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.”

Abstract
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.’

 

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France 24 Debate on “La Francophonie”

I participated in a France 24 debate entitled “Le français…and the world: Can Macron’s plan boost French influence?” (3/20/18). I argued that instead of continuing to push an imperial language on the world à la Macron, crushing innumerable local languages along the way, France should start teaching Arabic and African languages in schools as a way of addressing its colonial past and present.

“Antifascist Education” with the Radical Education Department

“ANTIFASCIST EDUCATION”
Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St., Philadelphia
March 15, 2018, 7 p.m.

The Radical Education Department (RED), which I co-founded with John-Patrick Schultz and others, hosted a discussion about anti-fascist education in both senses of this expression: i) educating ourselves about the deep and broad history of anti-fascism; and ii) mobilizing education as a weapon for anti-fascist struggles today.

Continue reading

RED Event on Antifascist Education

Please join the Radical Education Department (RED) and some of our allies for the event listed below. If you can’t make it, stay tuned for a video recording of the event.

“ANTIFASCIST EDUCATION”
Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St., Philadelphia
March 15, 2018, 7 p.m.

The Radical Education Department (RED) is hosting a discussion about anti-fascist education in both senses of this expression: i) educating ourselves about the deep and broad history of anti-fascism; and ii) mobilizing education as a weapon for anti-fascist struggles today.

RED image by Bob GillThe discussion will explore the connections between fascism, capitalism, the patriarchy, and racism, as well as the ways that liberal ideology abets fascist movements by misrepresenting issues such as violence and free speech. It will also point out the importance of linking the many sites of antifascist struggles at universities, prisons, public monuments, and beyond. Ultimately, the discussion will map possibilities for countering a rising tide of fascism with a broad radical left politics that isn’t only on the defensive but goes on the offensive!

This event has been organized by John-Patrick Schultz and Gabriel Rockhill, who are founding members of RED, an autonomous collective dedicated to the construction of a radical internationalist Left through the training and federation of its cultural warriors. They will be joined in the conversation by two longstanding activists: Ania Loomba, who has recently been involved with the Campus Antifascist Network, and Kempster (Ghani) Songster, co-founder of The Redemption Project. For more information and/or to get involved: https://radicaleducationdepartment.wordpress.com.

Traduction française de mon article sur la “démocratie” américaine

Réseau international a publié une traduction française de mon article, “The U.S. Is Not a Democracy; It Never Was” (CounterPunch, le 13 décembre, 2017). Cliquez ici pour la lire.

Extrait de “Les États-Unis ne sont pas une démocratie, ils ne l’ont jamais été“:

56ccda82c46188b8098b4601-1728x800_cL’une des croyances les plus fermes en ce qui concerne les États-Unis est qu’il s’agit d’une démocratie. Chaque fois que cette conviction fait l’objet d’un léger fléchissement, c’est presque toujours pour signaler des exceptions préjudiciables aux valeurs ou aux principes fondamentaux américains. Par exemple, les détracteurs en herbe déplorent souvent une « perte de démocratie » due à l’élection de clowns autocrates, à des mesures draconiennes de l’État, à la révélation d’incroyables malversations ou corruption, à des interventions étrangères meurtrières ou à d’autres activités considérées comme des exceptions antidémocratiques. Il en va de même pour ceux dont la démarche critique consiste à toujours juxtaposer les actions du gouvernement américain avec ses principes fondateurs, à mettre en évidence la contradiction entre les deux et à placer clairement un espoir dans sa possible résolution.  Continue reading

Review of “Counter-History of the Present”

Jason Edwards published a detailed review of Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy. It appeared in Contemporary Political Theory and can be read here.

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Excerpt: “Rockhill has written a provocative and highly readable book (indeed, it is even something of a page-turner). […] What is arresting about the book is the aplomb with which Rockhill goes about this task of disclosing the contingency of the present political imaginary. A review of this length cannot do justice to the political force of this critique. But that force, in general terms, lies in the relentless exposure of neoliberalism’s flattening out of ‘time, space, and society.’ If the force of political critique is not to be found in the revelation of a single reality marked out by being ‘now’ – which would be simply to recapitulate the homogenizing and destructive disposition of neoliberal practices of government – it may be located in the recognition of the multiple and contingently related realities of time, space, and social relations. A political theory that is sensitive to the way in which political imaginaries are constituted in and can be challenged through the practices connected across these realities, is likely to have a greater impact on those practices than one that busies itself with the fruitless search for a universal ideal of a democracy whose time can never come, precisely because its place lies outside of time, space, and society. […read more]”

Whitman Article Published

My article, “Whitman’s Polyvocal Poetic Revolution: Equality and Empire in New World Literature,” was just published in American Literature as World Literature. Ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London: Bloomsbury, 2018). Click here for a link to the book. The opening paragraph, which outlines the argument, can be found below.

9781501332302“This study seeks to demonstrate the political plurivocity of aesthetics via an exploration of the motley dimensions of Walt Whitman’s proposed poetic revolution. In resisting the widespread reduction of individual writers or works of art to single political positions (or a set of distinct, sequential views, as when an artist changes political orientations over time), it highlights the multiple dimensions of politicity operative in artwork. It begins, then, with an elucidation of Whitman’s provocative account of aesthetic revolution as the necessary cultural supplement to a purely political revolution, explicating how art and literature compose a people by simultaneously depicting and forging its culture, norms, affects and personalities. It then situates his project in the historical nexus it calls its own, detailing Whitman’s unique contribution to the revisionist historiography of democratic theodicy, and more specifically American manifest destiny. Finally, it explores the diverse ways in which the poet of new world literature, at least in certain of his writings, subjected other people—particularly the enslaved and the colonized—to a brutal process of decomposition.”