We’re pleased to announce a new publication that might be of interest to you:
Toward the Critique of Violence A Critical Edition Walter Benjamin Edited by Peter Fenves and Julia Ng
If outside the Americas (UK/Europe/Middle East and Africa/Asia-Pacific), apply the code CSV21TTCOV to receive a 30% discount when ordering from combinedacademic.co.uk or use this link.
* * * “This translation places before English readers for the first time the most comprehensible version yet of Benjamin’s compelling and demanding essay.”—Kevin McLaughlin, Brown University
Marking the centenary of Walter Benjamin’s immensely influential essay, “Toward the Critique of Violence,” this critical edition presents readers with an altogether new, fully annotated translation of a work that is widely recognized as a classic of modern political theory.
The volume includes twenty-one notes and fragments by Benjamin along with passages from all of the contemporaneous texts to which his essay refers. Readers thus encounter for the first time in English provocative arguments about law and violence advanced by Hermann Cohen, Kurt Hiller, Erich Unger, and Emil Lederer. A new translation of selections from Georges Sorel’s Reflections on Violence further illuminates Benjamin’s critical program. The volume also includes, for the first time in any language, a bibliography Benjamin drafted for the expansion of the essay and the development of a corresponding philosophy of law. An extensive introduction and afterword provide additional context.
With its challenging argument concerning violence, law, and justice—which addresses such topical matters as police violence, the death penalty, and the ambiguous force of religion—Benjamin’s work is as important today as it was upon its publication in Weimar Germany a century ago.
Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was a German Jewish philosopher.
Peter Fenves is Joan and Serapta Harrison Professor of Literature, Northwestern University.
Julia Ng is Lecturer in Critical Theory and codirector of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London.
[**NB: Scroll down to see all 6 dates on the registration page.]
Pivotal for the history of aesthetics are the encounters between philosophy and tragedy that span from Ancient Greece to the decolonizing Caribbean. Ever since its infamous exclusion in Plato’s Republic and its theorisation in Aristotle’s Poetics, tragedy has played a number of often contrasting roles in philosophy’s own self-understanding. Tragedy has variously been conceived as an origin of philosophical (and dialectical) thought, as a limit to philosophy’s efforts at intellectual sovereignty, as well as a constant source of ethical exemplification and conceptual instruction. While conscious of the stakes of philosophy’s image of tragedy, this conference will try to expand its purview to look beyond and beneath a late-eighteenth early-nineteenth century idea of the tragic which has often come to saturate reflection on this relationship. Tragedy and Philosophy will therefore also seek to consider a variety of themes that transcend the equation between tragedy and the tragic, including: the contribution of anthropology and history to an understanding of the specificity of Greek tragedy; the place of femininity, lament and conflict in ancient Greek tragedies; the relation between music and words in tragedy, and its philosophical significance (including in tragedy’s repetition by modern opera); the early modern emergence of a poetics of tragedy irreducible to Aristotelian and Idealist or Romantic variants; tragedy as a reflection on sovereignty; tragedy as an art intimately linked to moments of crisis and transition.
This virtual conference is organised in sessions distributed over six days. Each panel will take place from 3:30-5:30pm BST and each keynote address from 6:00-7:30pm BST. Sessions will be followed by a discussion. A concluding roundtable will close the conference.
Donna Jones is Associate Professor of English at UC Berkeley and the author of The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy: Négritude, Vitalism and Modernity (Columbia UP, 2010). She is currently working on two two projects, The Ambiguous Promise of European Decline: Race and Historical Pessimism in the Era of the Great War and The Tribunal of Life: Reflections on Vitalism, Race and Biopolitics.
Objects of Desire, Objects of the Drives, and Jouissance in Transference
Respondent: Darian Leader (CFAR)
For an analyst, expounding a clinical example is no mere illustration of a pre-existing theory. Rather, the exposition serves as a laboratory for the formation of concepts and thus of the capacity for critiquing previous theories. In my presentation, I will put this claim to the test by examining the significance and function of “The Thing” (das Ding), “desire,” “the objects of the drives,” and “jouissance” in the field of transference. Lacan wrote in L’Étourdit that “formalisation is our goal, our ideal” because there is something indeterminable directly in the analytic act due to the infinite equivocity of language. But do we only have a choice between an “integral transmission” by virtue of a matheme, and non-knowledge?
Part II Thursday, 27 May 2021 6-8pm BST, online
Animism of the Unconscious: On the Animism of Property in Modern Right
Instead of seeking the connection of the social and the sexual in the mode of how subjects of desire are involved in forms of power and in relation to rights, what if we focused our attention on the various regimes of things? As anthropologists Marilyn Strathern and Maurice Godelier have demonstrated, things in the social are objects of exchange, of production, and of transmission. Our relations to things, especially to inanimate things, are not as rational as we generally suppose: things and objects condense the unknown in social relations. How is this unknown articulated with the unconscious objects of our desires? In my presentation, I will attempt to approach this animistic layer of socio-political existence from three angles: Hegel’s philosophy of abstract right, Freud’s account of the animism of the unconscious, and the comparison, made by Marilyn Strathern, between the role of mask-statues in New Ireland and patent rights and intellectual property in modern societies. The question is this: how do political struggles in democracies put into play animistic components of social relations?
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:
Monique David-Ménard is professor emerita of philosophy at the University Paris-Diderot (Paris 7) where, as the Director of the Centre d’études du vivant, she established the field of research on “Gender and Sexualities.” She is also a practicing psychoanalyst and vice president of the Société de Psychanalyse Freudienne. Additionally, she is a co-founder of the ISPP (International Society for Psychoanalysis and Philosophy), an associate of the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (Berlin), and a member of the International Network of Women Philosophers (UNESCO). She is the author of L’hysterique entre Freud et Lacan: corps et langage en psychanalyse (1983; English as Hysteria from Freud to Lacan: Body and Language in Psychoanalysis, trans. by Catherine Porter, 1989); La folie dans la raison pure: Kant lecteur de Swedenborg (1990); Les constructions de l’universel: psychanalyse, philosophie (1997); Tout le plaisir est pour moi (2000); Deleuze et la psychanalyse: l’altercation (2005); Éloge des hasards dans la vie sexuelle (2011); and, most recently, La Vie sociale des choses. L’animisme et les objets, Editions du Bord-de l’Eau, collection Totem et tabou (2020).
Darian Leader is a psychoanalyst working in London and a founding member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research (CFAR). A major contributor to the field of psychoanalysis, his books include What is Madness?, Strictly Bipolar, Hands and Why Can’t We Sleep? He also regularly contributes articles on psychoanalysis to The Guardian.
Alain Pottage is Professor of Law at the Sciences Po, Paris. His research focuses on questions in the history and theory of intellectual property, and on the question of law in the Anthropocene.
Co-sponsored by The Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, London.
“Before us today is the problem of universal peace,” Sayyid Qutb declares in the prologue to his much-neglected Universal Peace and Islam (1951). “Does Islam have an opinion on the matter? Does Islam have a solution?” Albeit popularly considered the ideologue of “Islamic jihad,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading theorist designed a plan for universal peace. Qutb’s plan pegs the emergence of universal peace to an immanent organization of individual states with laws in common. Its promise of peace is embedded in an Enlightenment script that claims to correct unjust savagery through the state and the law. This is a script that calls up Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes, specifically their predications of peace on law and statehood. Drawing attention to Kant’s discussions of “the Arab” and Hobbes’s references to empire, this talk unpacks the unacknowledged salience of denials of law, political economy, and settler colonialism for theorizations of peace. Qutb’s adaptations of that familiar logic unwittingly expose its limits, culminating with perpetual war against enemies whose laws and form are ‘wrong.’
This talk draws on a chapter of Idris’s book, War for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2019), which recently won the David Easton Award from APSA’s Foundations of Political Theory Section (2020). The book deconstructs dominant formulations of peace in the writings of Plato, al-Farabi, Aquinas, Erasmus, Grotius, Gentili, Hobbes, Ibn Khaldun, Immanuel Kant, and Sayyid Qutb.
Murad Idris is Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Virginia and the author ofWar for Peace: Genealogies of a Violent Ideal in Western and Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2019).
In the paper I will present a reading of Kafka’s story about a dog’s effort to develop a new science. I will argue that this science has not only much in common with Freud’s innovation but also that it shares a great deal with what Foucault was after in his engagement with the Cynics, the stray dogs of philosophy.
Eric L. Santner is the Philip and Ida Romber Distinguished Service Professor of Modern Germanic Studies. He is the author of a number of books that explore the boundary zones between philosophy, literature, and psychoanalysis.
Debt functions as a form of coloniality in the colony of Puerto Rico. It operates not only as an apparatus of capture and predation, intensifying a neoliberalism reconfigured by the financial crisis. It also operates as a form of coloniality, actualizing a race/gender norm installed and updated throughout an ongoing colonial history. Placing in conversation Marxist approximations to financial neoliberal capitalism, decolonial thought, and decolonial feminism in Puerto Rico, this talk considers the work of debt in updating modalities of gender and racial, particularly antiblack, violence.
Rocío Zambrana is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory University. She is the author of Hegel’s Theory of Intelligibility (U Chicago Press, 2015) and Colonial Debts: The Case of Puerto Rico (Duke UP, forthcoming), as well as numerous articles on German Idealism, Marxism, and Critical Theory. She is the co-editor of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and a columnist for 80grados.
Please join us for Singularity’s -abilities: In Celebration of Samuel Weber’s 80th Birthday this Tuesday December 1st at 9am CST. Speakers, agenda, and registration info below.
Presentations will be in English and German. All times are local to Chicago, USA.
9:00am – 10:00am — Singularity’s Inscriptions
Isabelle Alfandary – Learning to Read with Sam Weber Julia Ng – Whistling Lillabullero Hans-Jörg Rheinberger – Schreiben und Experimentieren Bernard Geoghegan – Theatricality and AI (Moderator: James Martel)
10:15am – 11:15am — Singularity’s Philosophy
Peter Fenves – Singularity, Again Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky – The Ever New Angel Diego Rosello – The Task of Thanking: Thanking as Thinking with Samuel Weber Laura Chiesa – tba (Moderators: James Martel, Julia Ng)
11:45am-12:45pm — Singularity’s Politics
Marian Hobson – How can classification be violent? Weber and Derrida Javier Burdman – Sam Weber’s Response to Lyotard’s Just Gaming and the Elusive Link between Deconstruction and Politics James Martel – Singularity and the Commandment: another form of law Héctor Castaño – Singularity in Translation and the Economy of Cultural Difference (Moderator: Julia Ng)
1:00pm – 1:30pm Response by Samuel Weber
Organized by Jörg Kreienbrock, James Martel, Julia Ng, and generously co-sponsored by Northwestern University, San Francisco State University, and the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought at Goldsmiths, University of London
In my book Se défendre. Une philosophie de la violence (Defending Oneself: A Philosophy of Violence), a major reference is missing: Walter Benjamin’s text, Toward the Critique of Violence (1921). Not that the text was not relevant, nor that Benjamin’s work and the thought were not familiar to me. It was by following the theses On the Concept of History that I initiated my genealogical approach to the notion of constellated time; but it was by tacitly shadowing Benjamin, grasping in the breaches of history for what belongs to an ontology of divine violence – of which revolutionary violence is like the replica and imprint – that I made explicit my intention to turn to muscle rather than law in order to think self-defense, because “there is something rotten in the law”.
Toward the Critique of Violence is never cited in Se défendre, and yet this reference is there as a foundation, an inaugural starting point: all of its tragic protagonists – the state, natural law, positive law, the working class, the concept of property, the critique of the contract, life and death, the revolution, but also the mystical part of the carnal gesture that saves – are reanimated in the book I wanted to write. As a hidden reference, it is the fictitious dialogue between Walter Benjamin (but also Sorel) and Frantz Fanon that is deployed there. The critique of state violence, of the state itself – of right, of law, of the legal contract – and of their attendant mythologies is at the heart of my reflection.
In this presentation, I would like to unfold this silent reference and extend the reflections of Se défendre by attempting to write what could be the last “missing” chapter of the book. A ghost chapter on the present, on the immediate reality from which I had deliberately kept myself at a distance, so difficult it is to think when our thoughts are glued to the present. At the crossroads of the present, I find Benjamin facing the democratic state, its police and their founding or constitutive violence; I find the French State and its police and the question: how to depose them?
About the speaker:
Elsa Dorlin is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Paris 8 Vincennes/Saint-Denis. She is the author of several books, including La Matrice de la race. Généalogie sexuelle et coloniale de la nation française (Paris: La Découverte, 2006) and Se Défendre. Une philosophie de la violence (Paris: Zones, 2017; Suhrkamp, 2020; Verso, forthcoming), Frantz Fanon Book Prize from the Caribbean Philosophical Association 2018.