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Susann Schmeisser

Borders and Solidarity in Times of Corona 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Borders and Solidarity in Times of Corona

with Manuela Bojadžijev and Muhammad al-Kashef, moderated by Robin Celikates

While the coronavirus pandemic in a way affects us all, recent developments have made it abundantly clear that not all are affected equally. Both the spread and the impact of the novel coronavirus are profoundly mediated by social and political inequalities that structure societies along the lines of class, race and gender. These inequalities are, among others, upheld, reproduced and intensified by the international border regime. The current pandemic has obscured the plight of refugees around the world as much as it has exacerbated it. Refugee camps – at the borders of the EU and elsewhere – have become the crucible of this crisis just as much as they condense the structural violence of the border regime more generally. While campaigns such as #LeaveNoOneBehind have mobilized some public attention, the catastrophic effects of the pandemic continue to be especially harsh at the border, in a form that is intensified by the border.

In this conversation with the anthropologist and migration scholar Manuela Bojadžijev (HU Berlin) and the researcher and activist Muhammad al-Kashef (Watch The Med Alarm Phone) we will explore the changing dynamics of borders and solidarity in times of corona: How does the total closure of borders affect migration and especially the situation of refugees at the borders of Europe? How does this closure relate to the demand of contemporary capitalism for ‘cheap’ migrant labor e.g on German asparagus farms? What prospects are there for solidarity in a time of disaster nationalism? Which practices and mobilizations can redeem the promise of solidarity to create a relation of symmetry in contrast to the asymmetries of humanitarian help?

Corona Capitalism: Struggles over Nature 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Corona Capitalism: Struggles over Nature

with Andreas Malm

At first sight, the coronavirus pandemic is just another random natural disaster. On a closer look, however, the pandemic unfolds in confrontation with pre-existing social institutions. Andreas Malm’s analysis goes even further. In his recent book Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency: War Communism in the Twenty-First Century (forthcoming with Verso books) he argues that the origin and proliferation of this plague are tightly intertwined with global capitalist production that destroys natural habitats, consumes land and wildlife, trades commodities around the globe, and moves people from one side of the planet to the other at a speed unprecedented in history. Malm’s analysis places capitalism at the heart of the natural disaster, thereby implying a remedy that not only treats symptoms, but eradicates the root causes of the evil.

Andreas Malm is Associate Senior Lecturer in Human Ecology at Lund University and currently Fellow at the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin. His research focuses on the climate crisis and political strategies to deal with it. He worked especially on the politics of fossil fuels and on the relation of society and nature. Malm is the author of Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (Verso, 2016) and The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World (Verso, 2018).

Corona im Kapitalismus: Ende des Neoliberalismus? 150 150 Susann Schmeisser

Corona im Kapitalismus: Ende des Neoliberalismus?

Mit Ulrike Herrmann und Alex Demirović

Die Corona-Pandemie hält die Welt in Atem. Für wie lange noch und mit welchen gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen ist ungewiss. Einigkeit besteht hingegen bei der Einschätzung, dass wir gegenwärtig mit einer einschneidenden Krise konfrontiert sind. Doch um was für eine Krise handelt es sich eigentlich genau? Ist es eine Krise der Gesundheitssysteme, die drohen unter dem Ansturm Schwerkranker zusammenzubrechen?
Eine Krise der Ökonomie, die in Zeiten des Lockdowns weder die Produktion noch den Verkauf von Waren organisieren kann? Eine Krise der Demokratie, weil öffentliche Meinungsbildung und Grundrechtsschutz sich in Zeiten ernsthafter Bedrohungen als zweitrangig herausstellen? Im Rahmen unserer Reihe In Context diskutieren Alex Demirović und Ulrike Herrmann über die Corona-Krise. Im Fokus stehen dabei Überlegungen zur angemessenen Krisenbeschreibung, zu den möglichen Folgen der Krise sowie zu den politischen Alternativen, die sie nahelegt.

Krisen sind – nicht nur der griechischen Ursprungsbedeutung des Wortes nach – Momente der Entscheidung. In ihnen fällt das Urteil, wie tragfähig die von ihnen betroffene Lebensform ist. Auch die Corona-Krise stößt uns nicht einfach nur zu; selbst da wo sie als unverfügbare Naturkatastrophe von außen über uns hereinzubrechen scheint wird sie zur gesellschaftlichen Krise sofern sie auf bestehende soziale Institutionen, Praktiken und Strukturen trifft. Als solche ist sie immer auch das Produkt unserer kapitalistischen (Re)Produktions- und Lebensweise und fördert tiefere Dysfunktionalitäten zutage. Umso mehr hängt davon ab, wie die Krise genau gefasst wird: Ob als Krise der Globalisierung, in der sich nicht nur die Anfälligkeit weltumspannender Lieferketten und die Gefahren des internationalen Reiseverkehrs zeigen, sondern paradoxerweise angesichts eines Virus, das keine Grenzen kennt, nationalstaatliche Besitzstandswahrung überstaatliche Solidarität übertrumpft; ob als Krise neoliberaler Austeritäts- und Privatisierungspolitik, die das Gesundheitssystem schon vor der Pandemie in einen fragilen Zustand gebracht hat; ob als Krise der Arbeit, die zeigt, dass entscheidende Tätigkeiten der sozialen Reproduktion im Care- und Logistikbereich gesellschaftlich disqualifiziert und nur unzureichend entlohnt werden; ob als Krise der sozialen Segregation, in der soziale Benachteiligung arme und diskriminierte Menschen, aber auch ganze Regionen des globalen Südens der Infektion und der ökonomischen Deprivation ungeschützt aussetzt.

Eine Pandemie führt jede Gesellschaftsform an ihre Grenzen, aber mit Blick auf die spezifisch kapitalistischen Dimensionen der Krise, stellt sich die Frage nach Schlüssen, die aus der jetzigen Situation gezogen werden sollten. Dass die Corona-Krise bestehende Probleme und Widersprüche des neoliberalen Kapitalismus verstärkt und wie unter einem Brennglas hervortreten lässt, hat zu Prognosen Anlass gegeben, der Neoliberalismus finde in der gegenwärtigen Krise sein Ende. Tatsächlich werden in der Krise bis eben noch scheinbar selbstverständlich vorherrschende Auffassungen etwa zur Staatsverschuldung oder die Logiken der Ökonomie mit Verweis auf ein höheres Gut schlagartig außer Kraft gesetzt, selbst von der staatlichen Übernahme von Industriebetrieben war sehr schnell die Rede. Doch wie steht es tatsächlich um die gesellschaftlichen Alternativen? Welches sind die Konzepte, die im Zuge des gesellschaftlichen Schocks durchgesetzt werden können? Haben gegenüber Lösungen, die auf den starken Staat setzen, Möglichkeiten einer demokratischen Vergesellschaftung von zentralen sozialen Institutionen überhaupt eine Chance, sich zu entwickeln? Oder wird die Krise in erster Linie den Finanzmärkten nutzen und der Neoliberalismus geht gestärkt daraus hervorgehen, so dass uns nach dem Abklingen der Infektionswellen einfach eine Rückkehr zum Status quo ante bevor?

Andreas Malm 150 150 Susann Schmeisser

Andreas Malm

Fellow, Berlin Center

January 2020 – June 2020

Email: andreas.malm@hek.lu.se

Andreas Malm

Andreas Malm is an associate professor of human ecology from Lund University, Sweden. His research primarily focuses on various aspects of the climate crisis. He is the author of, among other books, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (Verso, 2016) and The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World (Verso, 2018). In 2020, he will publish a short book on the corona crisis, as well as How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire and White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Dangers of Fossil Fascism, written together with The Zetkin Collective, all from Verso. He is part of a research project on negative emissions technologies; forthcoming from Rutgers University Press is Has it Come to This? The Promises and Perils of Geoengineering on the Brink, edited by J.P. Sapinski, Holly Jean Buck and Andreas Malm. He is also working on a people’s history of wilderness.

Aldo Beretta 1024 683 Susann Schmeisser

Aldo Beretta

Postdoctoral Fellow, Berlin Center

October 2019 – March 2020

Research Affiliate Postdoctoral Fellow (since April 2020)

Email: aldo.beretta@hu-berlin.de

Aldo Beretta

Aldo Beretta is a philosopher and political theorist. After receiving his PhD he has held research and lecture positions at the Alice Salomon Hochschule and the Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika. Beretta has been political advisor for several governments in Latin America and collaborated with the UNESCO Chair for University and Regional Integration. Currently, his research focuses on the conflictual relation between democracy and capitalism. Based on the Habermasian opposed principles of social integration, he analyses social pathologies derived from the primacy of global economic forces over democratic institutions. Some of his publications include: “Handelsabkommen Neu Aufgelegt” in Lateinamerika Nachrichten, N. 533. (Berlin 2018). “Observaciones sobre la Crítica de Habermas a Marx”, in Constelaciones, N. 9, (Madrid 2017). Human Rights and the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Mexico, FDCL (Berlin, 2015).

During his stay at HSC Center Berlin, Aldo did research on the relation between democracy and capitalism. Here is a preprint of this work on “Democracy and economy: traces of an immanent crisis”.

Charles Taylor 1024 683 Susann Schmeisser

Charles Taylor

Benjamin Chair, Berlin Center

May 2019 – June 2019

Email: cmt1111111@aol.com

Charles Taylor

In June 2019, the Walter Benjamin Lectures took place for the first time at the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The renowned Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurated the prominent series. On three consecutive evenings, Taylor gave lectures on “Democracy and its Crises”, covering various forms of democratic deterioration, such as political alienation, increasing inequality, xenophobia and polarization, as well as possible ways out of crisis.

Charles Taylor is one of the most important thinkers of our time. His early work on the embeddedness of cognition in the life world alone represents a paradigm shift in the social sciences. Guided by his novel reading of Hegel, Taylor subsequently embarked on an extraordinary research program: to elucidate and overcome the contradictions of modernity in the light of modernity’s own development, drawing out its limitations and imbalances. This project is laid out in two monumental monographs, one on the history of the self and one on secularization. More recently, Taylor has brought the motif of obscured social grounds to bear on questions of democratic politics and has developed a recognition-theory of tolerance. He has traced progressive trajectories, yet also started to analyze how the disavowal of shared values, imaginaries, and social relations unleashed destructive tendencies.

Zhang Shuangli 1024 683 Susann Schmeisser

Zhang Shuangli

Fellow, Berlin Center

April 2019 – July 2019

Email: shuangli@fudan.edu.cn

Zhang Shuangli

Zhang Shuangli is a Professor of Philosophy from the School of Philosophy, Fudan University, China. She is now the vice dean of the School of Philosophy, Fudan University and the vice director of the Center for Contemporary Marxism, Fudan University.

Her main areas of research are Marxist Philosophy, western Marxism (especially Georg Lukacs and Ernst Bloch), critical theory. She has authored and coauthored several books in these areas. Besides these, she has also published quite a few articles in Chinese or English in the academic journals like Philosophical Investigations (Beijing, China), Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences (English version)(Shanghai, China), Critical Research on Religion (SAGE journals) and etc.

In the recent several years, she has been doing researches about the Marx-Hegel relationship and has published a series of articles on this topic, including the chapter on “Marx and Hegel” in Oxford Companion to Hegel (Oxford University Press, ed. Dean Moyar, 2017).

She has also written some pieces about China, some of which were published in Actuel Marx (France) and Die Zeit (Germany).

Foundations of Solidarity – International Critical Theory Summer School 2021 723 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Foundations of Solidarity – International Critical Theory Summer School 2021

Despite a widespread diagnosis that solidarity is in crisis, appeals to solidarity are ubiquitous today. We encounter them on the level of personal and professional relations but also with regard to institutions and systems of social security and welfare. They gain a dramatic character when human lives are in danger, e.g. when refugees have to cross the Mediterranean in floating death traps or when climate change is devastating the livelihood of whole populations. In all these cases, appeals to solidarity are invoking a ‘we’: We, the family or friends; we, the co-workers or professionals of our branch; we, the members of a national community or a social collective; we, leftists or members of a political movement; we, human beings; …

How can the materialist foundations of actual solidarity be rethought without falling back into tacit assumptions of social homogeneity? Class, gender, race, nation, and even humanity have all lost their status as matters of course. Given the effects of sexism and racism, theories of solidarity have to take into account the complex contradictions of capitalist societies which divide subaltern and exploited groups on the domestic level as well as globally. Appeals to solidarity hence run into an uncertainty concerning the foundations of solidarity. Is solidarity the result of a shared form of life or of collective practices? Does it stem from similar experiences or a common situation? Is it marked by adversity or a common enemy? Or is it the effect of a shared devotion to a common cause?

The summer school will involve plenary lectures and discussions, reading sessions, smaller group discussions and panel debates. Only the latter will be open to the broader public. We will explore classical approaches such as Émile Durkheim’s analysis of the modern division of labour, Karl Marx’s claim the proletariat is a universal class that will found society on new relations of solidarity, and Iris Marion Young’s concept of seriality. Besides such classics, we will discuss with leading contemporary theorists of solidarity (several of which will be present as instructors) whether or not current approaches of solidarity open up new perspectives for universalism.

Instructors:

Hauke Brunkhorst (Europa-Universität Flensburg)
Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)
Asad Haider (New School for Social Research)
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Serene Khader (City University of New York)
Frederick Neuhouser (Columbia University)

Organizers: Robin Celikates, Rahel Jaeggi, Susann Schmeißer,
Christian Schmidt (Center for Humanities and Social Change,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), in cooperation with the
Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the New School for
Social Research (Alice Crary).

Nancy Fraser is Walter Benjamin Chair 2020 150 150 Susann Schmeisser

Nancy Fraser is Walter Benjamin Chair 2020

We are immensely pleased to announce that Nancy Fraser will serve as this year’s Benjamin Chair and give three lectures on the ecological crisis of capitalism under the general heading Climates of Capital.

Providing us with sharp analytical tools for connecting political, social and economic structures and struggles, Nancy Fraser’s work has been driven by a commitment to critically analyzing interacting layers of oppression and exploitation from the very beginning. Her early writings on struggles over needs and so-called ‘welfare dependency’ with a keen eye on androcentrism and state-managed capitalism made her into an eminent feminist thinker. In the 1990s and 2000s, she brought the critique of capitalism to a new level by conceptualizing the shift from post-war, state-centered capitalism to financialized capitalism. For Fraser it is never either class or status, redistribution or recognition but ‘both/and’ when she addresses questions of misrecognition, status hierarchy, ecology, and sexuality. In the last decade, Nancy Fraser, has developed a theoretical framework that focuses on the big questions surrounding the peculiar social form known as “capitalism,” upending many of our commonly held assumptions about what capitalism is and how to subject it to critique. Her new approach shows how, throughout its history, various regimes of capitalism have relied on a series of institutional separations between economy and polity, production and social reproduction, and human and non-human nature, periodically readjusting the boundaries between these domains in response to crises and upheavals. Tracing how these “boundary struggles” offer a key to understanding capitalism’s contradictions and the multiple forms of conflict to which it gives rise, she has managed to reconceptualize capitalism as an institutionalized social order – an order in crisis.

Benjamin Lectures with Nancy Fraser – cancelled 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Benjamin Lectures with Nancy Fraser – cancelled

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic this event is unfortunately cancelled.

Nancy Fraser’s Lectures are postponed to 2022.

That capitalism is “in crisis” has almost become a truism. The financial crisis of the last decade already de-stabilized the trust in the ability of the capitalist social order to deliver on its promises. With climate catastrophe looming and ecological disasters affecting more and more people even in wealthy states, it seems all the more obvious that something is fundamentally wrong with a social order depending on the ruthless exploitation of all available social and natural resources. But how can this crisis be conceptualized and analyzed in a theoretically sound manner? In which ways is the climate crisis a crisis of capitalism?

In the Benjamin-Lectures of 2020, Nancy Fraser, one of the leading and most influential critical theorists of our times, will present an analysis of the current climate crisis that situates it within the broader framework of a social critique of the impending ecological disaster. Starting from the description of capitalism’s specific understanding of nature and the struggles over resources which the capitalist economy continually exhausts, Fraser develops solutions to global ecological problems based on a new vision of society.

June 17th: Capitalism’s ecological contradiction
(Commentary: Andreas Malm, Lund University)

June 18th: Struggles over Nature
(Commentary: Barbara Muraca, Oregon State University)

June 19th: Degrowth, Green New Deal or Ecosocialism
(Commentary: Stephan Lessenich, Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität, München)

No registration prior to the lectures is necessary. There is no entrance fee. The lectures will be held in English.

The Benjamin-Lectures are named after the Berlin-born philosopher Walter Benjamin and dedicated to his intellectual integrity and political commitment in the face of historical catastrophe. Each year, inspired by the Amsterdam Spinoza-lectures as well as the “Adorno-Vorlesungen” in Frankfurt, the Benjamin-Lectures will bring one leading critical theorist to Berlin. His or her public lectures will allow for a broad audience to partake in the latest debates on social and political issues of core concern. Prior to the lectures, the invited speaker will hold the Walter-Benjamin-Chair at the HSC Center Berlin and spend up to three months in close cooperation with the HSC academic community.

In 2019, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurated the series. In a sequence of three evening lectures, Taylor addressed “Democracy and its Crises”, covering various forms of democratic deterioration, such as political alienation, increasing inequality, xenophobia and polarization, as well as possible ways out of crisis. You can watch the videos of his lectures.