Work-in-Progress Meeting - 11 April 2024

We’re delighted to be welcoming the following scholars in our virtual work-in-progress meeting, which will be held on 11 April 2024 at 14:00 BST. This session will consist of three 20-minute presentations followed by a 40-minute discussion.

To receive the Zoom link, please register on Ticket Tailor.

Reforming the defeated: The historical origin of the liberal-capitalist reforms in the world-economy

Giampaolo Conte (University of Rome 3)

This would be the first monograph which describes the political, economic and social origin of the liberal-capitalistic reforms in the nineteenth century. It highlights how liberal financial reforms shaped some sectors of semi-peripheral countries, such as the Ottoman Empire, Egypt and China, to the rules and norms of the hegemonic state - Britain at that time - for the sake of capital reproduction and capital accumulation by economic ruling élite - in Europe and beyond - and national hegemonic state. The chief purpose of such reforms was to integrate semi-peripheral states into the capitalist world-economy by imposing, both directly and indirectly, the adoption of rules, institutions, attitudes and procedures amenable to exploitation on the part of foreign and also local capitalists. The book wants to argue that foreign pressure for financial reforms was instrumental in the semi-peripherals’ economic subjection to the rules and norms that regulated the capitalist world-economy, most notably in the field of public finance, banking and the monetary sector. Moreover, capitalist financial reforms may also be seen as tools to extend and enforce class domination thanks to an interested alliance between capitalist élite within the hegemonic state and peripheral countries. The proposed reforms can also be understood as an improving well-being tool. It is, in fact, the promise of actually improving the material conditions of society. The commitment to well-being for the entire society through financial reforms is an enchantment of capital, which give only andavages to the capital-holding class.

The research takes a long-term view and largely adheres to the scholarly evolution of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and world-systems theory and methodology developed by Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi, adopting a multidisciplinary and macro-scale perspective. Special attention is paid to the correlation between secondary and primary sources in support of empirical evidence. More broadly, this research contributes to the literature on the capitalist world-economy and brings a set of theoretical frameworks to bear on defining the role of capitalist-style financial reforms induced mainly by Britain in peripheral and semi-peripheral countries

This research work wants to bring to the forefront of the field of capitalism studies the concept of reforms as an active element of changing in favour of an holistic capitalistic transformation of societies.

Towards A Political Theology of Enchantment

Marika Rose (University of Winchester)

This paper makes use of the work of Sylvia Wynter to theorize enchantment in accounts of the transition from the world of medieval Christianity to secular modernity. Wynter’s work undoes easy narrative of secularization as a process of disenchantment, and suggests that we can understand shifts in the understanding and regulation of magic track in relation to shifts in in the understanding and regulation of distinctions of race, class and gender. These distinctions make up what Wynter describes as the ‘genre of the human’ around which Western power organises itself. Magic has no coherence as a category except insofar as it is that which is excluded by the categories of theology, religion or science; insofar as its exclusion is one of the ways in which those categories gain their own coherence. For Wynter though, crucially, what happens is not simply the loss of any sense of the broader universe as the mirror of human societies but the transposition of the key distinctions between good and evil from the physical world to biology - from a belief in the separation of the earth into earthly and heavenly, habitable and inhabitable, to a belief in the separation of humankind into rational and irrational, citizens and slaves. This paper argues that this shift has more to do with the invention of private property and the epistemology necessary for it, rather than the doing away of religion or magic as such.

Theaster Gates and the Aesthetic of the Capital

Donato Loia (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

During the 2008 financial crisis, a pivotal moment in Theaster Gates’s art career, he acquired an abandoned property near his residence in Grand Crossing. This endeavor marked the inception of Dorchester Projects (2008). From there, Gates began channeling his energy and resources into purchasing, renovating, and repurposing more abandoned structures. The objective of this presentation is to explore an “aesthetic of the capital” of which Theaster Gates represents, if not the most prominent, certainly one of the most significant examples in the contemporary art world. Art has always been intertwined with an economic dynamic rooted in the use of raw materials and their conversion into a distinct class of objects known as “works of art.” But Gates goes beyond mere reuse and transformation of raw materials, as the entire process underlying the Dorchester Projects becomes a work of art in itself. Dorchester Projects is a form of “real-estate art,” as other commentators have already noticed. Furthermore, Gates’s work embraces both “commodity seduction” and “spirituality” or religious references without any qualms, combining the two seamlessly. Business ventures, fundraising, art, and the sanctity of money, which has become a generator of ultimate values in contemporary society, all interact and influence one another within Gates’s art. This conflation between art, money, and religion often returns in Gates’s work. For instance, in Basel, one of the financial capitals of the world, Gates exhibited a work entitled A Cross Between Finance and Pastoral Care (2017), which highlights the embrace between capitalism and religion through its juxtaposition of decorative terracotta elements salvaged from a demolished Chicago building and a pedestal hewn from Swiss rock. Ultimately, Gates’s practice makes clear that capitalism constitutes a general framework, a surrounding world from which it is impossible to escape. Capitalism forms a crucial component to understand the condition of existence of Gates’s practice, and it has demonstrated to be able to absorb anything in itself, hence the artist seems to be pragmatically suggesting that it is better to act from within its paradigms, trying to reshape and redirect its significance and operative modalities.

Interested in presenting in future work-in-progress meetings? Contact us with a title, an abstract of 200-400 words, and a brief bio. Please include your time zone and preferred dates (Thursdays or Fridays) in your message. Note that these meetings will likely take place in Fall 2024.