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  • Mark 1:56 pm on June 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: critique,   

    Critique as consumerism  

    This insight from Richard Wilkinson’s forward to Andrew Sayer’s Why We Can’t Afford the Rich reminds me of some of the (many) arguments from Jana Bacevic’s superb PhD thesis on the sociology of critique. From loc 164 of Andrew Sayer’s book:

    But too often reading books or articles on the threats the world faces becomes little more than a form of consumerism. We read them to feel well informed – hopefully better informed than others. And it is easy to feel that the more threatening the problem under discussion, the more exhilarating it is as the plot of a ‘whodunnit’. Being well informed adds to our cultural capital and gives us more to say, but let us make sure this book also makes us part of the solution.

    I can’t do justice to the sophistication of her thesis but it’s a fascinating account of the relationship between critique and action, developed through an analysis of the epistemological predicament involved in critiquing social circumstances which we are ourselves entangled in.

    • landzek 10:42 pm on June 6, 2019 Permalink

      Not to mention all the energy it takes to support people’s Readings of the “feel good” papers. 😁

    • Sourav Roy 3:27 am on June 7, 2019 Permalink

      It’s like the gap between enjoying horror movies vs. being in those horrific situations IRL. The core debates of Aesthetics.

  • Mark 1:56 pm on June 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , critique, , , slow professor, the slow university   

    How many professors are part of the 1%? 

    An obvious question raised by this fact on loc 270 of Andrew Sayer’s Why We Can’t Afford the Rich is how many professors are part of this 1%? Many can be found within business schools and medical schools but anecdote suggests they can be found throughout the university system:

    In fact, the inequalities within the top 1% are much greater than between them and the 99%. Those in the top 1% in the UK have incomes ranging from just under £ 100,000 to billions. 4

    • sickofacademia 3:42 pm on June 6, 2019 Permalink

      They are all in the global top 1%, and easily so. Also note that doubling increases the sense of subjective wellbeing by about the same amount, for any given income. This undermines the idea that differences within the 1% are greater: they are in absolute $ value, but that’s a ridiculous metric anyway.

  • Mark 10:43 am on April 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , critique   

    The performance of critique and why it frustrates me  

    In the last week, I’ve been reading Corbynism: A Critical Approach by Frederick Harry Pitts and Matt Bolton. It’s a thought provoking critique of the Labour leadership and the movement which has emerged around it. One which I’m reading because I wanted to be forced to think about things I believe, which the shrill condemnation of right wing media pundits is unable to provoke. It’s done that and I’m glad I read the book for that reason. But the tone of it has frustrated me and I think it is symptomatic of a tendency for critique to be performed in an antagonistic way: the identification of error and the unveiling of the deeper reality which those errors conceal.

    There’s a machismo latent within performance of this sort that can be avoided but often isn’t. In this case, it collapses questions of strategy and morality into ontology. What should we do? What would be right to do? The authors are Labour activists who presumably share concerns with Corbynism, even if there are vast differences about goals and methods. But even though strategy is repeatedly invoked, ends are rarely discussed because the performance of critique constantly brings the discussion back to the deeper reality of capitalism which the authors (plausibly) say that Corbynism fails to grasp.

    I’m not sure how clearly I’m expressing this but what I’m trying to suggest is that the performance of critique too often precludes dialogue about what we should do. Its apparent worldliness is belied by a style of engagement which constantly slices into abstraction, away from the world. It frustrates me even as I feel I have no alternative but to read it because there are things found in texts like this which I can’t find anywhere else.

  • Mark 1:00 pm on January 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , critique,   

    Social and Political Critique in the Age of Austerity 


    Social and Political Critique in the Age of Austerity

    A one day workshop at Keele University

    10.30am-6pm, Wednesday 12th February, 2014

    This one day workshop is devoted to the discussion of critical politics in the contemporary age of austerity.  Following the 2007 global economic crash, which led to a raft of government bank bail outs and nationalisations across America and Europe, a cunning ideological reversal took place – the crash was no longer the result of the hubris of the neoliberal financial sector, which had developed the idea of ‘riskless risk’ where reckless stock market speculation and the creation of value ex nihilo could produce endless profit, but rather the immoral wastefulness of the people and society.  According to this ideological position, which was advanced by governments across Europe, the welfare state, and in many respects society itself, was transformed into an ‘exorbitant privilege’ that was simply unaffordable.  In fact, in order to pay for their wastefulness the people were not only expected to give up their public services, but also required to accept ever lower wages, and a general state of social and economic precariousness.

    This is the current state of play across America and Europe, where the neoliberal state has exploited the crash in order to retrofit society for violent competition with Asian capitalism.  In the face of this race to the bottom, key thinkers such as David Graeber, Antonio Negri, Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, and Costas Douzinas have spoken out against the new form Naomi Klein calls neoliberal disaster capitalism and given voice to the protest, rebellion, and revolt taking place across the world.

    The objective of this workshop is to build upon the works of these key thinkers and explore the possibility for resistance in the age of austerity.  We invite contributions from a range of disciplines focused on diverse social and political contexts and a variety of theoretical perspectives.  Contributors may choose to focus on austerity and resistance across Europe, including the UK, Greece, Spain, and Italy; the Occupy movement; the media construction of austerity, including the idea of the undeserving poor who are seen to be living off public funds; methods for the organisation of resistance; the concept of the multitude and the digital commons; anti-capitalist thought; or transformative social and political theory and practice more generally.  Most importantly, we are keen to emphasise that this list is not exhaustive – the key principle behind the workshop is that debate should open up a space for social and political creativity. In this way we are keen to encourage potential contributors to be creative and explore new possibilities for political change in a historical period where change seems absolutely necessary, but also impossible to envisage. In this respect, we encourage contributions from a variety of participants – academics, post-graduate students, activists, and others engaged in thinking through the possibilities of change under conditions of crisis and austerity.

    The workshop will close with a lecture from Professor Costas Douzinas (Birkbeck), author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe.

    In order to take part in the event please send a 250 word abstract to Emma Head (e.l.head@keele.ac.uk), by Monday 6 January 2014.  This event is being organised jointly by Mark Featherstone (Keele Sociology) and Emma Head (Keele Sociology and the BSA Digital Sociology study group).   Registration will open in early January.

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