Below is the bare-bones of the paper I did for the recent ASA conference on debt, oikos and service. The argument in that is drawn from C&C, but it’s an argument that I’ve become more sure of since, particularly with the recent wave of occupations at Sussex University against the privatisation of catering, and more recently the COSAS strike at the University of London.
There have been many arguments made about the politics of authorship. Yet few of those situated it as long ago as Walter Benjamin did, not only in relation to labor, but in terms of the changing economic patterns and technologies that served to redefine both authorship and labor and, for that matter, any distinctions between them. This, in brief, is Benjamin’s singular contribution to a discussion about authorship. Continue reading
This is the extended abstract for the paper I’d prepared some months back for a conference, and a clip from the occupation of Sussex University I’d planned to show
How to consider forms of hierarchisation, submission, intolerance, meekness and domination that obtain in the university without deferring to either the dream of a universality or, what is the same thing, the nightmare of a total mobilisation, which is to say, the absolute hierarchy of the general equivalent and its political variants?
As is more or less well-known, Kant’s writings on the university, collected under the heading of The Conflict of the Faculties, are preoccupied with establishing limits, borders — above all the limits to conflict. On the one hand, there is the distinction between philosophy (which includes the ‘life sciences’ and sociology) and what he refers to as the ‘higher faculties’ of law, theology and medicine — ‘higher’ because closer to sovereignty.
In discussions of the so-called ‘culture wars’, it is often the case that ‘war’ here implies the intrusion of polemic into the otherwise routinely civil exchanges of the universities or ‘the public sphere’, as distinct from war—polemos —as such. This notion of the ‘public sphere’—most memorably announced in the work of Jürgen Habermas (1989)—bears a striking resemblance to a ‘gentleman’s club’, an idyllic space of polite conversation in which there are no real conflicts because consensus on the fundamentals has already been achieved, more or less. In its actual functioning, agreement on ‘the fundamentals’ supposes a prior exclusion or suppression which installs a liberal hegemony as the only form of politics and communication.
Full text, co-authored with Brett Neilson, Borderlands, 4:1 2005.
An earlier version appeared as “The Physiognomy of Civilisation,” Arena Magazine, April-May 2005.
In J. Germov and T. R. McGee, eds. Histories of Australian Sociology (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press), 2005, pp.343-54. Republished from Journal of Sociology 35, 1999, pp.77-91.[pdf]