Culture, Power and Politics Seminar Series
Sessions for 2018
All 6:30pm – 8:30 pm
All Sessions @ Doomed Gallery,: 65-67 Ridley Road, Dalston, London, E8 2NP
All welcome – no charge – no booking required
All hosted and led by Jeremy Gilbert, usually with guests
For many sessions there is some suggested reading listed, but reading it is not obligatory.
For more information about this seminar series including an extensive archive of recordings click here.
April 24th 2018
#metoo / #ImWithHer: feminism, liberalism and the politics of gender
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?
Suggested Reading: http://www.bgu.ac.il/~rottenbe/The%20rise%20of%20neoliberal%20feminism.pdf
Democracy is in the Streets: Fifty Years of 1968
With Hilary Wainwright
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?…
Hilary Wainwright remembers 1968 and has been involved in radical politics since the 1960s, playing a key role on the British Left through much of that time. She is the founding editor of Red Pepper and the author of several books, the most recent of which was published this year, titled A New Politics from the Left. Jeremy Gilbert wasn’t born in 1968, but that hasn’t stopped him writing and saying quite a lot about it. On the 50th anniversary of May 1st 1968, they will discuss all of these issues and any others that arise.
Work, Debt, Creativity, Resistance: An Introduction to the thought of Maurizio Lazzarato
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 Jeremy will explain how those ideas have developed and why they are so relevant for contemporary radical politics.
Wars and Capital
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.
Eyes Right: Trumpism, Brexit and the rise of the alt-right
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?
Suggested Reading: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n10/alan-finlayson/brexitism\
May 29th – No session
Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (I)
with Alex Williams
Gramsci’s concept of ‘hegemony’ remains indispensable to understanding the relationships between culture, politics, economics and technology. Every generation since the 1930s has had to update the idea and its application in the light of new developments in the wider world and in the domain of theory and philosophy. In this session Alex and Jeremy will introduce some key concepts and analyses from their forthcoming book Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (Verso, 2019). This will be the fist of two seminars in the series to will explore this material.
Art, Glitch, Politics
with Debra Benita Shaw
At a time when the meaning of democracy is challenged by the power of algorithms and the politics of misinformation what has become apparent is that the valorisation of data is the defining characteristic of contemporary digital capitalism. Big Data is sold on the basis of accurate retrieval; the promise that a series of perfect signals can be abstracted from the background noise of the world’s incessant uploading of information.
Against this background, the rise of digital ‘glitch’ art is interesting in terms of how it privileges noise over signal and aestheticises error. Glitch artists randomly re-assort ordered sequences to demonstrate that order itself is arbitrary, contingent and open to transduction. In deliberately confounding the apparently smooth interface through which digital messages are received, the glitch aesthetic suggests a productive imagery for a politics which confronts the hierarchies embedded in and reproduced by digital culture.
This seminar is also part of this year’s programme for Antiuniversity 2018
Black Lives Matter – ‘race’, bodies and biopolitics in the 21st century
The Black Lives Matter movement has seen arguably the most significant revival of Black radicalism in the English-speaking world for many years. What has led to this situation and what are the political, historical and theoretical issues raised by it? Is ‘black’ still a meaningful term of political identification for non-white peoples outside the African diaspora? What is the legacy of slavery and colonialism in the contemporary West? Why is racism amongst police forces such a perpetually intractable problem, even in apparently liberal countries like the UK (is the very concept of policing, as Foucault seemed to suggest, itself just inherently racist?). How have new philosophies of materiality and embodied experience contributed to the understanding of ‘race’ as a historical and lived experience? What is the place of ‘black music’ in contemporary culture, 100 years in to the history of recorded sound, and what was been the historical relationship of music to black radicalism?
Directly after this seminar there will be a meeting to set up a reading group focussing on theories of race, colonialism, post-coloniality etc, open to anyone who is interested in joining.
The Right to the City: politics, place and policy in neoliberal London
London’s housing market is in crisis because the global super-rich use our homes as piggy-banks and the government does nothing to stop them. Rent is becoming completely unaffordable (never mind buying a place). Gentrification is killing cultural venues all over the city, as overpriced flats crowd out the places where people gather to make some noise. At the heart of the city, the Corporation of the City of London is a law unto itself, and isn’t even democratically elected. The residents of Grenfell Tower have still not been re-housed. None of this is happening by accident, and none of it is going to change without a radical re-think of what London is for, and a radical challenge to the power of finance capital. In this session we’ll discuss these issues with two expert campaigners, and think about how they fit into the wider history of global neoliberalism.
PFI: The Financialisation of Everything
With Grace Blakely
The ‘Private Finance Initiative’ still sounds like a dry, technical procedure that nobody could get too excited about. That’s what it’s supposed to sound like. Journalists and government have colluded for 25 years in making sure that the public don’t take too much interest in it.
In fact the PFI has been central to UK government policy since the mid 1990s and has been the vehicle through which huge chunks of the British public sector have been privatised without any mandate from the people. One of Stuart Hall’s last great public interventions was to call for the launch of a public campaign against this programme in 2000 – he could see how serious its implications were.
The story of the Private Finance Initiative reached its long-predicted denouement this year with the collapse of Carillion, a company employing 43,000 workers, responsible for dozens of contracts to deliver services across the UK public sector. The biggest bankruptcy in British history has exposed what many economists and political commentators have been saying for years: the PFI was a disastrous policy that was never really intended to benefit the public, but to enable multinational corporations to generate vast profits at the expense of the tax-payer, local authorities, schools and hospitals
But what exactly is the PFI, how does it work, and why are the Blairites still opposed to actually scrapping it?
Hegemony Now: Power in the Twenty-First Century (II)
with Alex Williams
This session will continue the discussion begun on June 5th .