Show The Graduate Center Menu

Colloquium: Gavin Smith, "Intellectuals and Counter-Politics..."

MAR 21, 2014 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 21, 2014: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM





Ph.D. Program in Anthropology


Gavin A. Smith
Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto

"Intellectuals and Counter-Politics: Between Reflexvity and Engagement"

 In this paper I argue that the forms capitalism takes is best seen in terms of the dominance of specific power blocs, rather than as an expression of neoliberalism – either as a form of governance or as a kind of capitalist market ideology. I suggest that in the major social formations the conditions for the reproduction of finance capital have to be secured by the hegemonic strategies of this fraction of capital. As a result, we have seen a shift from a kind of hegemony whose ideological authority rested on expansion through a population configured as ideally homogenous, to a kind of hegemony whose ideological authority rests on selectivity and distinctions among the population. The intellectual task for a philosophy of praxis has three foci: assessment of the conditions of possibility, of the potentialities for popular mobilization, and of appropriate strategic actions – identifying key points of leverage.
 I argue that selective hegemony induces a politics of negotiation between and among distinct groups. But finance capital as a means for capturing surplus value (rather than producing it) produces surplus populations less relative than absolute. Here the conditions of the political economic apparatus offer no benefits in their current form so that only a counter-politics that rejects the principles of politics as normatively practised can arise. The threefold foci of intellectual engagement are likely to be qualitatively different for interventions in these two forms of politics. Public intellectuals have tended to relate to the former; the question arises as to what kinds of research agenda would contribute to the latter.