[SYMPOSIUM]#31 Eagleton & Zizek Idea of Communism. Flyer by Neil Lamont.

[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB

Eagleton & Zizek: The Idea of Communism

Friday, 14 December 2018, 6:30pm – 9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Closest stations: Whitechapel / Aldgate East
Facilitated by Neil Lamont
Suggested donation £2, booking via Eventbrite

In December we’re reading two chapters from the book The Idea of Communism (2010), chapter 6 Lear or Gonzalo by Terry Eagleton (pp. 101 – 110), and chapter 15 How to begin from the beginning  by Slavoj Zizek (pp. 209 – 226). This book club is facilitated by Neil Lamont.

DOWNLOAD Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Zizek ed. (2010). The Idea of Communism. Verso.

[SYMPOSIUM]#31 Eagleton & Zizek Idea of Communism. Flyer by Neil Lamont.Much recent political and economic analysis – especially on the left – has focused on the triumph of global capitalism or late capitalism, the collapse of structures of opposition and – as a perceived consequence – the impossibility of change. (Some would include Mark Fisher within that category.) However, other voices on the left argue that – far from triumph – capital is at a point of material and existential crisis and have begun to look at how Marx’s ideas can be applied afresh in the 21st century.

The only true question today is: do we endorse the predominant naturalization of capitalism or does today’s global capitalism contain antagonisms powerful enough to prevent its indefinite reproduction? (Zizek)

I want to explore these perspectives through two chapters in the The Idea of Communism edited by Zizek and Douzinas. At some point in the discussion I also want to briefly add in a 3 minute outline of Streeck’s book How will capitalism end – a structural analysis of capital’s economic development from 1945 to the present.

Terry Eagleton explores communism through two Shakespearean characters – Gonzalo from The Tempest and Lear. Gonzalo envisions a world of plenitude and freedom for all – of ease, plenty and liberation from labour. But Lear represents a world of inner and outer turmoil, of a humanity driven by its culture into desire, excess and destruction. Eagleton explores the ambiguity that capitalism provides the material resources to liberate us from material need but creates a world of lack and poverty. Instead, communism aims to harness the material to release us from the confines of materialism. Eagleton explores the catastrophe of environmental damage and asks if the species of communism we will find will be Gonzalo’s comic superfluity or the catastrophic one of Lear’s destitution.

Zizek starts with Lenin in 1922, at the end of the Civil War and the Russian economy in ruin. In a text called On ascending a high mountain Lenin contemplates how communism can ‘begin again from the beginning’. Zizek asks how (post 1989, post 2008) communism can again begin at the beginning. He references an article by Eric Hobsbawm titled Socialism failed, capitalism is bankrupt. What comes next? “The answer is communism” (Zizek). He explores the ideas of Hardt and Negri on reclaiming ’the commons’ of culture, external nature, internal nature and – most importantly – the re-inclusion of the excluded. Zizek also looks at agency, especially the role of the state (“the true task should be to make the State work in a non-statal mode”). There are large debates on the communist left about the state (post 1989 some reject the state model entirely) and immaterial production.

Zizek concludes by explaining that the working class has been – or become – split – into three separate components  “…the ‘three main classes’ of today’s developed societies, which are precisely not classes but three fractions of the working class: intellectual labourers, the old manual working class, and the outcasts…”  The task is to reunite them!

The session will start with everyone having a brief input. Then we’ll explore some of the following questions

  • does Eagleton think global co-operation and restructuring more likely to emerge from global plenty or from catastrophe?
  • what do both authors have to say about climate change? Are they right?
  • what does Zizek mean by the ‘communist-egalitarian emancipatory Idea’?
  • what is Zizek’s argument about the 3 way split in the working class? Is this correct? How might the 3 parts be brought back together?
  • what do both authors have to say about the role of the state in realising communism? What do you think? Could communism be achieved without the state? If so, how?
  • is capitalism now in its deepest ever crisis or is it strong and invulnerable?
  • is late capitalism the most recent adaptation or development of capital or is it a new phenomenon?
  • what is your vision of what a communist society would look like, feel like? (Marx said very little about this!)
  • what would be the essential steps to replace capitalism with communism?
  • is it feasible?

Suggested further reading

It would be good to read the other chapters in The idea of Communism – all are relevant/interesting. Ideas expressed by Hardt, Negri & Ranciere are often referenced in debate and discussion

  • Why Marx was right, Terry Eagleton, YUP, 2012
    The illusions of postmodernism, Terry Eagleton, Wiley-Blackwell, 1992
  • The condition of postmodernity, David Harvey, Wiley-Blackwell, 1991
  • Seventeen contradictions and the end of capitalism, David Harvey, Profile Books, 2014
  • Postmodernism: or, the cultural logic of late capitalism, Fredric Jameson, Verso, 1992
  • The communist manifesto, Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, Penguin p/b, 2015
  • Grundrisse, foundations of the critique of political economy, Karl Marx, Penguin Classics, 2005
  • How will capitalism end?: essays on a failing system, Wolfgang Streeck, Verso, 2017

Monthly reading group for artists, researchers and anyone interested in the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone is welcome to propose a text and facilitate the reading group. Please book your place and download the shared document. For more information and an archive of previous events please scroll down.

Free & open access

The reading group is free and open to everyone who wants to join as long as they commit to the reading. Please register and arrive early, doors will close when we reach maximum capacity. Don’t forget to download the shared document and bring a hard-copy to the book club. Please consider donating to help cover our expenses and keep us going. Alternatively, you can donate via this link.

Discussion & decision-making

Texts are selected by group consensus on the basis that they reflect on the relationship between practice and theory. This includes a broad variety of texts, from philosophy to politics and aesthetics to science fiction – there is no limitation.

Facilitating the book club

[SYMPOSIUM] is a supportive community of peers who discuss and unpack their research interests. All participants have the opportunity to facilitate the book club on a text of their choice. If you would like to propose a text, you can start preparing right now:

[1] Decide on a text that you want to discuss.

[2] Do some background research and write a short introduction to provide some context, from your own perspective. When was it written? Why was it written? Who wrote it? Was it a response to something else? Why are you interested in the text? How does it relate to, or inform, your practice or your research?

[3] Pace the reading. How long is the text? If it is short, can we discuss the entire text in a 2-hour book club? If the text is long you may need to divide it up between two or more sessions.

[4] Write down some questions that you would like to bring to the discussion. Suggest some further reading and an image or two, with captions.

[5] Download the infosheet and send us your proposal.


[SYMPOSIUM] ARCHIVE

#31 Mark Fisher: Capitalist Realism Pt.3
Friday, 9 November 2018, 6:30pm – 9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Silvia Bombardini & Elliot C. Mason

#30 Debord: The Culmination of Separation
Friday, 12 October 2018, 18:30–21:00
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Penelope Kupfer & Darshana Vora

#29 Deutsch: Why are flowers beautiful?
Friday, 14 September 2018, 18:30–21:00
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by John Fortnum

#28 Fisher: Capitalist Realism Pt.2
Saturday, 9 June 2018, 2:30pm – 5:30pm
UNISON/Yurt Café, Limehouse, London E14 8DS
Facilitated by Sophia Kosmaoglou
Part of Antiuniversity Now 9-15 June 2018

#27 Derrida: Signature Event Context
Friday, 11 May 2018, 18:30–21:00
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Nat Pimlott & Sophia Kosmaoglou

#26 Derrida: Structure, Sign and Play
Friday, 13 April 2018, 6:30pm–9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Sophia Kosmaoglou

#25 Fisher: Capitalist Realism Pt.1
Friday, 9 March 2018, 6:30pm-9pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Facilitated by Sophia Kosmaoglou

#24 Cohn: Representation and Critique
Friday, 9 February 2018, 6:30pm-9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Aris Nikolaidis

#23 Adam Curtis: HyperNormalisation
Friday, 12 January 2018, 6:30pm-9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by
Neil Lamont

#22 Debord: Negation and Consumption
Friday, 8 December 2017, 6:30pm-9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Aristotelis Nikolaidis

#21 Adorno: Commitment
Friday, 10 November 2017
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Nat Pimlott

#20 Foucault: Of Other Spaces
Sunday, 15 October 2017
UNISON/Yurt Café, Limehouse, London E14 8DS
Facilitated by Dasha Loyko

#19 Bishop: Pedagogical Projects
Monday, 24 July 2017
Guest Projects, 1 Andrews Road, London E8 4QL
Chaired by Renata Minoldo
Part of School of The Damned‘s Common Room

#18 Virno: The Dismeasure of Art
Friday, 9 June 2017
Grow Elephant, New Kent Rd, London SE17 1SL
Chaired by Rubén Salgado Perez

#17 Judd: Specific Objects
Friday, 21 April 2017
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Chaired by Richard Burger

#16 Deleuze & Guattari: Rhizome
Friday, 10 March 2017
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Chaired by Katie Tysoe and Sophia Kosmaoglou

#15 Marx: The Fetishism of the Commodity & its Secret
Friday, 10 February 2017
Wimbledon Art Studios, London SW17 0BB
Chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou

#14 O’Sullivan: The Aesthetics of Affect
Friday, 13 January 2017
Louise House, Dartmouth Rd, London SE23 3HZ
Chaired by Katie Tysoe

#13 Foucault: The Four Similitudes
Friday, 9 December 2016
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
Chaired by Penelope Kupfer

#12 Foster: Post-Critical?
Friday, 11 November 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Dasha Loyko

#11 Badiou: Art & Philosophy
Friday, 14 October 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Kerry W. Purcell

#10 Sontag: Against Interpretation
Friday, 9 September 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by F. D.

#9 Groys: Under the Gaze of Theory
Friday, 8 July 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou, respondent Johanna Kwiat

#8 Rancière: Problems & Transformations of Critical Art
Friday, 10 June 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Stephen Bennett
Part of Antiuniversity Now 9-12 June 2016

#7 Sewell: Tate Triennial III
Friday, 13 May 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Richard Lloyd-Jones

#6 Duchamp: The Creative Act
Friday, 8 April 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by F. D., respondent Penelope Kupfer

#5 Latour: On Actor Network Theory
Friday, 11 March 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Johanna Kwiat

#4 Barthes: The Death of the Author
Friday, 12 February 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Henrietta Ross

#3 Owens: The Discourse of Others
Friday, 8 January 2016
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou

#2 Abu-Lughod: Writing against Culture
Friday, 11 December 2015
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury

#1 Kant: What is Enlightenment?
Friday, 13 November 2015
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Sophia Kosmaoglou