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Critical Education / Education is Critical

Critical Education / Education is Critical


New Formations Special Issue  ‘Societies of Control’
Call for Contributions 
Deadline for paper proposals March 31st 2014

Potential contributors: please submit title, full abstract (300 words) and a short c.v. to by this date. 
Contributors will be notified of acceptance by April 14th 2014
Submission of papers will be required by  September 30th 2014. 
Journal Info:

This issue of New Formations will address a complex set of interrelated issues in the theorisation of contemporary societies and power relations. The emergence of distributed systems, network relations and decentralised institutions has been widely observed as a key feature of social, cultural and political change for several decades, across a wide range of domains of practice and discourse. The issue will provide an opportunity to reflect upon this convergence and the diverse positions from which it has been theorised.

A key reference point in these discussions, Deleuze’s ‘Post-Script on the Societies of Control’ remains a enigmatic text on several levels. Easily dismissed as the irrelevant musings of a metaphysician on a fundamentally sociological set of questions, the essay’s theses have nonetheless proven irresistibly suggestive to many commentators. The claim that contemporary mechanisms of government, regulation and administration must be understood as operating according to different logics than the classic ‘normative’ mode of ‘disciplinary’ power seems increasingly relevant in the era of networked communications and official encouragement of cultural, social and sexual ‘diversity’, and yet Deleuze’s delineation of those mechanisms remains frustratingly abstract and cryptically suggestive.

However, Maurizio Lazzarato has persuasively linked Deleuze’s suggestive account with the general thesis that contemporary capitalism is best understood in terms of the shift from ‘Fordism’ to ‘post-Fordism’ in the 1980s. Whilst Fordism relies on a typically ‘disciplinary’ set of institutions and practices (the factory, the centralised nation state, the collectivist and conformist education system, ‘mass’ media), post-Fordism relies on quite different mechanisms and organisational forms (disaggregated networks of corporations, trans-national regulatory bodies, ‘narrowcasting’ and social media) which the notion of ‘control society’ tries to capture at the same level of abstraction as Foucault’s concept of ‘discipline’.

In fact, although Foucault’s studies of ‘disciplinary’ society have influenced understanding of both historical and contemporary societies across a swathe of disciplines and in many spheres of political thought and cultural work, his later lectures seem also to propose that the logic of ‘security’ which emerges in the 20th century is different from the logic of ‘discipline’ and in this regarid is close to Deleuze’s understanding of ‘control’. Reading Foucault’s later lecture sources with care, Lazzarato argues persuasively that it is a common but categorical mistake to believe that Foucault’s studies of disciplinary power are attempts to delineate the basic mechanisms of contemporary forms of power, rather than historical studies of institutional forms and practices which, while they may well persist, are today definitively ‘residual’ in character.

Simultaneous with and subsequent to Deleuze’s and Foucault’s work on these issues the emergence of interest in post-Fordism in the wake of the Regulation School’s theorisation of Fordism and its decline has generated interested in a similar set of issues since the 1980s, particularly on the Anglophone Left. The claim that the shift from ‘Fordism’ to ‘Post-Fordism’ or ‘the New Capitalism’ constitutes the definitive historical process of recent times has been influential on various strands of social and political theory and analysis since the early 1980s. What might be the points of resonance or dissonance between these theses and those proposed by Foucault and Deleuze and their followers?

Another element of much commentary on these issues has been the proposition that ‘the network’ now constitutes the prevalent organisational form for both corporations and political and social movements. The fact that ‘networked’ and ‘horizontal’ organisational forms were pioneered by the radical movements of the 60s and 70s – most notably the women’s movement – is well known. What is the significance of this historical fact, of the agency of the women’s movement and the desires it expresses in shifting the dynamics of advanced capitalist culture? How does the emergence of post- Fordism and the societies of security / control transform gender relations and the politics of sexuality, and how far have those shifts themselves been driven by the multiple refusals of gendered and sexual normativity which have characterised the cultural radicalism of recent decades?

This issue will explore the analytic possibilities generated by this set of issues, questions and theses with reference both to a range of possible objects of study in contemporary politics and culture and to a number of different conceptual and theoretical positions. Should we bother to develop and flesh out Deleuze’s and Foucault’s suggestions at all? If so, how might we do so and what would be the analytic gains? Are there alternative conceptions of phenomena addressed by their work which would allow for better diagnosis and more sophisticated analysis?
What phenomena of contemporary culture and politics might be best analysed in terms of the idea of ‘control society’? How could such analyses inform our broader understanding of such issues as the ‘war on terror’, new modes of sexual regulation, new forms of censorship (especially online) and ‘surveillance’ by corporate or state agencies and debates over intellectual property? What forms of democratic, libertarian or anti-capitalist politics and culture might be possible or necessary in an era of ‘control’?

Confirmed Contributors:
Andrew Goffey
Luciana Parisi
Tiziana Terranova
Angela Mitropoulos
Athina Karatzogianni
Will Davies
Alex Williams 
Tony Sampson 
Yuk Hui
Erich Hörl



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An International Conference

Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, December 6-7, 2012


Key note speakers:

Judith Revel

Paolo Virno (tbc)

Giorgio Vasta

Maurizio Lazzerato (tbc)


Call for Papers

This international conference is the third and last in a cycle of conferences that started last year in Amsterdam, and continued at Chapel Hill (USA) in May 2012, and is part of the international research project Precarity and Post- autonomia: the Global Heritage, funded by NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) which involves several Dutch universities (Universiteit Leiden/ Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universiteit Utrecht) in collaboration with two North-American Universities (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. The project aims at stimulating the debate on today’s developments in “autonomist” movements, born mainly from Italy’s workers movements during the Seventies, and to connect these currents with a broader reflection on the topic of precarity within globalized capitalism.

The title of the conference originates in a newspaper article by the young Sicilian writer Giorgio Vasta in which he unpacks the identikit of the new generations. Vasta feels that those born in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, have grown up with the perception of the ‘end of the present’ and of the present as the ‘end’. If this impossibility or incapacity of having a perspective is proper to today’s youth, then this, says Vasta, should become their stronghold: “Because if our connotation is uncertainty – alienation not as an anomaly but as a permanent experience of the real – in that case it becomes fundamental to not turn uncertainty into an alibi but to use it as a tool for knowledge. To have the courage of uncertainty” (La Repubblica, 6-10-2009).

This uncertainty mentioned by Vasta is synonymous with crisis, with a two-faced precarity that therefore becomes ambivalent and that is not longer recomposable into a dialectical object. On the one hand the condition of economic insecurity, caused by the traumatic consequences of so-called labour “flexibility” in globalized capitalism, reduces the subject to a (biopolitical) state of permanent precarity. On the other hand, however, the claim of an identity that is precarious and resistant at the same time, and which is located outside and against the capitalist system, would entail that there still exists a margin from which we can pronounce a cultural critique. If we move our attention towards the ‘creative industries’, these seem to have incorporated precarity as a mode of cultural production. If this is true, the question is to determine the margin of “relative heteronomy” acceptable to survive economically without sacrificing artistic liberty. This could be a way to consider initiatives such as the Coordination des intermittents et précaires d’Ile de France in France and the occupation of the Valle Theatre in Rome, supported by the Generation TQ, the movement of cognitive laborers between thirty-forty ( One may ask what type of autonomy is envisioned by the artists’ resistance against capitalism and if their confinement to an “autonomous” margin could lead, on the contrary, towards the depoliticization of the aesthetic of the avant- gardes? What does marginality mean if we start from a general precarization of public and private space? In the past decade, art institutions and academic contexts have become privileged spaces for conversations concerning both the (partly subversive) knowledge of the precarious, and a search for commons (in order to constitute the political). As for academic contexts, a reference can be made to EduFactory (, a transnational collective that focuses on conflicts and transformation of the university.

Narratives of precarity express two components: that of an inquiry of and a charge against post-Fordist society, and that of the creation of a new kind of precarious ontology. The case-study of Italy seems particularly interesting because it offers the opportunity to analyze the palimpsest both of a history of long duration, transmitted by (post)autonomous workers movements and radical thought in 1970s Italy, and a recent history of social movements that starts from the (tragic) events of the G8 summit at Genoa (2001) – but many other countries and movements must be taken into account, from the first EuroMayDay parade (2001), to the Madrid-based feminist activist group “Precarias a la deriva” (2004), to the transnational indignados movement (2011, Spain) and to the Occupy movement.

The intention of the conference is thus to establish a link between transnational narratives of precarity – narrative in the broad sense of storytelling, including various representational and performative arts in prose and in poetry – and different types of cultural activism. The central question is whether such cultures of resistance, when embedded within art institutions or social movements, do not risk becoming expressions of containment policies, of strategies of ‘governmentality’ (Foucault) that conforms the precarious subject to the cultural logic of capitalism. If the absence of dialectics allows instead for a multidirectional relationship between object and subject, the question is whether this ambivalence of precariousness may become a new way of being that invites an artistic and political revisioning of cultural activism operating at the margins. Therefore the conference also questions whether the ways of creating narratives, and indeed forms of representation of precarity, undergo the same dynamics as the biopolitical subject. Language itself is put into a state of precariousness, and comes to war with itself.


Topics include but are not limited to:

            -­‐  Aesthetics of precarity in arts and in social movements

            -­‐  Forms of cultural activism

            -­‐  Cultural “events” of precarity

            -­‐  Precarity and memory

            -­‐  The luxury of precarity? Whose precarity?

            -­‐  The aesthetization of precarity

            -­‐  Precarity and new forms of cultural production (i.e. the ‘creative industries’)

            -­‐  Precarization as constituent power

            -­‐  Precarity and new forms of local, regional or global ethics of ‘relationality’

            -­‐  A ‘geo-aesthetics’ of precarity 


The languages of the conference are English, French, and Italian.

Abstracts of about 200 words together with a brief biography should be sent before 09/20/2012 to the following two Email addresses: /  

Acceptance of proposals will be communicated by 10/15/2012. 

Scientific Project and Organization: Silvia Contarini (Paris Ouest Nanterre) and Monica Jansen (UtrechtUniversity).

In collaboration with: Luca Marsi and Christophe Mileschi (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre); Judith Revel (Université Paris 1) NWO partners: Vincenzo Binetti (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Joost de Bloois (University of Amsterdam), Silvia Contarini (Université Paris Ouest, Nanterre La Défense), Frans-Willem Korsten (Leiden University/Erasmus University Rotterdam), Federico Luisetti (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Monica Jansen (Utrecht University).

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Alternative Culture



Please join us for “Commonalities: Theorizing the Common in Contemporary Italian Thought,” a conference sponsored by the journal diacritics. The event, to be held at Cornell University on September 24-25, 2010, will bring together a number of leading thinkers around the theme and question of the common. Participants will include Kevin Attell, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Remo Bodei, Bruno Bosteels, Cesare Casarino, Roberto Esposito, Ida Dominijanni, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri (by video conference), and Karen Pinkus. More information can be found at the conference website ( or by contacting Professor Timothy Campbell (

Il manifesto
For the better part of a decade the position of Italian thought in the Anglo-American academy has increasingly grown in importance. From issues as far ranging as bioethics and bioengineering, to euthanasia, to globalization, to theorizing gender, to the war on terror, works originating in Italy have played a significant, perhaps even the dominant, role in setting the terms and conditions of these debates. Indeed it might well be that no contemporary thought more than Italian enjoys greater success today in the United States. If twenty years of postmodernism and poststructuralism were in large measure the result of French exports to the United States — Derrida, Lacan, Deleuze, and Foucault — today a number of Italian philosophical exports are giving rise to a theoretical dispositif that goes under a variety of names: post-Marxist, posthuman, or most often biopolitical. Yet the fact that Italian thought enjoys such enormous success in the United States and elsewhere begs an important question, one put to me polemically recently by a prominent Italian philosopher. Is there really such a thing as contemporary Italian thought? And if there is what in the world do its proponents have in common?

By way of responding, it might be useful to recall some details about the recent reception of Italian thought in the American academy. In the aftermath of the end of the postmodern — which a number of American observers savored as spelling the end of the use and abuse of philosophy by large numbers of literary critics — two works appeared in English within a span of three years: Giorgio Agamben’s ‘Homo Sacer’ and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s ‘Empire’. Stepping into the void left by the departure of what in the United States was known as “theory,” these works made a number of bold theoretical claims about the relation between political power and individual life (Agamben) and globalization and collective life (Hardt and Negri), claims that uncannily – sometimes almost prophetically – addressed some of the most pressing issues in our current state of affairs. Equally a number of important works of Italian feminism appeared over roughly the same period. Works by Adriana Cavarero and Rosi Braidotti, among others, deeply influenced a whole generation of American theorists in fields like gender studies, political philosophy, and law. Looking back it’s difficult to overestimate the influence of all these figures when accounting for the intellectual success of Italian thought today. Certainly it became possible for other voices to be heard, Paolo Virno, and more recently Franco Berardi, Roberto Esposito, and Maurizio Lazzarato among others.

But to take up again the question at hand: what do authors as seemingly different as Agamben and Negri, Berardi and Esposito, Braidotti and Bodei, or Cavarero and Virno have in common outside of the mere fact of writing in Italian? Beyond a common language, is there, for example, such a thing as a common Italian philosophical tradition of which they are all a part? Some, most notably, Mario Perniola, would say yes, one found in the elements of repetition, transmission, mixture, and body that together forged an Italian philosophical culture over the last 300 years. Deleuze and Guattari would have said no, arguing that Italy has historically “lacked a milieu” for philosophy. For them the reason for this lack could be found in Italy’s proximity to the Holy See, which continually aborted philosophy across the peninsula, reducing Italian thought to mere rhetoric, philosophy’s shadow, and allowing only for the occasional “comet” to briefly light up the philosophical sky. Yet what if Italian thought today does in fact enjoy a milieu? What “event” or “events” in the recent past might have fashioned a milieu for the emergence of Italian thought? What would the features of that milieu look like?

Undoubtedly, the decade-long Italian 1968 would have played the decisive role. The votes on abortion, the emergence of counterculture and student and feminist movements, and changes in labor and production all deeply changed the space in which politics — as well as philosophy – was practiced. Indeed one of the central features of the Italian 1968 was precisely the emphasis on politics as philosophy and philosophy as a form (among others) of politics. We can see this in the place 1968 and 1977 awarded political militancy; in the increasing prominence given to questions of subjectivization; and more broadly in the birth of new forms of social and political life separated from those that had previously dominated.

Yet Italy’s long 1968 wasn’t enough on its own. It was only with 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall that politics and philosophy truly begin to pass intensely into each other, to stay with the language of Deleuze and Guattari. Although it may seem less the case for those writing in Italy, when seen from the outside 1989 was experienced as trauma more in Italy than in the rest of Europe. The result forced a number of thinkers to re-examine the fundamental political and philosophical categories that had underpinned decades if not centuries of thought: what meaning would the end of a certain form of common life have for politics, for philosophy, for culture? Such a calling into question of the previous understanding of the common had the effect of reterritorializing politics and philosophy under new terms and new problematics, one of which will be “life,” broadly speaking. It is only when 1968 is considered as the motor for deterritorialization of the common in political theory and philosophy and 1989 as the turn toward its reterritorialization as newly mapped by (among other things) biopolitical theory that something like a milieu is constructed for contemporary Italian thought.

This is not to say that proponents of Italian thought share the same understanding of the common or even celebrate it. Clearly they do not. Yet the centrality of the common raises a number of questions about Italian thought and Italian public life today. What does it mean to be or have in common in 2010? What are the effects of questioning the weight of shared life and what possible futures are there for the common? How might singularities be thought together so as to create new forms of life and what kinds of co-habitations or contaminations might reinforce these new forms of life? These kinds of questions are ones Italian thought, in all its diversity, has placed at the forefront of contemporary theory, questions that in turn raise fundamental questions about the nature of relationality and of a politics that would seek to strengthen relations and to extend them in order to create yet further relationality. Such is the force of Hardt and Negri’s discussion of the capacity for love near the end of Commonwealth, though one can well imagine others, including a capacity for play, for attention, and for compassion too.

Yet the relationality implicit in these new forms of shared life doesn’t only lead to greater and more positive capacities for relationality among singularities. The deterritorialization of the common as biopolitics, the posthuman or even insurrection by no means conjures away the specter of power; thus with greater capacity on the one hand comes the possibility of more intense and invasive forms of power on the other. The question then becomes: how are new forms of the common that are being forged today — shared singularities, mirror neurons, impersonality – also being reterritorialized and recontained, and by whom? Is it possible that more intense forms of relationality might signal a return to the very terms that earlier critiques of the common had attempted to uncover? On the one hand the recent success of social networking sites like Facebook suggests that new forms of virtual relations involving vast numbers of “friends” are not only possible but involve ever greater exposure to others. On the other hand such exchanges continue to be premised on the notion that my body and my opinions belong to me, what the Invisible Committee unforgetably characterized as treating “our Self like a boring box office,” using whatever prosthesis is at hand “to hold onto an I.” In such a neo-liberal scenario, the circulation of information, of goods, of persons, of persons as goods is taken to mean a return to a common mode of being-together. It’s a film we’ve seen countless times before: the common’s reinscription in contexts less open to affect that are continually based upon a conflation of connnectivity with more open modes of relating.

These questions among others will be the foundation for a two-day conference sponsored by the journal Diacritics to be held on the campus of Cornell University on September 24-25, 2010. The conference, titled “Commonalities: Theorizing the Common in Italian Thought,” will bring together a number of Italian voices so as to think together not only the relation between Italy and the common but to consider emerging forms of the common and common life today as well as consider the efficacy of a term like the common for a progressive (bio)politics. Equally, the event, the first of its kind of recent memory in the United States, is an occasion to register the state of Italian thought today. When seen from the other side of the Atlantic, no other contemporary thought more than Italian seems better suited today to offer what Foucault called an ontology of the present. At a minimum, and pace my doubting Italian philosopher, the editorial and intellectual success of Italian thought merits a closer look.

Featured at the conference will be some of the leading philosophical figures from Italy today, including Franco Berardi, Remo Bodei, Cesare Casarino, Ida Dominjanni, Roberto Esposito, Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri. The conference will be transmitted over the internet at A number of Cornell students will be blogging the conference live over the two days.

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