Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Monthly Archives: January 2011

CFP: Capital Against Capitalism

Hey folks – sorry that I am again leaving comments hanging – trying to make the most of an extremely brief break for writing. I did want to post the attached call for papers, for the event Capital against capitalism: a conference of new Marxist research, to be held in Sydney on 25 June 2011.

More soon…


Capital Against Capitalism
a conference of new Marxist research
Saturday 25 June 2011
Central Sydney

It seems significant, and hardly coincidental, that the impasse that politics fell into after the 1960s and 1970s coincided with the eclipse of Marx and the research project of historical materialism. Social democracy, various left-wing melancholies and/ or the embrace of dead political forms has stood-in for these absent names. Returning to Marx, to Capital and to the various traditions tied-up with these names may present a way to cut across this three-fold deadlock.

We invite papers responding to contemporary politics from a range of historical materialist perspectives. We want to bring together the theoretical discussions and debates occurring in Capital reading groups, PhD study circles, and Marxist political organisations and networks. Our conjuncture – its manifold crisis – urges new analyses, new strategic orientations and the engagement of activists and academics alike on these questions.

Conference structure
The conference will involve two plenaries and four workshops. There will be space for 12 workshop papers about, or connected to, the conference theme. We are happy to receive proposals for themed workshops of three papers, with the caveat that we may need to alter suggested panels or reject individual papers to ensure overall timetabling.

In our opening plenary, Rick Kuhn will overview the argument of his new book, with Tom Bramble, Labor’s conflict: big business, workers and the politics of class (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Geoff Robinson and Tad Tietze will act as respondents. The final session will be a keynote address from Nicole Pepperell on the key ideas of her PhD thesis and forthcoming book on Marx’s Capital (to be published by Brill, as part of the Historical Materialism Book Series, later this year).

In all sessions there will be time for contributions from conference participants. To maximise discussion at the conference, each first plenary and workshop speaker will have 15 minutes to overview their paper.

Proposals for papers
Proposals for papers should be submitted by 15 March 2011 to Elizabeth Humphrys (lizhumphrys [at] and Jonathon Collerson (jonathoncollerson [at] Authors should also indicate whether they would be submitting a written paper for refereeing. Papers should be 1500, and no longer than 1800 words. Refereed conference papers will be published, potentially also as a special issue of an academic journal. We reserve the right to reject papers if we have too many to fill the allocated slots, or they are deemed unsuitable, but we will do our best to accommodate everyone.

Key Dates
1 February – Call for papers
15 March – Abstracts due
1 May – Papers due for refereeing; conference timetable released
1 June – Feedback to authors
25 June – Conference

Other details
The conference will be held in Central Sydney, in easy reach of public transport and in an accessible location. There will be a small conference fee, of approximately $20-$30 on average, to cover the cost of lunches and travel costs for the interstate speakers. Full details to follow. If you require childcare please contact us to discuss this by 1 June 2011. The conference organisers will not be arranging billeting, but please contact us if you are unable to arrange your own accommodation option. As the conference has no outside funding source, we will be unable to cover travel costs for workshop presenters.

Facebook event page:

Elizabeth Humphrys and Jonathon Collerson (obo the organising group)


In an indirect and incomplete way, some of the questions currently hanging in the comments here, I’ve addressed – sleepily – in a comment over at Nate’s… Rather than spreading the discussion across two sites, I thought I’d just post a pointer over there… Eventually (soon?), I’ll try to take up some of these issues over here…

Insomnia [Updated After Some Sleep…]

Updated to add, after more sleep and a chance to backtrack the history in a way I couldn’t stay awake to do at 4 a.m., I’m backing cautiously away from the sympathetic read of the piece as satire. Which is a pity, since replicating standard psychology experimental methods in a way that so successfully draws out the limitations of some common problematic research practices would have been just brilliant – much more brilliant than a “straight” read of the paper… (What can I say – my tendency to look for sarcasm has a wish-fulfilment element: I want more brilliant things in the world – and many things would in fact be more brilliant – if only they were written as satires…) The rebuttal gets it right nevertheless:

Do these results mean that psi can now be considered real, replicable, and reliable?

We think that the answer to this question is negative, and that the take home message of Bem’s research is in fact of a completely different nature. One of the discussants of the Utts review paper made the insightful remark that “Parapsychology is worth serious study. (…) if it is wrong [i.e., psi does not exist], it offers a truly alarming massive case study of how statistics can mislead and be misused.” (Diaconis, 1991, p. 386). And this, we suggest, is precisely what Bem’s research really shows. Instead of revising our beliefs regarding psi, Bem’s research should instead cause us to revise our beliefs on methodology: the field of psychology currently uses methodological and statistical strategies that are too weak, too malleable, and offer far too many opportunities for researchers to befuddle themselves and their peers.


I try to keep this off the blog, but, in my spare time – and sometimes in time that shouldn’t be so spared – I read sort of absurd quantities of research in the “hard” sciences. I’m particularly fond of medical research, but I’ll read more or less anything that I can manage to follow – it’s a sort of indiscriminate, unfocused, random consumption of indifferent scientific research. Often, this reading starts informally enough, trawling through the science sections of newspapers – a quick read usually generates at least one article in an average science section that just doesn’t feel right, and I backtrack from there to the original studies (some easier to find than others…). Sometimes the gratification is just working out what the news account got wrong; sometimes the gratification comes in the form of irritation at a badly designed study that was, unfortunately, pretty accurately reported in the press; sometimes the research will be genuinely interesting and well designed – and then I often end up tracking from the paper where I landed, to other material written on the field. This gives me scattered tidbits of information on all sorts of random stuff, without much expertise in anything in particular. But I enjoy it. It’s how I relax. Read more of this post

Hanging Comments

Just wanted to apologise to everyone for whom I’ve left comments hanging. I’ve got a brutal work schedule at the moment, and am also moving house, which has disrupted my net access considerably, so I’ve been online only for essentials. I’m hoping the net access issue will be resolved in the next week, and the work demands should also calm down as well, at least in relative terms…