Lecturer: Ben Woodard
Starts: Mon 5:00-7:00pm 12 Jun
Full Schedule: June 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Is it inhabited? This question immediately makes the shared stakes of science fiction and colonialism obvious. In this question the wide imaginaries of empire, what counts as life (scientifically, ethically, politically), the moral and technological possibilities of terraforming, and the impulse for exploration are all fused. Science Fiction, and the genres which preceded it and melded to ground it (especially the Scientific Romance and tales of lost civilizations), rose alongside the birth of industrialized globalized trade and imperial rushes for new resources. If the Scientific Romance dramatized the effects of new technologies on history and forms of life, then lost civilization stories dealt with themes of the alien, the forgetting of history, and more explicitly with episodes of warring and oppressed others.
However, many critical accounts of colonialism in science fiction tend to emphasize the limits and ideologies of settler mindsets rather than analyze the numerous responses from people of color or historical territories of political liminality (as in Sylvia Wynter’s demonic grounds). In this course we will read numerous texts grouped by both concepts and geography. This will include the broad concept of first contact as it parallels colonial contact, assumptions about the universality of consciousness as related to struggle and autonomy, various discourses of borders and horizons (in terms of territory and expansion), tropes of noble savages and mighty whiteys, the cross-over and conflict between decolonial theory and ecological concerns via human and material agency as offering conflicting focal points for the very notion of the Anthropocene, as well as metaphor and mimicry as central to cultural assimilation.
This first lecture will look briefly at the history of science fiction and how it emerged from the synthesis of lost civilizations and technological romances. Following this we will move onto the connections between early science fiction (like Wells’ War of the Worlds) and the history of colonialism (such as how Wells was inspired by events in Tasmania). We will then conclude by examining Tuck and Wang’s work and the risks of metaphor and allegory in science fiction as a political tool.
- Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, education & society, 1(1).
- “Introduction” to Wells, GH (1898). War of the Worlds. Harper and Brothers: New York.
In the second lecture we will look at how the Atlantic slave trade manifests itself in science fiction, especially in regards to discussions of agency and personhood. We will examine the figure of the slave ship in the work of Ferdinand and the manifestation of the figure of the slave in relation to robots and androids.
- Selection from Ferdinand, Malcom. (2022) Decolonial Ecology: Thinking from the Caribbean World. Cambridge: Polity.
- Clip from Famfrit, (2017)“American Gods Ep2 - Anansi Speech ‘That the Story of Black People in America!,’” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCxFnVe6RiM.
In week three we will look at Latin America with a focus on the concept of borders and frontiers. We will discuss Bahng’s writings about Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer. We will examine in particular how the militarization of the border and the legacy of settler colonialism has manifested itself in near future dystopian writings.
- Selection from Bahng, Aimee. (2018) Migrant Futures: Decolonizing Speculation in Financial Times. Duke University Press.
- Rivera, Alex. Director. (2008) Sleep Dealer. Maya Entertainment. 90 minutes.
In week four we shift to the middle east and look at the connections and tensions between cultural appropriation (especially via Orientalism) and ecological themes in Villeneuve’s Dune and the novel by Frank Herbert on which it is based. The figure of the desert doubles as a place of both cultural and resource extraction as in the case of one the film’s main sites – Wadi Rum in Jordon.
- Villeneuve, Alex. Director. (2021) Dune. Warner Brothers. 155 minutes.
- Mann, Daniel. (2022) “Red Planets: Cinema, Deserts, and Extraction.” Afterimage 1 March; 49 (1): 88–109.
For the final session we will look at science fiction from south Asia with an emphasis on assumptions about technological progress and the language of science in non-western contexts. We will conclude by examining whether the allegorical and metaphorical approach in science fiction is political sufficient for the broader project of decolonization.
- Kamal, Nudrat. (2019) "What South Asian sci-fi can tell us about our world" Prism, Available Online https://www.dawn.com/news/1493449
- Malik, Usman. (2014). “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family”. Written Backwards Press.
Jacques Derrida’s Ethics and Politics of Hospitality
Lecturer: Aleksander Kopka
Starts: Mon 7:30-9:30pm 12 Jun
Full Schedule: June 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This is an introductory course to the ethics and politics of hospitality in the philosophy of Jacques Derrida. The course is designed to show why the question of hospitality should be treated as one of the major ethico-political challenges for contemporary thought. It offers a detailed analysis of Derrida’s texts on the problem of hospitality and engages in a critical reflection on the issues of citizenship, refugeeism and borders. During the course students will also be introduced to the Ancient Greek and Jewish genealogy of hospitality, Immanuel Kant’s essay on “Perpetual Peace,” and Étienne Balibar’s commentary on political boundaries and membership. They will gain understanding of aporias and paradoxes of hospitality and how to reconcile them with the demand of deconstruction and justice.
Week 1: The Culture of Hospitality
Introduction of the ethics of hospitality. Reading and analysis of Derrida’s The Principles of Hospitality.
- Benveniste, Émile. Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society. Trans. E. Palmer. Chicago: Hau Books, 2016.
- Derrida, Jacques. The Principle of Hospitality. In: Paper Machine. Trans. R . Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005, pp. 66-69 (required reading).
- Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. Any edition.
- Naas, Michael. Alors, qui êtes-vous? Jacques Derrida and the Question of Hospitality. In: Derrida From Now On. Bew York: Fordham University Press, 2008, pp. 18-36.
Week 2: Reading Hostipitality
- Derrida, Jacques. Hostipitality. In: Acts of Religion. Ed. G. Anidjar. New York––London: Routledge, 2002, pp. 356-420 (required reading – fragments).
- Still, Judith. Derrida and Hospitality: Theory and Practice. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.
Week 3: Reading Of Hospitality
- Derrida, Jacques. A Word of Welcome. In: Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas. Trans. P.-A. Brault, M. Naas. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, pp. 15-123.
- Derrida, Jacques, Anne Dufourmantelle. Of Hospitality. Trans. R. Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000 (required reading – fragments).
Week 4: Hospitality and Citizenship
Discussion on the connection between Derrida’s concept of hospitality and the problematics of citizenship, foreignness and refugeeism.
- Arendt, Hannah. We Refugees. Any edition.
- Balibar, Étienne. Citizenship and Exclusion. In: Citizenship. Trans. T. Scott-Railton. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015, pp. 62-82.
- Benhabib, Seyla. The Rights of Others. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Derrida, Jacques. On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. Trans. M. Dooley, M. Hughes. London–New York: Routledge, 2001 (required reading – fragments).
- Derrida, Jacques. The Other Heading. Trans. P.-A. Brault, M. Naas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
- Kristeva, Julia. Strangers to Ourselves. Trans. L. S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
Week 5: Hospitality and Borders
Reflection on the ethics of hospitality as a critical approach to the institution of borders.
- Balibar, Étienne. What Is a Border?. Trans. Ch. Turner. In: Politics and the Other Scene. London–New York: Verso, 2002, pp. 75-86 (required reading).
- Mezzadra, Sandro, Brett Neilson. Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Durkham–London: Duke University Press, 2013.
Film and the Philosophy of Sense: An Introduction to French Film Theory and Philosophy
Lecturer: Corey Cribb
Starts: Tue 6:30-8:30pm 13 Jun
Full Schedule: June 13, 20, 27, July 4, 11
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Branded as film theory’s ‘philosophical turn’, in Anglophone film departments recent years have witnessed a bourgeoning of interest in texts dedicated to cinema, aesthetics and the image by French philosophers. In many ways, by turning to French philosophy to extract new hermeneutic approaches to the study of film, this development adds to a long running fixation that Anglophone academia has entertained with its French counterpart, whose intellectual labours have at times been assembled under the moniker ‘French theory’.
This course will provide an alternative perspective on Francophone film theory as a tradition which was always already in dialogue with philosophy by tracing its development as a critical practice from the 1940s to the present. More precisely, it will explore a little-discussed intersection of philosophy and film theory in France by exploring the extent to which philosophical debates concerning the nature and genesis of meaning or sense [sens] have impinged upon a number of attempts to grapple with the question of cinematic meaning. Surveying a combination of texts dedicated by philosophers to cinema and texts by film theorists and film critics that engage with philosophy, the course will demonstrate that cinema’s rarefied status in the French context has allowed for an ongoing dialogue between film and philosophy that is unparalleled elsewhere.
Participants should come away from the course with an understanding of the key concepts and texts in the history of film theory in France and a conception of their relevance to ‘the philosophy of sense’.
Session 1: What is sense?
This session will provide an overview of the concept of ‘sense [sens]’ in twentieth century French philosophy, touching upon texts by Kojève, Bataille, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite, among others, along the way. The second half of the session will focus on Merleau-Ponty’s important 1945 lecture “Film and the New Psychology”, exploring the philosopher’s reconceptualization of sense/meaning as something immanent to perception.
- Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. "The Film and the New Psychology." In Sense and Non-Sense, 48-59. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
- Entry on 'Sense'. Cassin, Barbara, Sandra Laugier, Alain de Libera, Irène Rosier-Catach, and Giacinta Spinosa. 2014. In Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, edited by Barbara Cassin, 949-969. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Session 2: The ‘Cahiers line’
Session 2 will focus on the ever-influential film publication Cahiers du cinéma. The first half of the session will explore the work of André Bazin: the founder of Cahiers du cinéma and iconic advocate of cinematic realism. The second half of the session will focus on the problem of mise en scène, as developed in the much less systemic work of the younger Cahiers critics, which lies at the basis of the famous ‘auteur theory’ or politiques des auteurs.
- Bazin, André. 2011. "In Defense of Rosselini." In André Bazin and Italian Neorealism, edited by Bert Cardullo, 163-171. New York: Continuum.
- Truffaut, François. 2014. "A Certain Tendency in French Cinema." In Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures, edited by Scott MacKenzie, 133-144. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
- Cribb, Corey P. 2021. "“To Believe in an Image (Again)”: The Politics of the Index, André Bazin’s Ontology of Sense, and the Antidote to Digital Skepticism." Cultural Politics 17 (3):314-332.
- Hillier, Jim. 1986. "Introduction: Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1960s." In Cahiers du Cinéma: Volume 2 - 160-1968: New Wave, New CInema, Re-evaluating Hollywood, edited by Jim Hillier, 1-18. London: Routledge & Keagan Paul.
- Hoveyda, Fereydoun. 1986. "Sunspots." In Cahiers du cinéma volume 2 1960-1968: New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood, edited by Jim Hillier, 135-143. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Session 3: The Semiotic turn
Our third session will focus on the work of Christian Metz, a polemical figure who attempted (with notable success) to convert the discipline to structuralist semiotics in the 1960s, dispensing with phenomenology in the process. It will subsequently outline the dramatic change of direction that film theory took in the 1970s as it came to engage with political and psychoanalytic concepts.
- Metz, Christian. 1991. "The Cinema: Language or Language System?" In Film Langauge, 31-44. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Baudry, Jean Louis. 1974-1975. "Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematic Apparatus." Film Quarterly 28 (2): 39- 47.
- Château, Dominique, and Martin Lefebvre. 2014. "Dance and Fetish: Phenomenology and Metz’s Epistemological Shift." October 148: 103–132.
Session 4: Rethinking Film Semiotics
This session will explore the new directions which French film theory takes in the 1980s with the rise of so-called ‘post-structuralism’. The first half of the lecture will interrogate Gilles Deleuze’s extremely influential critique of Metz’s semiology and subsequent attempt to create a new semiotics of cinema which circumvents the idea of cinema as a ‘language’. We will also discuss the work of Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier who drew on works by Derrida and Blanchot to rethink the relationship between cinema and writing.
- Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image, pp 25-30. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Athlone.
- Ropars-Wiulleumier, Marie-Claire. 2007. "On Filmic Rewriting: Contamination of the Arts or Destruction of Art’s Identity?" Rouge (11).
- Rodowick, D. N. 1997. “Image and Sign”. In Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine, 38-78. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
- Polan, Dana. 1984. ‘‘Desire Shifts the Differance’’: Figural Poetics and Figural Politics in the Film Theory of Marie-Claire Ropars”. Camera Obscura 12 (Summer): 67-88.
Session 5: Rethinking Sense with Film-Philosophy
Our final sessional will focus on two texts by philosophers who have tried their hand at film criticism: Jacques Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy. It will interrogate each thinkers revised approach to the question of cinematic meaning following the demise of semiotic approaches to film analysis, addressing questions of ‘sense’ and ‘the sensible’.
- Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2001. The Evidence of Film, 12-56. Brussels: Yves Gevaert.
- Rancière, Jacques. 2016. "Béla Tarr: The Poetics and the Politics of Fiction." In Slow Cinema, edited by Tiago de Luca and Nuno Barradas Jorge, 245-260. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Further Reading :
- Rancière, Jacques. 2013. Béla Tarr, The Time After. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing.
The Early Works of G.W.F. Hegel
Lecturers: Brendan Duncan, Daniel Lopez, Gregory Marks
Starts: Wed 6:30-8:30pm 14 Jun
Full Schedule: June 14, 21, 28, July 5, 12
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Few philosophers have so contested a reputation as that of Hegel, whose works have stood for the past two centuries as monuments to a system of thought that has been equally reviled, revered, and reworked by succeeding generations. But this edifice did not emerge from the philosopher’s head fully formed. In works produced prior to the publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807, we discover not the old professor Hegel, but Hegel the journeyman, still in the process of fixing upon the adequate form, style, and content for his philosophical system. Far from the image of the totalising intellect that defines his popular perception, we find Hegel as a late bloomer, as a man in his thirties struggling to escape the shadow of the much younger Schelling, supporting his intellectual pursuits by the piecemeal work of private lecturing. In a phrase, we discover Hegel as an ‘early career researcher,’ whose philosophy seeks both a place and a form befitting its as yet unrealised ambitions.
To excavate this nascent phase of Hegel’s philosophy, these lectures turn to his early works, from his first ‘theological’ writings and articles in Schelling’s Journal of Critical Philosophy to the fragments and lecture notes produced during his years of precarity at the University of Jena. Through these texts we will follow Hegel’s journey toward intellectual maturity, as he developed the logical system and phenomenological method that would serve as the foundations for his mature philosophy. In each of these texts we can hear echoes of his major works—the Phenomenology, the Logic, and the Philosophy of Right—which these lectures will attempt to explicate. But we can also see a philosophical labour that cannot be reduced to the final work: an experimentation with the form of exposition; an exploration of intellectual frameworks, ranging from the transcendental, to the historical, to the economic; and a gradual elaboration of a system of philosophical knowledge, the shape of which cannot be known in advance.
Lecture 1 (Daniel Lopez)
This lecture will be devoted to “The Positivity of the Christian Religion” and “The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate,” two early works in which Hegel traces the immanent historical development of the Christian religion, from its revolutionary origins to its institutionalisation as the state religion of the Roman empire. By tracing the logical necessity of this historical development, Hegel helps us grasp the Christian religion conceptually. The result is one of the most important philosophical commentaries on Christianity and a propaedeutic to the rest of Hegel's philosophy which overcomes religious representations of the Absolute.
- G.W.F. Hegel, “The Positivity of the Christian Religion,” in Early Theological Writings, trans. T.M. Knox, p. 67-181.
- G.W.F. Hegel, “The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate,” in Early Theological Writings, trans. T.M. Knox, p. 182-301.
Lecture 2 (Brendan Duncan)
In this session we look at two of Hegel's articles, both from 1802, in Schelling's Journal of Critical Philosophy. In these texts we see an early exposition—one perhaps more programmatic than any other in Hegel's corpus—of two of Hegel’s core concepts: the concept of the understanding and the concept of dialectic.
- G.W.F. Hegel, “How the Ordinary Human Understanding Takes Philosophy” in Between Kant and Hegel, trans. George di Giovanni and H.S. Harris, p. 292-310.
- G.W.F. Hegel, “On the Relationship of Skepticism to Philosophy,” in Between Kant and Hegel, trans. George di Giovanni and H.S. Harris, p. 311-362.
Lecture 3 (Gregory Marks)
This week we turn to an untitled manuscript of 1802/3, later dubbed by Hegel’s editors as the System of Ethical Life. In this work we find the earliest systematic exposition of the laws of human existence and its social life that would later be developed in the opening chapters of the Phenomenology of Spirit and in the account of civil society presented in the Philosophy of Right. But beyond this familiar content, we also discover fundamental questions of form: what is the proper style of philosophical exposition? Should a system be elaborated according to transcendental, historical, or phenomenological principles? As we will see, the search for answers to these formal problems animate all of Hegel’s attempts at the construction of a system.
- G.W.F. Hegel, System of Ethical Life, trans. H.S. Harris and T.M. Knox.
Lecture 4 (Gregory Marks)
This lecture examines the First Philosophy of Spirit (1803/4) as the beginning of a series of accounts of human life that Hegel would repeatedly revise through the stages of his philosophical development, from the second Philosophy of Spirit of 1805/6 and the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) to the Encyclopedia Philosophy of Spirit (1817-30). Seen from its point of origin rather than from its end, Hegel’s conception of Spirit becomes visible in its endless capacity for revision—Spirit appears not as an unchanging human nature but as a perpetually reposed problem of composition, the content and organisation of which are reworked anew in every telling.
- G.W.F. Hegel, First Philosophy of Spirit, trans. H.S. Harris and T.M. Knox.
Lecture 5 (Brendan Duncan)
This session covers the 1804/5 Jena System Logic & Metaphysics, Hegel's “first draft” of what will become the Science of Logic. Against the view that sees the Hegel of the Logic as a metaphysical retcon of the Hegel of the Phenomenology of Spirit, we see in the Jena System a young Hegel for whom logic—including the categories of special metaphysics: soul, world and God—occupies a central position.
- G.W.F. Hegel, The Jena System, trans. John W. Burbidge and George di Giovanni.
People Think: Sylvain Lazarus’ Anthropology of the Name
Lecturer: Duncan Stuart
Starts: Fri 6:30-8:30pm 16 Jun
Full Schedule: June 16 (Fri), 22 (Thurs), 29 (Thurs), July 6 (Thurs), 13 (Thurs)
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
In recent years the work of Sylvain Lazarus has begun to gain more attention. Read initially because of his intellectual and political relationship with Alain Badiou, there has recently been a turn to understanding Lazarus on his own terms. The goal of this course is simple: we are going to read Lazarus’ 1996 text Anthropology of the Name. After an introductory first week, we will read a chapter a week.
Anthropology of the Name is Lazarus’ major theoretical statement. Built on two decades of thinking through the crisis of Marxism and his work with L’Organisation Politique, Lazarus codifies an account of politics that centers people’s thought. The result is a radical statement on the relationship between Marxism, theory, and emancipation. For if politics is precisely the demonstration of people’s thought, serious questions are now posed about the traditional relationship of theory and emancipation. The unfolding tension asks us, then, what becomes of theory? Lazarus articulates a unique and powerful vision of politics. This vision is articulated through a singular conceptual apparatus. For Lazarus politics occurs in “interiority”, proceeding via modes that are sequential and rare. As a class we will contemplate the troubling implications Lazarus’ intervention has for those who believe that critical theory and emancipation belong together.
No prior knowledge of Lazarus, theory or Badiou is required or necessary. All readings, including secondary material, will be provided.
Session 1: An Introduction to Sylvain Lazarus
The first session introduces Lazarus and provides relevant background. After giving an overview of his life and work, I move on to the relevant historical details. We will focus on May 68’, The Crisis of Marxism and Lazarus’ involvement with UCFML and L'Organisation Politique. I will also provide an overview of Lazarus’ key terminology, all of which will be explicated in the proceeding sessions.
- Can Politics be Thought in Interiority? – Sylvain Lazarus (trans.Tyler Harper), Cosmos and History (May 2016), pp.107-130
- Socialist Think – Asad Haider, Viewpoint Magazine (September 2018)
Session 2: What is an Anthropology of the Name?
In this session we begin the exposition of Lazarus and his Anthropology of the Name proper. The introduction will be covered by a discussion focused on ‘what is an anthropology of the name?’ We will then move on to the first chapter, “The Distance Travelled and Categories.” The first chapter is divided into two parts. The first part concerns what Lazarus calls ‘The Caesura of May ‘68’. Across ten sub sections he introduces several categories crucial to his thinking. The argument in this first part is an abstract account of the French Communist Party’s declining role in politics (as Lazarus understands it) and the rise of Mitterandism. The second section is an exposition of the important role Lenin plays for Lazarus and where Lazarus develops his theory of modes. The focus will be on Lazarus interpretation of Lenin, bringing together a few of his comments from elsewhere. We will also highlight a few other moments in this chapter including Lazarus’ discussion of the “method of saturation” and his discussion of Karl Marx.
- Introduction (pp.1-9) and Chapter 1: The Distance Travelled and Categories (pp.10-47), Sylvain Lazarus, Anthropology of the Name
Session 3: The Two Statements
In this session the reading is short, but there is much ground to cover. We will look at what Lazarus calls the “Two Statements”: 1) “People Think” and 2) “Thought is a Relation of the Real”. The first statement does not require much explication, but the second will require a detour through Lazarus’ discussions of rationalism and scientism, including a discussion of his use of Claude Levi-Strauss and Emile Durkheim. When will then return to discussing statement 2. There are then four more concepts that we will need to cover in this chapter: intellectuality and thinkability and reiteration and gaps. This will bring us to terms with the core of Lazarus’ thought, the two statements are fundamental.
- Chapter 2: The Two Statements (pp.48-68), Sylvain Lazarus, Anthropology of the Name
Session 4: Classism and the Proper Names
In this session we will discuss Lazarus’ critical engagement with several other thinkers, gaining a better sense of his intellectual influences. The lecture focuses on five things.
1) Lazarus’ critique of Marxism-Leninism and the "Dialectic of the objective-subjective”.
2) The role Michel Foucault’s concept of episteme plays in Lazarus’ conception of “singularity”
3) Lazarus polemic against the concept of totality
4) the role Althusser’s concept of overdetermination plays for Lazarus
5) The relationship between History and the State.
I will provide background on the major thinkers covered in this chapter (Marx, Foucault, Althusser, Durkheim) and explicate their concepts which Lazarus draws on but does not always discuss in detail.
- Chapter 3: Thinking After Classism (pp.69-114), Sylvain Lazarus, Anthropology of the Name
Session 5: Unnamable Names and Antihistoricism
This session will cover the penultimate and concluding chapter of Anthropology of the Name. The main 4 points to be covered are:
- Lazarus’ critique of Marc Bloch. This will require a detailed exposition of Bloch.
- Lazarus’ argument for the abolition of time.
- Lazarus’ discussion of Moses Finely and ‘antihistorcist historicism’
- the figure of the worker and the worker factory.
We will conclude with a summary and offer a critical assessment of Lazarus’ intervention, connecting back to issues outlined at the beginning of the course, asking ourselves if Lazarus’ subjectivist egalitarianism can be maintained.
- Chapter 4: Unanmeable Names (pp.115-166) and Chapter 5: Time to Conclude (pp.167-175), Sylvain Lazarus, Anthropology of the Name
Political Economy: From Justice to Neoliberalism
Lecturers: Peter Gratton, Jay Foster
Starts: Mon 10:00-12:00pm 17 Jul
Full Schedule: July 17-21
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course explores the development of the practices, relations of power, and formation of a “science” of “economics” from medieval European notions of justice through to its development as neoliberalism. This five-day shows how a science or form of knowledge not even assumed to exist that long ago in historical memory has been paired with the political in political arithmetic and political economy and then overtakes the political altogether, becoming the matrix through which politics and culture are to be understood in recent decades. We will chart this journey at a propitious moment when the problematic assumptions of economics as a discipline have finally, if perhaps only momentarily, allowed alternatives to be heard in the form of Neo-Keynesianism, the return to Marx, Modern Monetary Theory, and much else since the 2007-8 and pandemic crises.
Each class focuses on distinct moments in the history of “economy,” beginning with its medieval foundations and culminating in the neoliberal present and the ruptures pointing the way to its demise. How did we get here? And how did economics—a field built on such weak philosophical assumptions and foundations—then colonize vast other fields (law, punishment, ethics, aesthetics, and so on) and be able to dictate and adjudicate not just public policy but ethics, aesthetics, and all else? Economics as a discipline, despite its undeniable power in adjudicating what’s deemed possible in the political and much else, is today facing an ongoing crisis, perhaps far greater than at any time since the appearance of Keynes’ work in the 1930s. The libertarian Chicago School of economics may not have described the world with any adequacy, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t helped create the world in which we have lived these past decades. Given the brevity of our time together, crucial fields in political economy and its history must be left for another time, including the work of Marx and his heirs, whose works are closely and well engaged in other MSCP classes. For each class, the lecturers will provide a loose lecture to cover the material, followed by ample time for discussion and textual questions.
Class 1: The Birth of Political Economy: From Scholasticism to Classical Economics
In the first class, we look at the origins of political economy, starting with the Scholastic tradition in medieval economic thought in Thomas Aquinas, which is in turn grounded in Aristotelean distinctions between natural and unnatural moneymaking. We then explore the transitions necessary to arrive at Adam Smith’s “founding” of “economic science” in The Wealth of Nations (1776), concentrating not just on the most-repeated moments (“the invisible hand”) but also those often ignored given its prescience for the horrors of industrial life (“the tedium” and inhumanity of conditions under specialized labor). We will then delve into the foundations of classical economics, focusing on the contributions of Smith, David Ricardo, and Jean-Baptiste Say, when the last vestiges of “moral philosophy” (each was considered in his time a “moral philosopher”) are dropped from economics as a discipline, though not politics.
Readings and recommended materials will be selections drawn Aquinas, Smith, and Bentham. The first class will also introduce the main contemporary areas of “economics” as a field.
Class 2: The Birth of a Discipline: From Marx to the Marginal Revolution to Keynes
The second class explores the transition from classical to neoclassical political economy and the emergence of the marginal revolution. We will discuss how the “marginalists,” who include William Stanley Jevons, Carl Menger, and Léon Walras, shifted the focus of economic thought from objective theories of value to the subjective theories that were nevertheless given the sheen of objectivity through measures of value based on the concept of marginal utility. While breezing past debates about laissez-faire and interventionist approaches to the state, we will see how Keynes’s writings in the 1930s offer a place in economics for radical uncertainty, which needed to be banished from economics to bolster the fiction of homo economicus and the inexorability of its laws.
Readings and recommended materials will be selections drawn from Say, Marx, Jevons, and Marshal.
Class 3: The Emergence of Neoliberalism: Hayek (Austrian School) and Friedman (Monetarism)
The third class delves into the historical and intellectual context for the practices of neoliberalism, continuing our discussions of Keynes from last time and then moving to how his work was domesticated after World War II by the economics discipline (via econometrics and melding of Keynes with the neoclassical economics that cratered the economies of the world just two decades before), setting the stage for Milton Friedman’s monetarist neoliberal views, which snuffed out even the domesticated “liberal” form of Keynesianism on offer in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere while increased quantification of the field helped further its claims to be a science whose results were as solid as claims made in the natural sciences.
Readings and recommended materials will be selections drawn from Friedman and Becker.
Class 4: The Ascendancy of Neoliberalism: Political and Economic Transformations
In the fourth class, we examine Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics lectures from 1978-9 and their interpretation by Wendy Brown several decades later, concentrating on how Foucault’s genealogy of neoliberalism shows how both liberalism and neoliberalism make use of market mechanisms as a means of governing populations. These mechanisms include the use of economic incentives and market competition to shape individual behavior and create a new subject, homo economicus, entrepreneurs, whose activities even in Joseph Schumpeter’s works are relatively limited but are now to be the modus vivendi of the neoliberal self. Reference will be made not only to Ordoliberals and Chicago School theories mentioned by Foucault and recent in the economics discipline then and since: behavioral economics, neo-institutionalism, evolutionary economics, and so forth. The point is not to cover any of these in any real depth, but to give class members better purchase in recent debates over the fate of “economics.”
Readings and recommended materials will be selections drawn from among the following in Foucault’s 1978-9 Birth of Biopower lectures and critiques and extensions of these lectures.
Class 5: Beyond Neoliberalism
The final class will focus on the legacy of neoliberalism and work through claims that the long twilight (may it go quicker than the century-old invocation of “late capitalism”) of neoliberal rationality has begun since it seems some days that it’s simply changing forms.
Readings and recommended materials will be selections drawn from Wendy Brown, Skidelsky, and on recent trends in heterodox economics.
Outside the Head: From Abstraction to Subtraction
Lecturer: Jai Bentley-Payne
Starts: Mon 1:00-3:00pm 17 Jul
Full Schedule: July 17-21
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
This course will offer a grounding in theoretical approaches to the practical metaphysics of the capital-relation. Oriented by a reading of real abstraction centred on the concept of form-determination, we will detail a counter-philosophical itinerary of materialism as an overdetermination of forms. The course will build on a critical account of Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s critique of epistemology by situating the abstractions of private-property, law, the value-form and the individuated-subject within a nexus of relations that make up the actually existing metaphysics of capital. Such an account of real abstraction can offer critical insights into a wide range of contemporary phenomena, from financial objects, to computation and artificial intelligence, to the impasse of politics. The course will culminate in a proposal for how we might think political form in light of the problematic of real abstraction by turning to the conception of subtraction found in the work of Alain Badiou, and reading it through notions of self-abolition and communisation.
Lecture 1. Abstraction
In this first lecture we look at key arguments in the development of real abstraction as an idea. We start by introducing the main insights from the work Alfred Sohn-Rethel, from the unique properties of the exchange-relation, to the division of intellectual and manual labour, and the abstractions of measurement and quantification. We then look at various ways that exchange and the money-form have been identified as integral to the social development of philosophy.
- Sohn-Rethel, Alfred. 2021. Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.
- Seaford, Richard. 2012. ‘Monetisation and the Genesis of the Western Subject’. Historical Materialism 20 (1): 78–102. https://doi.org/10.1163/156920612X632782.
- Toscano, Alberto. 2014. ‘Materialism without Matter: Abstraction, Absence and Social Form’. Textual Practice 28 (7): 1221–40. https://doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2014.965901.
- Thomson, George. 1972. The First Philosophers: Studies in Ancient Greek Society. London: Lawrence & Wishart.
- Adorno, Theodor W. 2001. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Stanford, Calif.; Cambridge: Stanford University Press ; Cambridge University Press
- Colletti, Lucio. 1992. ‘Introduction’. In Karl Marx: Early Writings, translated by Tom Nairn, 7–56. London: Penguin.
Lecture 2. Form-Determination
Form-determination [formbestimmung] is essential to the core arguments of real abstraction, not only as they relate to Sohn-Rethel’s critique of epistemology, but for how we might conceive of real abstraction beyond the narrow confines of exchange. This lecture will look how the concept of form-determination has led to a deeper philosophical understanding of Marx, and how in turn this can lead to a richer appreciation of real abstraction.
- Bellofiore, Riccardo, and Tommaso Redolfi Riva. 2015. ‘The Neue Marx-Lektüre: Putting the Critique of Political Economy Back into the Critique of Society’. Radical Philosophy, no. 189. https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/the-neue-marx-lekture.
- Marx, Karl. 1990. ‘Chapter 1: The Commodity’. In Capital Volume I, 125–77. London: Penguin Books.
- Rubin, Isaak Illich. 1973. ‘Thing and Social Function’. In Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value, translated by Milos Samardzija and Fredy Perlman. Montreal: Black Rose Books.
- Marx, Karl. 2010. ‘Difference Between The Democritean And Epicurean Philosophy Of Nature’. In Marx & Engels Collected Works Volume 1, 25–105. London: Lawrence & Wishart
- Endnotes. 2010. ‘Communisation and Value-Form Theory’. In Endnotes 2: Misery and the Value Form, 68–105. London, UK: Endnotes UK.
Lecture 3. Overdetermination
Debates around conceptions of real abstraction have largely been caught up in privileging either the historical development of abstract labour on the one hand, or the exchange-abstraction on the other. In this lecture we take a different approach by elucidating the capitalist social formation as a multiplicity of forms. We consider how private property, law and other forms overdetermine the value-form and ultimately bear on a common philosophical understanding of subjectivity that in itself can be understood as a real abstraction.
- Balibar, Étienne. 2017. ‘“My Self,” “My Own”: Variations on Locke’. In Citizen Subject: Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology, 74–91. Commonalities. New York: Fordham University Press.
- Pashukanis, Evgeniĭ Bronislavovich. 2002. ‘Commodity and Subject’. In The General Theory of Law & Marxism, 109–33. Law & Society Series. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers
- Toscano, Alberto, and Brenna Bhandar. 2015. ‘Race, Real Estate and Real Abstraction’. Radical Philosophy, no. 194 (December): 8–17.
- Rekret, Paul. 2019. ‘Cogito Ergo Habo: Philosophy, Money and Method’. In Commoning with George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici, 61–80. London: Pluto Press.
- Montag, Warren. 2017. ‘A Parallelism of Consciousness and Property: Balibar’s Reading of Locke’. In Balibar and the Citizen Subject, edited by Warren Montag and Hanan Elsayed, 157–81. Critical Connections (Edinburgh University Press). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
- Miéville, China. 2004. ‘The Commodity-Form Theory of International Law: An Introduction’. Leiden Journal of International Law 17 (2): 271–302. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156504001827.
- Althusser, Louis. 2017. Philosophy for Non-Philosophers. Translated by G. M. Goshgarian. New York: Bloomsbury.
Lecture 4. Information
The intersection of informatic computation and financialisation has not only signalled the privilege of so-called immateriality, it has ushered in an apparent return of the abstract. In this lecture, we consider a dialectical account of computational and financial technology that takes up the challenge of preserving the understanding of real abstraction, while offering a critical account of statistical, informatic and financial systems that render objective, and then separate, and differentiate in concrete terms, despite their pretensions to immateriality.
- Beller, Jonathan. 2021. ‘The Social Difference Engine and the World Computer’. In The World Computer: Derivative Conditions of Racial Capitalism, 3–62. Thought in the Act. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Joque, Justin. 2022. Revolutionary Mathematics: Artificial Intelligence, Statistics and the Logic of Capitalism. London New York: Verso.
- Jones, Campbell. 2016. ‘The World of Finance’. Diacritics 44 (3): 30–54.
- Franklin, Seb. 2021. The Digitally Disposed: Racial Capitalism and the Informatics of Value. Electronic Mediations, vol. 61. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lecture 5. Subtraction
In this final lecture we return to the difficulties posed for philosophy and politics by the problematic of real abstraction. If politics is always delimited by the material practices, abstractions and incorporations of the capital-relation, then a renewal of an immanent political form can only be inaugurated in modalities of thought and practice that break down their own limits. Here, we turn to a proposal for how we might think political form by bringing together a theory of communisation with a subtractive conception of politics from Alain Badiou.
- Badiou, Alain. 2018. Can Politics Be Thought? Translated by Bruno Bosteels. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Badiou, Alain. 2012. ‘Destruction, Negation, Subtraction’. In Cultural Inquiry, edited by Luca Di Blasi, Manuele Gragnolati, and Christoph F. E. Holzhey, 6:269–77. Vienna: Turia + Kant. https://doi.org/10.37050/ci-06_15.
- Brown, Nathan. 2021. ‘Badiou After Meillasoux: The Politics of the Problem of Induction’. In Rationalist Empiricism: A Theory of Speculative Critique, 185-203 New York: Fordham University Press.
- Simon, Roland. “Self-Organisation Is the First Act of the Revolution; It Then Becomes an Obstacle Which the Revolution Has to Overcome.” Théorie Communiste, September 5, 2005. http://libcom.org/library/self-organisation-is-the-first-act-of-the-revolution-it-then-becomes-an-obstacle-which-the-revolution-has-to-overcome
Raymond Ruyer’s Cybernetics and the Origin of Information
Lecturer: Ashley Woodward
Starts: Mon 3:30-5:30pm 17 Jul
Full Schedule: July 17-21
Location: Taught via Zoom online.
Raymond Ruyer’s book Cybernetics and the Origin of Information was the first sustained philosophical response to cybernetics and Information Theory. By extension and implication, it was one of the first philosophical works to deal with issues in automated reasoning and information systems which today typically go under names such as Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science, and which are increasingly topical and pressing. First published in 1954, a second, substantially revised edition was issued in 1967. Ruyer’s book is a response to the cybernetics of Norbert Wiener and other prominent researchers in the area, and like cybernetics itslef, traverses disciplines including communications, engineering, psychology, biology, and physics. While reciveing apparently little attention at the time, it was a hidden but deep influence on Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of technology.
While many of the detailed descriptions of the technologies of his time now appear dated, Ruyer in many ways remains compelling in identifying the differences between conscious thought and mechanical functioning. Moreover, many of the questions he raises and proposes provocative answers to, such as the limits of automation and the exact nature of information, remain unsettled topics of debate in contemporary philosophy of information and computing. Paradoxically, then, this old book is more relevant now then it has ever been.
The concept of information introduced with cybernetics promised to bring together the technical meaning of the term, as a statistical, probabilistic analysis of signal transmission, and the common meaning, as knowledge and understanding. It was therefore thought to have the potential to unify the natural and human sciences, machines and living beings, in a generalised theory of information systems. In sum, Ruyer’s argument is that cybernetics has a vast importance, but is confused and limited by its insistence on mechanistic models. Through mutiple detailed arguments, he seeks to demonstrate that cybernetics falls too far on the side of mechanism to adequately account for not just meaning in the human world, but organisation and development in biology. Ultimately, Ruyer argues that information must be understood to have a double origin and reality, both physical and metaphysical (or material and ideal).
The lecturer is a contributor to the first English translation of Cybernetics and the Origin of Information, due to be published with Rowman & Littlefield in 2024. Students will have early access to this translation.
Schedule and readings
Lecture 1: Introduction to Ruyer and Cybernetics
- General introduction to Ruyer
- General overview of the text
- Cybernetics ‘Introduction’
- Cybernetics Chpt. 1: The Main Types of Information Machines (optional)
- Ashley Woodward, ‘Raymond Ruyer and the Philosophy of Information’ (optional)
Lecture 2: Value and Purpose
- Critique of teleology in cybernetics
- Axiological space
- Cybernetics Chpt. 2: Framing Activities and Framed Mechanisms
- Cybernetics Chpt. 3: The Space of Behaviour and Axiological ‘Space’
Lecture 3: Information and Communication
- Critique of the cybernetic theory of information and communication
- Information Theory
- Wiener’s concept of communication
- Cybernetics Chpt. 4: Communication
- Cybernetics Chpt. 5: The Origin of Information
Lecture 4: Entropy and Time
- Physics, entropy, and time
- Critique of mechanistic models of organisation and development
- Critique of Wiener’s claim that cybernetic machines exist in Bergsonian time
- Cybernetics Chpt. 6: Negative Anti-chance and Positive Anti-chance
- Cybernetics Chapt. 7: Past-Future and Cybernetics
Lecture 5: Beyond Cybernetics
- Conclusions: for an expanded cybernetics
- Later developments
- Information, from cybernetics to informatics, systems theory – and AI?
- Cybernetics chpt. 8: The Mixed Origin of Information
- Cybernetics chpt. 9: Summary and Conclusion to the First Edition
- Cybernetics chpt. 10: The Problems of Cybernetics in 1967 (optional)
- Ruyer, ‘The Fracture Line of Cybernetics in 1979’ (optional)