Posts Tagged ‘Prendre la paraula’

Peter Wagner: “The mechanism of domination and resistance to domination is what brought about progress”

March 3rd, 2015 No Comments

Barcelona Debate 2015 is about to end with the lecture that will be given by the sociologist Peter Wagner, who will situate the concepts of “progress” and “modernity” within the framework of today’s political vocabulary and propose new readings and perspectives in order to update their meanings.

In your lecture on 9 March you will be revising the political concepts of “progress” and “modernity”.

I’ll be talking about the notion of “progress” in relation with that of “modernity” by starting to look at how western societies have grown considerably with the progress they’ve made over the past two centuries, when progress was understood not only as a possibility but as something that was really happening: it was believed that society would keep improving. Things went on like that until thirty or forty years ago but, between 1979 and 1989, something happened which made us lose our faith in progress. In my lecture I’ll discuss the reasons for this loss of faith and explain that, as a society, we have too many things that need improving so we can’t give up and abandon the idea of “progress”. We must try to recover it and, probably, give it new meaning.

LLEGIR MÉS-LEER MÁS-READ MORE

Interview with Bo Stråth

February 16th, 2015 No Comments

After very well-attended lectures by Axel Honneth and Saskia Sassen and a panel discussion on the work of the philosopher Byung-Chul Han, The Barcelona Debate 2015 now continues, this time reconsidering the present-day sense of the main political concepts we habitually use. Bo Stråth, Emeritus Professor of Nordic, European and World History at the University of Helsinki, will take the floor to rethink, revise and discuss the concepts of “capitalism” and “welfare”. We have interviewed him, asking him to tell us in advance some of the key themes of his lecture next Monday 16 February.

Are capitalism and welfare compatible?
I shall illustrate the relationship between capitalism and welfare, and whether they are compatible, and whether they can be mutually supportive, starting by analysing how the concept of “reform” has changed. This notion first appeared 150 years ago as a counter to the idea of revolution, shortly after which it became a concept that was “in favour of something”: for a better future, for a more just society, et cetera. After that, reforms were always associated with social reform. Now I wonder: how did it happen that, nowadays, “reforms” no longer have any social dimension? All reforms today are economic and the less social the better. This transformation, or the 180o turnaround in the meaning of the word, began in the 1970s with sweeping changes in the job market.

You say that the concept of “reform” underwent a radical change in the 1970s. What happened exactly?
Until the 1960s, the idea of reform referred to social reforms, but these social reforms were not opposed to economic reforms since economic efficiency and social efficiency were mutually supportive and reinforcing. Social improvements meant economic improvements and vice versa. However, this changed in the 1970s with the crisis of the dollar after the Vietnam War which had channelled economic resources into arms production. That was the context in which welfare disappeared from the concept of reform. Ever since then, the idea of “reform” has lost its social component to become a tool exclusively geared to economic efficiency, associated with restricted production, lower labour costs, and so on.

Might the concept of “reform” come to include the social component again?
This is the big question and we don’t have the answer. There is nothing in the present structure that would allow us venture an opinion as to whether things will change or stay the same. The European political leaders are the ones who have to decide what they want to do and what Europe must do. Is it necessary to let people go hungry, as in Greece? Is it possible to re-create a social Europe? These are the big questions today.

Bo Stråth, Emeritus Professor of Nordic, European and World History at the University of Helsinki will be speaking in The Barcelona Debate, “Wield the Word” on Monday 16 February with the lecture “Capitalism and Welfare: On the Changing Meaning of the Concept of Reform”.

Byung-Chul Han and the Fatigue Society

February 4th, 2015 1 Comment


In recent years, as a result of his studies of the phenomenon of fatigue in capitalist societies, together with its associated symptoms such as depression and exhaustion, Byung-Chul Han has become one of the most widely read philosophers in Europe. Byung-Chul Han, who was born in Seoul and studied in Berlin, raises the questions of how we want to live today and what we can do to counteract the pressures of goal-achieving digital societies. In this sense, the fatigue syndrome is especially pernicious in South Korea which, in a very brief period, went from being a poor agricultural country to a leading industrial nation. Byung-Chul Han’s book La sociedad del cansancio (The Fatigue Society) examines Europe and South Korea in 2010, while his critical theses on society, as detailed in La sociedad de la transparencia (The Transparency Society), La agonía de Eros (The Agony of Eros), Psicopolítica (Psychopolitics) and En el enjambre (In the Swarm), are very helpful guised to understanding society in the present-day age of self-exploitation, neoliberalism and surveillance.

Since it will not be possible to hear Byung-Chul Han speak in person since he does not make public appearances or give press interviews, we shall screen the documentary film Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (Fatigue Society – Byung-Chul Han in Seoul / Berlin) by the visual artist Isabella Gresser on Monday 9 February. Gresser, who accompanied Byung-Chul Han on his visits to Seoul between 2012 and 2014, interweaves her cinematographic, photographic and sketched observations in Korea with a text spoken by Byung-Chul Han, fragments of lectures and other materials, for example an interview with the famous Korean film director and producer Park Chan-wook and recordings of monks in a Buddhist temple. A key theme of the documentary is that of the wanderer, while the part about Berlin – where Byung-Chul Han guides the spectator through the intimacies of his neighbourhood and its local nostalgic peculiarities – is closely linked with the film Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), the screenplay of which was written by Wim Wenders and Peter Handke.

Following the screening of the documentary there will be a panel discussion on the concepts of Individual and Community with Fina Birulés, lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Barcelona, Albert Lladó, cultural journalist, Manel Ollé, lecturer in History and Culture of Contemporary China at the Pompeu Fabra University, and Isabella Gresser, visual artist.

Individual and Community’ is the third event in Barcelona Debate 2015 which, titled ‘Wield the Word’, will include such speakers as Axel Honneth, Saskia Sassen, Bo Stråth, Luc Boltanski, Montserrat Guibernau, Peter Wagner and Seyla Benhabib.

Someone Else’s Shoes and the Words of Politics

January 20th, 2015 No Comments

In recent times we have witnessed a two-way movement. On the one hand, words that had apparently been tucked away in the folds of history have made a forceful reappearance in public discourse. This, for example, is the case of “class”, which seems to have had its explanatory power restored, or “common” and “community”, which have not only recovered their original senses but have opened up a whole array of new meanings. On the other hand, some of the words we have traditionally used to describe and explain the world seem incapable now of accounting for the radical changes we are all experiencing. When we use them, we have the feeling of putting on someone else’s shoe: it is the perfect container for a foot which clearly isn’t ours.

The world we know has undergone far-reaching changes over the past few decades. Traditional ways of doing politics and the democratic institutions are suspect today and floundering in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy. The situation is further complicated by the changes in scale, speed and perspective of a globalised world, and new, disconcerting relationships between identity, power, state and market. The decisive exposé in the form of the international financial crisis with its revelations concerning the conditions of neoliberal capitalism and depth of technological change have extended and, in some cases, forced the limits and possibilities of customary words and categories. In this regard, what is happening with the ideas of “equality”, “freedom”, “sovereignty”, “citizenship”, “state”, “work”, “capitalism” and “party”? In their standard formulation do they still help in making the world we share intelligible, and articulating and coordinating the sense of our actions? Which aspects of our experience and our surroundings remain hidden and which are illuminated when we use them? Which new senses and perspectives must we incorporate into our political present in order to re-focus, re-interpret and re-formulate it?

LLEGIR MÉS-LEER MÁS-READ MORE

The Barcelona Debate is back

January 9th, 2015 2 Comments

Torna el Debat de Barcelona

Barcelona Debate the CCCB’s longest-running lecture series is about to begin once more to reflect, as it has done every other year, on some key aspect of contemporary life from a philosophical standpoint. Over the years, hundreds of philosophers, sociologists and writers have visited Barcelona to participate in the Debate, among them Zygmunt Bauman, Tzvetan Todorov, Judith Butler, Lydia Cacho, Claudio Magris and the recently deceased Ulrich Beck.

In recent times the Debate has pondered the meaning of life and the sense of existence in the contemporary world (with lectures series like The Human Condition (2008) and Virtues (2012)) and the cultural consequences of globalisation (in Borders (2004) and Thinking the Future (2010)). Speakers have also discussed the future of Europe, the economic crisis, the open city and life in common.

This year, Barcelona Debate will be revisiting some of the great concepts of political thought in the present context of multiple crises by way of questioning the sense of such important notions pertaining to collective life as “freedom”, “equality”, “community” and “citizenship”. With the title “Wield the Word”, the Debate also aims to uphold the value of words, bring them up to date, endow them with new senses and invite citizens to appropriate them.

This year’s Debate will be opened by Axel Honneth, director of the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt University. Other speakers will include such outstanding present-day thinkers as Saskia Sassen, Luc Boltanski and Seyla Benhabib. among others.

For the complete programme, click here.

1