I was recently invited to reflect on the conditions of women in British universities with a group of students and colleagues exploring the politics of the corporate academy. Rather than trying to speak in some hackneyed way for ‘women’, I decided to reflect on the anti-feminist nature of the neoliberal rationalities now dictating academic life within universities, and on the subversions of critical feminist ethics, methodologies and pedagogies in higher education today. I had hoped that this might open space for discussion about how hegemonic masculinities and femininities are being reconstituted through our everyday practices of teaching – including of feminist theory – research, professional labour, and political resistance inside institutions. But while I anticipated challenges to my particular readings of feminist critique and understanding of the intersections of patriarchy, racism and class power in neoliberal institutions, I was unprepared for the hostile reactions to the invocation of feminism itself. ‘Isn’t it sexist’, one woman asked, ‘to keep talking about an ideology that doesn’t include men?’ Another agreed. ‘Feminism has gone too far’, she suggested. ‘It’s not that we don’t know what women went through before, but these things just don’t affect us now. And maybe women want too much’. Finally, there some change of heart, but one attached to a disorienting demand: what is the Feminist Movement’s answer to neoliberal power?
Category Archives: Editorials
Mary Ellen Campbell and A.L. McCready
Feminism has had many lives. Living in colonial-settler Canada, the editors of this special issue are especially attuned to the forms of imperialist, settler and liberal “feminism” that have motivated a great many social projects. Recently, these include the ostensible concern over the status of women in Afghanistan that has played so well as a rationale for war, the false feminism of micro-credit lending schemes, and the “post-feminist” discrediting of alternative social visions in favour of a corporate or consumer feminism. These faux feminisms occurs alongside the institutional dislocation of women’s and gender studies programs as loci for the generation of transformational knowledge, and the simultaneous incorporation of certain elements of movements and struggles in order to generate “academic captial” for the neoliberal university. We live amidst a rapidly accelerating culture of neoliberal individualism, characterized by the dogged attack by state and business on the material and social protections won by decades of women’s struggle within and against the current system. This neoliberal moment is also characterized by the virulent cult of persecuted white masculinity and the backlash against supposed minority gains that demonstrates the neoconservative social values that a neoliberal culture feeds and begets. There has never been such dire need for decisive, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, transnational feminist analysis, pedagogy and social foment.
Translated by Robert St. Clair
I. An Inter-Jewish Schism
Have Jews gone right-wing? Even as the question may seem simplistic or politically incorrect, it presupposes agreement concerning the meaning of “left” and “right” in our post-cold war world of ideological disorientation. The French political commentator Daniel Lindenberg, in his Le Rappel à l’ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires (Call to Order: An Inquiry into the New Reactionaries) includes a chapter entitled in English “When Jews Turn Right.” His analysis of the situation is categorical. Preferring to err on the side of caution, I have turned his assertion into a question.
In this fourth issue of Politics and Culture (2008) we have explicitly chosen for a European perspective. An editorial team of 6, consisting of 3 Belgians (Joke Bauwens, Nico Carpentier & Sofie Van Bauwel), 2 Germans (Tanja Thomas & Fabian Virchow) and one Hungarian (Peter Csigo) launched a call for essays and reviews, for instance using ECREA’s mailing list. The end result is an issue with 6 essays and 8 reviews. Given the media studies background of the 6 editors, it is not surprising that most of the essays and reviews also focus on the media as an inseparable component of the spheres of the cultural and the political.
This is the yearly issue of Politics and Culture produced from Australia, the fourth since the journal started. The content of this issue much as for our others reflects the closeness of the historical ties politically, economically, culturally – and militarily – between Australia, and the United States and Britain. These have been foregrounded by the coincidental presence of the Australian Prime Minister John Howard in the United States at the time of 9/11/2001, and in Britain at the time of the suicide bombings of the public transport system in London in early July 2005. The Prime Minister used both occasions to make statements about the military and other support that Australia would continue to offer to both countries. Our editorial last year talked of the ways in which the conservative Liberal-National government from the 1990s seemed to be reviving 1950s mentalities and mindsets, and the indications now seem stronger.
The London Sunday Times of July 9 reported:
Introduction to the Special Evolutionary Issue of Politics and Culture
I’m grateful to Michael Ryan for inviting me to serve as guest editor to this special evolutionary issue of Politics and Culture. Michael and I share an interest in integrating evolutionary research with literary and cultural theory. While discussing our shared interests, we have identified a number of important points on which we do not see quite eye to eye. So, Michael should not be held responsible for any of the ideas I express, though of course, he can be held responsible for giving me this opportunity to express them. Similar considerations apply to the relations between the guest editor and the contributors to this volume. We are all independent thinkers working in complex theoretical areas that have not yet been reduced to precise measurement. The chance that we would all agree on every main contention is vanishingly small. Even so, most or all of us would agree that humans have evolved in an adaptive relation to their environment and that as a result they share many species-typical dispositions that constrain their political and cultural behavior. Within that broad area of consensus, the essays here offer a good many divergent and sometimes conflicting ideas. Clearly, not all these ideas could be correct. Nonetheless, in my own judgment, all the essays are serious, well-informed, and thoughtful. They should richly reward the reader’s attention.
The critical and its anchorage into the social. An introduction to the 2009 winter issue of Politics and Culture
The critical usually finds itself in a difficult relationship with the social. Its strong investment into social change renders it both necessary and uncomfortable. Its necessity originates from the impossibility to ultimately stabilise and saturate the social, which generates spaces for difference and diversity, which in turn are the conditions of possibility for dissensus. Although we might cherish fantasies about societal consensus and harmony, and at the same time deeply fear the total loss of individuality in a Brave New World, the social is structurally characterised by conflict, which simultaneously opens up the spaces for the critical to be elaborated.
Max Haiven, Food, finance, crisis, catalyst: global capitalism and the revolutionary value of food sovereignty
I. The problem, once again…
At risk of being obviously unfashionable or unfashonably obvious, the problem with food in the world today is capitalism. Particularly, it is a form of capitalism that imposes uniquely local but ubiquitously global forms of market sovereignty over more and more aspects of our lives. Food, which names the spectre of one of the great crises of the 21st century, offers a particularly acute nexus of the power of and struggle against this omnicidal sovereignty. After all, everyone eats (or is prevented form eating) and the thematic of food stretches from our most basic ontological and epistemological categories (nature/culture, raw/cooked, wild/civilized, internal/external, tradition/science) to the infinitely complex and bitterly material relations of power in a globalizing world. Food speaks to the way emerging forms of global power influence all levels of life, from the genetic makeup of seeds to the ownership of land. From the gendered dynamics of agricultural labour to the persistence of neocolonial monoculture and cash-crop cultivation. From the infuriating inequalities of global trade to the tension between transnational corporation, international organizations, the transforming nation-state, and global and local social movements. From the homogenized foodscapes of urban Wal-Mart Supercentres (where Americans buy the single greatest proportion of their food) to the cultural and body politics of (over/under)eating (fast and slow). We encounter all of these and everything in between through the prism of questions of resistance, as unavoidable as they are inexorable: collectivist or individualist? Localist or globalist? Reformist or revolutionary? Utopian or apocalyptic?
Scott Stoneman, Learning to learn from the food crisis: consumer sovereignty and the restructuring of subjectivity
“In every case, the geography of anger is not a simple map of action and reaction, minoritization and resistance, nested hierarchies of space and site, neat sequences of cause and effect. Rather, these geographies are the spatial outcome of complex interactions between faraway events and proximate fears, between old histories and new provocations, between rewritten borders and unwritten orders” (100).
-Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger
Since the subject of this issue of Politics and Culture is food and the continuing struggle by the dispossessed and disenfranchised to manage their own food, the diversely disciplined contributors to this issue have necessarily persuaded themselves that it is important, now, to intervene in what Walter Benjamin called the “fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist” (Benjamin 254). Demanding food sovereignty means taking food seriously as a question of justice, survival and sustainability, and of how to imagine radically democratic registers of political and economic participation. It also means thinking about food in terms of the pedagogical. As Julie Guthman notes in her interview in this issue, food is becoming an increasingly important object of study among the privileged class of educators and intellectuals who, Guthman insists, bear the responsibility to “reflect on potential levers of transformation” rather than gorging on the capital which accompanies the rhetoric of prescribing what to eat.
The privatization of social concern that has driven neoliberal cultural politics at the “end of history”, or what Giorgio Agamben terms the “lasting eclipse of the political” (Agamben 121), has left a social and cultural vacuum in which the collective agency required to build living alternatives to contemporary global gastropolitics is left gasping for air. Filling this vacuum are, on the one hand, radical movements like Via Campesina that assert the “right to have rights,” or the right to “act together concerning things that are of equal concern to each,” (Arendt 296) in relation to the vital labour of growing and raising food. On the other are notions of consumer sovereignty which offer what we might call an “informational” model of imagining the subjectivity of the consumer: if consumers are informed adequately and accurately about the sublimely large networks of neoliberalized and protectionist profit and supply that constitute the global food system, if they are educated in the exploitative conditions of food production (as well as revolutionary efforts to undo these conditions), they might adjust their consumption habits and, in so doing, effectively join in the “crude” struggles whose absence stunts the growth of “refined and spiritual things.”
The London Sunday Times of July 9 reported: