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Étienne Balibar and Verónica Gago

The Concept of Capital and the Current State of Capitalism

Friday, October 28, 2016, 3:30-6:30pm

BSLC Building, Lecture Hall 115

This half-day panel features presentations by Étienne Balibar and Verónica Gago followed by responses from Robert Meister and Moishe Postone. Kaushik Sunder Rajan acts as panel moderator.

“Towards a New Critique of Political Economy: From Historical Capitalism to Absolute Capitalism?”
Étienne Balibar, Columbia University

In the work—unfinished, aporetic, but immensely innovative and fruitful—that provided the “cornerstones” for his project of a Critique of Political Economy, namely Das Kapital (Volume One, 1867), Marx did not discuss “capitalism:” this is a sociological category that was introduced later, partly on the basis of his analyses, partly in reaction to them. Later Marxists as well as non-Marxists provided complex and antithetic accounts of the trajectory of Capitalism and its various forms of realization. In the era of Globalization and Neo-liberalism, the new “critique of political economy,” which is necessary in order to re-establish the articulation of ideological critique (including the critique of “Marxism” and “Socialism” as ideologies), objective analysis of the social structures, tendencies and contradictions of the economy, and political activism, seems to involve a consideration of (at least) three objectives: 1) an assessment of epistemological obstacles that prevented Marxism from fully acknowledging advances of “bourgeois” economic theory beyond the decomposition of the Ricardian school; 2) a definition of the type of capitalism that has now replaced “historical Capitalism” (in the words of Immanuel Wallerstein), both “central” and “peripheric”; 3) a rethinking of the “essential relation” that confers upon capitalism its intrinsic conflictuality and expansive capacity (what Marx called “surplus-value”). The presentation will go as far as possible in the direction of these three objectives, on the basis of ongoing research.

“Neoliberalism from Below: Baroque Economies and Popular Pragmatics”
Verónica Gago, University of Buenos Aires

Gago will discuss the revolts against neoliberalism as a fundamental founding moment of its crises of legitimacy in the Latin American region. She will then develop the notion of “neoliberalism from below” as a way of problematizing the reason why neoliberalism does not solely depend on its political legitimacy, at the same time as social movements have an agenda that imposes a “veto power” on the later governments. This requires conceptualizing the pragmatic that the popular classes deploy in order to adapt to, while also derailing, the uni-dimensionality of the neoliberal competitive norm, to complicate it and combine it with other practices and knowledges. Toward this end, she will will detail the strategic rationality that this vital perseverance brings into play.

Étienne Balibar graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Sorbonne in Paris, and later took his PhD from the University of Nijmegen. After teaching in Algeria and France, he is currently Anniversary Chair of Contemporary European Philosophy at Kingston University London and Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York. His books include Reading Capital (with Louis Althusser) (Verso, 1965), Race, Nation, Class. Ambiguous Identities (Verso, 1991, with Immanuel Wallerstein), Masses, Classes, Ideas (Routledge, 1994), The Philosophy of Marx (Verso, 1995), Spinoza and Politics (Verso, 1998), We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship (Princeton, 2004), Identity and Difference (Verso, 2013), Equaliberty. Political Essays  (Duke, 2014), Violence and Civility (2015).

Verónica Gago is a Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University of Buenos Aires.  Her most recent book, La razón neoliberal: economías barrocas y pragmática popular (Traficantes de sueños, 2015) has just been translated into English.  Additional selected publications include:  (with Mezzadra, Sandro, Brett Neilson, Manuela Bojadzijev, Giulia Dal Maso, Maristella Svampa, Sharad Chari et al.) “Extraction, Logistics, Finance” Global Crisis (2013);  “Financialization of Popular Life and the Extractive Operations of Capital: A Perspective from Argentina” South Atlantic Quarterly 114.1 (2015): 11-28;  (with Diego Sztuljwark) “The Temporality of Social Struggle at the End of the “Progressive” Cycle in Latin America” South Atlantic Quarterly 115, no. 3 (2016): 606-614; and “Dangerous liaisons: Latin American feminists and the left.” NACLA Report on the Americas 40, no. 2 (2007): 17-19.

Robert Meister is Professor of Social and Political Thought in the Department of the History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz, and is currently a Visiting Scholar at 3CT.  His research interests include political and moral philosophy, law and social theory, Marxian theory, institutional analysis, anti-discrimination law, critical human rights theory, andfinancialization. Selected publications include Political Identity: Thinking Through Marx, “Beyond Satisfaction;” “Is Moderation a Virtue?”;  “The Logic and Legacy of Dred Scott; “Sojourners and Survivors: Two Logics of Constitutional Protection” and “Forgiving and Forgetting: Lincoln and the Politics of National Recovery: and “Human Right and the Politics of Victimhood,” “Athens and Jerusalem after Auschwitz: Still the Jewish Question,” and “Debt and Taxes: Can Financial Institutions Save Public Higher Education.”  His most recent book is After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights (Columbia University Press), 2011. He has contributed a chapter on “Liquidity” to Derivatives and the Wealth of Society (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and is currently writing a book titled Just Optionality. Professor Meister is also to Director of the Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism at UC Santa Cruz and served for seventeen years as President of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations where he was broadly active in the politics of public higher education.

Moishe Postone is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of the College, History, and the Center for Jewish Studies and Co-Director of The Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT).  His research interests include: Modern European intellectual history; social theory, especially critical theories of modernity; twentieth-century Germany; anti-Semitism; and contemporary global transformations.  Selected publications include: Critique du fétiche-capital: Le capitalisme, l’antisemitisme et la gauche. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2013; History and Heteronomy: Critical Essays. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy, 2009; “The Subject and Social Theory: Marx and Lukács on Hegel. In Marx and Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Andrew Chitty and Martin McIvor. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2009; “Capital in Light of the Grundrisse.” In Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy One Hundred and Fifty Years Later, edited by Marcello Musto. London and New York: Routledge. 2008; and Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Kaushik Sunder Rajan is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College, and Co-Director of 3CT.  His research interests include the anthropology of science, technology and medicine and his work has focused the increased corporatization of life science research, the emergence of new technologies and epistemologies within the life sciences (significantly, genomics) and the global occurrence of these technoscientific and market emergences. His forthcoming book is entitled: Pharmocracy: Trials of Global Biomedicine (Duke University Press).  Other selected publications include: Trans-formations of Biology and of Theory. In D. Boyer, J. Faubioin and G. Marcus, eds., Theory is more than it used to be. Cornell University Press. 2015; “Courting Innovation: The Constitution(s) of Indian Biomedicine.” In S. Hilgartner, C. Miller and R. Hadendijk, eds., Science and Democracy: Making Knowledge and Making Power in the Biosciences and Beyond. Routledge, pp. 56-73, 2015; (with Judith Farquhar) “Introduction” to Special Issue on Knowledge/Value : Information, Archives, Databases. East Asian Science, Technology and Society. 8(4): 383-89. 2014;  and Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life. Duke University Press, 2006.