17. November 2022 Diskussion/Vortrag Multiple Crises - the Imperial Mode of Living and the Question of Transformation



Karlshochschule International University, Raum 306 (3. Stock) + Online
Karlstraße 36 - 38
76133 Karlsruhe


17.11.2022, 18:30 - 20:30 Uhr


Sozialökologischer Umbau

Zugeordnete Dateien

We are living in times of great social, political, and economic transformations and multiple crises. The current health crisis and the war in the Ukraine are the just two of numerous global crises societies are confronted with. For decades, societies have been struggling with the crisis of employment, of environment and of economy and, regarding the global emergence of populism, one could also point to a crisis of the political. Against this backdrop, Prof. Ulrich Brand and Prof. Nadja Meisterhans will offer insights into the structural causes of current global crises but also an outlook for perspectives of transformation:

Ulrich Brand on «How Capitalism affirms its Hegemony: The Imperial Mode of Living and Possible Alternatives»
Critical social and social scientific thinking has a rich tradition of conceptualizing and concretely analyzing stability, change, and crises in capitalist societies. While mainstream social sciences usually speak of problems (to be solved) without looking at the root causes of those problems, analyses inspired by critical theory have as their starting point the inherently contradictory and also contested character of social relations. The concept of the «imperial mode of living» aims to grasp some historical and current contradictions with an emphasis on a major challenge of our times: the deepening ecological crisis and its relationship to globalizing capitalism.

The deeply rooted patterns of production and consumption, which dominate above all in the early industrialized capitalist societies, presuppose a disproportionate access to nature and labor power on a global scale. This leads to the destruction of ecosystems, the overstretching of ecological sinks, high unemployment in many countries, and an uneven division of labor which tends to place extra burden on precarious workers, women, and (undocumented) migrants.

One of developed capitalism’s characteristics is its need for a less developed or non-capitalist geographical and social «outside» from which it obtains raw materials and intermediate products, to which it shifts social and ecological burdens, and in which it appropriates both paid labor and unpaid care services. It is exclusionary and exclusive and presupposes an imperialist world order. At the same time, that order is normalized in countless and structured acts of production and consumption, which render its violent character invisible to those who benefit from it. Ulrich Brand´s work looks also at emerging alternatives what he calls the «solidary mode of living» and will present some thoughts on it.

Nadja Meisterhans on «Crises and critique: The question of utopian imagination in times of global necropolitics and multiple crises.»
This talk sets out from a starting point that the pandemic is not a natural disaster, but rather a politically-made disaster. Against this background, it outlines in what sense the spread of COVID-19 demonstrates that states have been neglecting global responsibilities which stem from human rights in the context of multiple crises. Considering that health narratives in the context of disease control always entail a risk of authoritarian abuse, the talk problematizes in a further step, with reference to the phenomenon of increasing nationalism and with the perspective of the ideology critique of the early Frankfurt School, in what sense the global health crisis has become instrumentalized by authoritarian populists. 

With this in mind, the talk raises the question of whether national and global corona crisis management increases authoritarian desires in society and leads to a new form of ideology in national and global politics, which when viewed through a postcolonial perspective could be qualified as necropolitical populism. Seen from a dialectical perspective, the global health crisis could nevertheless provide an opportunity for political and societal learning processes in a global context. 

The talk thus aims in a third step to investigate theoretically under what conditions the corona pandemic and other crises could reopen spheres of utopian imagination based on societal critiques that could serve to critically rethink global transformation. Against this background, it refers to contemporary utopian-theoretical debates in the (queer-)feminist context and questions whether ideological interpellations can be subverted by dystopian storytelling and performances.

Ulrich Brand is Professor of International Politics at the University of Vienna. His research interests include international politics, critical analyses of globalization and its political regulation, and of the role of the state and the economy. Together with Markus Wissen, he introduced the concept of the "imperial mode of living” which also features in his talk. In recent research, he has been dealing with the role of trade unions in the social-ecological transformation and with issues of environmental governance. Moreover, Brand is scientific coordinator of the Research Network on Latin America at the University of Vienna.

Nadja Meisterhans is Professor of Political Philosophy at the Karlshochschule International University and is board member of the «Gesellschaft für psychoanalytische Sozialpsychologie» (GfpS). She researches on in what sense psychoanalysis can be unfolded as critical theory and as political philosophy by relating to queer-feminist and postcolonial debates. In her recent DFG-research project she analyses the authoritarian dynamics in the context of multiple crises and outlooks in a dialectical horizon for perspectives of utopian imagination based on societal practices of resistance.

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