Monday, January 19, 2015

Never Work

Cardiff University Conference
Friday 10 July 2015
Call for Papers

“A corpse rules society – the corpse of labour.” – Manifesto Against Labour, 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 Norbert Trenkle (author of Die Große Entwertung, Dead Men Working). Both of our keynotes are members of the wertkritik, or “critique of value”, school of Marxian critique.

Abstracts of 350 words, with a small bio, should be sent to Dr Alastair Hemmens ( by 20 February 2015.
The conference itself will take place at Cardiff University, Wales, on 10 July 2015.

This research is funded by the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship: Dr Alastair Hemmens, “‘Ne travaillez jamais’: The Critique of Work in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century French Thought, from Charles Fourier to Guy Debord.”


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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Neoliberalism and the Degradation of Education

Alternatives Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research
VOL 26 (2015)
Edited by Carlo Fanelli and Bryan Evans

Contributors to this anthology trace how neoliberalism has impacted education. These effects range from the commercialization and quasi-privatization of pre-school to post-secondary education, to restrictions on democratic practice and research and teaching, to the casualization of labour and labour replacing technologies, and the descent of the university into the market which threatens academic freedom. The end result is a comprehensive and wide-ranging review of how neoliberalism has served to displace, if not destroy, the role of the university as a space for a broad range of perspectives.

Neoliberalism stifes the university’s ability to incubate critical ideas and engage with the larger society. Entrepreneurship, however, is pursued as an ideological carrier serving to prepare students for a life of precarity just as the university itself is being penetrated and occupied by corporations. The result is an astonishing tale of transformation, de-democratization and a narrowing of vision and purpose.


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Monday, January 12, 2015

A Rebel's Guide to Eleanor Marx

A Bookmarks Shop Event
Friday 16 January, 6.30pm
With Siobhan Brown
Bookmarks Bookshop
1 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3QE

Admission £2, Reserve your place here or call 020 7637 1848

Eleanor Marx was an agitator, an organiser and a writer. At a time of extraordinary upheaval, she was at the heart of world-changing movements. Whether organising support for refugees fleeing France after the crushing of the Paris Commune, or galvanising support for the new unionism in the 1880s, her belief in the power of workers to organise and change the world for the better remained central. Her words and actions have helped change our world.

A passionate writer and translator, her texts crackled with outrage at the desperate living and working conditions of London’s poor. She was inspired by the thousands of women workers who struck back and she developed new and important insights on questions of sexual equality and socialism.

Much more than the daughter of Karl Marx or the lover of a feckless academic, Eleanor Marx was a remarkable and revolutionary woman. This addition to the popular Rebel's Guide series places her back alongside other revolutionary leaders, where she belongs.

A Rebel’s Guide to Eleanor Marx
Siobhan Brown
Published By Bookmarks Publications
ISBN: 9781909026773


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Sunday, January 11, 2015

What is Capitalism? An How to Abolish It?

6:00-8:30 PM
Westside Peace Center
3916 Sepulveda Blvd., near Venice Blvd. (free parking in rear)
Suite 101-102, press #22 at door to get into building
Culver City (LA area)

Matt Owen, labor and Latin America solidarity activist
Sarah Mason, former Occupy LA activist

As we view the current crises – over racist police murder and brutality, endless war, poverty wages, and environmental destruction – activists are increasingly looking at capitalism as the underlying source of these problems and the obstacle to their solution.  While many point to neoliberal capitalism as the culprit, this implicitly suggests that another, more humane and just capitalism is possible.  This meeting will take a different tack, examining capitalism as such, as a system in need of total uprooting. 

Background readings for those interested these questions are almost limitless, but for starters we suggest Marx’s “Wage Labor and Capital,” a short text written for workers.

Sponsored by the West Coast Chapter, International Marxist-Humanist Organization

Join our Facebook page: "International Marxist-Humanist Organization"

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Organization and Collaborative Practice in the Arts

Call for PapersOrganization & Collaborative Practices in the Arts
Organizers: Mark Banks (University of Leicester), Mandy Earley (University of Leicester), Stevphen Shukaitis (University of Essex / Autonomedia)

As a part of the 9th Critical Management Studies Conference, 8-10 July 2015, University of Leicester
Theme: Is there an alternative? Management after critique

Artists work in groups. This is a primary fact of artistic production. Collective work is an a priori, a reality of creative life. At nearly every moment artists are working together in one way or another and under many different arrangements. Without the others no one can succeed. Artists’ groups have helped them to survive in a capitalist system which values art primarily as branded commodity, and in which agents seek to accumulate art as cheaply as possible. The history of artists’ collaborations describes a flow of both resistant and protective cultural formations that moves through time. These contingent practices change shape according to the necessities of artists’ lives – maximizing their chances to live cheaply with time to work on their art, and to escape alienated labour, first in the industrial shop, and now in the service and information industry.

The social organization of artistic production is generally considered to be extraneous to the forms of art. Indeed, the analysis of each has come to concern different scholarly disciplines, with formal criticism at one end, and the sociology of art – and increasingly arts administration and management of creative production – at the other. The questions of artistic collectivity and collaboration per se cuts across disciplinary lines. Different adaptations of the collaborative practice within artistic production have diverse outcomes, generating
institutions, programs and works of art, as they have ever done.

Artists’ work within groups in the fine arts is very different than work within most businesses, and even most cultural institutions. While the results may seem the same – exhibitions, installations, spectacles, publications, recordings, films, designed objects and architecture – the processes of self-organized collective work proceed from different premises and toward different goals. The organizational structure of artistic work in groups has not been much studied.

This conference stream invites contributes that engage analytically with the questions of collectivity and collaboration among artists. A materialist point of view on the question might find that collaboration among cultural workers is contingent, circumstantial, and practical – an outgrowth of cultural economies and a necessary condition of many kinds of cultural work. Working collectively is about making a living. But modalities of collaboration are also a prime concern of those who want to remake the world, to join the great issues of the day, and to find a reason to work at all.

Please send proposals / abstracts of up to 500 words to Stevphen Shukaitis ( by 31 January 2015. Papers selected for the panel will receive confirmation by 15 February 2015.

Please note that there will be a registration fee for the conference (the amount of which has not been confirmed yet), although there is a reduced rate for PhD students.

More information about the overall conference can be found here:


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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Academic Manifesto


Willem Halffman and Hans Radder

First published in Krisis: Journal of Contemporary Philosophy, 2013, Issue 3 (in Dutch)
Now available in English: translated by Jan Evertse

Willem Halffman and Hans Radder
The academic manifesto: From an occupied to a public university

1 The occupied university

The university has been occupied - not by students demanding a say (as in the 1960s), but this time by the many-headed Wolf of management.1 The Wolf has colonised academia with a mercenary army of professional administrators, armed with spreadsheets, output indicators and audit procedures, loudly accompanied by the Efficiency and Excellence March. Management has proclaimed academics the enemy within: academics have to be distrusted, tested and monitored, under the permanent threat of reorganisation, discontinuance and dismissal. The academics allow themselves to be meekly played off against one another, like frightened, obedient sheep, hoping to make it by staying just ahead of their colleagues. The Wolf uses the most absurd means to
remain in control, such as money-squandering semi- and full mergers, increasingly detailed, and thus costly, accountability systems and extremely expensive prestige projects.
This conquest seems to work and the export of knowledge from the newly conquered colony can be ever increased, but inland the troubles fester. Thus, while all the glossed-up indicators constantly point to the stars, the mood on the academic shop floor steadily drops. The Wolf pops champagne after each new score in the Shanghai Competition, while the university sheep desperately work until they drop2 and the quality of the knowledge plantations is starting to falter, as is demonstrated by a large number of comprehensive and thorough analyses.3 Meanwhile, the sheep endeavour to bring the absurd anomalies of the occupation to the Wolf’s attention by means of an endless stream of opinion articles, lamentations, pressing letters and appeals. In turn, the Wolf reduces these to mere incidents, brushes them aside as inevitable side effects of progress, or simply ignores them.
Although our description and evaluation were written from the perspective of Dutch universities, the gist of our account (and quite a few details) applies to other countries as well, especially in Europe.4 While management’s occupation may not be as advanced in the Netherlands as it is in England (Holmwood 2011), it has already established a powerful continental bridgehead (De Boer, Enders and Schimank 2007). To show how these developments are more than just incidents, we list six critical processes and their excesses below. We will then proceed to analyse causes and suggest remedies.

This article is a slightly updated and edited translation of the Dutch original, which appeared in Krisis: Tijdschrift voor actuele filosofie 2013 (3), pp. 2-18. We are grateful for helpful commentary on that version by the Krisis editorial team, in particular René Gabriëls. We would also like to thank Ilse and Jan Evertse for translating the Dutch text into English.
2 According to accepted clinical norms, a quarter of Dutch professors of medical science (especially the younger ones) suffer from burn-out (Tijdink, Vergouwen en Smulders 2012).
3 See, e.g., Ritzer (1998); Graham (2002); Hayes and Wynyard (2002); Bok (2003); Washburn (2003); Evans (2005); Shimank (2005); Boomkens (2008); Gill (2009); Tuchman (2009); Radder (2010); Krijnen, Lorenz and Umlauf (2011); Collini (2012); Sanders and Van der Zweerde (2012); Dijstelbloem et al. (2013); Verbrugge and Van Baardewijk (2014).
4 See Lorenz (2006 and 2012); Krücken (2014). In line with the situation in most European

Krisis: Tijdschrift voor actuele filosofie: 


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