Guest Lecture with Paul Auerbach – ‘Social optimism: an alternative political economy for the 21st century’, 30/03/17

Centre for Critical Thought (CCT) talk with Paul Auerbach: Socialist optimism: an alternative political economy for the twenty-first century

Thursday 30 March 2017 at 17:00 in Grimond LT3

The Centre for Critical Thought invite you to their forthcoming talk with Paul Auerbach. Paul Auerbach, Reader in Economics at Kingston University, offers an alternative political economy for the twenty-first century in Socialist Optimism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Socialism as human development gives a unity and direction to progressive policies that are otherwise seen to be a form of pragmatic tinkering in the context of a pervasive capitalist reality.

All are welcome to attend this talk, full details can be found here.

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Politics after Poststructuralism Seminar Series – Dr Martin Crowley, 10 March 2017, 5pm

Dr Martin Crowley (Reader in Modern French Thought and Culture, University of Cambridge)
Title: ‘Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Politics’
Politics after Poststructuralism Seminar Series
Venue: Keynes seminar room 14
Date and Time: 10 March 2017, 5pm

Martin Crowley (University of Cambridge)

Martin is Reader in Modern French Thought and Culture at Cambridge, and has published books on Robert Antelme and Marguerite Duras, and more recently, essays on Jean-Luc Nancy and Bernard Stiegler.  He is currently working on the question of hybrid or distributed agency, in particular the political possibilities offered by approaches to this question in the work of Bruno Latour, Isabelle Stengers, Bernard Stiegler, and Catherine Malabou; this is part of a wider project on French and Francophone philosophy and contemporary geopolitics.

‘Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Politics’


In the first volume of his La Société automatique (2015), Bernard Stiegler considers the social and philosophical implications of the predicted imminent increase in the proportion of labour undertaken by automata. The aim of this paper is to provide an account of Stiegler’s analyses, to situate these in the context of his philosophy more broadly, and to draw out their implications for an understanding of politics in what a widespread shorthand likes to refer to as the age of the machines.

For Stiegler, the interpenetration of human and technical forms of life is nothing new. Developing the work of André Leroi-Gourhan and Gilbert Simondon, Stiegler sees these forms as coming into existence through transductive processes of mutual constitution. The social and political questions posed by particular technologies are consequently to be understood as questions of adoption: the human beings of a given era are formed in relation to their technical objects, but can subsequently shape this relation by adopting these objects as either beneficial or harmful, in an immanent process of recursive self-fashioning.

It is in these terms that La Société automatique analyses the predicted explosion of automation. For Stiegler, the social stakes of this development concern the definition of work and the link between work and remuneration; the political challenge is accordingly to foster the adoption of emergent technical forms in such a way as to provide a beneficial solution to these social questions. The politics of automation at work here needs to be taken beyond the question of adoption, however, into regions which Stiegler does not explore. For the mutual constitution of the human and the technical may imply a potentially more problematic reconceptualization of effective political agency: not as a possibility belonging to one of these forms only, but rather as distributed across the transductive relations through which the forms emerge. Arguing nevertheless against the purely descriptive, post hoc accounts of such composite processes offered by a Jane Bennett or a Bruno Latour, the paper will seek to determine how the trenchant quality of political agency as Stiegler configures it can be maintained within such an understanding of its processual distribution; it will engage this problem with specific reference to the role of algorithmically-generated news feeds in the production of ‘post-truth’ politics.

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Politics after Poststructuralism Seminar Series – seminar with Dr Nick Srnicek – 23 February, 5pm


Dr Nick Srnicek (Lecturer in International Political Economy, City University of London)
Title: ‘Platform Capitalism’
Politics after Poststructuralism Seminar Series
Venue: Keynes seminar room 17
Date and Time: 23 February 2017, 5pm

Lecturer in International Political Economy, Nick Srnicek co-authored with Alex Williams  #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics ​(2013), ​Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Verso, 2015), and the recently published Platform Capitalism (Polity, 2016). His current research is on anti-work politics and social reproduction, and how the two separate areas can be fit together.

‘Platform Capitalism’


What unites Google and Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, Siemens and GE, Uber and Airbnb? Across a wide range of sectors, these firms are transforming themselves into platforms: businesses that provide the hardware and software foundation for others to operate on. This transformation signals a major shift in how capitalist firms operate and how they interact with the rest of the economy: the emergence of platform capitalism. This talk critically examines these new business forms, showing how the fundamental foundations of the economy are rapidly being carved up among a small number of monopolistic platforms, and how the platform introduces new tendencies within capitalism that pose significant challenges to any vision of a post-capitalist future.

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Conference on Comedy & Critical Thought: Laughter as Resistance? – 3-4 May 2016

The Centre for Critical Thought, the Centre for Comic and Popular Performance and the Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent are hosting a conference on:


a two-day interdisciplinary conference scheduled on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 May 2016 at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

This interdisciplinary conference invites delegates to reflect on the possible role of comedy as critique. Critique, which finds its expression in both theory and practice, has  a long and turbulent history. Yet the issue of what it means to be critical and voice alternatives to the political and economic status quo now seems to be more important than ever. Several sites of resistance have recently developed in globalised society. It should come as no surprise that alongside Occupy, Anonymous and worldwide student protests, laughter is also part of the global emancipatory cry for alternatives. Throughout history, comedians and clowns have enjoyed a certain freedom to speak frankly often denied to others in hegemonic systems. Think only of King Lear’s ‘all-licensed Fool’ or Bakhtin’s conception of the carnivalesque. More recently, professional comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have developed platforms of comic license from which to critique the traditional political establishment and have managed to play an important role in interrogating and mediating the processes of politics in contemporary society. However, as it always has been in the past, these comic truth-speakers face the problem of co-option: are these comic voices genuinely effective in their critique or do they function as a mere safety valve tolerated to vent off dangerous steam? In this respect, comedy is not always necessarily critical but can also reinforce the status quo and function as a conservative tool or even as an exclusionary mechanism in the service of hierarchical power relations.

Whether recognised as a safe release for social tensions, a conservative reassertion of the dominant order through cruel laughter, or as a form of critical expression which may trouble and destabilise the status quo, comedy’s force warrants closer investigation.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Professor Alan Finlayson (University of East Anglia), Professor James Williams (Deakin University) and Dr Robert Porter (Ulster University). Delegates are also cordially invited to attend the annual Linda Smith Lecture on the evening of Tuesday 3 May, which will this year be delivered by British comedian Andy Hamilton. This conference further ties into the exhibition ‘There is an alternative! A selection of critical comics and cartoons’ which will run free of charge from 2 May to 1 July 2016 at the university’s Templeman Library. Projected conference fee is £15 to cover catering on both days (with concessions available for postgraduates). Please contact Dr Iain MacKenzie ( or Dieter Declerq ( for more information.

To register for the conference click here.

The conference organisers:

Dr Iain Mackenzie, Dr Krista Bonello-Rutter-Giappone, Dr Oliver Double, Dieter Declercq and Fred Francis

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Workshop on ‘The Biopolitics of Race and Gender in Theory and Political Practice’

The Centre for Critical Thought is hosting a workshop on ‘The Biopolitics of Race and Gender in Theory and Political Practice’ on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 December 2015.

Bridging the gap between biopolitical philosophy and the research of biopolitics in practice, the workshop critically unpacks government of race and gender in neoliberal contexts. It will bring together some of the leading scholars from the UK and beyond to discuss the latest developments in this rich, but still under-researched field of scholarly enquiry. The workshop is designed as a small-scale, intimate event, keeping presentations relatively short while focusing on intensive discussion, collaboration and the exploration of new (common) grounds.

Workshop on ‘The Biopolitics of Race and Gender in Theory and Political Practice’

Venue: Darwin Board room

Date: Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 December 2015

Workshop Programme

Please e-mail Dr Iain MacKenzie or Hannah Richter in advance to confirm your attendance at the workshop.

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The Exchange Workshop – Friday 4 December 2015 at 4-6pm

The Exchange Workshop

​Friday 4 December 2015, week 10, 4-6pm, venue: Cornwallis North West seminar room 2

This workshop will be a participatory exchange event that will encourage an open discussion on the theme of Exchange. This event is being organised in view of developing the links with Tate established through the MA in Political Theory and Practices of Resistance at the Univiersity of Kent. This workshop will give students (and anyone and everyone who is interested) time to discuss the different definitions of exchange, its politics and how exchanges can take place. What is the most important exchange? What are the conditions of such an exchange? How can such an exchange be enacted? What possibilities of difference can such an exchange incite? This workshop is organised by, and will be led by, Dr Iain MacKenzie, Dr Charles Devellennes and PhD student Hollie Mackenzie in an open discussion and feedback format. During the workshop, we will participate in a collaborative practice of exchange. Materials will be provided.

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‘Marxism, Religion and Ideology: Themes from David McLellan’ book launch – 2pm on 11 November 2015

The Centre for Critical Thought and the School of Politics and International Relations would like to invite you to the book launch of Marxism, Religion and Ideology: Themes from David McLellan (Routledge, 2015). To celebrate this publication we have organised two lectures and a drinks reception on Wednesday 11th November 2015 at 2pm – 4pm in Grimond LT3. All are welcome to attend, no booking necessary.

Marxism, Religion and Ideology: Themes from David McLellan, Book Launch

The Centre for Critical Thought and the School of Politics and International Relations are pleased to announce the publication of Marxism, Religion and Ideology: Themes from David McLellan (Routledge, 2015). Few scholars have done as much to tease out the intricacies of Marx, ideology and religion and their overlapping concerns as the eminent writer and Marx biographer, Professor David McLellan. This book brings together a group of internationally renowned academics to reflect upon, develop and criticise McLellan’s analyses of these three themes with a view to contributing more broadly to scholarly debates in these fields. The book was edited by Dr David Bates (Canterbury Christ Church University), Dr Iain MacKenzie (University of Kent) and Professor Sean Sayers (University of Kent). Contributors include Lord Bhikhu Parekh, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams. The book also contains an essay in which Professor McLellan responds to the contributions in the book.

To celebrate this publication we have organised two lectures and a reception. Professor Sayers will present a summary of his chapter for the book and a visiting speaker, Dr Andrew Chitty (University of Sussex), will reflect on the writings of the early Marx and Professor McLellan’s contribution to our understanding of those texts. The talks will be from 2pm – 4pm, followed by a drinks reception in Grimond Foyer. Please come along and join us in celebrating Professor McLellan’s contribution to critical scholarship at the University of Kent.

Wednesday 11th November 2015 at 2pm 

 Grimond Lecture Theatre 3

 All welcome to attend, no booking necessary
The talk will be followed by a drinks reception in Grimond Foyer

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Blue Labour strategy day – 28 July 2015, Darwin Board Room

As part of Dr Adrian Pabst’s Faculty grant on Blue Labour, a group of academics, politicians and activists will meet on 28 July on the Canterbury campus for a day-long event. The aim is, among other things, to discuss ideas for the 2nd edition of the essay collection Blue Labour: forging a new politics (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015), which will be published in early October, as well as to explore new initiatives at the level of a parliamentary group and a new think-tank.

Among the participants are Lord Glasman, Steve Reed MP (invited), Prof. Richard Beardsworth, Rowenna Davis, Helen Dennis, Prof. John Milbank and Heather Vernon.

The event will take place in the Darwin Board room from 10.30am until 5.30pm, with coffee served at 10 am and at 3.30pm. All Pol/IR staff and Pol/IR PGR students are welcome to join and participate in the debate.


List of participants

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‘Election Blues: Why Labour lost, what it is for and how it can win again’ – 25/06/15

As part of Dr Adrian Pabst’s research grant from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Kent on Blue Labour, there will be a one-day event entitled ‘Election Blues: Why Labour lost, what it is for and how it can win again’ on Thursday 25 June 2015, Committee Room 2, House of Lords, 11am-6pm.

Among the confirmed speakers are

Lord Maurice Glasman

Jon Cruddas MP

Rowenna Davis (2015 Labour parliamentary candidate, Southampton Itchen)

Prof. John Curtice (psephologist and Professor of Politic sat Strathclyde)

James Morris (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research) 

Prof. Matthew Goodwin (Kent)

Prof. Eric Kaufmann (Birkbeck)

Ruth Davis (Political Director, Greenpeace UK)

Marcus Roberts (former Deputy Secretary General, The Fabians)

At 11am John Curtice will for the first time present his findings about where Labour lost and who it failed to win over. Then James Morris, who worked as a pollster for the leadership, will talk about how Labour’s defeat came about. This will be followed by a panel debate.

At 2.15pm Jon Cruddas MP will give an address on what Labour is for – its principles and purpose. Among the panelists are Prof. Richard Beardsworth (Aberyswyth), Prof. John Milbank (Nottingham) and Marcus Roberts.

Finally, at 4.15pm Lord Maurice Glasman will be in conversation with other Labour figures about how Labour can win again. There will be panel discussions and questions from the floor.

We are also inviting other MPs, Peers and journalists to attend the event and participate in the debate.

Join us for what will be a very exciting event with a great line-up.

RSVP: (for catering purposes)

Event flyer available to download here.


List of panellists

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Blue Labour book launch – 2 March and 4 March 2015

On Monday 2 March 2015, there will be a public discussion to mark the publication of Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics (I.B. Tauris, 2015), edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst. The event is entitled ‘Blue Labour – claiming the new centre ground’ and will take place on Monday 2 March 2015, 7- 9pm, Grimond Room, in Portcullis House (House of Commons).

Panellists include:

– Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham (confirmed)

– Rowenna Davis, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Southampton Itchen and author of Tangled up in Blue (confirmed)

– Ruth Davis, Political Director, Greenpeace UK (confirmed)

– Lord Maurice Glasman (confirmed)

The discussion will be chaired by the writer and social activist Madeleine Bunting (confirmed).


Then, on Wednesday 4 March 2015, there will be the Kent launch of the Blue Labour book. We have a got a fantastic group of speakers lined up to discuss Blue Labour’s ideas to renew the Labour Party and the country, including Britain’s role in Europe and the world.

Join us from 1pm onwards in Maths Lecture Theatre, Cornwallis for two panels with the following speakers:

Ruth Davis, Political Director, Greenpeace UK (confirmed)

Ian Geary, Executive Member, Christians on the Left (confirmed)

Maurice Glasman, Labour Life Peer (confirmed)

David Goodhart, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Demos (confirmed)

Dave Landrum, Director of Advocacy, Evangelical Alliance (confirmed)

Rod Liddle, Columnist and Associate Editor, The Spectator (confirmed)

David McLellan, Emeritus Professor of Political Thought, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent (confirmed)

John Milbank, Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics, University of Nottingham (confirmed)

Ruth Yeoman, Research Fellow, Mutuality in Business, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (confirmed)

Just before 5pm we will move to Grimond Lecture Theatre 3 for the lecture by Lord Maurice Glasman on “Common Good and Foreign Policy” as part of our Public Speaker Programme, followed by a drinks reception at 6pm.

All welcome. For catering purposes, please confirm your attendance ( or


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