This year, the fortieth anniversary of Thesis Eleven, the 20th Annual Lecture will be delivered by Founding Editor, Peter Beilharz. This event is hosted by the Thesis Eleven Forum for Social and Political Theory, La Trobe University and concludes a program of events celebrating 40 years of Thesis Eleven.
Friday 19th November 2021
Chain@50 – Toward the Blues
Thesis Eleven@40 –Toward the Future
Peter Beilharz, Sichuan University
Fifty years ago, Melbourne blues band Chain issued their classic album, Toward the Blues.
Ten years later we began Thesis Eleven.
Is there a connection?
No, and yes. Thesis Eleven grew and morphed from marxist to postmarxist, critical theory and historical sociology, etc. We ran a Centre, first for Critical Theory, then for Cultural Sociology. The shift coincided with the publication of the Centre text, Sociology – Place, Time and Division (2006). Critical Theory no longer seemed sufficiently elastic. We began to work with Clinton Walker on his project The Vinyl Age. Critical theory was too much tied in some imaginations to the negative dialectics of the Frankfurt School (though this has also changed, a bit like changing the world has changed). Rock had an energy which helped keep us alive. We needed to embrace this.
We, and I began to write more on rock music, accentuating the positive. One result is that I am now writing a 33.3 series volume on Chain, Toward the Blues for the Bloomsbury series. What might this mean? Text, and context, local, national and global. For into the seventies radicalism and rock were all caught up, Vietnam, Whitlam on the horizon. The challenge is to begin to capture the magic of that moment, in its personnel, approach, technology, material – sonic and lyrical – presence, and atmosphere.
This lecture will look to making some of these connections, offered by way of research in progress, inviting the opportunity to look back and forward.
Peter Beilharz completed a doctorate with Alastair Davidson at Monash University on Trotskyism in 1984. Together with Alastair and Julian Triado he founded the journal Thesis Eleven in 1980. He taught at Monash, Philip, and Melbourne before replacing Agnes Heller at La Trobe in 1988, where he progressed from lecturer through to personal chair in 1999. He was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in 1996. From 2002 he was Director of the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology at La Trobe. He was Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard 1999–2000, and WD Howells Fellow at Harvard in 2002.
Peter has written or edited 30 books, including Labour’s Utopias (1992), Postmodern Socialism (1994), Transforming Labor (1994), Imagining the Antipodes (1997) and Zygmunt Bauman – Dialectic of Modernity (2002) and 200 papers. His most recent books are Intimacy in Postmodern Times – A Friendship with Zygmunt Bauman (2020) and Circling Marx (2020). His next book is The Work of History – Writing for Stuart Macintyre, edited with Sian Supski. Peter retired from La Trobe in 2014, then to take up a chair in Cultural Studies at Curtin, where he remains an Adjunct Professor. He is presently Professor of Critical Theory at Sichuan University, and maintains affiliations with The Bauman Institute at Leeds and the CCS at Yale. He is proud now to be known as founding editor of Thesis Eleven.
The Thesis Eleven Centre Annual Lectures commenced in 2002. Lecturers have included Bernard Smith, George Markus, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Joanna Bourke, Maria Pia Lara, Stuart Macintyre, Alastair Davidson, Philippa Mein Smith, George Steinmetz, Ron Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley, Peter Thomas, Krishan Kumar, Keith Tester, Nikos Papastergiadis, Chiara Bottici, Noeleen Murray, Emilia Palonen, and Michael Peters. In 2020 there was no lecture, but the Covid Crisis Series online instead.