2019 Summer Seminars



Beginning with Hardt and Negri’s pathbreaking volume Commonwealth (2009), the idea of a new foundation for the communist project, based on the generic category of the common, as opposed both to the private and the public, has been powerfully argued and widely discussed. The seminar wants to discuss and problematize this idea, particularly focusing on three questions: how to articulate commonality and use/use value? How to reconcile commonality and individuality? How to insert a notion of commonality in the debate about environmental priorities?


Étienne Balibar graduated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Sorbonne in Paris, and later took his PhD from the University of Nijmegen. After teaching in Algeria and France, he is currently Anniversary Chair of Contemporary European Philosophy at Kingston University London and Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York. His books include Reading Capital (with Louis Althusser) (1965), Race, Nation, Class. Ambiguous Identities (1991, with Immanuel Wallerstein), Masses, Classes, Ideas (1994), The Philosophy of Marx (1995), Spinoza and Politics (1998), We, the People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship (2004), Identity and Difference (2013), Equaliberty: Political Essays (2014), and Violence and Civility (2015). 


After a period of relative neglect, theorists are again taking up the critique of capitalism. Responding to the metastasizing crises of neoliberalism (financial, economic, ecological, political and social) and to the crumbling of the center-left-cum-center-right political hegemony that underpinned it, many are now returning to the concerns of Marx. But today’s theories of capitalism do not simply repeat earlier critiques of political economy. At their best, they incorporate the hard-won fruits of subsequent intellectual and political developments, including feminism, anti-racism, postcolonialism, and ecology. In this course, we interrogate some of the most important critiques of capitalism, both old and new. The aim is to assess their respective capacities to clarify the capitalism of 21st century. The larger aim is to develop a critical theory of capitalist society that is sufficiently expansive to encompass the gamut of contemporary modes of domination and social struggles, while disclosing their shared bases in a single overarching social order with a determinate institutional structure. The result should also serve to clarify what Marx called “the struggles and wishes of the age,” including the prospects for an emancipatory resolution of the current crisis.

NSSR brochure.jpeg

Nancy Fraser is Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor at the New School for Social Research, Visiting Research Professor at Dartmouth College, and holder of an international research chair at the Collège d’études mondiales, Paris. Trained as a philosopher, she specializes in critical social theory and political philosophy. Her newest book, Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory, co-authored with Rahel Jaeggi, was published by Polity Press in 2018. She has theorized capitalism’s relation to democracy, racial oppression, social reproduction, ecological crisis, and feminist movements in a series of linked essays in New Left Review and Critical Historical Studies, and in Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013). Previous books include Domination et anticipation: pour un renouveau de la critique, with Luc Boltanski (2014); Transnationalizing the Public Sphere (2014); Scales of Justice (2008); Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates her Critics (2008); Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange (2003) with Axel Honneth; Justice Interruptus (1997); and Unruly Practices (1989). Fraser’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and was cited twice by the Brazilian Supreme Court (in decisions upholding marriage equality and affirmative action). She is the recipient of 6 honorary degrees and was recently awarded the Nessim Habif World Prize, the Havens Center Lifetime Award for Contribution to Critical Scholarship, and the status of “Chevalier” of the French Legion of Honor. Nancy Fraser is also a past President of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division. 


The government of human mobility might well be the most important problem to confront the world during the first half of the twenty-first century. Worldwide, the combination of ‘fast capitalism’ and the saturation of the everyday by digital and computational technologies have led to the acceleration of speed and the intensification of connections. Ours is, in this regard, an era of planetary entanglement. Yet, wherever we look, the drive is also towards enclosure. 

The belief that the world would be safer if only risks, ambiguity and uncertainty could be controlled and identities fixed once for all and secured is gaining momentum. Risks management techniques as a means to govern mobility are proliferating. Carried by mobile bodies, the biometric border is extending into multiple realms of social life. Were this trend to persist, tomorrow’s world might be at risk of becoming a gated world, with myriad enclaves, culs-de-sacs and corridors.

This seminar will explore the consequences of these trends and examine the ways in which they shape and reshape an new 'Nomos of the Earth', the main features of which will be the object of our conversation.


Achille Mbembe is Professor at the WISER Institute, University of Witwatersrand. He was born in Cameroon and obtained his Ph.D in History at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and a D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Paris). He was Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991, a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1992, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996, Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996 to 2000. Achille was also a visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and a visiting Professor at Yale University in 2003. He has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris, Karthala, 1996). On the Postcolony was published in Paris in 2000 in French and the English translation was published by the University of California Press in 2001. In 2015, Wits University Press published a new, African edition.