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11. January 2015, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Promises, Contracts and the Derivative Form

Arjun Appadurai

Derivatives (financial instruments that involve trading on the basis of differential assessments of the future prices of other underlying assets) are ways in which financiers have found ways to make money out of risk, rather than out of prices of assets. Derivatives therefore raise the question of whether they are themselves a version of the commodity form or whether they represent a new symbolic form in which money has become largely separate from commodities. This puzzle is central to the sense in which finance has become the dominant current form of capital. My lecture explores the relationship between promises, contracts and derivatives to suggest that derivative finance is the latest instance of Joseph Schumpeter’s idea of “creative destruction”, in which capitalism grows and expands by destroying its prior institutional axioms and forms.

11. January 2015, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Social Capital in the Network Society

Martin Hartmann

In Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work (1993) social capital comprises features of social organizations such as trust, norms and networks that facilitate cooperation. Later Putnam uses social capital merely by referring to networks. In his article Martin Hartmann analyzes the relation between networks and social capital in relying on Putnam’s distinction between horizontal and vertical networks. While Putnam assumes that vertical networks, that is networks between unequal or unequally powerful individuals, cannot engender norms of reciprocal obligation and thus cannot produce social capital, Hartmann claims that social capital can be produced in the context of asymmetrical relations. To substantiate this thesis an economic model of networks is introduced and linked to neoliberal contemporary capitalism. In building upon the work of Boltanski and Chiapello it is further assumed that neoliberal capitalism is a network capitalism in which those who can successfully act in these networks as they are flexible and in possession of key qualifications rely on the work of a static and hardly recognized stratum of “doubles” that locally administers and organizes the social capital from which the successful, the ‘network opportunists’, profit. Read more

11. January 2015, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

The Real Subsumption of Subjectivity: Property, Social Space, and the Nomos of the Oikos in 1848

Anna Kornbluh

In early 1848, the Manifesto of the Communist Party irrevocably articulated “class struggle” as the defining feature of “all hitherto existing society.”  Exploring the consequences of this universalization of antagonism, this lecture considers the moment of 1848 as revolutionary not only in practice (in the Springtime of the Peoples), but also in theory: in the concep-tualization, across political discourse, literary invention, and mathematical formalism, of what Marx called “real sub- sumption.”  The disappearance of the gap between capitalism and its preconditions, between capitalism and sociality as such, between capitalist schemes for intersubjectivity and all other schemes, is a historical transformation of capital, even as it obscures history.  The Manifesto and Wuthering Heights (1848) (and, in a surprising way, the discovery of Set Theory) each make that transformation thinkable.

11. January 2015, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

The riddle of value or, where to begin

Vicki Kirby

t.b.a. very soon

26. November 2014, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

SONY DSCArjun Appadurai is the Goddard Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, where he is also Senior Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge.  He also serves as Tata Chair Professor at The Tata Institute for Social Sciences in Mumbai and as a Senior Research Partner at the Max-Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Gottingen. He was previously Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives at The New School in New York City, where he also held a Distinguished Professorship as the John Dewey Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences. Arjun Appadurai was the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The New School from 2004-2006. He was formerly the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of International Studies, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Center on Cities and Globalization at Yale University. Appadurai is the founder and now the President of PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research), a non-profit organization based in and oriented to the city of Mumbai (India). During his academic career, he has also held professorial chairs at Yale University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, and has held visiting appointments at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), the University of Delhi, the University of Michigan, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Iowa, Columbia University and New York University. Arjun Appadurai has held numerous fellowships and scholarships and has received several scholarly honors. He has authored numerous books and scholarly articles, including Fear of Small Numbers: The Future as a Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition (2013; An Essay on the Geography of Anger (Duke 2006) and Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minnesota 1996; Oxford India 1997). His books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Italian. Website

Regarding the topic of the Winter School 2015, his areas of expertise are Financescapes, Anthropology of Globalization, Cultural Dynamics, Urban South Asia

MARTIN HARTMANNMartin Hartmann is professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Lucerne. He studied philosophy, comparative literature and sociology at the University of Constance, the London School of Economics and the Freie Universität in Berlin. He received his PhD with a thesis entitled Kreativität der Gewohnheit. Grundzüge einer pragmatistischen Demokratietheorie (The Creativity of Habit: Principles of a Pragmatist Theory of Democracy at the Goethe University Frankfurt in 2001 where he also qualified in 2009 as a professor (Habilitation) with a thesis entitled Die Praxis des Vertrauens (The Practice of Trust). Martin Hartmann was a scientific assistant and lecturer at the Department of Philosophy of the Goethe University and  a research associate at the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt (Institut für Sozialforschung). He was a visiting fellow at the University of Chicago and the “Maison des Sciences de l’Homme” in Paris and an associate professor at the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the Goethe University Frankfurt. Martin Hartmann is Chairman of the Board of the ”Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Lucerne (GSL)” and Scientific Director of the Executive MAS “Philosophy and Management” at the University of Lucerne. Website

Regarding the topic of the Winter School 2015, his areas of expertise are Social Capital, Network Society, Political Philosophy, Social Philosophy


Vicki KirbyIMG_0617 is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales in Sydney.  She holds a BA Hons from Sydney University and PhD from The University of California at Santa Cruz.  She has an enduring interest in the question of language and matter, and works at the intersection of feminism, deconstruction and science studies.  She has held numerous Visiting Fellowships (Australian National University, University of Waikato, Auckland University, Utrecht University, The George Washington University, Centre for Contemporary Theory, Gujarat).  Her books include Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal, Judith Butler: Live Theory, and Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large. Website

Regarding the topic of the Winter School 2015, her areas of expertise are Value, Embodiment, Language, Nature/Culture Division Poststructuralism, Feminist Theory, Quantum Anthropology


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnna Kornbluh is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois Chicago.  Her work centers on conceptual and historical connections between the Victorian novel and critical theory.  She is the author of Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form, which studies the emergence of the metaphor of “psychic economy” in the epoch of financialization, and she is currently writing two books,   The Order of Forms, an experimental anti-mimetic ontology of literary realism rooted in its relations with architecture, structural anthropology, and mathematical formalism, aimed at wresting literary (and political) theory from Foucauldianism, and Marxism: Fight Club, for the Bloomsbury Film Theory in Practice series.  Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in ELH (English Literary History), Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Mediations, Historical Materialism, Henry James Review, and elsewhere.  For links to essays, talks, reviews, Chicago projects, and calls for collaborations, visit her website

Regarding the topic of the Winter School 2015, her areas of expertise are Capital, Marxism, Critical Theory, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism, Formalism, Victorianism

15. September 2014, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

When: 5 – 11 February 2015
Where: Schloss Münchenwiler near Berne, Switzerland
Languages: English (main), German, French
ECTS: 6 | Costs: 500.- Swiss francs (travel and accommodation [double room] covered by organizer)

Application deadline: 13 October 2014

Official flyer

Read more

11. September 2014, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments


For quite some time now, the concept of “capital” has been employed as an analytical category in the humanities and the social sciences beyond simple economic reductionism. Such critical but in the main affirmative appropriations include Pierre Bourdieu’s mapping of types of capital (economic, social, cultural, symbolic) within a multidimensional social topology, James S. Coleman’s conceptualization of “social capital” as a form of capital that inheres in social relations and transactions between and among actors, or John Guillory’s introduction of “cultural capital” into the analysis of debates on canonical vs. non-canonical literature. More recently, we have been able to observe a growing concern about the alliance of biotechnology and capitalism. Enlisting terms like “genetic capital”, “biovalue” or “biocapital”, analyses elaborate Foucault’s “biopolitics” and Paul Rabinow’s “biosociality” – concepts that have already articulated how technologies bring “natural life into the realm of calculations”.

In parallel with such interdisciplinary transformations of “capital”, interest in the workings of “financescapes” (Arjun Appadurai), the simultaneously disjunctive and intertwined relationships between capital, technology, the media and socio-cultural practice continues to be investigated, as do the number of investigations of the disposition of global financial capital. The transfer of money via electronic market places has reached dimensions previously unimaginable. Moreover, financial trading and speculation appear without any regulation by coherent self-regulating markets, let alone a selfish yet reliably rational homo oeconomicus. Contrary to the hope of some still euphoric representatives of the economic sciences, more and more critical economists and business representatives, and an increasingly sceptical public, conceive of the financial world as irrational, chaotic and unpredictably metastatic. A veritable hauntology (Derrida) is emerging, with the financial crises of the first decade of the new millennium as harbingers of an inevitably global collapse. It congeals into the figure of the “trader” with his or her narrative of voracious deprivation and addictive moral and physical self-destruction within a hermetically concealed, spectrally guided sect.

Paradoxically, insider and outsider narratives criticizing the invisible confusion of the postmillennial Oikodizee or the fatal disorganization of global-liberal capitalistic competition are congeneric with euphoric notions of the market guided by an “invisible hand” automatically leading to the common good (Adam Smith). Both build on dichotomies between order and chaos, rationality and irrationality, which, according to Josef Vogl, have characterized all political economic discourses since the late 17th century, including the critical voices.

The Winter School 2015 addresses the following questions:

  • Is “capital” an indispensable tool in order to analyse (and criticize) past and present economic realities, especially today’s (imaginary but highly effective) high-speed train of globalized financial competition and its constituting Others that are left behind?
  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of “capital” as an interdisciplinary analytical tool beyond (neo)classical economic questions?
  • Might the tendency to treat “capital” as a coin for exchange within the humanities and beyond lead to an all too stable concept of “capital” that turns out to be itself an effect of a genuine haunting which has erratically infected the way we do research and ask questions? Are we capitalized by “capital” – and might there be adequate alternatives, such as “value”?
  • Do such derivative forms of capital also disclose new conceptions of individuality, personhood and mediation? Does the question of “value” f.e. allow a sidestepping of matter-culture dichotomies, as it might shift our attention to what gives every kind of system or unit (literary, economical, ecological, physical, biological) it’s general weight?


Invited guests and the focus of their lecture

Arjun Appadurai
(Social-Cultural Anthropology, New York University)
Anthropology of Globalization, Financescapes, Cultural Dynamics, Urban South Asia

Martin Hartmann
(Philosophy, University of Lucerne)
Political Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Social Capital, Network Society

Vicki Kirby
(Philosophy / Sociology, University of New South Wales)
Poststructuralism, Feminist Theory, Quantum Anthropology, Value, Embodiment, Language, Nature/Culture Division

Anna Kornbluh
(Victorian Literature / Critical Theory, University of Illinois)
Victorian Novel, Critical Theory, Capital, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism, Formalism

15. August 2014, mrossini | 0 Comments

Linking back to the Winter School 2013 and the theme of posthumanism, I’d like to invite those of you working on human-animal and human-machine relations and intersections between the humanities, medicine and technoscience more broadly, to consider participating in this international conference and doctoral workshop. Further info: link

When: 4-6 June, 2015
Where: Geneva (t.b.c.), Switzerland
Deadline for abstract submission: 30 September, 2014

Guest speakers:
Jeffrey Cohen (Medieval and Early Modern Studies)
Stefan Herbrechter (Cultural Studies, Englit)
Margrit Shildrick (Gender Studies, Bioethics)
Cary Wolfe (Animal Studies, EngLit)

26. March 2014, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Manuela Rossini and Mike Toggweiler are editing an issue of Word & Text on “cultural transfer”. We are happy to announce our call for papers and welcome abstracts from interested scholars until 27 June 2014.

26. March 2014, Michael Toggweiler | 0 Comments

Between heterogeneity and homogeneity – guest lecturer Anil Bhatti from Jawaharlal Nehru University of New Delhi emphasizes the advantages of considering cultural processes in terms of similarity

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