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The Workshop

Session 2010

JWTC workshop session 2010Techniques of Capital:
Property, Self-Creation and Politics in Precarious Times

18 - 28 July 2010


Session 2010 Application form (CLOSED FOR 2010)


The JWTC 2010 Workshop will examine old and new techniques of capital from vantage points in and beyond the economistic. We hope to explore with some degree of specificity emergent vocabularies of capitalism and its critique. We also hope to better understand the current logics of capital's reinscription and contestation as these logics manifest themselves through a range of techniques from the mortgage to technological innovation, from image and spectacle to the rise of entrepreneurialism and new modes of self-creation.

Since its emergence in Western Europe, capitalism as a force of accumulation has been both global and embedded in particular, differentiated historical structures. Although a market economy and capitalism have not always been identical, they have always been linked. Working through hierarchical interdependencies mediated by property, technology, law and finance, they have always been rooted in beliefs, institutions and imaginaries. Yet if the market economy is radically global, it is also more layered than ever - from the most simple extractive economies of oil and minerals to economies based on the speculative production of value that is so abstract and virtual that it eludes most people's comprehension. Whether understood in the context of the state or in the context of the family, modern property in turn has appeared in variegated, tangible and intangible forms. To produce these forms required complex processes of abstraction, reification and legitimation. Furthermore, different entitlements to property or the ownership of different kinds of property have been instrumental in producing different sorts of persons endowed with different rights and capacities for self-creation and self-realization.

As regimes of production in transnational capitalism transform to allow for greater flexibility, mobility and profitability, questions of property and property-lessness, risks and liabilities, debt and credit, value creation and dissipation, labor and superfluity are once again at the heart of intensive debates about the contemporary global political economy. From controversies over resource extraction and the control of indigenous lands under which reside potent economic resources to patenting and the development of biotechnologically engineered seeds and generically modified foods, our era is witnessing structural transformations of life forms and life processes into property. Longstanding struggles over definitions of nature, value, creation, the public and communal domains are gaining a new impetus amidst a refiguring of the nature of property and of properties in nature.

A few broad concerns will animate the 2010 Workshop

[1] In the context described above, how can we think anew about (1) cultures of money and finance, debt and consumption; (2) and the entanglement of the social, the cultural/aesthetics and the economic? How to account for the techniques of capital especially in those parts of the world where huge numbers of people are only integrated in the market circuits under the sign of their bodies (body-commodities)? What modes of calculation and regimes of valuation and laws prevail in such contexts? What are the relations of pricing and pricelessness, value and valuelessness to the calculations and audits of life as such? What extra-economic meanings do categories such as ‘waste', ‘ruins', ‘wreckage' acquire in such instances? How are the production and experience of disasters and the catastrophic integrally implicated in the circulation of global capital? To what extent does the manner in which property is created serve to reify certain rights claims while circumscribing others and the languages through which they can be voiced?

[2] Then there is the apparent triumph of the visual and the scopic over other sensory forms. This triumph is nowhere more evident than in the realm of new technologies and spectacles. Can it be said that to the logic of the panopticon and surveillance has been added a logic of visibility (the synopticon) - one that, more than ever before, governs desires? Is there a way of rethinking the "image" - the growing consciousness that we are composed of/by images both at the levels of perception, affect and action - beyond Debord and Baudrillard? To what extent current regimes of the visual, the scopic and the digital contribute to new forms of aesthetic sensibilities? And to what extent do they operate as possible assets in the emergence of radical forms of political and cultural life?

[3] Finally, we hope to examine the pragmatics of time that underpin the new forms of struggles and of political and cultural life. We particularly wish to pay attention to the relationship between the experience of small shifts and the theology of revolutionary ruptures - the "Event". Is liberation/emancipation/self-determination still the most significant imaginary force in political mobilization of collectivities and in the process of self-constitution or self-creation today? Can it be said that the anticipation of the ‘Event' (and therefore a certain orientation towards the future) has been superseded by the ‘conjuncture', or the time of ‘small shifts', or in the worse case, of repetition without difference? To what extent has the colonization of the political and of culture itself by the logic of the market resulted in the substitution of a politics of the future by a politics of immediacy, expediency and contingency? Or should we rather think of the present moment in terms of a concatenation of multiple and colliding political temporalities? How do these multiple and colliding temporalities find their way in current aesthetics forms and various redesign projects? What should we make of (1) the apparent shift towards a renewed concern for self both as an ethical and as an aesthetic agent and (2) the apparent displacement of a politics of reasoned deliberation by a politics of sentiments and passions, nostalgia and affect? What are the implications of these shifts on (1) the possibilities and forms of resistance and aesthetic creation; and (2) for the project of commonality, mutuality and hospitality?