Nottingham Centre for Critical Theory Research Workshop: Neoliberalism, Criticism, and Crisis

2.00 – 5.00, Thursday May 29th
A19 Trent Building

After the highly conspicuous market failures of 2008 (to mention nothing of the ongoing failure of the market to address climate change), neoliberalism has become something of a catch-all term to denote a set of ideas, practices, forms of knowledge and organisational techniques that are now – arguably – in crisis. Yet despite the increasingly widespread use of the term, it is not always clear what neoliberalism is, how (and why) we should link its development to broader issues in intellectual and cultural history, and what kinds of theoretical and practical responses it calls for. The prevalence of the term ‘neoliberalism’ and its derivates thus raises in turn questions about both criticism and crisis.

This workshop proposes to explore a series of key readings that address the question of how to get a critical understanding of neoliberalism. It seeks to:
• Problematise ‘neoliberal’ as a generic critical epithet and ‘neoliberalism’ as a term more generally;
• Explore the configuration of neoliberalism as a set of theoretical and practical activities;
• Ask what kinds of critical resources (concepts, narratives, forms of historiography etc.) might shake loose the “self-evidence” which seems to have given neoliberalism such a tenacious presence in a period of considerable political, economic and intellectual crisis.

Three key texts are proposed as a starting point for discussion:

– Michel Foucault The Birth of Biopolitics Lecture Nine (London: Palgrave-Macmillan)
– Phillip Mirowski Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste Chapter Two (London: Verso)
– Maurizio Lazzarato The Making of the Indebted Man Chapter Three (New York and Los Angeles: Semiotexte)

The workshop is being proposed as a starting point for possible further research into neoliberalism, criticism and crisis (should there be sufficient interest and enthusiasm), but there are no obligations on participants to be involved beyond the session. There will be three detailed presentations on the day, each of which will address ways of problematising neoliberalism, but any participant is free to a) prepare their own brief responses to the texts and b) to bring along suggestions for other texts that might facilitate further exploration of issues raised.

Staff and students, postgraduate and undergraduate, are all welcome to participate.

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