Public Seminar ReviewVolume 1, Issue 1
Inaugural Edition (First Semester 2013)

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Public Seminar Review: The Inaugural Issue

The first semester of the Public Seminar is over, and the papers are now in, presented in this Inaugural Issue. The results, in my judgment, are excellent. We started our active publishing with reports and analyses on the Gezi protests in Istanbul. Our last feature of the year was a poetic eyewitness report on the Maidan protests in Kiev. In between, many other reports and reflections on pressing issues of the day were published and discussed, as were pieces on enduring problems, from empathy to the social condition to penis envy. The major themes of the seminar are emerging: capitalism, democracy, identity, arts and literature, and memory were carefully considered. These will be refined and specified more clearly in the future. But there is already a great deal of excitement connected to the features and posts thus far. Nancy Fraser's "Against Anarchism" sparked great interest and impassioned discussion (more to come on this soon), as did Jeremy Safran's "Who's Afraid of Sigmund Freud?" as well as Ken Wark's piece on the working class hero, among others of his on P.S. Commons. Insightful comments can be found throughout Public Seminar, and we can expect more to follow. I think we are showing our promise to be "a public seminar for the 21st century" as we set out to do. Note the range of inquiry, but also note their shared sensibility, as we put it in our mission statement "emerging from the tradition of critical scholarship and public engagement of the original New School for Social Research (1919) and its University in Exile (1933). We seek to open the discussion of experts to broader publics, in the United States, and crucially far beyond." Review how we are doing this, and join in, post a reply, consider suggesting a contribution. The Public Seminar is a public seminar. - Jeff Goldfarb

Capitalism and its Alternatives

Innovation Overload

Every era defines its heroes. Ours is currently fixated on the innovating entrepreneur, creating something new that everyone must have. This type breaks the mold, striking out alone, even leaving school to do so. He (and he is usually a he) is designated as brilliant, ...

Against Anarchism

For Edward J. Snowden and Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley): Heroes of transnational publicity -- in gratitude and with admiration. One strategy for reimagining public sphere theory in the current conjuncture is neo-anarchism. Distrustful of global governance institutions, and of the expert networks entangled with them, ...

On New Political Identities

Below is an interview of Simon Critchley by founder and editor of the UK-based quarterly print magazine STIR, Jonny Gordon-Farleigh. It appears in the Autumn issue of STIR under the title "An Interview with Philosopher Simon Critchley."  The most challenging task of recent times has been ...

The Trade Deficit: Beyond the Myth of Currency Manipulation

The US has run a assive trade deficit for over 30 years. In recent times, there has been a growing chorus of commentators who seek to place the blame on our trading partners, most notably China, just as in an earlier time others had targeted ...

The American Dream Comes to Life in Denmark

The following is the prepared text of the speech given by Minister Haekkerup on September 28, 2013, at The New School, with an introduction by William Milberg. Introduction The word “capitalism,” describing our market-oriented economic system of wage labor, private ownership and the endless drive for wealth ...

Jonathan Crary's 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep

When I was a kid in the 1960s one of the big questions I remember being tossed about was what to do with all of the free time that modern society would afford us. That there would be a virtually unlimited horizon of material abundance ...

Accelerationism

There’s a lively debate going on about ‘accelerationism’. As Reza Negarastani has suggested, it might be a way in which big picture speculative thought about historical circumstances has returned after the decline of Marxism. It began with the somewhat hallucinated texts of Nick Land, which ...

Hobsbawm's 20th Century: Closing Comments

I am honored to have been asked to offer closing words for this memorial event celebrating the life and work of Eric Hobsbawm. This is a New School event, and not by coincidence. As Dean of The New School for Social Research, I want first ...

A Working Class Hero(ine) is Something to Be.

Its been a bizarre kind of self fulfilling prophecy. Mark Fisher called out the leftish commentariat for their barely restrained petit bourgeois moralism, and for his troubles has been hit by a wave of – petit bourgeois moralism. What set this off was the spectacle – ...

Rethinking the Split Between Feminists and the Left

The recent death of Shulamith Firestone marks a milestone in the history of second wave feminism, and encourages an historical perspective. Firestone was one of the most inspired and original political intellectuals of the sixties, and a founder of the modern feminist movement. I can ...

Democracy and Media

John Dewey in China

When I’m in China, conversations with friends and colleagues often begin with their asking about the name of my university: Why is it called “The New School?” Most are not familiar with the university, but when I mention the name of John Dewey and the ...

Identity: Race, Gender, Sexuality and Psychology

What's Left After Penis Envy?

I am teaching a course called “Feminism and Literature” at the New School that explores how literature can articulate feminist claims in the public sphere. One of the problems we discussed is whether the language we are currently using, as well as the imaginary that ...

Who's Afraid of Sigmund Freud?

For decades psychoanalysis dominated professional approaches to mental health in the United States and had an influential impact on our culture. Starting in the late 1960s, however, psychoanalysis has become increasingly marginalized. Here, I will argue that psychoanalysis has always contained both subversive and conservative ...

For Gender and Sexuality Studies: A Manifesto

We write as members of a group of faculty from different parts of the New School who are working to return graduate-level gender and sexuality studies to the university. Our project is an unusually collaborative one, drawing on the work of colleagues from a wide ...

"All My Life I Have Been a Woman" and Other Excerpts

With Amelia Parenteau, Leslie Kaplanread the following excerpts from her plays after she gave the eighth William Phillips lecture on November 5, 2013 at Theresa Lang Student and Community Center/Arnhold Hall of The New School. All my life I’ve been a woman   all my life I’ve been ...

The Forces of Reproduction

“Humanity does not exist under the sign of the divine… but of the monstrous.”  -- Béatriz Préciado “Read, this!,” he said, thrusting a soiled photocopy of a typescript into my hands. “It will change your life!” Then he disappeared back into the public toilet he was cruising. ...

The Attack on Empathy

I feel for Jeremy Rifkin. In 2010, Rifkin, a public intellectual and best-selling author, published a remarkable book titled The Empathic Civilization. In it, Rifkin argues (1) that humans are soft-wired for empathic feelings toward others and that (2) this potential has to be fostered ...

Public Shaming? On the NYC Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign

Unexpected or amusing experiences on the NYC subway are not infrequent for those who travel every day, in jam-packed trains, from one corner to the other of the city. The biggest shock I have had in my three years of using NYC public transit was ...

Thanksgiving, Kugel, and Cornbread Stuffing

Thanksgiving is a special holiday, the great American secular celebration: a common ritual, eating of a turkey dinner, almost universally practiced, in all the nooks and crannies of the social landscape. Indians may not be very enthusiastic. The return on their historic hospitality was not ...

Black Faces, Red Skins and White Celebrations

In the country where I grew up, the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ yearly visit is a hugely popular celebration, rich in rituals and designed to make children happy. Three years ago, the celebration came to New York, where I now live. It seemed only logical to ...

The Arts and Literature

The Aesthetics of Civil Society

University of Illinois Chicago political scientist Kelly LeRoux (who got her PhD at Wayne State University here in the D) and co-author Anna Bernadska recently published a study, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, that shows a positive correlation between participation in the ...

One Thing Becoming Another

When Huizi the rationalist visited Zhuangzi to express his condolences for the recent passing of Zhuangzi’s wife, he was shocked to find the great Daoist sage sprawled on the ground happily beating out a rhythm on a tub and singing with gusto. Stop this scandal! ...

Jan Sawka: The Power of the Not So Powerless

The following lecture was prepared for delivery at the symposium "Jan Sawka: The Artist’s Role in Changing the World" presented by The Paul Robeson Galleries, Gallery Aferro and the Newark Arts Council, Saturday, November 16, 2013, in conjunction with the exhibition at the Gallery Aferro, ...

Tiny Instruments Hit a Profound Chord

Last summer I was fortunate to be among the faculty of the Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wrocław, Poland, organized by Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS). Friendships were forged, ideas were tested, and disciplinary lines constructively crossed, all of which I’d been prepared for ...

What is Shakespearean Tragedy?

An excerpt from "What is Shakespearean Tragedy?" forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy The question "What is Shakespearean Tragedy?" can understandably prompt one to start listing distinctive features of various plays by Shakespeare — as if a successful enumeration of its characteristics would amount ...

Interview with an Expert on Violence

In late September the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, which I direct, arranged a talk by Anabel Hernández, a Mexican journalist and courageous writer whose book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords And Their Godfathers,has just been published in English by Verso. I had heard about ...

Writing Moves the Sky

First of all I would like to thank the New School, and Edith Kurzweil who invited me to this eighth William Phillips lecture and gave me the opportunity to come to the prestigious New School. My father Harold Kaplan was a great friend of William Phillips, ...

How to Beat Writer's Block

These games are offered as solutions for two kinds of problems. One is writer’s block. Let’s be done with the waiting for ‘inspiration’. Let’s just get to work. All one has to overcome is one’s resistance to labor. The other problem is the opposite: our ...

The (Sad) Story of (Banksy’s) Beaver

You may not be aware that the beaver, this unlucky, little, cute rodent, has suffered a long history of oppression and exploitation. On the American continent, the beaver, a traditional source of clothing and food for native people, became soon after the arrival of the ...

Writing on the Wall: Letters from New York to Berlin

One day I decide to walk down from Penn Station, where I get off the train, to my office at Union Square, determined to soak in all the text that I can see on the streets. The distance I need to cover is about twenty ...

Aesthetic Community in Detroit

In the Huffington Post, author and community organizer Yusef Bunchy Shakur and co-author Jenny Lee write: "Detroit is modeling life after capitalism." One of the ways this is happening is through the work of artists who are helping to envision what that life might look ...

Snyder and Orr Suckerpunch the Arts in Michigan

In a nifty move right out of the Reagan Revolution playbook, the governor of Michigan and his hand picked bankruptcy fixer finally revealed their plan for monetizing the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The plan is brilliant in its simplicity and in ...

Memory and Miscellaneous

European Memory vs. European History: A Critical View From Estonia

This post was first published a few weeks ago. It is being featured today because of the very interesting comment by Maija Andersone-Spurina from Latvia and to encourage further discussion.  - J.G. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and break-up of the Soviet ...

A Post on Laughter and Remembering in Berlin

"...and this woman in the chic coat: is she going to clean also?” Responding to advertisements calling for people to “actively remember,” on November 9 and 10, 2013, in Berlin and other German cities, the commemorative Stolpersteine (or “the stumbling blocks”) were physically cleaned. The Stolpersteine ...

Thought-Defying Evil

This is the prepared text for a lecture given at a conference at Wesleyan University dedicated to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem held on September 25-26, 2013. In the summer of 1945 Melvin Lasky, who was stationed in Germany with ...

Torture and Dignity

This lecture to the New School's General Seminar was originally published on the above date. Given the recent revelations concerning the CIA's program of torture, we are highlighting Bernstein's reflections today, Dec. 12, 2014. -J.G. I. The Abolition of Torture Human beings are the sorts of being who ...

Remembering Janet Lippman Abu-Lughod

Twenty-thirteen is a sad year for the social sciences and history. With the death of Janet Lippman Abu-Lughod (b. 1928) last Saturday, the best of academic learning has suffered another blow. Her passing joins the recent loss of her New School colleagues Eric Hobsbawm, Aristide ...

The Social Condition

I am embarking upon a new project, the investigation of the social condition, identifying dilemmas that are inevitably built into the social fabric, and exploring the ways people work to address them. Some examples: It is obviously important for a democratic society to provide equal opportunity ...

The Social Condition: The Third Intellectual Project

Sociologists face three distinct intellectual projects in their work. They are well aware of two of them, but the third remains in the shadows. The two standard projects are the study of the social construction, and the study of social effects. The third, the study ...

From Sartre to the Social Condition

In “Existentialism is humanism,” Sartre concisely attempted to make his existentialism clear. The authentic human condition is a marked by choices, and by the realization that these choices are man’s, his/hers alone. In one of the most memorable parts of the treatise, Sartre tells of ...

The Case for Thoughtful Educational Assessment

A long-ago mathematics colleague at another university told a story about his first semester in the classroom. He threw a bunch of proofs on the blackboard and then, in the last five minutes, asked if there were any questions. There were no questions. He was unnerved. ...

Against the Education Uncertainty Principle

Higher education in the U.S is in crisis. No doubt about it. But I worry that we are in real danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The crisis has many dimensions, not the least of which is economic: ever increasing tuition, diminishing job ...

Kierkegaard’s Frenemies: From Adorno to Zizek

2013 was Kierkegaard’s 200th  birthday. I am grateful to Mark Taylor for asking me to contribute something to his birthday celebration, and also for not giving us any time to prepare for it. Had he done so I might have had to do more than say ...

Against Social Determinism

Getting anything done generally requires the collaboration of people who do different kinds of work, and whose various kinds of work has shaped various kinds of thinking. It calls for some kind of translation or code switching. It can be hard enough getting people who ...