Issue 142, October 2017

Caravans, Capital, Civilization, Crowds


Zygmunt Bauman and Thesis Eleven – Peter Beilharz


Shaping entrepreneurial subjects: How structural changes and institutional fixes shape financial strategies in daily life – Niamh Mulcahy

The notion of a ‘financial subjectivity’ is fast becoming an important way of understanding how people rationalize the need to take risks in daily life as crucial to personal success. This paper therefore traces the structural changes and institutional fixes – that is, the institutional stabilization of crisis tendencies in capitalism – to understand how individual strategies for making ends meet have been shaped by finance. In particular, I look at regulation theory’s depictions of the ‘ideology of shareholder value’ as partially responsible for the flourishing business sector in which competition and the threat of takeover led to the prioritization of corporate performance over job security and workers’ benefits. However, it is also necessary to understand the particular mechanisms that enable independence from the welfare state at the level of the household, in the form of expanded borrowing and financial services, which I explore further in this paper.

Walter Benjamin’s radio pedagogy – Tyson E Lewis

This paper investigates the unique educational relevancy of Walter Benjamin’s radio broadcasts. While much has been written about Benjamin’s approach to both children’s literature and children’s theatre, his own pedagogical practice as a radio pedagogue remains largely marginalized in these discussions. In order to address this gap in the literature, I focus on the implications of shifting from the largely visual world of children (celebrated in color illustrations) to the auditory world of radio. Through a careful reading of the radio scripts, I argue that a perceptual alteration unique to the sonic medium of radio jumpstarts historical thinking in children. The following pedagogical principles which I extract from the radio broadcasts support and enhance this mode of historical materialist education. In conclusion, the article argues for the ongoing relevancy of Benjamin for thinking through the pedagogical implications of new information technologies within a postmodern era such as podcasts.

A sociology of caravans – Peter Beilharz, Sian Supski

Why do caravans matter? Australians, like others, holiday in them, travel in them, cook, eat, drink, play, sleep and have sex in them. They also live in them, often involuntarily. Caravans have a longer history than this, however caravan life has almost no presence in existing historical or cultural sociology scholarship. Our immediate interest is in caravans in Australia, modernity and mobility. Some broader interest is apparent. Theoretical arguments about mobility on a global scale have been developed by Bauman and Urry. Sociologists like Jasper have connected mobility, masculinity and automobility in Restless Nation. The sociologist and writer Marina Lewycka has used caravans as the locus of everyday life study in her novel Two Caravans. In this paper we background some of these broader issues, and offer a case study of postwar caravan manufacturing. This paper anticipates a larger possible research project in these fields. We anticipate this project raising themes like freedom, mobility, escape, utopia; images of domesticity on wheels, décor and design, materials, technology, DIY production and Fordism; caravan parks as homes and as itinerant and long-term accommodation. These themes and images are also necessarily interwoven with class, gender, sex and age. We are interested in the possibilities of using the caravan as a carrier for making sense of postwar Australia.

Crowds, cancer, clones – The suicide of western civilization in Canetti’s Auto da Fe and Houellebecq’s Atomised – David Roberts

Houellebecq’s critical reading of Huxley’s Brave New World in his novel Atomised takes Canetti’s novel Auto da Fe as its template. Houellebecq takes from Canetti the structuring contrast of antithetical brothers and shares his diagnosis of the crisis of Western individualism. Both writers identify the sickness at the heart of Western civilization that presages its coming end as the egotism of the monadic individual, enclosed in a private world of fears and desires. The role of the crowd in Canetti’s novel as the Other of the fallen world of self-interest is taken in Houellebecq by the posthuman vision of social unity beyond division realized through cloning.

The Conference on Eastern European Marxist Aesthetics, Sichuan University, Chengdu, November 2016. Abstracts from Proceedings – Fu Qilin, Peter Beilharz

Thesis Eleven Annual Lectures:

The end of the Global South and the cultures of the South – Nikos Papastergiadis

As the Global South is increasingly interpenetrated by neoliberal and authoritarian regimes, the idea of the South as a site of emancipatory resistance and exotic cultural difference has ended. This article offers an alternative route into the cultures of the South. It focuses on the shifting forms of the South in contemporary visual art and outlines the possibilities of the non-coercive forms of cultural exchange and the cartographies of a cosmopolitanism from below. This perspective on the South is most evident in in the stories of embodied solidarity that stand in contrast to the top-down visions of socio-economic development and cultural homogenization.

Bodies in plural: Towards an anarcha-feminist manifesto – Chiara Bottici

In the last few years, it has become a commonplace to state that domination takes place through a multiplicity of axes, where gender, class, race, and sexuality intersect with one another. While a lot of insightful empirical work is being done under the heading of intersectionality, it is very rarely linked to the anarchist tradition that preceded it. In this article, I would like to articulate this point by showing the usefulness but also the limits of the notion of intersectionality to understand mechanisms of domination and then move on to argue for the need of an anarcha-feminist research program. Secondly, I will try to provide the philosophical framework for such an enterprise by arguing that it is in a Spinozist ontology of the transindividual that we can best find the conceptual resources for thinking about the plural nature of women’s bodies and thus of their oppression. This will allow me to attempt to articulate the question of ‘what it means to be a woman’ in pluralistic terms and thus also to defend a specifically feminist form of anarchism. In conclusion, I will go back to the anarcha-feminist tradition and will show why today it is the best possible ally of feminism in the pursuit of a critical theory of society.

Review essays:

The drama of politics: Jeffrey Alexander’s liberal sociology of political performances – Werner Binder

Land versus sea – Peter Murphy

Book review:

Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture – Chamsy el-Ojeili


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