Never Work – Cardiff University Conference –July 10th – Call for Papers
“A corpse rules society – the corpse of labour.” – Manifesto Against Work, Krisis-Group
Since the 1970s modern societies have been increasingly faced with social issues caused by a reliance on a form of life that technological development is making redundant: work. Competition drives companies to eject human beings from the labour process even while it relies on those people as consumers and producers of value. Equally, more human beings than ever before depend upon the capitalist production process for their survival, yet at this historical juncture it appears no longer to have need of them. It is this contradiction that some contemporary social critics have diagnosed as the basis of a crisis of civilisation through which we are currently living. The symptoms of this crisis are manifold and, one can argue, affect every aspect of society: privatisation, financialisation and economic crises, mass unemployment, the casualisation of labour and austerity programmes, regional conflict, the rise of political extremism, growing wealth inequality, individualisation, school shootings and the ever-growing number of people suffering from narcissistic personality disorders, to name but a few. Despite the sheer scale of problems that society currently faces, the dominant social discourse has rarely considered that a crisis of the very categories of capitalist society could be the source of the problem. Work, in particular, is central to modern notions of individual and collective identity, of morality and even of human nature. It is the means through which individuals are expected to realise themselves and to gain access to social wealth. It is perhaps for this reason that, while work is often seen as central to resolving the current crisis – either through calls for higher wages and the right to work or through attacks on immigrants and the unemployed – it is rarely seen as the problem in itself. The aim of this conference is therefore to ask what might a critique of work usefully offer us in addressing contemporary social issues and, if one will allow it, the possibility of a greater crisis of modern civilisation.
Contributors might consider:
- What kinds of critique of work are necessary, on the basis of what criteria and in the name of what alternatives?
- What hampers such a critique and how can we remove, go around or through these barriers?
- What critical theories can usefully contribute to a contemporary critique of work?
- How can contemporary social movements benefit from a critique of work?
- How might a theoretical critique of work manifest itself practically and how might critiques of work in practice inform theoretical critiques?
- What lessons can we learn from historical and contemporary social movements against work?
- What might a critique of work tell us about the political, economic and psychological forms and changes that society is currently experiencing?
- What are particularly unexamined aspects of the critique of work that need addressing?
- How widespread and persistent are critiques of work in contemporary social movements and what kinds of critique of work have they developed?
- What useful relationship might the critique of work have with critiques of the state, patriarchy, politics and other social forms?
- What alternatives to work still exist, have existed and might exist?
Confirmed keynote speakers will be: Anselm Jappe (author of Guy Debord, Les Aventures de la marchandise, Crédit à mort) and Ernst Lohoff / Nortbert Trenkle (author of Die Große Entwurtung, Dead Men Working).
Abstracts of 350 words, with a small bio, should be sent to Dr Alastair Hemmens (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 30 January 2015.
This conference is funded as part of the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship: “‘Ne travaillez jamais’: The Critique of Work in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century French Thought, from Charles Fourier to Guy Debord.” Dr Alastair Hemmens.
Champaign Cocktail Reception
– Jan 21 @ 6pm –
Seminary Coop Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn
Issue 2 of Critical Historical Studies is hot off the presses and we’d like to celebrate!!
Please join us for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and hear what our guest speakers have to say about the editorial vision of CHS, what critical theory has to offer historical studies, and why print journals remain crucial in this digital era.
Moishe Postone (3CT)
Bill Sewell (3CT)
Michael Magoulias (UCP)
This event is free and open to the public. If you need assistance to attend, please contact jhanchar [at] uchicago.edu
For more info, visit the Facebook event page
Global Capitalism And The Crisis Of Work
April 26 2013, 9:30 am–April 27 2013, 5:00 pm
Logan Center Performance Penthouse
The History, Social Theory, and Capitalism Project of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture; The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality have convened a two-day conference on ” Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Work,” to be held at the University of Chicago on April 26 and 27, 2013. The conference will be devoted to the structural transformations of capitalism and of the world of work in recent decades. It will also investigate the relationship between these changes and the fortunes of various social movements, including those based on identities. Finally, it will ask about the future of work, itself.
Work and its social, cultural, and political problems have become increasingly peripheral to academic studies on both the theory and the practice of democratic politics and of social movements in recent decades. Ironically, this diminished interest in work – its history, meaning, political potential, and likely place in the future world – has occurred during a fundamental transformation of work and its social meaning that cries out for critical analysis.
From the 1830s to the 1970s, movements that sought to create more egalitarian or democratic societies focused largely on the problem of work. In retrospect, one can argue that the dual crisis of Fordist/Keynesian capitalism in the West and “actually existing socialism” in the East began a long-term structural decline of the industrial working class and, hence, of the social basis of working-class movements and their power. Over the ensuing decades, automation and industrialized agriculture have displaced labor in factory and field. Meanwhile, globalization has sent industrial production and service employment on an international search for low-cost non-unionized workers, but the relentless advance of automation has also begun to limit the growth of proletarian labor even in the low wage countries. However, the rise of automation and the declining salience of industrial work have not led to the emancipation from toil. Furthermore, the performance of work continues to be a condition for social and political belonging. This remains true even at present as the labor time has increased for some and been eliminated through long-term unemployment for many others.
These developments in the problem of work associated with neo-liberal global capitalism also have implications for understanding the contemporaneous rise to prominence of social movements focused on gender, race, nation, ethnicity, and sexuality. Academics have lately increasingly turned their attention to the racialized and gendered conceptualizations of categories and experiences of work and, more generally, to the relation of different populations historically to the uneven global development of capitalism. Nevertheless, the salience of these racialized and gendered patterns for the capitalist restructuring of work calls for further investigation. We believe it is time to rethink the relation of identity-based movements to the recent development of capitalism and to the structural transformations of work. Finally, the combination of rapid advances in technology and the urgent demands for restraint in order to preserve the global ecology asks how work and its socio-political significance will be transformed in the future.
The goal of this conference is to take stock of these transformations and to ponder their implications. We look forward to learning about your reflections on problems of work – including speculative reflections on the broader issues raised by the conference. It is our sense that a major rethinking of the problematic of work, its history, and its future prospects is overdue.
This event is sponsored by 3CT; The Center for The Study Of Race, Politics, and Culture; and The Center for The Study of Gender and Sexuality.
Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please email Parker Everett at email@example.com
Photographs by Bill Sewell
Exhibition Opening Reception
Friday April 12, 6pm
Wilder House / 5811 S. Kenwood
** Cocktails and Refreshments will be served **
This exhibition was composed as a meditation on aspects of the life of labor and draws from a series of photographs shot in Chicago’s Loop (1999-2000) and in the Marais district of Paris (2011-2012).
Reflecting upon a number of work experiences, objects and sites, this collection of photographs explores a range of existential and emotional qualities entailed in the quotidian experience of work.
WORK was mounted in anticipation of 3CT’s upcoming conference “Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Work” which will examine the structural transformations of capitalism and of the world of work in recent decades.
Further detail concerning this conference will be available shortly at ccct.uchicago.edu
These events have been generously co-sponsored by the Center for Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC), the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (CSGS), the History Department and the Department of Political Science.
Anyone who may need assistance attending these events should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC