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Séminaire — Critical Social Theory and Dialectics

Séminaire — Critical Social Theory and Dialectics

Critical Social Theory and Dialectics. A comparison of Theodor W. Adorno and Louis Althusser concepts of materialist dialectics.

Séminaire international du CEMTI dans le cadre de l’école doctorale « Sciences sociales » de l’université Paris 8 Vincennes à Saint-Denis,
 animé par Prof. Dr. Alex Demirović (Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany, professeur invité à l’Université Paris 8).

Dialectics is a concept that seems to be obscure and is for historical reasons associated with some rhetoric sophism. Not at least for those reasons in critical debates the references to the concept of dialectics played a minor role or were even critical, negative, and dismissive. Gilles Deleuze or Michel Foucault argued theoretically against the concept of dialectics, because for them it doesn’t seem to be appropriate to deal with social conflicts and struggles. Today there are many reasons for a recall of dialectics and to check its validity for a further elaboration of critical social theory.

I mention only three aspects:

  1. The metamorphoses of the finance crisis after 2008 that took different forms: a crash of the financial market and its accumulation model, the state debt crisis, the crisis of the common currency and a crisis of private households – all these processes were always the same and at the same time nevertheless different.
  2. Also the multiplicity of crises suggests that dialectics could be a useful concept to understand what is going on: a crisis of climate, the desertification, energy supply, gender relations, refugees, democracy and parties, education, the cities and so on – at the same time a proliferation of protest events all over the world. Although there is no linear causality between these events they all build elements of a concrete conjuncture, a particular constellation and determine the realm in which people act.
  3. The concepts that are the basis for democratic societies – those like society, democracy, freedom, equality, emancipation – turn in the concrete common use in politics into a converse meaning. To protect freedom security and authority is stressed; to have democratic will formation, a short cut between political leaders and the “people” is construed; society tends to integrate itself in a more and more rigid way to refer to itself as society, and caused by this it excludes many aspects of its reproduction.

In the seminar it is intended to practice a close reading of basically three texts and to have commondiscussions:

Theodor W. Adorno: Lectures on Negative Dialectics

Louis Althusser: For Marx (Contradiction and Overdetermination; On the Materialist Dialectic)



NB : The lectures take place at Université Paris 8 (Metro 13).

November 17th 2016, 3-6pm (Room : D 312 — Université Paris 8)

January 11th 2017, 4-6pm (Room : D 312 — Université Paris 8)

January 12th 2017, 3-6pm (Room : D 312 — Université Paris 8)


Interested students are requested to email to Prof. Alex Demirović to get the PDFs of the texts of Althusser and Adorno: