I was interviewed by Jennifer Ponce de León about my book Counter-History of the Present, and how it relates to genealogy, deconstruction and anticolonial theory. Click here for a link to the interview, and here for a pdf. The title of the interview is “Materialist Deconstruction, Anticolonial Geographies, and the Limits of Genealogy: An Interview on Counter-History of the Present.”
In this wide-ranging interview, Gabriel Rockhill discusses his most recent book, Counter-History of the Present, in the broader context of his research to date on aesthetics, politics and history, as well as its relationship to important interlocutors like Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Jacques Derrida, Frantz Fanon and Simone de Beauvoir. He explains the similarities and important differences between genealogy and counter-history, and he elucidates how his work performs a materialist deconstruction that contests the idealist logocentrism operative in purely textualist modes of interpretation. The interview also develops an account of “radical geography” that calls into question culturalist spatial imaginaries, which plague certain forms of decolonial theory that diminish or efface social stratification and class conflict. The discussion thereby contributes to the development of a new model for critical social theory with an internationalist perspective, which seeks to weave these conceptual innovations into a rigorous and radical materialism.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to a series in State of Nature on the Yellow Vests. All articles in the series were tasked with responding to the question: “What is the significance of the Gilets Jaunes movement?” Click here to read my reply (also copied below).
The Gilets Jaunes are significant for at least four reasons. First and foremost, they are a grassroots social movement that has arisen in reaction to the ongoing onslaught of global capitalism. The fact that this movement emerged outside of the representational structures that generally serve to support this system – including the professional political parties of parliamentary pseudo-democracy and the bureaucratised unions – indicates the extent to which these structures themselves, with few exceptions, have not been able to successfully mobilise and empower the working classes, but have instead managed their discontent. Continue reading
I’m honored by this Farsi translation of my latest article in the Los Angeles Review of Books’ “The Philosophical Salon,” entitled “The Failure of the French Intelligentsia? Intellectuals and Uprisings in the Case of the Yellow Vests.” A special thanks to my comrades in the Radical Education Department, as well as to Rahman Bouzari and Saleh Najafi!
I was pleased to be able to contribute to Ty Joplin’s excellent article on the Yellow Vests, which elucidates how the media spectacle around “violence” has obscured class struggle.
Excerpt: “Instead of taking activists seriously and discussing their demands for greater equality, thereby informing the public about what is actually at stake, the media construct an enormous spectacle out of ‘violence’ in order to present the movement as savage, irrational, and intent on destroying the very foundations of society,” Gabriel Rockhill, an Associate Professor of philosophy at Villanova University who also runs the Critical Theory Workshop in Paris, told Al Bawaba.
“Moreover, the production of this spectacle of violence also serves as cover for the greatest purveyor of violence in France today: the capitalist state and its repressive apparatus.”
My latest article in the LA Review of Books is available here. It critically examines the relationship between the professional intelligentsia and the Yellow Vests: “Although France has the reputation of having a leftwing intelligentsia, some of the most visible theorists on the Left—including the self-proclaimed torchbearers of the ‘spirit of ’68’—have positioned themselves firmly against the movement or admonished it from the sidelines. This disconnect between important segments of the professional intelligentsia and one of the most powerful social movements of recent years raises very serious questions regarding the politics of intellectual life and, more generally, the relationship between the literati and uprisings. By exploring the intelligentsia’s response—both in France and beyond—to the Yellow Vests movement, this article seeks to elucidate the broader problematic of the role of intellectuals in the maintenance or transformation of the current socio-economic order […read more].”
A special thanks to all of my RED comrades for their excellent feedback and suggestions on this article, which we’ve also run here on RED’s website.
Along with an impressive list of others scholars, I was asked to participate in State of Nature‘s one question interview on the remembrance of 1968. Please find my response below, and click here to read all of the replies.
How Should We Remember 1968?
1968 was a year of global insurrections that arose like a tidal wave out of the vast and profound historical ocean that is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist politics. Far from being circumscribed in a delimited period of time or cordoned off in specific spaces, it is thus best understood as a symbolic high water mark for insurgent revolutionary politics in the post-war era.
The remembrance of 1968 should be first and foremost a rejuvenation and radicalization. Rather than indulging in the time-honoured burial rituals of commemoration, by which an event only takes on its full meaning by endlessly restaging its public inhumation, we should recognize that 1968 is only what it will have become in its future perfect iterations. By rejuvenating and radicalizing what it stands for, its history can literally come back to life by being rewritten as a preliminary step in a global insurrection in the name of an egalitarian politics of liberation. We can thereby honour the past by radically transforming its very meaning and place in history.
Such active historical resuscitation, in which it is recognized that the past is only truly alive in the future that it will have become, can also serve as an antidote to the rampant mythologisation surrounding 1968. For, in engaging with this historical legacy and learning from its material struggles, we can also pry it loose from its rote interpretations.
To take but one example that is particularly philosophically salient, the myth of the ‘thinkers of 68’ is in dire need of correction. On the one hand, many of the intellectuals who were actually directly involved in preparing or acting in it – including Henri Lefebvre, Cornelius Castoriadis and Guy Debord – have been side-lined or excluded from the transnational, blockbuster phenomenon known as ‘French theory.’ On the other hand, those who were not involved or openly critical of it – such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan – are frequently marketed under its banner. This signals the need for not only a rejuvenation and radicalization of the politics of ‘68, but also of the traditions of truly radical critique that directly contributed to it.
« Le propos de l’ouvrage est ambitieux. Au vu de l’ampleur des sujets et des références qu’il brasse, ce livre apporte une contribution remarquable à la pensée critique contemporaine […la suite] ».
– Giovanni Camarilla dans sa recension de Contre-histoire du temps présent: interrogations intempestives sur la mondialisation, la technologie, la démocratie dans la Revue française de science politique.