1 Columbia University Center for Contemporary Critical Thought Fall 2015 Seminar The Idea of a Critical Political Theory Professor Linda Zerilli Monday Through Friday, October 19-23, 2015 Seminar Description Anyone who goes beyond procedural questions of a discourse theory of morality and ethics and, in a normative attitude... embarks on a theory of the wellordered, or even emancipated, society will quickly run up against the limits of his own historical situation. --Habermas For some time now, a certain strand of contemporary critical theory has understood its task not in terms of providing a substantive critique of real world power relations, let alone an alternative normative conception of what social relations might be, but of how to justify critique as such: how to justify those elements which critique owes to its philosophical origins (Habermas), albeit in a nonfoundationalist manner. This focus on if not obsession with the theoretical problem of how to ground one s own critique arose largely as an intervention into the now longstanding debate over positivism and scientism in figurations of the relation between theory and practice. As important as this intervention has been for exposing the dangers of, and social/political philosophy s implication in, a purely technocratic order, it has not been without costs to the very idea of critique itself: namely the crucial connection between critique and social/political transformation. Seyla Benhabib has usefully characterized the two tasks of critical theory as explanatory-diagnostic and anticipatory-utopian. In this seminar we aim to explore what each of these tasks might be and how they are connected. Central to our discussions will be an examination of how the loss of the second of these tasks, that is, of providing an anticipatory-utopian vision of what might supersede our current social and political predicament, results in a failure to adequately fulfill the first task of critically analyzing that very predicament. To speak with Cornelius Castoriadis, how might we refigure theory as critical (of what exists) by means of its capacity to posit new forms/figures of the thinkable?
2 Schedule (Please read in the order listed.) In preparation for the seminar, it will be useful to consult the following texts: Amy Allen, The Politics of Ourselves: Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). Seyla Benhabib, Critique, Norm, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). Raymond Geuss, The Idea of a Critical Theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981). Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991)., Theory and Practice, trans. John Veirtel (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1973). Nikolas Kompridis, Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006). Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000). Reinhart Koselleck and Michaela W. Richter, Crisis, Journal of the History of Ideas 67, no. 2 (April 2006): Bruno Latour, Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?: From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern, Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004): (October 19) I. Critique as a Creative World-Building Practice of Freedom The first session sets out two visions of critique and of a critical political theory s role and purpose in the world. On the one side is a vision that, in recognition of the value pluralism and social complexity of modernity, restricts itself to the normative clarification of the procedures by which moral and political questions should be settled; on the other, a vision that, in recognition of the various ways in which conditions of modernity obscure or foreclose our possibilities, conceives itself as a possibilitydisclosing practice (Kompridis). Rather than see critique in terms of a proceduralist practice of normative justification (Habermas), how might we rethink it as an array of imaginative practices of freedom that disclose new ways of living and acting politically? In our current climate of political despair, can we rethink critique in terms other than those of the corrosive skepticism that attends its idealization as the total unmasking of our current socio-political relations? How might we break closure through practices of critique that neither seek the external standpoint nor begin with radical doubt but work from within our forms of life and employ radical imagination to posit new forms/figures of the thinkable? Readings: Nikolas Kompridis, Disclosing Possibility: The Past and Future of Critical Theory, International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13, no. 3: Cornelius Castoriadis, Marxism and Revolutionary Theory, The Social Imaginary
3 and Institution, and Radical Imagination and the Social Instituting Imaginary, in The Castoriadis Reader, ed. David Ames Curtis (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997), , Cornelius Castoriadis, Logic, Imagination, Reflection, in World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and Imagination (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), Hannah Arendt, Freedom and Politics: A Lecture, Chicago Review 14, no. 1 (Spring 1960): Jacques Derrida, The Last of the Rogue States: The Democracy to Come, Opening in Two Turns in Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, trans. Pascal Anne-Brault and Michael Nass (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), (October 20) II. Critique and the Art of Governance The second session will explore the emergence of the modern idea of critique and its relation to governance, crisis, judgment, and ethics. What does it mean to think (with Foucault) of critique as the suspension of judgment and as inaugurating a new practice of values based on that very suspension, as Judith Butler puts it. How can we think of critique as practiced from within relations of knowledge/power rather than from a supposedly objective because external standpoint? How can we move from an intellectualist and individualistic idea of critique to one that is based in modes of both self-transformation and collective practice? Readings: Michel Foucault, What is Critique?, and What is Enlightenment?, in The Politics of Truth, ed. Sylvère Lotringer (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 1997), 41-82, Michel Foucault, The Ethics of the Concern for the Self as a Practice of Freedom, in Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, Essential Works of Foucault , Vol. I, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: The New Press, 1994), Judith Butler, What is Critique? An Essay on Foucault s Virtue, http//eipcp.net/transversal/0806/butler/en Gerald Raunig, What is Critique: Suspension and Recomposition in Textual and Social Machines, Raymond Williams, Criticism, in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York: Oxford University Press, Rudi Visker, Michel Foucault, Genealogy as Critique, trans. Chris Turner (New York: Verso, 1995). Ella Myers, Crafting a Democratic Subject?: The Foucauldian Ethics of Self-Care, Worldly Ethics: Democratic Politics and Care for the World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013),
4 (October 21) III. Critique and Judgment The third session explores Kant s idea of the distinctively public use of reason and critique as elaborated by Hannah Arendt. We seek to complicate the idea of critique as the suspension of rule-governed (determinative) judgment (as it was introduced by Foucault and developed by Butler and Raunig) by turning to Arendt s political refiguration of common sense and Kant s reflective aesthetic judgments of taste in the third Critique. How might critique be understood as part of a practice of reflective judgment, that is, judgment without the mediation of a concept? How might this understanding of critique allow us to practice critique from within our forms of life rather than from what we have now seen to be an illusory external standpoint? Required Reading: Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant s Political Philosophy, ed. Ronald Beiner, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), Hannah Arendt, Thinking and Moral Considerations, Social Research 38, no. 3 (Autumn 1971): Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) Hannah Arendt, Understanding and Politics (The Difficulties of Understanding), in Essays in Understanding, : Formation, Exile, and Totalitarianism (New York: Schocken1994), Linda M. G. Zerilli, We Feel Our Freedom: Imagination and Judgment in the Thought of Hannah Arendt, Political Theory 33, no. 2 (April 2005): (October 22) IV. Critique and the Ordinary The fourth session will explore further the question of whether context-transcendence is the sine qua non of critique and how a rule-based conception of normativity makes it difficult to imagine critique as originating from within rather than outside our forms of life. What resources are there in our current practices and in what Stanley Cavell calls the ordinary for developing new ways of going on and relating to ourselves and to others in collective and public space? Stanley Cavell, The Availability of Wittgenstein s Later Philosophy and Knowing and Acknowledging in Must We Mean What We Say? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 44-72, , Excursus on Wittgenstein s Vision of Language, in The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), Steven G. Affeldt, The Ground of Mutuality: Criteria, Judgment, and Intelligibility in Stephen Mulhall and Stanley Cavell, European Journal of Philosophy 6, no. 1 (1998): , The Normativity of the Natural, in Varieties of Skepticism: Essays after Kant,
5 Wittgenstein, and Cavell, eds. James Conant and Andrea Kern (De Gruyter, 2014), Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy (Oxford, 1999) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, German-English 4 th Edition (Blackwell, 2009), Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, ed. G. E. M. Anscombe and G. H. Wright (Harper, 1972). Stephen Mulhall, Stanley Cavell: Philosophy s Recounting of the Ordinary (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999); The Givenness of Grammar: A Reply to Steven Affeldt, European Journal of Philosophy 6, no. 1 (1998): 32-44; Stanley Cavell s Vision of the Normativity of Language: Grammar, Criteria, and Rules, in Richard T. Eldridge, ed., Stanley Cavell (Cambridge UP, 2003), ; Inner Constancy, Outer Variation: Stanley Cavell on Grammar, Criteria, and Rules, in Varieties of Skepticism: Essays after Kant, Wittgenstein, and Cavell, eds. James Conant and Andrea Kern (De Gruyter, 2014), James Conant, Wittgenstein on Meaning and Use, Philosophical Investigations 21, no. 3 (July 1998): (October 23) V. Critique and Collective Political Practice In the final seminar we turn to the Occupy Movement(s) as a recent political example of critique understood as (1) the resistance to being governed in this way (Foucault), (2) the public practice of action and judgment (Arendt), (3) the capacity to project a word into new contexts (Cavell), and/or (3) the work of radical imagination and its positing of forms/figures of the newly thinkable (Castoriadis). To what extent do these various ways of thinking about critique capture what you take Occupy to be about? To what extent do they support, contest, or mutually exclude each other? Which of these approaches to critique better grasps the events now gathered under the sign Occupy? Can we revisit more distant political protests (e.g., not just those that culminated in world-historical revolutions but also those associated with, say, 1968) and felicitously rethink them with one or more of these conceptions of critique? Readings: W. J. T. Mitchell, Preface to Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience, Critical Inquiry 39, no. 1 (Autumn 2012): 1-7. W. J. T. Mitchell, Image, Space, Revolution: The Arts of Occupation, Critical Inquiry 39, no. 1 (Autumn 2012): Bernard Harcourt, Political Disobedience, Critical Inquiry 39, no. 1 (Autumn 2012): Michael Taussig, I m So Angry I Made a Sign, Critical Inquiry 39, no. 1 (Autumn 2012): Hannah Arendt, Civil Disobedience, in Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt
6 Brace, 1972), Todd Gitlin, Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (New York: Harper Collins, 2012). What is Occupy? Inside the Global Movement (New York: Times Books, 2011). David Horowitz and John Perazzo, Occupy Wall Street: The Communist Movement Reborn (Sherman Oaks, CA: David Horowitz Freedom Center, 2012). Sarah van Gelder, ed., This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011).