Category Archives: Lectures

Lecture on Critical Theory at MSU

I presented the following lecture at Missouri State University on March 22, 2018: “Critical and Radical Theory: Toward the Reinvention of Critique in the Current Conjuncture.”

This paper proposes a critique of critical reason. Neither a full-scale rejection nor a simple internal modification, such a critique seeks to foreground both the strengths and limitations of some of the dominant strategies, methodologies and sociopolitical orientations of critical theory, broadly construed. The ultimate goal is hence affirmative and productive: to rethink critical social theory for the 21st century.

Although the general stakes of the paper touch on issues integral to ‘continental’ philosophy since at least Kant, it will specifically concentrate on the Frankfurt School heritage. It takes Horkheimer’s canonical essay, “Traditional and Critical Theory,” as its palimpsestic reference point in order to sketch the lineaments of a radical theory. Understood as an attempt to reflexively reinvigorate social theory beyond its now institutionalized forms of ‘traditional critical theory,’ it questions the latter’s persistent Eurocentrism and phallocentrism, its academic distance from political praxis, its contemporary professionalization as a brand of moral and political philosophy, and its gradual withdrawal from the daunting project of an analysis of society in toto (from psychic forces and aesthetics to political economy and history).

The overall objective of the paper will thus be to work through one of the major critical traditions in continental philosophy in order to push beyond it, subjecting it to a critique that aims at honing a radical edge too often dulled by the institution of ‘critical theory.’


Conférence et lancement du séminaire sur la socio-philosophie

Pour lancer notre séminaire à l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (voir les détails ci-dessous ou cliquer ici), je fais une intervention aujourd’hui le 17 novembre intitulée “Socio-philosophie et contre-histoire du temps présent”.

Socio-philosophie du temps présent. Enjeux épistémologiques, méthodologiques et critiques

  • Pierre-Antoine Chardel, professeur à l’Institut Mines-Télécom (TH) ( IIAC-CEM )Cet enseignant est référent pour cette UE
  • Valérie Charolles, conseillère référendaire à la Cour des comptes ( IIAC-CEM )
  • Gabriel Rockhill, professeur à l’Université Villanova (USA) ( Hors EHESS )

Ce séminaire a pour vocation de réfléchir aux conditions de possibilité de l’émergence d’une socio-philosophie du temps présent. Il prendra la démocratie et la technologie comme premiers champs de questionnement pour justifier cette articulation entre philosophie et sociologie. La conviction qui anime cette ambition de délimiter un tel geste, à la fois pratique et théorique, renvoie d’une part au fait que les complexités du monde actuel nous incitent à interroger la manière dont nous pouvons philosophiquement nous en saisir tout en échappant aux tentations de leur mise en système. D’autre part, la plupart des crises auxquelles nous nous heurtons (sur le plan économique, politique ou écologique) nous imposent de réfléchir aux enjeux épistémologiques, éthiques et méthodologiques de nos pratiques théoriques en vue de questionner leurs fondements, leurs présupposés, mais également leur ethnocentrisme sous-jacent.

Nous assumerons dans cette perspective le fait que la philosophie doit, plus que jamais, se pratiquer en se tenant au plus près des affaires humaines, en tissant de la sorte un dialogue aussi riche que possible avec les sciences sociales (la socio-anthropologie, la socio-histoire et la socio-économie plus particulièrement). Il s’agira enfin, dans le cours de nos séances, de nous pencher sur certaines grandes catégories de pensée dont nous avons principalement héritées d’une philosophie dite « gréco-occidentale », en essayant de les analyser à nouveaux frais en vue d’assumer une pratique théorique immanente et plurielle qui puisse s’attacher à forger des cartographies alternatives dans notre compréhension du monde au travers de ses dimensions sociales, technologiques, matérielles et symboliques. Car il y a toujours plusieurs forces à l’oeuvre dans ce que l’on désigne par les termes de « société du spectacle », « économie néolibérale », « société de l’information », ou de démocratie dite « représentative ». Compte-tenu de la pluralité des facteurs qui interviennent dans la construction de nos univers intimes, économiques, sociaux, culturels et symboliques, force est de reconnaître que « le monde contemporain » est constitutivement multidimensionnel, porté par des régimes d’énonciation hétérogènes : il appelle l’élaboration d’une pensée critique du temps présent, qui se confronte au plan épistémologique, méthodologique et éthique à ces différences.

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Lecture: “Making a Specter Out of Marx”

I was very pleased to participate in the conference “Critique in German Philosophy” at Depaul University in Chicago from November 9th to 11th. Click here for the program. An abstract of my paper, entitled “Making a Specter Out of Marx: The Reformist Agenda of Contemporary Critical Theory,” can be found below.

Слипачук Артем

Krzysztof Bednarski, “The Ghost Is Wandering,” 2013

This paper examines the demise of Marxism in contemporary critical theory. It begins by foregrounding the central importance of Marxist critique to the early Frankfurt School, which was explicitly dedicated to mobilizing theoretical tools for social emancipation from capitalism. By marshaling and reinvigorating the reflexive strategy of the first generation of critical theorists, which consists in resituating subjects and knowledge claims in the objective social world, it explores the need for a social critique of contemporary ‘critical reason,’ and more specifically of the ways in which the second and third generations of the Frankfurt School have made a specter out of Marx. It is in this light that it examines whether the combined decrescendo of certain Marxist discourses within the academy and the ear-piercing crescendo of imperial neoliberalism has many self-proclaimed critical theorists working at counter-purposes: paying rhetorical lip service to a vague Marxian heritage while defanging its critical bite and realigning ‘critique’ on a reformist agenda within the dominant system of capitalism and corporate political rule under liberalism. The taming of critical theory in the age of neoliberal hegemony leads, in conclusion, to a broader conjunctural question: can critique be radicalized in order to shake it out of its neoliberal academic slumbers?


Lecture at SPEP

I will be presenting a paper, entitled “Radicalizing Critical Theory beyond the Eurocentric Lodestone of Frankfurt,” at SPEP on October 19. It will be part of a panel that I am very proud to have co-organized with Romy Opperman and Verena Erlenbusch, entitled “Decolonial Genealogies of Critical Theory.” Click here for the full program.

Presentation on CIA and Intellectuals at CTW/ATC 2017

Here is a recently posted video from the Critical Theory Workshop / Atelier de Théorie Critique 2017, in which I discuss my research on the CIA’s intellectual world war with Jennifer Ponce de León. Entitled “French Thought in Bad Company: The CIA’s Intellectual World War,” the conversation took place on July 3, 2017 at the EHESS in Paris.

Book Event at the Slought Foundation

An author-meets-critics session that will take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 from 6-8 p.m. at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. Entitled “Radical Imaginaires,” the discussion will be based on my two most recent books: Counter-History of the Present and Interventions in Contemporary Thought.

Event Description
This symposium brings together leading scholars in the fields of political theory, intellectual history, comparative literature and aesthetics to discuss two recent books by philosopher Gabriel Rockhill: Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (Duke UP, 2017) and Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (Edinburgh UP, 2017 for the paperback edition). These works, whose contents are outlined below, perform a tectonic shift in the theoretical coordinates that frame our understanding of the contemporary. Cutting across multiple fields and debates, they intervene to propose both a novel form of theoretical practice and alternative conceptual models for understanding the multidimensionality of the current conjuncture as a force field of social struggle.

Counter-History of the Present dismantles the widespread belief that we are living in a
democratized and globalized era intimately connected by a single, overarching economic and technological network. Arguing that it fails to account for the experiences of billions 51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_of people around the world, Rockhill interrogates the ways this political narratology has emerged in connection with the neocolonial expansion of neoliberalism, which often seeks to mask the oppressive dynamics of global capital behind the value-concept of democracy. He thereby puts into relief the development of a technico-democratic mission that historically mirrors the role played by the civilizing mission during the grand era of colonialism. Proposing a counter-history that simultaneously counters the narratives of this imperial mission and develops a new grammar for historical and political imaginaries, the book creates space for the articulation of futures no longer engulfed in the prison of the colonial present.

Interventions in Contemporary Thought is a collection of essays that rethink the state and stakes of contemporary theory. By resituating theoretical work in a broader force field of culture and power, Rockhill develops an alternative historical model for understanding intellectual developments and proposes incisive, iconoclastic interventions into a broad rockhill_1-2array of current debates. These include a detailed dismantling of the sequential historical narrative leading from the structuralism of Foucault to Derrida’s post-structuralism; a radical critique of the political implications of the philosophy of difference; a meticulous reassessment of the force and limitations of the work of Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, and Cornelius Castoriadis; and a retrieval of architecture and public art, which have been largely excluded from certain contemporary theoretical debates on art and politics. Drawing on and developing his earlier work in Radical History & the Politics of Art, the book as a whole thereby proposes to modify the very framework for thinking the historical relation between aesthetics and politics.  Continue reading