This Wednesday (12th February 2014) I will be giving a paper at Keele University as part of a workshop on ‘Social and Political Critique in an Age of Austerity‘. It should be a great event and the programme looks really exciting with Costas Douzinas giving the keynote paper.
I am on the first panel of the day besides Paul-Francois Tremlett (Lecturer in Religious Studies, The Open University) speaking on ‘Occupy Hong Kong: Experiments with the Citizen-Assemblage in the Heart of Capitalist Utopia’ and Dr. Chris Till (Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University) speaking on ‘The Impossibility of the Future: Empty Futures and the Problems of Critique in Times of Austerity’.
My paper will be on ‘Occupy London: Post-Politics vs. Politics Proper’ and will be a short outline of my ongoing PhD research.
Before 2011, it was common for radical theorists to claim that we now lived in a ‘post-political’ society. However, the idea of post-politics appeared to fall from grace after 2011 when the very same theorists who were dismissing social movements as instances of post-political pseudo-resistance (such as Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou) began to write it out of their work. Following the widespread resistance of that year – the so-called “Arab spring, European Summer and American Fall”– they appeared instead to see the beginning of a return to politics in those movements (in particular, focusing on Occupy).
In this paper, it is argued that we need to critically understand the concept of post-politics before asking whether Occupy London can be considered an agent in bringing about social change. Unprecedented in the speed it spread and the reach of its impact around the globe, Occupy is clearly important for understanding contemporary resistance, and yet can we say that it did enough to challenge or move in the direction of changing contemporary society for the better? But, on the other hand, if we deem Occupy as post-political, then what would politics ‘proper’ actually look like in comparison?
Based on interviews conducted with members of Occupy London, this paper will address these questions by asking whether Occupy is an instance of something new – an instance of ‘politics proper’ – or whether it remains within the contemporary ‘end of history’ consensus of neoliberal capitalism.