Sandeep Banerjee: Beyond the Intimations of Mortality: Chakrabarty, Anthropocene, and the Politics of the (Im)Possible
Responding to Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Sandeep Banerjee argues that Chakrabarty treats nature as a thing rather than a relation. Reading the Anthropocene as a dialectical relation, Banerjee argues for an emergent “planetary consciousness” where the planet itself becomes the site of the labor/capital struggle.
Auritro Majumder revisits the work of Gayatari Spivak to highlight the importance of Hegelian-Marxist thought to her work. Against the hegemonic interpretation, Majumder reads Spivak’s concept of “planetarity” against the “global” as a way of thinking through the “dialectic of the human imagination of the impossible as well as the interplay between the human and the natural.”
Caren Irr introduces a roundtable on Althusser and argues for his importance in the twenty-first century. The roundtable itself is occasioned by the recent publication in English of Althusser’s On the Reproduction of Capitalism. Each of the essays collected here represents new ways of thinking through the core issues that make up Althusser’s body of work. Namely, they interrogate the ongoing importance of ideology as a “social glue” by examining the ways individuals interact with institutions and within technologically mediated networks.
What happens when interpellation fails? Matthew Flisfeder suggests that in the current moment, “even the call of the moral supplement towards conscience and duty itself begins to break down under the continuous revolutionary thrust of the capitalist mode of production — that is, its need to break down its own limits and barriers in the further pursuit of profit.”
Eli Jelly-Schapiro examines the historically contingent combination of repression and ideology in order to articulate the forms of ongoing repression and ideology in neoliberalism. Reading Althusser against Fanon, Jelly-Schapiro describes the formation of ideology as the result of both “power in the abstract,” which recruits the subject, and “the result of an intersubjective encounter.”
Taking up debates between domination and exploitation that run throughout Althusser’s work, Carolyn Lesjak invokes Althusser’s importance to understanding the role of the university today. How is it even possible, Lesjak wonders, for the university to claim to occupy a position of intellectual neutrality when it is oriented in every way and self-evidently toward the reproduction of the market?
Promise Li revisits the perceived split between early and late Althusser through the concept of the “clinamen,” as Althusser uses it in his later writings. Li focuses on the non-linearity of the term’s function. The concept of the clinamen, he argues, urges us to revisit Althusser’s famous ISA essay in order to find “gestures toward revolutionary engagement.”
“What does ‘interpellation’ actually mean?” asks Warren Montag. Returning to the foundational concept of Althusser’s writings, Montag highlights its difficulty and importance. Examining what appears to be a settled matter, Montag argues for a renewed interest in the violence underpinning the concept: “there is nothing illusory about the means of subjection,” he writes.
Oded Nir takes the opportunity of the English publication of On the Reproduction of Capitalism to do some space clearing, refusing the dominant modes of reading Althusser. Instead, Nir at once further historicizes Althusser’s thinking and reads him as an “unsuspecting utopian."
Jason Read takes up the relation between the individual and collectivity in Althusser’s work. Read focuses on Althusser’s interest in the “ideological dimension of the individual,” primarily by tracing his interest in the law and in particular the moral supplement to the law within its historical dimensions.
How is it that subjects “go all by themselves?” This, according to Imre Szeman, is the question at the core of On the Reproduction of Capitalism. But, Szeman argues, ideology cannot be understood simply via a philosophical investigation of recruitment and misrecognition.
To understand the importance of On the Reproduction of Capitalism, Phillip E. Wegner argues that we must take seriously its subtitle: “Notes Toward an Investigation.” Read as a dialectical investigation, Althusser’s project is most useful in its capacity to think the “tumultuous present.” Crucially, for Wegner, this means understanding class struggle as always a struggle over the organization and functioning of institutions, including (especially) the university.
Mitch Murray reviews two books: Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics by Jens Beckert and Four Futures: Life after Capitalism by Peter Frase.
Davis Smith-Brecheisen reviews Annie McClanahan’s Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture.