Archive for February, 2010

27 February 2010

morale provisoire _ berlin

An event for Berlin discoursologists on Tuesday 2 March, 7pm in KW Institute for Contemporary Art.

Rado Riha: The Idea as Thinking Politics

Over twenty years ago Alain Badiou asked the question “Can politics be thought?”, which today he answers affirmatively via the notion of the idea of communism. For it poses a real reference point in terms of a “morale provisoire” both for our thinking and existence.

In order to fulfill these moral demands we—as “materialists of the event and the exception” (Badiou)—should not forget to ask how such a materialism of the idea could be manifested. In this context one has to consider whether Kant’s philosophy offers any starting points for this materialism of the idea.

Rado Riha is a philosopher at the Institute of Philosophy, Centre for Scientific Research at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana as well as professor of philosophy at the University of Nova Gorica (post-graduate program of Intercultural Studies). He studied at the University of Ljubljana and, in the 1980s, belonged to the so-called “Ljubljana school of psychoanalysis”. His research focuses on ethics, epistemology, contemporary French philosophy, the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. From 1996 to 2003 he edited the journal Filozofski Vestnik whose board member he has been since 1993. In English, Riha published “Politics as the real of philosophy” in Laclau: A Critical Reader (edited by Simon Critchley and Oliver Marchart, Routledge 2004); available as publications in German are Reale Geschehnisse der Freiheit(1993) and Politik der Wahrheit (1997, in cooperation with Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière and Jelica Šumič). Currently Riha is working on a book on Badiou and Kant.

Further discussions are planned with Lorenzo Chiesa, Peter Hallward, Alberto Toscano, Nina Power, amongst others.

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25 February 2010

Entrepreneurial self on stage

The entrepreneurial self, flexibilisation, self-optimisation, authenticity, work, intrapreneurship, patchwork-biographies, lifelong learning… neo-liberal discourses of the flexible self…

For Berliners: Der flexible Mensch* is appearing in a very amusing and thought-provoking project Entgrenzung (by Frank Oberhäußer) at the Schaubühne’s Studio stage. Only two more shows: 13 and 14 March. Highly recomended.

*Der Flexible Mensch is the German title of Richard Sennett’s (1998) The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences Of Work In the New Capitalism.

24 February 2010

Russia Europe’s largest economy by 2050

New term to add to LEDC, NIC, LDC, etc. Someone recently termed Germany one of the NDCs: Newly Declining Countries. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers provides support:

PricewaterhouseCooper’s head of macroeconomics, John Hawksworth, believes by 2050, Russia will be Europe’s largest economy, while China, the US and India will lead globally.

PwC predicted that Russia would become Europe’s largest economy by 2020. What are the underlying assumptions of this forecast?

In terms of purchasing power parity, which corrects for variations in price levels, Russia’s GDP is already the second largest in Europe after Germany.

Germany’s economic growth, especially given its ageing population, is projected to be less than 2pc per annum over the next 20 years, allowing Russia to catch up by 2020. The price of natural resources should remain relatively high because of demand from India and China and should support Russia’s growth. (Report by Artem Zagorodnov on Russia Now.)

22 February 2010

Language use and ideology

Open source manuscripts! And not only uploaded by third parties, but by the authors themselves. Jef Verschueren‘s latest book, for instance, is currently available online in draft form. In it, he argues that a ‘permanent monitoring of ideological processes’ is ‘imperative’. And that pragmatics offers useful tools to do this.

The book deals with what for me is one of the most fascinating (and important) aspects of language use: commonsensicalness.

Once ways of thinking about relations between groups of people are felt to be ‘normal’, they may become powerful tools for legitimating attitudes, behavior, and policies, whatever the frequently negative consequences in terms of discrimination, patterns of dominance, and even violence.

And more specifically, he offers an interesting thesis on hegemony which promises to engage closely with language practices:

Thesis 1.1.1: The wider the society or community, and the wider the range of discourse genres in which a given pattern of meaning or frame of interpretation escapes questioning, the more ‘hegemonic’ it may be.

The manuscript, which provides a research tool to explore these issues: Engaging with Language Use and Ideology: Pragmatic guidelines for empirical ideology research.

21 February 2010

The communist hypothesis

I’m enthused. When there seems to be such a very widespread consensus that neo-liberalism, the entrepreneurial self, competitiveness, anti-immigration, securitisation, etc. are inevitable and unavoidable, it can seem that there is no way to dislodge this set of beliefs; no way to push an alternative hegemonic project into the mainstream; or to shift the discursive field.

Badiou to the rescue. To get out of the depressive malaise, he says, drawing on Lacan, we have to move from impotence to impossibility. Yes, of course getting rid of inequality or the desire for wealth is impossible, but we can still hold onto those points and ‘endure in the impossible’. Beyond Sarkozy, my favourite section in this book is Badiou’s resignification of ‘communism’. ‘Communism’ denotes a ‘very general set of intellectual representations’:

This set is the horizon of any initiative, however local and limited in time it may be, that breaks with the order of established opinions – the necessity of inequalities and the state instrument for protecting these – and composes a fragment of a politics of emancipation. In other words, communism is what Kant calls an ‘Idea’, with a regulatory function, rather than a programme. It is absurd to characterize communist principles in the sense I have defined them as utopian, as is so often done. They are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion, that serve to produce likes of demarcation between different forms of politics. By and large, a particular political sequence if ether compatible with these principles or opposed to them, in which case it is reactionary. ‘Communism’ in this sense, is a heuristic hypothesis that is very frequently used in political argument, even if the word itself does not appear. (Alain Badiou, 2008, The Meaning of Sarkozy, p. 99)

10 February 2010

CAAT, BAE and corruption

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has announced it has reached a settlement with BAE Systems in its long running investigations into corruption in BAE deals in several countries. CAAT is outraged:

Please take 1 minute to add your name to our statement condemning this decision.

Despite admitting guilt, BAE face no meaningful sanctions. The decision means that there will be no opportunity to discover the truth behind BAE’s activities in South Africa, Romania and the Czech Republic.

We’ll be considering what other action we can take over the coming days, but in the meantime please help us build a mass statement of condemnation.

Please pass it on!

Read more.

Thanks so much for your support, Sarah

More on what BAE does here. More on Campaign Against Arms Trade here. Spoof BAE ad courtesy of CAAT here.