Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Nancy Fraser will not be able to travel to Berlin this year. However, we are immensely pleased to announce that she will instead serve as the 2022 Benjamin Chair and give three lectures on the ecological crisis of capitalism under the general heading Climates of Capital.
Providing us with sharp analytical tools for connecting political, social and economic structures and struggles, Nancy Fraser’s work has been driven by a commitment to critically analyzing interacting layers of oppression and exploitation from the very beginning.
Her early writings on struggles over needs and so-called ‘welfare dependency’ with a keen eye on androcentrism and state-managed capitalism made her into an eminent feminist thinker. In the 1990s and 2000s, she brought the critique of capitalism to a new level by conceptualizing the shift from post-war, state-centered capitalism to financialized capitalism. For Fraser it is never either class or status, redistribution or recognition but ‘both/and’ when she addresses questions of misrecognition, status hierarchy, ecology, and sexuality. In the last decade, Nancy Fraser, has developed a theoretical framework that focuses on the big questions surrounding the peculiar social form known as “capitalism,” upending many of our commonly held assumptions about what capitalism is and how to subject it to critique. Her new approach shows how, throughout its history, various regimes of capitalism have relied on a series of institutional separations between economy and polity, production and social reproduction, and human and non-human nature, periodically readjusting the boundaries between these domains in response to crises and upheavals. Tracing how these “boundary struggles” offer a key to understanding capitalism’s contradictions and the multiple forms of conflict to which it gives rise, she has managed to reconceptualize capitalism as an institutionalized social order – an order in crisis.
The Benjamin-Lectures are named after the Berlin-born philosopher Walter Benjamin and dedicated to his intellectual integrity and political commitment in the face of historical catastrophe. Each year, inspired by the Amsterdam Spinoza-lectures as well as the “Adorno-Vorlesungen” in Frankfurt, the Benjamin-Lectures will bring one leading critical theorist to Berlin. His or her public lectures will allow for a broad audience to partake in the latest debates on social and political issues of core concern. Prior to the lectures, the invited speaker will hold the Walter-Benjamin-Chair at the HSC Center Berlin and spend up to three months in close cooperation with the HSC academic community.
In 2021, Axel Honneth will give the Benjamin Lectures.
Climates of Capital (2020)
That capitalism is “in crisis” has almost become a truism. The financial crisis of the last decade already de-stabilized the trust in the ability of the capitalist social order to deliver on its promises. With climate catastrophe looming and ecological disasters affecting more and more people even in wealthy states, it seems all the more obvious that something is fundamentally wrong with a social order depending on the ruthless exploitation of all available social and natural resources. But how can this crisis be conceptualized and analyzed in a theoretically sound manner? In which ways is the climate crisis a crisis of capitalism?
Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this year’s Lectures are cancelled and Nancy Fraser’s stay at HSC-Center is postponed to 2022.
Democracy and its Crises (2019)
In 2019, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurated the series. In a sequence of three evening lectures, Taylor addressed “Democracy and its Crises”, covering various forms of democratic deterioration, such as political alienation, increasing inequality, marketization and polarization, as well as possible ways out of crisis. You can watch videos of all three lectures: “Losing Faith in Democracy” (Response: Maeve Cooke, University College Dublin, Ireland), “Marketization and Polarization” (Response: Patrizia Nanz, Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung, Potsdam), and “What can be done?” (Response: Zhang Shuangli, Fudan University, China).
Nancy Fraser is the Henry and Louise A. Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research. She is a leading critical theorist and socialist feminist whose work over the past forty years has addressed issues of power, identity, emancipation, capital, justice, and oppression, especially in relation to the limits of liberalism. Working with the broad tradition of Foucault, Habermas, and the Frankfurt School, Fraser has focused on structural injustice, with attention to the conceptual and ideological underpinnings that sustain it. Her focus is the critique of capitalism, which she conceives broadly, not as an economic system, but as an institutionalized social order, which harbors multiple forms of oppression and crisis tendencies.
Some of her canonical works include Redistribution or Recognition? A Political-Philosophical Exchange (a dialogue with Axel Honneth) and Fortunes of Feminism: from state-managed capitalism to neoliberal crisis. More recently, she published Feminism for the 99%: A manifesto with Tithi Bhattacharya and Cinzia Arruzza and Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory with Rahel Jaeggi (now available in German).
“A Feminism Aimed at Liberating All Women Must Be Anti-Capitalist”, Interview by Olimpia Malatesta (Jacobin, 02.10.2019).
“The Feminism of the 1 Percent Has Associated Our Cause With Elitism”, Interview by Rebeca Martínez (Jacobin, 21.08.2019).
“Why Bernie is the True Feminist Choice”, with Liza Featherstone (Jacobin, 10.02.2020).
“From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump — and Beyond” (American Affairs, Vol 1 No. 4, Winter 2017).
Recent Public Lecture:
“What should Socialism mean in the 21st Century?”, New School for Social Research, 12.06.2019.
Benjamin Lectures 2019: Charles Taylor on "Democracy and its Crises"
In June 2019, the Walter Benjamin Lectures took place for the first time at the Humanities and Social Change Center Berlin at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The renowned Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor inaugurated the prominent series. On three consecutive evenings, Taylor gave lectures on “Democracy and its Crises”, covering various forms of democratic deterioration, such as political alienation, increasing inequality, xenophobia and polarization, as well as possible ways out of crisis.
Charles Taylor is one of the most important thinkers of our time. His early work on the embeddedness of cognition in the life world alone represents a paradigm shift in the social sciences. Guided by his novel reading of Hegel, Taylor subsequently embarked on an extraordinary research program: to elucidate and overcome the contradictions of modernity in the light of modernity’s own development, drawing out its limitations and imbalances. This project is laid out in two monumental monographs, one on the history of the self and one on secularization. More recently, Taylor has brought the motif of obscured social grounds to bear on questions of democratic politics and has developed a recognition-theory of tolerance. He has traced progressive trajectories, yet also started to analyze how the disavowal of shared values, imaginaries, and social relations unleashed destructive tendencies.
The Benjamin-Lectures advanced these investigations. In Berlin, Taylor proposed a trenchant diagnosis of the contemporarty threats to democratic societies. Moving from crisis to resources for potential remedy, the Lectures assembled an encompassing picture of our time.
You can watch video recordings of Charles Taylor’s lectures.