Taking great pains: critical theory, affective pedagogies and radical democracy

Amsler, Sarah (2012) Taking great pains: critical theory, affective pedagogies and radical democracy. In: Real Utopias (American Sociological Association annual conference), 17-21 August 2012, Denver, CO.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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Abstract

The consolidation of neoliberal capitalism over the past decade has been intense, as has the articulation of critical and creative responses to it. One of the most remarkable is the turn towards forms of political resistance that seek liberation from the logics of state and capital while – or through – simultaneously creating alternative, radically democratic modes of existence. Many of these draw on anarchistic and autonomist traditions of critical theory which assert the possibility of prefiguring alternative political projects as well as critiquing existing ones, thus appearing to transcend what Herbert Marcuse described as a ‘vicious circle’ of liberation (1964, 1967). We have thus seen a proliferation of work on problems of prefigurative politics, autonomy, co-operation and self-valorisation; significantly, there is renewed attention to pedagogy in critical theory and as a political practice. However, there is still little attention to the affective and social labour that this type of prefigurative theory and practice requires, or to the systemic critique of the conditions of possibility for it to constitute a challenge to neoliberalism. My concern is that these lacunae can lead to misinterpretations of the meaning of radical democracy and of its possibilities and limitations as a challenge to the logics of neoliberal capitalism and other forms of dehumanising power. In this paper, I draw on work with British-based cultural workers who are active in radical-democratic projects to illustrate how bringing practical work into conversation with critical theories of political subjectivity, on the one hand, and theories of affective pedagogy and politics, on the other, can contribute to strengthening both theories and practices of radical democracy.

Additional Information:The consolidation of neoliberal capitalism over the past decade has been intense, as has the articulation of critical and creative responses to it. One of the most remarkable is the turn towards forms of political resistance that seek liberation from the logics of state and capital while – or through – simultaneously creating alternative, radically democratic modes of existence. Many of these draw on anarchistic and autonomist traditions of critical theory which assert the possibility of prefiguring alternative political projects as well as critiquing existing ones, thus appearing to transcend what Herbert Marcuse described as a ‘vicious circle’ of liberation (1964, 1967). We have thus seen a proliferation of work on problems of prefigurative politics, autonomy, co-operation and self-valorisation; significantly, there is renewed attention to pedagogy in critical theory and as a political practice. However, there is still little attention to the affective and social labour that this type of prefigurative theory and practice requires, or to the systemic critique of the conditions of possibility for it to constitute a challenge to neoliberalism. My concern is that these lacunae can lead to misinterpretations of the meaning of radical democracy and of its possibilities and limitations as a challenge to the logics of neoliberal capitalism and other forms of dehumanising power. In this paper, I draw on work with British-based cultural workers who are active in radical-democratic projects to illustrate how bringing practical work into conversation with critical theories of political subjectivity, on the one hand, and theories of affective pedagogy and politics, on the other, can contribute to strengthening both theories and practices of radical democracy.
Keywords:radical democracy, critical pedagogy, politics of education, prefigurative politics
Subjects:L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
X Education > X990 Education not elsewhere classified
L Social studies > L218 Anarchism
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:7478
Deposited On:10 Feb 2013 21:54

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