Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Marx Roundtable: Update

Just updating an earlier post about the Roundtable on Marx’s Capital, to be held by the Society for Social and Political Philosophy at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, from 24-27 February, 2011. The scheduled participants are:

Harry Cleaver, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Texas at Austin

Roundtable Presenters:
Alex Anderson, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, McGill University
Arianne Fischer, Assistant Professor of Intellectual Heritage, Temple University
Douglas Hanes, Ph. D. candidate in Political Science, McGill University
Jamie Kelly, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Vassar College
Adam Moeller, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Emory University
Rafael Mota, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture, SUNY Binghamton
Patrick Murray, Professor of Philosophy, Creighton University
Nicole Pepperell, Program Director, Social Science (Psychology), RMIT University
Christopher Ruth, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Villanova University
Devin Zane Shaw, Part-Time Professor of Philosophy, University of Ottawa
Jessica Soester, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Southern Illinois University
Sarah Vitale, Ph. D. candidate in Philosophy, Villanova University

William Lewis, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Skidmore College
Jason Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine
William Clare Roberts, Faculty Lecturer in Philosophy and Political Science, McGill University
Hasana Sharp, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, McGill University
Amy Wendling, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Creighton University
Cory Wimberly, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas–Pan American

The event has a very nice format, designed to provide generous time for presentations and discussion. I’m looking forward to it.

As long as I’m escaping from Australia for a bit, I’ll likely head to the UK for at least a couple of weeks, before heading to the US for this event. If anyone knows of interesting happenings in the UK or the US in mid-February, let me know…

18 responses to “Marx Roundtable: Update

  1. John Garvey November 11, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Any chance you could make it to New York? I think a good number of people would be interested in hearing you talk about your dissertation.


  2. N Pepperell November 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Hi John – no tickets are booked yet, but I’ll be travelling to Texas from the UK, so I would imagine this would mean flying first to New York, and then booking a connecting flight to DFW or something like that. This should make a stopover in the New York possible early in the same week as the Texas event.

    Anyone hearing me speak in New York would, of course, get the worst of my jet lag… But if people are willing to put up with that, I’d be happy to join in on whatever is happening there…

  3. Chuckie K November 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    February has the nicest weather of the year in Central Texas.

  4. N Pepperell November 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah, I’ll unfortunately probably be there only for the days of the actual conference, but I used to live in the area. (I’ve been trying to decide how I feel about driving in the US again – I’ve gotten used to being on the other side of the street, and the car…)

  5. John Garvey November 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm


    New York would benefit from your worst more than it would from a lot of other folks’ best. Can you be a bit specific about dates?


  6. Chuckie K November 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Have you dealt with Harry before? I don’t know if he is expectd to participate in the discussion, but unless age has mellowed him, he will make my veiws sound congenial and conciliatory.

  7. Chuckie K November 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Does it make sense to dis-recommend something? I picked up a copy of the BErliner Verien zur Foerderung der MEGA-Edition e.V. Wissenshcaftliche Mitteilungen Heft 6 (2008) because the title of the issue Gesellschaftliche Praxis und Ihre Wissenschaftliche Darstellung: Beitraege zur Kapital-Diskussion sounded promising. But alas if the contributions share a notion of social practice, it is far more abstract than the social practice that interests us.

  8. N Pepperell November 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    lol – I’ve read Harry’s work, but not interacted with him in person. I don’t find his positions particularly alien to what I think, though – he might arc up at how I say things – hard to tell – I’m fairly informal in person… – but, given that he’s signed himself up for a philosophy event, and the participants had to send in some indication of what they were planning to say in order to get an invite, I assume he’ll have some advance sense of what he’s in for… 🙂

    John – I haven’t made any reservations yet (need to wrangle the details of how long I could be away from work), but the Texas event begins on the 24th, so presumably I’ll fly out there on the 23rd. So perhaps if there were something taking place on the 21st and/or 22nd?

  9. N Pepperell November 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Somehow I missed your second comment, Chuckie K – I think I had my browser window open too long… Disrecommendations are, if anything, even more valuable… there’s just too much reading I need to do – any culling principle is welcomed… (The term itself reminds me, though, of the thesis disacknowledgement section that was making the rounds a few months back…)

  10. John Garvey November 13, 2010 at 8:11 am


    Let me see what I can do.


  11. Chuckie K November 15, 2010 at 9:43 am

    The opening paragraph of Reading Capital Politically asserts, “Marx … wrote Capital to put a weapon in the hands of workers.”
    Harry meant that very seriously. For him it is *the* fundamental point in reading Marx, and separates the revolutionaries from the Marxologists. On that point, you might expect disagreement with your presentation.

  12. N Pepperell November 15, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Chuckie K – to be honest, I’m not too worried about this sort of thing. I don’t mind if someone is exercised about this – it’s happened occasionally before, although to be honest I usually get this kind of objection from specialist academics, rather than from activists… (There will be a self-selection issue to this pattern, of course, because when I’ve spoken to activists, it’s generally because they were interested in talking about how to make sense of Marx’s texts.) It’s a fair reaction if someone wants to find what I do insufficiently practical or political – I don’t think I over-promote the significance of what I’m doing, although I also don’t think what I do is devoid of practical interest either.

    On another level, though, this would seem a bit of weird flashpoint for discussion in this particular event. He’s agreed to keynote at an event organised by a society interested in social and political philosophy, a society that happens to be holding an event on Marx and on new readings of Marx, but that often holds events on other figures. I would think, if someone has a really strong objection to hearing people talk about Marxology, this wouldn’t be the sort of event they’d be keen to keynote.

    He’ll have whatever reaction he has, of course, and from my point of view, that’ll be fine (although, given how many of the presenters are postgraduate students, presumably at much earlier points in their study than I am, I’d sort of prefer this sort of objection gets leveled at people like me, or like Patrick Murray, or the other more experienced speakers who can be expected to have more secure positions and more practice at having a thick skin – but I have no reason to assume it would be otherwise).

  13. N Pepperell November 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Just realising that I’ve probably not addressed the main thrust of your comment – the issue of why I don’t think it’s a substantive betrayal of Marx’s project to be a “Marxologist”.

    When Marx set out to place weapons in the hands of the working classes, he did this by writing a several-thousand-page text, with an extremely baroque, unintuitive organisational structure, presentational strategy, and method. I don’t believe Marx intended the work to be so inaccessible. Engels had a better sense of this, and did what he could to try to encourage Marx to modify the style, but without much effect. Marx both overestimated how intuitive the work would be, and he also delighted in the notion that, to the degree that the work did mislead readers and attract unjustified criticism, he would be able to turn the tables on his critics in later volumes – volumes that, as it turns out, he was never able to complete…

    All of this makes it more difficult than I think Marx intended it to be, for people to make political use of his writings. Political uses of his texts involve unpacking the texts themselves…

    This isn’t to say that this sort of unpacking has to take the form of my work, or has to take place in some special sort of privileged institutional setting. It’s just to say that I’m not hugely bothered by oppositions of the sort you’ve drawn above – people can take or leave my reading, but it’s not an objection, per se, that I’m doing “Marxology” – some sort of Marxology is going to be done, if someone is putting forward a reading of Capital. Otherwise we can just bypass the text, and talk about political strategy without reference to the work at all. This is as true for Reading Capital Politically as for any other sort of work. The substantive objection wouldn’t be that something is “Marxological”, but that the Marxology being put forward is bad.

  14. Chuckie K November 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Oh, i wasn’t trying to make any kind of argument. Just passing on what I’ve heard Harry say. And thinking of other occasions when he spoke with surprising vehemence on topics that didn’t seem that serious. There will be no accountants in socialism!

  15. N Pepperell November 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Hey Chuckie K – sorry you got held in moderation – it shouldn’t do this when you’ve posted before (but did it to drew the other day, and he’s posted before as well…).

    But yeah – these sorts of arguments and criticisms do get made in the space, and so I’m aware it may come up. I’m looking forward to the event – and I guess we’ll see what happens 🙂

  16. Bis January 6, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Dear Nicole I belong to a Capital Reading Group which meets fortnightly in Birkbeck College, London University. We are currently on the “Machinery” chapter of Volume 1. We would be delighted if you could spare an hour or two to speak to us about Capital Volume 1 when you are in London in February.

    Happy New Year!


  17. N Pepperell January 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Hi Bis – would love to – if you wanted to email me at npepperell at my google account, we could work out details. I’ll be spending the first part of the visit in Shropshire, but will be in London sometime around the 18th/19th, if those dates work for you – I’m still penning down exact dates at that end of the trip, so this may change a bit. Just let me know what might work, and we’ll go from there…

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