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Session Overview
RN29_06b_P: Social Theory and the Critique of Capitalism IV
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Haldun GULALP, GSCS
Location: PE.1.39
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: E, Level: 1.

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Critique of capitalism, a call for solidarity and the inability to seize subjectivity. Theoretical strenghts and weaknesses of Bourdieu’s political interventions in the 1990’s

Agoston Faber

ELTE (Hungary), EHESS (France), Hungary

At the beginning of the 1990’s, Pierre Bourdieu progressively gets involved in public issues as he starts focusing on the transmission of the insights and results he has accumulated throughout his career as a sociologist.

When considering Bourdieu’s public engagements in the mid-90’s defying the threatening effects of neoliberal capitalism, one can legitimately raise the question whether one has to deal with a left-wing public intellectual or rather with a social scientist who tends to ground his arguments on thorough scientific investigations. The answer here is twofold. On the one hand, most of his critical remarks on capitalism is rooted in his notion of field, as in his perspective capitalism first and foremost threatens the autonomy of different fields of cultural production (science, art, journalism). On the other hand, it would be hard indeed to assess Bourdieu’s political involvement in purely scientific terms. Along with typical Bourdieuan concepts, some new slogans appear here which are in line with classical leftist topics: precarisation, insecurity, the breakdown of ties of solidarity, the model of ‘struggles involving everyone against everyone’ etc.

However, what he calls habitus seems to go against his will to mobilise those in particular who suffer from the ravages of neoliberal capitalism. It is likely that Bourdieu's public interventions as well as his theoretical edifice would have gained in strength if he had been more open to deal with the possibility of rational and reflexive actors.

The Sexiest Capitalism Ever: A Duckface Selfie of a Trans-Aestheticized Market Economy

Ulla Karttunen

University of Eastern Finland, Finland

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” Thus spoke Donald Trump. - Zygmunt Bauman approached this success-based ethos of capitalism from another angle: we have begun to see the poor ones as criminals. If contemporary market society could take a selfie of itself, how would it look like? Duckfaced in its populism, killing in its seductive glamour, nauseating in its self-indulgent stupidity? The paper studies the ’aesthetics of seduction’, used to fasten up capitalism, and consequences of the aestheticization of economy.

According to Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy we live in the age of ’artistic capitalism’ and the whole market society can be studied as a multiplicity of aesthetic impulses. Systems of production and consuming are entirely penetrated and remodeled by aesthetic operations. The fields of aesthetics and society/market have been linked already before by thinkers like Jean Baudrillard (The Consumer Society), Wolfgang Fritz Haug (’commodity aesthetics’), Gerhard Schulze (’experience society’), Gernot Böhme (’aesthetic economy’, or Zygmunt Bauman (’aesthetic of consumption’). The era of trans-aestheticization has democratized beauty, Lipovetsky argues. On the contrary, Bauman has warned about social division that the consumerist society brings with it: people get divided into two, to the seduced and the repressed.

Capitalism is surely seductive for those who take profit or enjoy overconsumption. In the secular market-based society, human meanings and values are no more governed by religious or ethical doctrines but by the logic of enjoyment and profit. Through trans-aestheticization of economy and businessfication of politics, also spheres like ethics, juctice, and understanding of the human condition, are under deep transformation. At least, ultimate market-based values turn vulgarity into beauty.

The construction of time as meaning: Fredric Jameson and the Marxist debate on history in era of globalization

Thomas Edson de Jesus Theodoro Amorim

Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

The Marxism is defined by the conceptual centrality of history as an explicative form and object in analysis, what conducts to the perpetual necessity of actualization of its elaborations and incorporation of new problematic points. The absorption of the periodizations about the “late capitalism” and the “post-modernism” seems in accord with such tradition. However, they bring doubts about the possibility of sustaining the dialectic premise of perceiving the present as potency and limitation, with triumph and loss. In other words, if such analytical categories are configured as critical arsenal or as new unhistorical and fatalistic mirages. Fredric Jameson is one of the great responsible thinker by the appropriation of such concepts in the area of the dialectic thought, because, when correlating the contemporary aesthetic process with the new capitalist phase, formulated the first and more influent Marxist reading about the articulation between culture and globalization. His reflection about the constitution of critical mappings in such era elucidates the merits and limits of such discussion, because the author aims to comprehend the way of appearing of time today beyond the dialectical structure of globalization itself.

Capital in the Age of Capitalism: Marx-Bourdieu

Barbara Anna Markowska

Collegium Civitas, Poland

Nowadays a term of capital is ubiquitous not only in the discourse of social sciences, but also in global reflection on the reasons and conditions of previous (and future) crisis of capitalism (Harvey 2010, Vogl 2015). Hence, as the dominant and enigmatic figure provokes us to raise the question on the meaning(s) of this term. It is wandering through different fields: from economy through politics to the social and cultural space. Fertility of this concept manifests in many types of capitals functioning with intriguing adjectives: “financial”, “political”, “cultural”, “social’, “creative”, or “human”. What they have in common?

Starting from Marx’s definition of capital Bourdieu had distinguished the pure form (i.e meta-capital) of these capitals working in different social fields: the symbolic capital is a power of conversion of different capitals into a symbolic violence of legitimization which creates the natural Lebenswelt (1986). It means a mode of re-enchantment of the social world i.e. producing the equivalence between heterogenic elements responsible for the apparent consistency and unity of the modern world based on the instrumental reason and economization as universal force.

I would like to reflect on (following by Marx/Bourdieu’s conception) how the "capital" creates an analytic framework of current thinking. Whether the capital is the core of this capitalistic grammar? The positive answer enables describing the modernity by referring to economic/political universality and social/cultural distinction at the same time.

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