Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cfp: "From Lifeworld to Biopolitics: Empire in the Age of Obama," Third Annual TELOS Conference, New York, January 16, 2010.

In the context of a dramatic reorganization of the relationships among state, market, and society, the 2010 Telosconference will turn its attention to competing accounts, both theoretical and empirical, of the new modalities of administration, domination, and power. Facing the authoritarian state and a politicized market, how does one “defend society”? The conference will address the extension of politicized control into ever greater realms of social life. What theoretical tools are available? How can we trace the process historically? Classical Critical Theory of the mid-twentieth century described a “totally administered society” in which an elaborate bureaucracy combined with a “culture industry” in order to eliminate spontaneity. Yet some viewed the era of deregulation (and the paradigms of postmodernism) as a rollback of administration and homogeneity. Do we now face the return to the strong state and a repoliticization of society in the name of left populism in the United States? Or has it been the transition from the old mass media to the Internet that has reshaped the dynamic of politics and culture? Meanwhile, the brief moment of a presumed single superpower and unilateralism is shading into an international disorder of multiple power conflicts among strong states, no longer confronted with human rights expectations or a democratization agenda. The resurgent control of society has taken on global proportions: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. How does international power operate in new forms of empire? Have “military-industrial complexes” been replaced by cultural hegemonies, defined by the spread of languages and religions? Do developments such as political Islam or Chinese nationalism indicate that “society” has been the hidden driver of state power all along? What about the shared “liberal” and “realistic” assumption that economic liberalization will produce political opening and democratization? Has state capitalism in the East responded better to the global economic crisis than market capitalism in the West? Presentation topics can include (but are not limited to) themes such as: theories of domination in Critical Theory, post-structuralism, and other traditions (e.g., Schmitt, Arendt, Agamben); phenomenology versus bureaucracy; executive authority (Schmitt) and the defense of society against “biopolitics” (Foucault); “civil rights” or “human rights”?; terrorism, the war on terror, and continuities from Bush to Obama; the structural transformation of the press and of public criticism; new technologies and power; populism, elites, and the new class; “smart power” and the role of intellectuals; traditions, religion, and resistance. Proposals (one-page abstract) for twenty-minute conference papers are due by October 1 at (Please put the words “conference proposal” in the subject line of your email.) Conference Registration Fee: $95 (before October 15), otherwise $115 (includes one-year subscription to Telos). For current holders of individual subscriptions to Telos, the registration fee is $35 until October 15 and $55 thereafter. If you have any further questions about the conference, please contact us at Cross-posted from

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