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Susann Schmeisser

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.

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Ulf Bohmann

Fellow, Berlin Center

March-September 2019


Ulf Bohmann

Ulf Bohmann is a post-doc researcher at the Chemnitz University of Technology. He studied Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy and Social Psychology at the University of Augsburg and the Fernuniversität Hagen until 2007. He received his PhD at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena in 2013 with a thesis on the notion of a critical genealogy in the work of Michel Foucault and Charles Taylor, under the supervision of Hartmut Rosa and Martin Saar. Until 2016, he was a post-doc researcher in the project “Desynchronised Society?” in Jena, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). In 2017, he acted as a stand-in full professor in Chemnitz. In 2018, he was a fellow at the Degrowth Research Group in Jena. Latest publications: Special Issue: Tribute to Charles Taylor, Philosophy & Social Criticism 44(7), 2018 (with Gesche Keding and Hartmut Rosa); Desynchronisation und Populismus. Ein zeitsoziologischer Versuch über die Demokratiekrise am Beispiel der Finanzmarktregulierung, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 70 (Sonderheft 58), 2018 (with Henning Laux and Hartmut Rosa); Kritische Theorie der Politik, Suhrkamp 2019 (edited with Paul Sörensen, in print).


Project description:

At the Center of Humanities and Social Change, I’m working on a comparative reassessment of legitimation crisis theories. The motivation to do so is to be more specific than the widespread but undifferentiated talk of a contemporary crisis of democracy. I’m assembling five pertinent approaches to the motif of a legitimation crisis, namely Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Wolfgang Streeck, Charles Taylor and Hauke Brunkhorst. The goal is to develop respective profiles with strengths and weaknesses in order to have a sound theoretical toolkit. Furthermore, I’m examining in which way and to which degree the diagnoses of a legitimation crisis are valid for our present society. Finally, I will enquire if an integrative approach is possible and convincing.

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Frank Schumann

Fellow, Berlin Center

March-September 2019


Frank Schumann

Frank Schumann is a Post-Doctoral researcher at the social psychology department of the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin (IPU Berlin). His research interests revolve around the questions of how social reality is perceived subjectively and how this experience shapes social and political practices. To answer these, Schumann draws from psychoanalysis, social psychology, critical theory, sociology of critique, theories of social practices and sociology of knowledge.

In 2017, he finished his dissertation on the concept of social suffering in the history of the Frankfurt School which was published as Leiden und Gesellschaft [Suffering and Society] (Bielefeld 2018). He currently is working on a project that aims at reconstructing how sympathizers of social movements articulate and justify their political critique, and which notions of a social order are thus implied.

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Christian Schmidt

Fellow, Berlin Center

April 2019 – February 2020


Christian Schmidt

Christian Schmidt is a philosopher. After receiving his PhD in 2005 he worked as team leader at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, and as Dilthey Fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation in the Philosophy Department at University Leipzig. He held positions as temporary chair for social philosophy at Goethe-University Frankfurt and for practical philosophy at University Leipzig. Research stays led him to University Paris 1 Sorbonne-Pantheon and the Centre Marc Bloch Berlin. He received the habilitation in 2016 with a thesis on Problems of Autonomy (unpublished). The Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities appointed him as a member of the academy’s Young Forum in 2018. Major publications are: Karl Marx zur Einführung (Junius 2018), Können wir der Geschichte entkommen? (Campus 2013) and Individualität und Eigentum (Campus 2006).

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Volkan Çıdam

Fellow, Berlin Center

January 2019 – December 2020


Volkan Çıdam

Volkan Çıdam is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boğazçi University, Istanbul. Since January 2019 he is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Philosophy at the Humboldt University with the support of PSI of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. His research interests lie at the intersection of democratic theory, German Idealism, social and political thought of Marx and Marxism and Critical Theory. His publications include Die Phänomenologie des Widergeistes: Eine Anerkennungstheoretische Deutung von Marx’ normativer Kritik am Kapitalismus im Kapital, Nomos Verlag 2012 and 2016, “Historical Method and Critical Philosophy”, Philosophy at Yeditepe, Special Issue: Method in Philosophy. During his stay in Berlin he worked on a project on the relationship between the failure to coming to terms with past state crimes and the rise of Neo-Fascism through a reevaluation of Adorno’s thoughts on the same topic.

He published in 2020 an article on “Adorno’s two-track conceptualization of progress: The new categorical imperative and politics of remembrance” at the International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory – Constellations.

Re-Thinking Socialism 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Re-Thinking Socialism

Against the background of failed state socialisms and the crisis of socialism in Latin America, the term “socialism” was long frowned upon when it came to discussing current political and social problems. At present, however, in Western democracies the voices calling for a revival of socialist projects are becoming louder. In the mother countries of neoliberalism, the USA and Great Britain, politicians who openly plead for “democratic socialism” can mobilize broad masses in recent years. And there are also attempts in the academic world to initiate new debates on the concept of socialism. It is undisputed that any revival of the concept must critically reflect the history of real socialism. More controversial are the questions of how exactly a socialist future project should be understood and realized and which social areas it should cover. The answer to these questions determines what is meant by “socialism”.

How far-reaching are the societal transformations that are subsumed under the concept of socialism? Does a socialist future project essentially present itself as an alternative economic order? Or does the concept of socialism concern the deeper (moral) idea of an alternative understanding of freedom, which differs from that of liberalism? Is there even the idea of socialism or do we need manifold socialisms in order to initiate the path to a modernity based on solidarity?

We want to discuss these questions with Lea Ypi (London School of Economics), Giacomo Corneo (Freie Universität Berlin) and Michael Brie (Rosa Luxemburg Foundation) on December 12, 2019 in Vierte Welt. The event is the prelude to a series of events on the topic of Re-Thinking Socialism, which we will continue in the coming semesters.

50 Years on: New Readings of Adorno 800 800 Susann Schmeisser

50 Years on: New Readings of Adorno

Bei der Frankfurter Adorno-Konferenz 2003 konstatierte Axel Honneth eine „dramatische Abkehr“ von Adornos Philosophie und beklagte das Fehlen eines „vitalen, spannenden Forschungsmilieus“. Davon kann heute keine Rede mehr sein. Neue Interpretationsansätze haben Adornos Philosophie für die systematischen Debatten der Gegenwart fruchtbar gemacht. Anlässlich des 50. Todestages von Adorno veranstalten wir einen internationalen Workshop, der Vertreter*innen dieser neuen Interpretationsansätze zusammenbringt. Gemeinsam wollen wir diskutieren, inwiefern durch die Rückkehr zu Adorno aktuelle Debatten in der Sprach-, Moral- und Sozialphilosophie vertieft werden können. Adornos Beispiel folgend, verbindet der Workshop diese Themen dabei mit ästhetischen und epistemologischen Fragestellungen. So wollen wir nicht nur der Komplexität seines Denkens gerecht werden, sondern zugleich der Verengung der zunehmend spezialisierten Fachphilosophie entgegenarbeiten.

Mit Beiträgen von Jay Bernstein, Julia Christ, Fabian Freyenhagen, Katia Genel, Agnès Grivaux, Antonia Hofstätter, Philip Hogh, Bastian Ronge, Arvi Särkelä.

Da die Anzahl der Teilnehmerplätze begrenzt ist, bitten wir um Anmeldung bis zum 3. November 2019 unter Die Teilnehmer*innen werden zeitnah benachrichtigt und erhalten weitere Informationen sowie einen Reader mit den Texten der Vorträge.

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Andrea Roedig

Visiting Arts & Media Fellow, Berlin Center

December 2019 – January 2020

Andrea Roedig

Andrea Roedig is a freelance journalist in Vienna. She obtained her doctorate degree in philosophy and was research assistant and Freie Universität Berlin. In 2001 until 2006 she managed the arts section of the weekly journal Freitag. Since 2007 she lives and works in Vienna and publishes cultural essays, reportages of daily life and scientific articles for serveral German, Austrian and Swiss media (NZZ, Woz, Standard, Freitag, Psychologie Heute, Radio Ö1; Deutschlandfunk, etc.). She is co-publisher of the literature and essay magazine Wespennest. Her last book publications are „Über alles, was hakt. Obsessionen des Alltags“, Klever-Verlag 2013; „Bestandsaufnahme Kopfarbeit“ (together with Sandra Lehmann), Klever-Verlag 2015.

During her stay at the Humanities and Social Change Center she wrote an essay on “Dünnes Eis? Ach was! Vier Thesen in Verteidigung des Puritanismus” which was published at INDES – Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft.

Walter-Benjamin-Lectures 2019 724 1024 Susann Schmeisser

Walter-Benjamin-Lectures 2019

This June, the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin will launch its new event format, the annual Walter-Benjamin-Lectures. The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurates the prominent series. In a sequence of three evening lectures (June 17th to 19th), Taylor will address “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.

Walter-Benjamin-Lectures by Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor is one of the most profound thinkers of our age. His early work on the embeddedness of cognition in the life-world demarcated a paradigm shift in the epistemology of social science. 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. He has traced progressive trajectories, yet also started to analyze how the disavowal of shared values, imaginaries, and social relations unleashes destructive tendencies. The Benjamin-Lectures will assemble these investigations, combining a trenchant diagnosis of current threats to democracy with an encompassing philosophical picture of our time.

The Benjamin-Lectures will take place in the Emil-Fischer-lecture hall at Humboldt-University, Berlin, at Hessische Straße 1-2, each day at 6pm.

There is no entry fee.

June 17th “Losing Faith in Democracy”; respondent: Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin, Ireland)

June 18th “Xenophobia and polarization”; respondent: Patrizia Nanz (Universität Potsdam, Germany)

June 19th “What can be done?” respondent: Zhang Shuangli (Fudan University, China)

International Summer School Critical Theory 2019. Democracy and Social Unreason 1024 532 Susann Schmeisser

International Summer School Critical Theory 2019. Democracy and Social Unreason

Democracy is in crisis. Various phenomena such as the electoral success of authoritarian leaders, distrust in public institutions and media, rising social tensions, neo-nationalism and reactionary family politics certify this. But what are the underlying reasons for such developments? Is this crisis democracy’s own crisis, or does it originate elsewhere in the social order?

In the early Frankfurt School, analyses of regressive tendencies aimed at tracing political pathologies back to underlying social contradictions, questioning the very compatibility of liberal democracy and late capitalism. Even critiques of individual aspects, such as the authoritarian character, were primarily meant to criticize the societies which produce such effects. Irrationality, as well as reason itself, was attributed not just to individual persons, but also to their collective way of organizing life.

But what does it mean to speak of actual and potential reason in society? The idea originated in Hegel’s reconstruction of ethical life and influenced later materialist and sociologist theories of society, which located rationality in societal differentiation, cooperation and integration. However, both the assumption of a systemic cohesion of society in its totality and the ideal of a fully rational order are theoretically demanding and have on various occasions been questioned by critical theorists themselves.

In the face of evident unreason, a new assessment of our frameworks for theorizing modern societies and their ensuing criteria for rationality can draw from the strengths of both social and political analyses. Besides classics such as Hegel, Marx, Durkheim, Horkheimer and Adorno we studied contributions by leading contemporary theorists of democracy and society, several of which were present as instructors.

For more details about the summer school, please check the resume written by Sara Gebh (New School for Social Research/Universität Wien) and Lindsay Atnip (University of Chicago/University of California – Santa Barbara).

The summer school involved plenary lectures and discussions, reading sessions, smaller group discussions and panel debates.

Instructors: Andrew Arato (New School, NY), Jean Cohen (Columbia University), Fabian Freyenhagen (Essex University), Rahel Jaeggi (HU Berlin), Regina Kreide (Universität Gießen), Frederick Neuhouser (Columbia University, NY).

Organizers: Rahel Jaeggi, Eva von Redecker, Isette Schuhmacher, Susann Schmeißer (HSC/Humboldt-University Berlin) in cooperation with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the New School for Social Research (Alice Crary).


You can find FAQs and the Call for Participation for download.