Contemporary problems and possibilities of social critique

Symposium, 23-25th of February, 2018, at University of Copenhagen, Centre for Health and Society.

Organized by Nordic Summer University (NSU) and Centre for Anthropological, Political and Social Theory (CAPS).

Keynote, Friday Feb 23 @ 1.15pm: Professor Martin Saar, Goethe University, Frankfurt/M.

Professor Saar is the new “critical theory professor chair“ in philosophy at Goethe University, succeeding prominent theorists such as Max Horkheimer, Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth. His most important books are Die Immanenz der Macht. Politische Theorie nach Spinoza (2013) and Genealogie als Kritik. Geschichte und Theorie des Subjekts nach Nietzsche und Foucault (2007). For an introduction to his contributions to critical theory, see also Spinoza and the Political ImaginaryQui Parle Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring/Summer 2015).

The current growth and coming to power of populist movements in different parts of the world has severely changed the possibilities of making effective social critique. The influence of populist movements in the United States, challenges the possibilities of social critique in fields such as climate, migration and the well-fare state. In other places in the world, populist movements have made it difficult – like in the Philippines and in Burma – to critique public murders and loss of citizen’s rights. In Europe, nationalist and in some cases regionalist movements questions the national state as a democratic arena for all.

This is pared by a less visible but strong re-shift of resources and ideas towards technical solutions – rather than ideological or idea-based - to societies problems and in increasingly condensed ownership of news-papers and media outlets. As opposed to these tendencies, and often based on new media and communication solutions, some populist movements have also induced alternative ways of organizing politically, thus in itself becoming a critical actor towards institutionalized democracy and political elites. Examples of this can be found in movements such as the Occupy movement, or the Movimiento 11-M in Spain.

All of these parallel and interconnected developments have created a situation in which societal critique needs to re-invent itself in order to be effective. Yet, we seem to lack a comprehensive description of problems and possibilities within different political areas. Furhtermore, we ask if there is anything that could be learnt from populist movements?

The problems confronting societal critique will vary between issues and geographies, as will possible solutions. We call researchers from any field engaged with identifying problems concerning social critique, as well as with proposing solutions, to submit proposals. The symposium is open to graduate students as well as postgraduates. We encourage theoretical proposals as well as practitioner perspectives!

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words, and be submitted to no later than November 15th.