On Political Action Without Expectation
In-house and online (see below)
The great slogan of the 2003 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that “another world is possible” is the hope of every revolutionary and activist in the world. In 2011, in New York City, some Occupy Wall Street marchers added to this slogan rendering it an imperative: “Another World is Possible. And Necessary!”
This seminar proposes an alteration to this slogan, pessimistically proclaiming that another world is necessary, but it may not be possible. Revolutionary pessimism seeks change, not for its own sake, but in reckoning with the history of its own failures. Taking aim at the expectations of the enlightenment tradition, pessimism offers a nuanced, and dialectical, time consciousness that recognizes the problems and pitfalls of past action. It rejects progress without becoming, simply, fatalistic, cynical, or resigned. Revolutionary pessimism suggests a renewed spirit of revolt in the face of the increasing unfreedom in the world and sober rejection of attempting to overdesign or over-determine what this enhanced freedom will look like. Historically it picks up from the antifascist writings and organizing practices of committed Marxists in the 1930s and 1940s, and requires new attention today in the contemporary moment of not simply waiting for the logic of the system to fix itself.
Facilitator: Scott Ritner. Scott’s research focuses on the critique of social oppression in its various contemporary forms. His scholarship is methodologically rooted in critical theory and Marxian political thought. His current work focuses on the writings of the 20th Century French radical philosopher and mystic Simone Weil. He is currently developing a book manuscript on Weil’s thought, entitled Revolutionary Pessimism: Simone Weil on Politics. Additionally, Professor Ritner is writing several independent journal articles and book chapters on the politics of listening, refugee subjectivities, precarious labor, and Simone Weil’s relationships to Marxism and feminism.
Scott received his B.A. in Government and International Relations from Clark University (2005), an M.A. in Russian Studies from the European University of Saint-Petersburg (2006), and his Ph.D. in Politics from The New School for Social Research (2018). He joined the Department of Political Science at Temple in 2018, after holding teaching positions at Clark University and Hunter College (CUNY). [From his Temple University faculty page. Read more.]
Date: Saturday, December 7, 10am-2pm
Online: For online registration, please fill out this form
Readings: Walter Benjamin: “On the Concept of History” and “Paralipomena to ‘On the Concept of History'” (PDF); Simone Weil: Selections from “Reflections concerning the causes of liberty and social oppression” (PDF); Nancy Fraser: “The end of Progressive Neoliberalism;” Recommended: Achille Mbembe: “The age of humanism is ending:” Massimiliano Tomba: “1793: The Neglected Legacy of Insurgent Universality” (PDF); Simone Weil: “What is Sacred in Every Human Being” (PDF).
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