Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Critical researches into capitalism, its cultures, histories…

Detail from Lenin in Kremlin, Nikolai-Nikolaevich Baskakov (1918-1993). Source: www.leningradschool.com, Wikimedia Commons

This series of sessions focuses on exploring the cultures of capitalism, organised by Richard Checketts, Gail Day and John Mowitt (Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies).

We aim to bring together historical, historiographical and theoretical perspectives, with an eye not only to the social formation classically known as ‘capitalism’, but also to its prehistories and its possible ‘post-histories’; to questions of value, capital, processes of capital subsumption; the interdependencies of capital and colonialism; the reshaping of spatial and temporal experience; and the revival of marxist-feminism. The question of ‘materialism’ is addressed directly through our reading group.

We invite those who wish to join us in this collective endeavour to contact Gail Day at g.a.day@leeds.ac.uk.

The agenda for this session is as follows:

First meeting of the Critical researches into capitalism, its culture, histories… group

Reading group convened by Professor John Mowitt: VI Lenin, Materialism & Empirio-Criticism (Chapter 1, pp 21-72: further details below)

Venue: Chemistry West Block 1.80

Reading group information:

What matters to Lenin?

In recent years we have witnessed a distinct resurgence of interest in the theme and question of materialism. Object oriented ontology and speculative realism have emerged as burning concerns within academic philosophy while various preoccupations with things, objects (even hyperobjects), materials, environments etc. have fanned out across the humanities and social sciences. Much of this development has proceeded as if either ignorant of, or in unspoken disagreement with, the tradition of materialist thought that one can trace up through Spinoza to Marx.

In light of this it seems urgent now to think a bit more carefully about this tradition, and precisely as it came to square off with positive science (or critical rationalism), on the pages of Vladimir Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism from 1908. This text (comprising an entire volume in the collected works), sadly neglected within Marxism as more philosophical than political, not only generates a richly generative framework for grasping the present moment of materialism, but also, because its reception history includes the role its arguments came to play in the formative Positivismusstreit that dominated German philosophy in the 1960s, this text illuminates the path taken to the present.

As part of the Capitalism research project, we will be hosting a series of reading groups in which we will work our way through two central sections of this text: the lengthy and ambitious chapters gathered together under the rubric, The Theory of Knowledge, and the subsequent chapter Philosophical Idealists. Participants are encouraged to read the text in its entirety, but only these portions will figure in the discussions of the reading group.

For the first meeting, please prepare chapter one (pages 21-72). Professor John Mowitt will initiate discussion with a few opening remarks.

Image: Detail from Lenin in Kremlin, Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov (1918-1993). Source: www.leningradschool.com, Wikimedia Commons

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