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The Workshop

Session 2009

JWTC - Workshop - Session 2009 - JHB skylineRethinking the Political Under Late Capitalism

6 - 15th July 2009

We live in a new age of capitalism characterized by loss of social protection, yawning inequalities, stagnant wages, and deregulations of all kinds that seem to render the world ever more chaotic and everless democratic. Finance capital, hedge funds, and proliferating highways of electronic circulation coexist in space and time with imaginary and fictional commodities and values. New intellectual property regimes, legal instruments and currencies of transaction cohabit with and primitive forms of extraction and reproduction.

The crisis presently unfolding opens a window not only on the abstraction at work in the operation of finance capital, but also on the nature of value and of capital itself as a social and political form.

One of the analytical problems the 2009 Workshop will explore is that of extending existing concepts to comprehend the tremendous shifts that exist in a world of evaporating industrial work, disappearing labor contracts, "jobless growth," speculative futures, new ideas of property, ownership, and rent. What are the relevant terms for the analysis of the political in this current moment? How do we explain the return of terms like civil society, moral citizenship, community, belonging and mutuality, law and justice? What practical possibilities for social change are embedded in the rise of various sorts of millennial, Pentecostal movements and prosperity gospels? To what extent do these shifts challenge both the theoretical apparatus we have inherited and the methodology of our disciplines - indeed modernist social thought tout court?

The goal of the 2009 Session is to critically examine neo-liberal capital's new logics and modus operandi, the forms of current existence, sociality and politics they entail, the kinds of accountability, governance and cultural imagination they permit. In the process, we will also explore what remains of visions of society that held a place for consciousness, critique, and agency and for forms of world-making and social empowerment that were presumed to be under human control.

The Workshop will privilege the study of places in the global South where the current contradictions of capitalism are lived intensely; where social life constantly oscillates between possibilities and impossibilities, between enfranchisement and exclusion; where the promise and the disappointment of our times are the most tangible; where friction, desperation and violence coexist with extremely vivid experiments in new forms of social and political critique.