Bite Size Theory: Derrida/Searle

“It is no small statement to affirm that the richness of this controversy makes ostensible not the insurmountable divergence of the continental and analytic traditions, but rather the wealth and diversity of the discussions of intentionality in the twentieth century”.

Raoul Moati, 2014, Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language, Columbia University Press.

Posted in Books, Favourite Thinkers, Philosophy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Theorising emergent public spheres

ActaI have previously mentioned attending a recent conference on publics and problems at Westminster, where I talked to a forthcoming paper titled Theorising emergent public spheres - well, it is now published, which is nice. The paper works through some ideas about how to think about the values of publicness, in relation to various issues arising from South African politics and public culture. I try to use the South African examples as occasions to think about how the values associated with  publicness always arise in contexts of ‘extension’, and therefore of transformation and translation, and not just of ‘application’ (the paper doesn’t actually put in like that though).

This paper sits alongside another one, more explicitly framed around how best to think about the value of public space, which together seek to spell out an analytical framework of sorts, or a set of questions at least, for investigating the formation of public life. These pieces are products of 5 years worth of workshopping around ‘public’ topics, including various ongoing invitations to listen or talk. I’m not sure if sitting around listening to what other people think about publicness, and specifically why they think it matters or not, counts as fieldwork but I have ended up thinking that this has been the ‘methodology’ I have been using to ‘theorise’ about these issues.

My paper is part of a theme issue of a South African journal, based at the University of Free State, called Acta AcademicaThe special issue on publics arises out of a workshop held in Bloemfontein back in 2012. It is also the first edition of the re-launched journal, which under the editorship of Lis Lange is now framed very clearly as a venue for “Critical views on society, culture and politics”:

“Acta Academica is an academic journal dedicated to scholarship in the humanities. The journal publishes scholarly articles that examine society, culture and politics past and present from a critical social theory perspective. The journal is also interested in scholarly work that examines how the humanities in the 21st Century are responding to the double imperative of theorising the world and changing it.”

The journal is available via the Sabinet platform, and it does also have an Academia.edu page (here). I have copies of the papers in this special issue should you be interested.

Posted in Geography, Philosophy, Politics, Social Science | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: Fear Itself

“Overall, the New Deal had to travel uncharted territory, often without maps in hand. To comprehend its achievements and their price, we must incorporate uncertainty’s state of doubt, and identify the objects of fear and the effects of being frightened”.

Ira Katznelson, 2013, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, Liveright Publishing.

Posted in Books, Favourite Thinkers, Politics, Social Science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: The Big Screen

“In the early 1960s, there was confusion over what to call this transaction – was it film, the movies, or cinema? You could tell a person’s taste and agenda by the word he used most often. “Cinema” meant the history, and the suggestion that it has been superior then; “film” was the essential function and might be covering an urge to make the stuff: while “movie” usually meant America and fun”.

David Thomson, 2012, The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us, Allen Lane.

Posted in Books, Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: Rethinking the South African Crisis

“Ironically, attempts to render technical that which is inherently political are feeding into and amplifying the proliferation of populist politics”.

Gill Hart, 2013, Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press.

Posted in Books, Geography, Politics, Social Science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: The Faces of Injustice

“If we look more carefully at injustice, we will not find it any easier to answer the question: Is this a misfortune or an injustice? on any given occasion, but we may be less passively unjust than if we simply match complaints against the rules and come to a quick conclusion. To investigate the victim’s claims in the ways that I have suggested is only a tentative test to guide us, but it is both in keeping with the best impulses of democracy and our only alternative to a complacency that is bound to favor the unjust”.

Judith Shklar, 1990, The Faces of Injustice, Yale University Press.

Posted in Books, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: Sincerity and Authenticity

“If sincerity has lost its former status, if the word itself has for us a hollow sound and seems almost to negate its meaning, that is because it does not propose being true to one’s own self as an end but only a means. If one is true to oneself for the purpose of avoiding falsehood to others, is one being truly true to one’s own self? The moral end in view implies a public end in view, with all that this suggests of the esteem and fair repute that follows upon the correct fulfilment of a public role”.

Lionel Trilling, 1972, Sincerity and Authenticity, Oxford University Press.

Posted in Books, Favourite Thinkers, Philosophy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On the underdetermination of ‘neoliberalism’ by evidence

stopDialogues in Human Geography has a debate forum discussing the relevance of the concept of neoliberalism, revolving around a piece by Sally Weller and Phil O’Neill titled ‘An argument with neoliberalism: Australia’s place in a global imaginary‘. They call into question attempts to refine the concept of neoliberalism/ization in terms of ‘variegation’ and related notions, suggesting that it might just be better to think with different concepts entirely. In the course of the debate, I discovered that I have apparently invented a new genre, called ‘neoliberalism in denial‘. Who knew! Does this make me the Bob Dylan of neoliberal studies? (and if so, does it mean that Noel Castree, who apparently followed my lead, is the Donovan of neoliberal studies?). I wonder if social science theories are the sorts of knowledge-formations that you can actually properly be ‘in denial‘ about – they aren’t quite of the same order as explanations of climate change or the etiology of AIDS, are they?

Anyway, the Weller and O’Neill piece is well worth the read, here is the abstract:

“This article argues that the uncritical application of the lens of neoliberalism closes off opportunities for more rigorous analysis of actually existing socio-economic change. We ask whether Australia’s developmental trajectory over the last three decades can be described as neoliberalization and whether the outcome is a variety of neoliberalism. Instead of stitching together a story about variegated neoliberalism, we find an alternative narrative based around the notion of a developmental project more compelling. We document the spatial and political realities that have inhibited the roll-out of neoliberal ideas and practices in the Australian context. We think that instead of expanding the varieties of variegated neoliberalism to accommodate all manner of events and processes in all sorts of places, our task should be to recognize those instances where social, political, cultural or economic changes settle capitalism’s contradictions in ways that diverge from neoliberal frameworks and expectations. Our central point is that the role of academic research is to explain the lived world and to develop abstractions to aid that explanation, rather than to design an abstraction (neoliberalism) and then fit the lived world to its contours.”

 

 

 

Posted in Geography, Politics, Social Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bite Size Theory: Wrong-Doing and Truth-Telling

“What seems interesting to me is to pull out the profound and serious thought that engages our historical destiny in the institutions that nonetheless give the impression of merely speaking the language of barbarism, archaism, and institutional idiocy”.

Michel Foucault, 2014, Wrong-Doing and Truth-Telling: The Function of Avowal in Justice, University of Chicago Press.

Posted in Books, Favourite Thinkers, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What do cities have to do with democracy?

Scan 130330022-6Following up on the earlier post about the IJURR symposium on the theme Where is Urban Politics? I thought I should plug my own paper in this collection. My piece is titled ‘What do cities have to do with democracy?’ (the answer is that ‘it depends’; you’ll have to read the paper to find out what exactly it depends on). I have been giving a version of this paper as my default seminar presentation for about 4 years now, so I’m not quite sure what I will talk about if and when I’m next invited anywhere, but I do hope that this extensive pre-release touring of the paper will boost sales.

This paper is actually the last in a cluster that I have written on themes such as political agency, urban problemsideas of contestation, and the idea of ‘all affected interests’. When I finished this one (a while ago now), I realised that I really needed to write a book linking these together, since an 8000 word (or so) article is not enough space to elaborate the full sweep of the argument that I have in my head which connects these all together. So that’s what I am doing now, this summer, writing a book about democratic theory, notions of injustice, and the geographical imagination needed to develop open-minded inquiry into these themes – it’s preliminary title is Locating Democracy, contracted with the University of Georgia Press, in their Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series. I’m saying this out loud and in public as a way of imposing some external discipline on myself, to help me along in the task of actually writing the book.

Anyway, anyway, in the meantime, here is the abstract from the IJURR paper:

“The relationship between urbanization and democratization remains under-theorized and under-researched. Radical urban theory has undergone a veritable normative turn, registered in debates about the right to the city, spatial justice and the just city, while critical conceptualizations of neoliberalism present ‘democracy’ as the preferred remedy for injustice. However, these lines of thought remain reluctant to venture too far down the path of political philosophy. The relationship between urban politics and the dynamics of democratization remains under-theorized as a result. It is argued that this relationship can be usefully understood by drawing on lessons from avowedly normative styles of political theorizing, specifically post-Habermasian strands of critical theory. Taking this tradition seriously helps one to notice that discussions of urbanization, democracy, injustice and rights in geography, urban studies and related fields invoke an implicit but unthematized democratic norm, that of all-affected interests. In contemporary critical theory, this norm is conceptualized as a worldly register of political demands. It is argued that the conceptual disaggregation of component values of democracy undertaken through the ‘spatial turn’ in recent critical theory reorients the analysis of the democratic potentials of urban politics around the investigation of the multiple forms of agency which urbanized processes perform in generating, recognizing and acting upon issues of shared concern.”

Posted in Books, Geography, Politics, Social Science | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment