Political Concepts at Brown, December 4, 2015 2 of 4

Political Concepts at Brown, December 4, 2015  2 of 4


We’re going to reconvene. And we’re going to have talks
on strike and formation. First, strike by
Alex Gourevitch, who is an assistant professor
of political science in the Department
of Political Science and has taught many
other places, McMaster, has been a post doc at Brown’s
political theory project. He got his PhD in Political
Science from Columbia in 2010. His interests focus
on the history of political and
economic thought, theories of freedom,
work and leisure, Marxism, rights
theory, et cetera. And then we’re going to
hear from Tal Lewis, who is a professor in the Department
of Religious Studies at Brown and is perhaps best known
as a scholar of Hegel, and has just published a book
that I want to hold up for show and tell because
I want to read it. Just came out. Why Philosophy Matters for
the Study of Religion and Vice Versa. And Tal is on leave
from Brown this year and he’s at Princeton. So without further ado, let’s
begin with strike by Alex. Thank you, Nathaniel. And thank you to Audie
and Ariella and Amanda for inviting me to speak today. My concept today is the strike. And there is a way
in which the strike is a pretty simple concept. It’s easy to define. It’s a work stoppage
to achieve some end, and it’s obviously political. You look at back in
time to early history, the secession of the
plebs was a mass strike in which they refused to perform
the primary labor required of them by the Roman
Republic, which was their military service. And they refused to perform
it until they had their debts cancelled, and eventually until
they had new forms of political representation in the Republic. It’s the birth of the
institution of the tribune and a lot of the other classic
institutions of the Roman Republic. So from the very
beginnings of at least western political history all
the way until almost about yesterday, it’s obvious
that strikes are political. We’ve had strikes by Seattle
public school teachers demanding not just higher
wages and better conditions, but for corrections with
respect to racial injustice and disciplinary practices in
Seattle public schools, strikes by University of
Missouri football players to deal with racial
injustice on campus. So there seems to be no
mystery about the strike. It’s easy to define and
it’s obviously political. So what more is there to say
about this in the context of political concepts? Well, part of what
I want to say, or all of what I
want to say today, is that strikes are
actually pretty complicated, analytically and when it comes
to the analysis of the concept, but also to defend, or to figure
out what our defense of them is, and where they stand
morally and socially. So if you just consider
the kinds of things, and the way they’ve
been described, in the history of political
and social thought, you have William Benbow, who was
a kind of radical chartist, who called his theory of
the general strike– he titled the pamphlet A
Grand National Holiday. So strikes were these days
of ease, gaiety, and leisure. On the other hand you have
someone like Walter Benjamin calling strikes extortion. And you have Friedrich
Engels saying strikes are preparation for social war. So they’re holidays
and yet they’re war. You have figures like
John Stuart Mill saying that strikes are the
necessary instrumentality of the free market and in
no way suspend anything about normal operations
of capitalism. And then on the
other hand, you have someone like
Georges Sorel saying that strikes are the
kind of mythic suspension of the everyday life of labor
under capitalism and augur in a new world. So you have some of the most
central figures theorizing strikes, talking about
them in opposing ways. And so what I want
to talk about today is some of the aspects that make
it difficult to conceptualize strikes. And in particular, I want
to talk about three things. The first is, I want to argue
that strikes should be seen as distinctive forms
of collective action, so they can’t be
subsumed under any of our other normal
ways of thinking about collective action. And I’ll say what those
normal categories are. But I want to defend them
as a distinctive form of collective action that have
to be theorized on their own. But the second
thing I want to say is that what makes it
difficult to theorize strikes is that the concept
strikes refers to an internally very heterogeneous and
sometimes mutually opposing set of social experiences
and activities. So it’s going to
turn out that when we say a strike is a work
stoppage to achieve some end, we haven’t said very much. We have to say a
lot more in order to know what we’re really
saying when we say something is a strike, and what
kind of strike it is, and that this ends up mattering
a lot for what we end up valuing about strikes,
which then will lead me to my third argument, or
really, the thing I want to put on the table
for discussion, which is that when it then
comes to the right to strike, it turns out that any reasonable
justification, some of our best justifications for
a right to strike, lead us to defend certain kinds
of practices and activities that put that right
in strong tension, or maybe even outright conflict, with some of the other
normal commitments of a liberal society
like freedom of contract, property rights, and
freedom of association. And this is another thing that
makes it very difficult to not just theorize,
but really come up with stable, strong
justifications for a right to strike and strike activities. So the first sort of
piece of the puzzle is, why are strikes distinctive
forms of collective action, and in what sense
are they distinctive? Well, one funny
thing about strikes is that there is
much less theorizing done about them than
other neighboring forms of collective action
like civil disobedience, revolutions, nonviolent action. And perhaps one reason
is because they’re seen as purely derivative. We can just subsume them under
these broader categories. And one way that’s
done in liberal theory is to say, well, look,
individual workers have a right to quit, and individual
workers quit all the time. And all that a strike is just
a collective act of quitting, people quitting together. But the straightforward
problem with that way of thinking about a strike
is that strikers don’t quit the job when they go on strike. They just quit working. And not only do
they quit working, they don’t let anyone
else, or their view is that no one else should
take their jobs because they haven’t quit the job. So it isn’t going
to work to see this as a form of collective
action that’s just a collective quitting. It’s not going to work that way. On the other side, though, there
are some people who’ve said, well, strikes are something
more like mini-revolutions, and they’re like
mini revolutions because it’s just an
attempt by a group to impose its will by force on
someone else and meet a demand. And revolutions are just that
kind of activity scaled up. But the reason that
isn’t going to work, despite there being some strong
affinities between strike activities and
mini-revolutions– sorry, strikes and revolutions–
is that revolutions are attempts to fundamentally
change the rules of society by force and even by
violence, whereas in the case of a strike, in the
typical case of a strike, there is no necessary
connection between the strike and changing any of the rules. In fact, strikes can leave
all of the normal rules of the economy
perfectly in place. All that’s been changed
is a momentary terms of the contract. Might get some higher
wages, you might get shorter hours or different
hours or things like that, but you haven’t changed
any of the rules. So it’s not going to work
to think about strikes as an attempt to–
to subsume strikes under that kind of activity. One other way we might
go is to say, well, strikes are like
civil disobedience. It’s a species of
civil disobedience, because civil disobedience are
extremely socially disruptive forms of collective action. But they operate within the
basic rules and moral framework of the existing society
in trying to bring it closer to its basic principles. And so that sort
of sounds like what a strike is, because a strike
is extremely disruptive, but it still operates within
the framework of that society. But the difficulty here is that
civil disobedience typically is understood as an act
of public lawbreaking for the aims of morally
swaying those people who have committed injustice
to correct that injustice. So a civil disobedience
an act where you publicly break the law in order to draw
attention to that injustice, and you break the
law in a way that attempts to appeal to the moral
conscience of those people who are committing the injustice,
and change their behavior. Well, the thing about strikes
is that, for one thing, they don’t necessarily involve
any lawbreaking at all. They’re not inherently illegal. They’re going to
bring workers often in strong tension with the
law, but there’s nothing essentially illegal
about attempting to achieve a work stoppage. And moreover, strikers
are often not trying to morally sway anybody at all. They’re just trying
to take by force. The point of the
work stoppage is just to raise the cost so high to the
employer of not giving workers what they want that
the employer gives in. So on the one hand, strikes
are sort of, in a sense, less threatening or disruptive
than civil disobedience because they don’t essentially
involve any lawbreaking. But on the other hand,
because they’re acts of force rather than moral
suasion, there’s a sense in which they’re
further along the spectrum of social disruption. And this is why I think one of
the most common things people say about strikes
is that they’re a species of nonviolent
social protest. So civil disobedience is
sort of a special instance, and strikes are a
special instance of this broader category
of collective action, which is called nonviolence. And this Reinhold Niebuhr,
Gandhi, Richard Gregg, Eugene Sharp, even Martin
Luther King, all of the famous, sort of the best known
theorists of nonviolent action, this is sort of what
they say about strike. And it’s a reasonable
thing to say. We can sort of subsume strikes
under the general things we say about nonviolent
action because there is a way in which, when
workers refuse to work, it’s a nonviolent action. They don’t inherently
threaten physical violence against any other
individual person. They just refuse to
go along with whatever injustice or wrong they
have a grievance about, in the same way that other
forms of nonviolent action do the same. They’re sort of forms of passive
resistance or things like that. The problem is, there’s nothing
inherent in the attempts to achieve a work
stoppage that means that you won’t use violence. So standard forms of
nonviolent action, whenever they’re
considered nonviolence, are understood to be consciously
self-limiting about the means they’re willing to use in
order to achieve their end. So all nonviolence
self-limits and refuses to use violence as part of its
means for achieving an end. That’s not the case for strikes. Strikes are often very
violent, and there’s nothing inherent in the idea
that a strike is a refusal to work in order to achieve
a work stoppage that means you will limit
the use of your means and not engage in violence. I mean, you read the history
of any industrial society, and in particular the US. United States has the
most violent labor history of any of the western
industrial societies. And they were
extraordinarily violent, and strikers often
thought it was a perfectly reasonable,
justified feature of their strike activity
that they used violence against agents of the state
who tried to repress or stop the stop the strike against
scabs who could only be prevented from taking
jobs by being physically intimidated or
physically blocked or threatened against private
security forces of employers. I recently came across an
account of striking miners who hired out a plane–
this was in 1922, I think– to drop dynamite bombs
on National Guardsmen who were protecting replacement workers. That was in the United States. And a lot of strikes
are organized– many of the strikes of
that period were organized by civil war veterans
who knew how to organize the strikers into
battalions that would then protect the positions
from National Guardsmen. In 1894, every state between
Illinois and California was under some
form of martial law during the mass
strike of that period. And there’s numerous
examples of that. We heard about Ivy Lee
and the Ludlow Massacre. And if anyone knows
who Mackenzie King was, he was the PR man for
Roosevelt, and then became the FDR of Canada. And these were extremely
violent interactions. So there’s nothing
about a strike that means it’s nonviolent. And so it’s a mistake, again,
I think, to try and subsume it under that category, which
is why I want to sat– and this is the
first thing I want to say– is that it
is a distinct form of collective action that has to
be understood on its own terms as a refusal to work for the
purposes of stopping production to achieve some end. And that’s going to mean it’s
not just a refusal to work, but therefore also an
attempt to prevent others from doing that work in
order to stop production in order to achieve some end. And that’s just how we
ought to talk about it. And it is distinct, and we
can’t get very much useful theorizing and conceptualizing
go until we recognize that all these other categories,
they’re sort of neighboring, but they’re not the same. And we’re going to make
mistakes or fail to understand what’s at stake in an argument. So it’s distinct. However, it is an extremely
heterogeneous social experience. And so when we call
something a strike, it turns out we end up
describing very different, sometimes opposing phenomenon. One of the most interesting
ways to see that is to look at the
two words that have been used in the English
language to describe a strike. So there’s the strike and
then there’s the turnout. The word strike comes
from Naval warfare. So in the early
modern period, when there was a military
battle between ships, when one ship had been
defeated, the captain would order the sailors
to strike the sails, which meant to lower the
sails, publicly signal this is a defeat, and
surrender to the other ship. And that was sort of the
standard practice of the time. Ships, as it turns out, were
horrible places to work. The captains were
essentially absolute despots. They had rights all the way up
to assigning capital punishment without any procedures, and
they were really unpleasant. They were poorly paid sailors. It was very violent. It was very unsatisfying. And so sailors, at some
point, took to striking sails to protest their conditions
and disable the ship and demand that they have their demands
met before they would then raise the sails and
let the ship continue to sail or leave the docks. And so strike is
therefore associated with these extremely militant,
violent confrontations between captains
and the sailors, and therefore, eventually, all
workers and their employers. And it brings to mind things
like discipline, organization, violent confrontation,
quasi war between two sides. The turnout, which refers to
essentially the same practice, which is workers
refusing to work and trying to stop production,
was actually the original word. And it’s only in
the mid-19th century that strike takes over from the
turnout as the most common word used to describe a strike. But the turnout was something
organized by colleges or unions or associations
of skilled workers who would call for
a turnout, which meant to show up somewhere
else other than work, in the same way the
electoral turnout refers to people showing up. So the turnout was when
workers would show up somewhere else then the work place. And instead of
going to work, they would go to, essentially,
a public assembly that was a sort of festival. And so turnouts were
cheerful, leisure activities in which there was music,
parades, food, celebrations, speeches. In other words, it
was the suspension of the ordinary drudgery
and domination and grinding routine of work. And so here, turnout refers
to the experience of a strike being happy, and a moment
of ease instead of violent, disciplined, self-sacrificing. And so these are
two central– these are to be both central
features, and we have them in the two word that’s often
used to describe strikes, and yet they’re opposing
social experiences. And there’s other
ways in which what we call strikes seem to
refer to very different kinds of activities and experiences. So if we consider that a strike
looks very different when we think of it as an
isolated incident as opposed to an event that
takes place as one among a series of interdependent
sequence of events that we call, say, a strike
wave or a social movement. And so the character and
importance and even the nature of the activity
changes when we think of it as local and
independent as opposed to part of a sequence or a
series of events. And how we end up by
evaluating and think what’s important about a
strike, and when it’s justified, will look very different when
we think about an isolated act versus a long
sequence of events that takes place over time. And similarly, if
we think about– or if we call something a
strike when it’s something that happens at one workplace, say,
a privately owned restaurant, versus a general strike like the
general strike of Minneapolis or San Francisco in 1934, or
Seattle or Winnipeg in 1919. Those were both single events. One was a strike and
the other’s a strike. And yet these are dramatically
different social phenomenon. And it seems wrong to say,
and think what you’ve done is said something significant
by saying, you had two strikes. You had the strike of four
workers at a restaurant, and then you had the mass
strike under which Minneapolis was under quasi-occupation. And I mean, I’ve come across
this when people try to code, do social science
about strikes, there’s always– every major time
series about strikes, there’s an introduction
which always says, well, we had this coding
problem because Seattle in 1919 counted as one, and
so did the strike of 10 people two years
later counted as one. And so there’s going to
be some measurement error. Well, yeah, I mean, it’s
not just a measurement here. This is a problem also for
moral and political evaluation. And there’s a number
of different ways in which you can kind of
point to the heterogeneity of these experiences. But the most vivid
illustration is the strike, someone unlike some other
kinds of collective action, always comes with a
lot of adjectives. So you have primary
strikes, secondary strikes, sympathy strikes, wildcat
strikes, political strikes, economic strikes, mass general
strikes, proletarian strikes, and general strikes. And I think that the reason
there are so many modifiers often associated with
strikes is because of the internal heterogeneity
of these experiences. Now this isn’t just
something that’s sort of conceptually or
analytically interesting. It carries real importance
for what we end up thinking is valuable and important
and defensible about strike activity, because to
sort of give an example, there’s a long line of
thinking that the kind of most important
thing about strikes, and what’s to be
celebrated about them, is that they’re non-instrumental
forms of activity. They’re essentially
social performances. And you get that sort of
in Sorel and in Benjamin, and very acutely in Agamben. And there the
point is, precisely this sort of active refusal
is the important thing about a strike, and even
maybe the celebratory activity of strikers. The suspension of the
norm is the point, not whether it’s
achieved some end. On the other hand, if you think
what matters about strikes is that they’re supposed to
achieve some very socially valuable objectives– its
one form of collective action whose point is to make society
more just– then what we care about is are the ends,
and it’s important that they’re sort of militant
forms of collective action, well-organized to
achieve their end. And if they aren’t pitted
appropriately to their end, who cares about the
social performance, the performative aspect
that’s to trivialize all the sacrifices involved in
the form of collective action involved, right? It’s turning defeat
into victory if all you can ever say about it
is, it was a lot of fun while we did it, right? And this is a real problem,
because both aspects of a strike are real
features about them, and ineliminable
features about them. So that brings me
just to the sort of third kind of
conundrum, which is how, then, to think about
the right to strike. And there are a lot of ethical
issues around the strike. I’m just mentioning the
right to strike here. But when we say that workers
have a right to strike, and maybe sometimes that
they’re obligated to strike, there are a lot of different
arguments you might give. But I think whatever
argument you give, it’s going to be
something like, workers have a right to resist the
exploitation and domination that they experience, tend to
experience, in the modern labor market and in the
workplace, which means that the workers who have
the best claim to exercising this right are going to
be low-skill workers who are usually the least advantaged
and most easily exploited. But the problem here
is, it’s precisely those workers who, in
order for them to actually have any chance of
reasonably succeeding, of carrying off anything
like a reasonably effective– or a strike that has any
reasonable chance of success, it’s not enough for
them to stop working. They have to be able to prevent
the large supply of replacement workers from taking their jobs. And the only way that
they can do that, typically, is through exercising
some forms of compulsion or coercion over those
replacement workers. But that means that for them to
exercise their right to strike, they’re always going
to be find themselves in conflict with some of the
basic rights and institutions of a liberal society. They’re going to be in
conflict with property rights because one of the ways in
which they can prevent– one of the few ways workers,
low-skilled workers in particular, can prevent
replacement workers from taking their jobs is to, say, occupy
the workplace or sit in, or to prevent access
to the workplace. But they can only do that if
they physically prevent people from going in, and that’s
going to violate the employer’s normal incidence of
property ownership over his workplace
and ability to run his or her place of– use
his or her property the way the law says he’s
normally free to do. It’s also going to violate
the freedom of contract of all the replacement workers,
since normally, replacement workers are supposed to
be free to make labor contracts with whoever
is willing to make labor contracts with them. But again, strikers
are going to exercise various forms of intimidation
and coercion over them. And then finally,
it will violate their freedom of
association, because it’s forcing a large number
of individuals, usually, to respect and follow the
aims of an association that they have no control over
or haven’t agreed to join. And so what this means is
there’s kind of a somewhat, I think, unresolvable
dilemma, which is that every liberal society
recognizes that workers have a right to strike. It’s sort of a fact about
modern liberal societies. On the other hand, it’s
very hard for those who have the best
claim to that right to exercise it in effective
ways without coming into strong tension
and sometimes violating the also fundamental liberal
rights of other members of that liberal society. So that’s sort of the
third kind of moral puzzle, as opposed to the two kind
of conceptual puzzles. And I’ll just sort of leave
those out on the table for us to discuss. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. I want to begin by thanking
the organizers very much, the COCA Center and the– Use the microphone. Could you? Oh, right. Sorry. But also to Audie, to Bonnie,
and to Tim organizing this. I think a special
word of non-thanks to Alex for such a rhetorically
brilliant presentation that I have to follow. But my treatment of
the notion of formation is like Sharon’s
treatment of agency in that it is part of the
beginning of a new book project that I’m working on,
thinking centrally about notions of formation. But unlike Sharon’s
presentation, where I took her to be making
really excellent moves in terms of delineating a particular
conception of agency and how she wants to think
about it, part of what I’m doing is actually trying to
conceive of formation as a kind of broader frame
for bringing together sets of conversations that are
not usually brought together. It functions, then, as a
kind of bridge concept, as Aaron Stalnaker has
talked about the idea, where I’m interested in thinking
about these different treatments as formation without
yet here working out all of the disagreements or the
ways in which they certainly differ as well. So I hope that will
be clear as I go on. In the fields of philosophical
and religious ethics, dominant narratives often
describe a fundamental shift from a focus on good
character and virtue to a focus on right action. Where ancient and
medieval theories focused on the
kind of person one should be, the virtues to
be cultivated, sometime in early modernity,
according to this story, reflection on how we
ought to live largely abandoned this
concern with character in favor of a focus
on what one should do. To use one shorthand,
which we’ll ultimately need to qualify, we
abandoned Aristotle for Kant. This shift from who one should
be to how one should act may seem subtle, but
in the eyes of many entails an abandonment
of attention to the cultivation or
formation of character. In this respect, the
modernity that results can be seen as verging on
a kind of free-for-all, a situation that some judge
as a kind of liberation from oppressive
hierarchical traditions, and others see as
a moral breakdown. One of the things I find most
interesting about this family of narratives is
how widely shared it is by those who celebrate
this shift and those who decry it. As influential as
this narrative is in a great deal of
work and ethics, however, another narrative
is arguably more prominent in the academy as a whole. In this narrative, or
perhaps more precisely, genealogy, modernity in
the North Atlantic world represents not so much a
liberation from oppressive hierarchies as the emergence of
more subtle but pervasive forms of discipline and control. This is anything
but a free-for-all. This broader account comes in
multiple versions, many of them deeply indebted to the work
of Michel Foucault. And to be sure, the precise nature of
Foucault’s account of modernity is far from obvious,
and elements of his work complicate the narrative
that I’m sketching here. Even without entering
into those debates, however, I think the broader
conception, or this broader picture, should be
familiar to many of us. To take just a few
examples, it finds nearly canonical expression
in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. We find it in Talal
Asad’s claim that quote, “the distinctive feature of
modern liberal governance is neither compulsion”–
think there of Hobbes– “nor negotiation”–
think of Locke– “but the statecraft that
uses self-discipline and participation,
law and economy, as elements of
political strategy.” We also find a related version
in Amy Hollywood’s account of the ascesis, the bodily
and mental practices required by Kantian autonomy. And we see it in arguments
that the emergence of free and direct discourse
in the 19th century support intensified forms of
self-surveillance, scrutiny, and discipline. Whereas in the first
narrative, modern subjects are individuals who
are, if things go well, left to their
self-determining freedom, in the latter narrative
the process of subjection not only influences and
directs us from without but constitutes our
subjectivity in the first place. What some imagine to
be increasing freedom from restraint actually reflects
a greater internalisation of restraint. The notion that modernity frees
us from constraints in order to be our authentic
selves is thus one more result of the
forces and constraints that permeate and constitute
modernity, according to this family of narratives. The contrast between
these two narratives is striking, as is their
simultaneous prominence. Notably, the former
narrative, that is, the narrative of western
ethics with which I began, often largely
ignores the latter, while the latter frequently
goes at least some way toward giving an explanation
for the existence of the former. The current work in
which I’m engaged seeks to both draw
upon and critique each of these narratives. I think they both
contribute importantly to our understanding of
the histories, constraints, and prospects that define
much of the social worlds that we inhabit. However, each draws
attention– moreover, each draws attention to
the ways in which character or subjectivities
or selves, depending on whose vocabulary we’re using,
are formed and constituted. Yet the narrative about
the history of ethics tends to overlook the way that
particular practices continue to form particular kinds of
subjects in the modern period, while the narratives
associated with genealogies of modern discipline
frequently flatten their treatments of the
operations of power such that we can easily
lose critical purchase. With these concerns in mind,
I come to the term formation. I’m interested in the
notion of formation as a site for thinking
through the way that subjects are formed through
bodily practices, ascesis, mental exercises, disciplining,
conversions, modeling by others, and other practices. Formation may be imposed on us
by others or, in some sense, voluntarily chosen. It may be a largely
conscious process or one that is hidden
to those both within and outside of the process. Formation thus provides a
nexus that brings together widespread attention
to practice, the body, and narrative. The point, in the
present context, is not to settle on
a single conception or account of formation, but
rather to use the concept as a site of contestation. For part of what we see in
thinking about formation in these contexts, both
the different fields of inquiry and the
different epochs, are shifts in the
notion of formation, shifts that themselves
exemplify broader contestation over conceptions of
human life and its norms. And while prominent narratives
of western ethical thought might suggest that the
crucial divide here is between modern and pre-modern
notions of ethical formation, a focus on formation highlights
the depths of disagreement both within ancient materials
and within modern debates. Framing formation
broadly in this way enables us to do several things. It brings together
academic conversations that have often
been kept separate despite their
overlapping subjects. I am, among other
things, attempting to bridge discussions around
ethics– which often make many people outside
of philosophy and certain subfields
of political science and religious studies
uncomfortable– with themes and topics that have had
a pervasive impact well beyond these fields. Part of the point
of my intervention is to argue that the kinds
of normative claims that are at home and work
in ethics are already lurking in a great
deal of work that may seek to avoid these
implications, a point to which I’ll return at the
end of my remarks. In addition, a
focus on formation enables us to distinguish
competing and complementary conceptions of formation. Relatedly, it enables
us to see ways in which attention to
formation continues past this purported turn to
an act-centered morality. More specifically,
in ways that are central to the book
on which I’m working but that I’ll not
really get to today, a focus on the
notion of formation during the Revolutionary Period
of the late 18th and early 19th centuries enables us to see and
appreciate not merely new forms of oppressive power emerging
during these periods, but also efforts to delineate
a formation for a distinctly free and modern subject. I think the best way to
further develop my arguments for the significance
of the concept is to try to link it to
histories of discussion in order to indicate how this
term formation might capture and connect crucial elements of
these historical discussions. I thus seek to
elaborate the notion as emerging from this history. Doing so in this context
will necessarily be cursory, but I hope that it
will begin to flesh out what I mean by the term and why
you might find it productive. Perhaps the most
obvious start, a place to begin, what we might mean
by formation as Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s account
of formation depends very much on his
conception of the soul and the role of this account in
understanding the human good. Aristotle builds
here on a notion of a soul consisting of both
rational and non-rational parts. That part of the soul
that he identifies as being reason itself,
for Aristotle, corresponds to the intellectual virtues,
the excellence of distinct kinds of thought. But of the non-rational
parts of the soul, some, such as our
digestion, seems quite inaccessible to reason. But a great deal, such as our
appetites, our spiritedness, does seem to be subject to
reason in Aristotle’s picture, even though it’s not reason
itself, so that for Aristotle, virtues of character such as
courage, temperance, justice, and so forth come in here. For these virtues
consist largely in the training or forming
of our appetites, emotions, desires, such that, as in the
case of bravery, for instance, quote, “whoever stands firm
against the right things and fears the right things for
the right end in the right way at the right time, and is
correspondingly confident, is the brave person. For the brave person’s
actions and feelings accord with what something is worth.” For Aristotle, then,
our appetites, emotions, and desires are
anything but given, and neither are they
marginal in relation to what it means
to live ethically. This training consists
largely in habituation, in acting as good people act
even when we may not initially desire to do so for Aristotle. Quoting again, “For
we learn a craft by producing the same
product that we must produce when we have learned it. We become builders, for
instance, by building, and we become harpists
by playing the harp. Similarly, then, we
become just by doing just actions, temperate by
doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions. That is, by repeatedly acting
in this way, whether we do so because forced
to by authority such as our parents
at an early age, or out of our own
vague sense of wanting to emulate some people who we
admire in some inchoate way, by doing that by, going
through those motions, our appetites are
molded accordingly. The process is
certainly not mechanical and Aristotle offers
no guarantees. But Aristotle does think that
going through these motions tends to form our desires
into stable dispositions to feel the right thing
to the right degree in the right situations. And this is crucial to virtue. Importantly, Aristotle’s
emphasis on habituation does not entail that virtue
is a matter of mere habit. To the contrary, he emphasizes
that genuine virtue involves acting voluntarily
for the right reasons and in consciousness
of these reasons. Although going
through the motions may be a path to virtue, it does
not constitute virtue itself. The resulting character cannot
ultimately be defined in terms of an adherence to a particular
set of rules or codes. Rather, in this
picture, the good is defined by what
the good person does with the recognition both that
human flourishing consists in possessing the
virtues themselves, not simply in committing
the right acts, and that no set of rules
can attend adequately to all the relevant particulars. And Aristotle’s
picture, then, which is arguably the most prominent
model of ethical formation in western thought, formation
consists preeminently in the shaping of character
through repeated acts emulating what good people do. Though we could also
use the term formation to talk about the process
of learning through which intellectual virtues
are developed, Aristotle gives less
attention to that process and it occupied a lesser
role in Aristotle’s legacy for the conception
of ethics as a whole. In the history of
western reflection on habituation and
character formation, Aristotle casts a long shadow. Related notions of
forming character through repeated practices,
often emulating role models, has been crucial to the history
of Christian monasticism specifically and
asceticism more broadly. Key here is remaking the self
through repeated practices that work to reform our
appetites, emotions, and desires. We might note, then,
that historically we see this attention to practices
of formation preeminently among thinkers from Aristotle
to Benedict in his rule, to Ignatius of Loyola in
his spiritual exercises, who are concerned with ethical
and/or spiritual flourishing. That is, they focus
on the practices that are conducive to developing
the right kinds of habits. They develop their views with
explicitly normative concerns even if the accounts of
habituation or formation itself might be seen as no
less relevant to thinking about the formation of
different, perhaps even genuinely bad, characters. Notably, also, their
projects focus principally on the cultivation of
ethical and spiritual elites without imagining that
a society as a whole would be made up of such people. Today, however, as we look
around the university, it seems to me that
attention to formation is arguably more
obvious among bodies of literature focused on broader
social and cultural analysis. While he is by no means
unique in this regard, Pierre Bordieu offers a
particularly vivid exhibition of the continuities. As we’ve seen, Aristotle’s
account of formation induces us to consider
closely the role of practice and practices in ethics, as well
as the necessary involvement of the body in this formation
and thus in human flourishing. Bordieu’s account of
the logic of practice can be seen as a elaborating
a closely related notion of the formation of subjects
through repeated practice, identifying what he sees
as the distortion imposed by attempting to
articulate practice in the objectifying language
of most social analysis. Bordieu argues that
we have to quote, “look to the incorporated
dispositions, or more precisely, the body schema,
to find the ordering principle capable of orienting
practices in a way that is at once unconscious
and systematic.” Like Aristotle, then, Bordieu
contends that repeated practice transforms the subject
in accord with the norms of the relevant community,
while for Aristotle, these concern the body
in that we are talking about the formation and
reformation of appetites and desires, Bordieu heightens
the attention to embodiment. Not only are our appetites
and desires molded to conform with
norms, what develops is a kind of practical sense
that is fundamentally embodied. Quoting Bordieu again,
“One could endlessly enumerate the values
given body, made body, by the hidden persuasion of
an implicit pedagogy, which can instill a whole
cosmology through injunctions as insignificant
as sit up straight or don’t hold your
knife in your left hand and inscribe the most
fundamental principles of arbitrary content of
a culture in seemingly innocuous details of bearing
or physical and verbal manners to put them beyond the
reach of consciousness and explicit statement.” The inaccessibility to
theoretical reflection is central to Bordieu’s
account of practice. The point concerns both the
way that the logic of practice is distorted by
attempting to state that logic in theoretical terms,
and that the practices only function as they do by virtue
of not being made explicit. We might think, for instance,
that a gift economy would be undermined if we
made explicit the demand for reciprocity that
seems fundamental to it. My point here is not to
summarize Bordieu’s account of practice, but to point toward
the centrality of formation to that account. Nor do we need to sort
through here the combination of commonalities and
divergences between the accounts of formation in
Aristotle and Bordieu to begin to see that they
offer overlapping yet differing notions of the formation
of the subject. If a great deal of social fury,
particularly in its attention to practice and
embodiment can be seen as intersecting with or
sharing Aristotelian concerns with habituation and
formation, major developments in modern western
ethics are frequently seen as having gone in a
very different direction. Between Aristotle’s account
of ethical formation and Bordieu’s account of the
incorporation of dispositions to constitute practical
sense, Emmanuel Kant famously, though obviously
not single-handedly, shifted the locus of
conceptions of morality from the cultivation
of good character to a notion of right
action grounded in genuinely moral motivation. Crucial to Kant’s
conception of morality is the idea that in order
to be morally praiseworthy, an act must be
motivated by duty, which requires that we would
so act regardless of whether our appetites
or desires or other kinds of inclination inclined
us toward that act. Underlying this claim is a
very different conception of human action. As powerful as our appetites
and desires may be, they are not themselves
sufficient to explain our actions. Rather, we only act
on these insofar as we adopt them
or take them up. Our desires are in no sense
determinative of our action. As with classic stoic
accounts, this model of agency places the onus of
morality on a will that is understood as independent of
particular appetites, desires, loves, and other inclinations
that I happen to experience. Insofar as I allow those
factors to determine my action, I am unfree, acting
heteronomously rather than self-determining
or autonomous. While Kant’s precise
account continues to be disputed in the secondary
literature and the character of the difference between
the freedom involved in this picture and
in Aristotle’s needs much further scrutiny,
even a brief account points to a significantly
different role for and conception of formation
in the Kantian picture. If we need not act on those
appetites and inclinations, no matter how strong they
are, then the formation and reformation of
those inclinations is dramatically demoted in
their ethical significance. To be sure, I actually
take Kant to have a more complex view
of these issues than the sketch alone suggests. Attention to materials such
as rarely read lectures on pedagogy, for
instance, reveals greater ethical significance
for the formation of appetites and desires
than much of Kant’s legacy would suggest. Nonetheless, this arguably
flattened reading of Kant places in relief an
alternative conception of ethics or
morality, and one that appears to substantially
diminish the role of formation. Vividly highlighting
the contrast, the contemporary Kantian
Christine Korsgaard has critiqued renewed
interest in virtue theory in the following terms. Quote, “Some recent
virtue theorists have offered us the, to my mind,
equally rebarbative picture of the virtuous human being
as being a sort of good dog whose desires and inclinations
have been so perfectly trained that he always does what
he ought to do spontaneously and enthusiastically, with
tail-wagging cheerfulness.” For Korsgaard to place
the focus of morality on forming the right kinds
of appetites and habits is to aim for well-trained
pets, which fails to do justice to human freedom and dignity. While I’ve introduced
critiques of what we might think of as
classic models of formation by focusing on
Kant’s moral theory, the latter is so
significant precisely because of its imbrication with
broader intellectual, social, and political developments. Broadly Kantian notions of
self-determining freedom that are often seen
as conceptually and historically undergirding
the so-called autonomous individual of modern liberalism. No less importantly, suspicion
of more traditional models of formation is closely
connected to criticism, not only of the particular
social hierarchies in which the corresponding
visions of good formation were embedded, but also with
the inevitable role of authority in any ethical picture in
which good judgment is only achieved through a disciplining
by the proper practices. More broadly, concerns with
sincerity, authenticity, and freedom, each of
which has been conceived along various
lines, have appeared to stand in deep tension with
an emphasis on formation, particularly when conceived
in terms of habituation and the emulation of models. Now for someone
championing the import of the concept of
formation, I’m actually sympathetic to key elements
of these critiques. I worry about the way
that models of virtue have been closely intertwined
with oppressive social hierarchies and have
served to rationalize privilege and domination. I worry about the way
that this continues to occur in the contemporary
academy and beyond, and I’m critical of the way that
many recent champions of virtue and character as the
key to ethics implicitly and or explicitly call for a
return to pre-modern models of human excellence without
attending to the inequalities and domination embedded
in those forms, though I imagine some
of those discussions are more prominent in
the study of religion than in many of the other
disciplines represented here. Nonetheless, I want to argue
that a failure to attend to various dimensions
and sense of formation will leave us unable to
account for and defend just those concerns
with oppression, power, and emancipation. That is a major reason for my
larger interest in attending closely to formation. Along these lines,
a number of scholars have recently challenged what
they see as modern liberalism’s claims to reject the kind of
formation that is associated with tradition in general
and religious traditions in particular. I have in mind, for instance,
Talal Asad’s interrogation of what he calls
formations of the secular. As a kind of
sidebar here, let me note that Assad’s
use of formation points to the term’s
ability to refer not only to the
action of forming, but also the kind of precipitate
and result of practices in both informal and
formal institutions. And even though I’m
focusing in my comments principally on this first
sense of formation, that is, the action of forming,
the connection to the second, closely
connected sense is part of the
term’s appeal to me. But the paper’s
too long already, so I didn’t go there here. Amy Hollywood builds
on Assad’s work as well as Foucault’s
distinction between moral codes and the morality of
behaviors to focus on what she sees as the
necessary background of autonomy. Quote, “In providing the means
for determining the moral laws, then, Kant provides not
only a code, but also an ascesis through which
moral subjects are created. Kant not only tells
us how to determine the proper moral code, but
the very same operation also forms us as subjects who
act in a particular way and toward particular ends. For Kant, then, code and
ascesis are inseparable. The form of ascesis
he recommends requires detachment from the
body, emotion, and desire. It entails a bodily
and mental discipline by means of which
the subject becomes detached from his or her body. Thus Kant’s form of ascesis,
like the notion outlined by Foucault, broadens Marcel
Mauss’s conception of practice to include mental and spiritual
exercises that affect the body but are not generally
acknowledged themselves to be bodily practices. As much as I appreciate Assad’s
and Hollywood’s attention to the background
conditions that make possible the
kind of formation that is possible for the
subjects that we associate with liberal modernity, I
think we need to go further in two important respects. First, many of the
broad brush accounts of liberalism and
modernity– and here I am thinking of Assad as well
as others such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley
Hauerwas, but I don’t include Hollywood
in this group– credit the modern west or liberalism,
both of them in scare quotes, with only its most superficial
self-understandings. They criticize liberalism for an
ignorance of the practices that make it possible, yet
one can only generate this vision of modernity by
ignoring, for example, Adam Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft,
G.W.F. Hegel, and Emil Durkheim, to pick only a few
figures who I don’t think can accommodate that narrative. Reflection on
formation is, in fact, far more integral
to both canonical and more marginal
figures in the history of modern western thought than
these critics, and to be fair, some of modernity’s
defenders contend. The second way in which I want
to push beyond these figures in thinking about
formation since sometime in the 18th century,
however, concerns becoming more precise about the
different senses of formation at issue. If we want to take seriously
the variety of ways in which a figure such
as Kant could contribute to our thinking about formation,
we have to do more than attend to the way in which
we may also find this corpus, an attention
to the molding of appetites and desires that has
often been overlooked. That point is important and
I don’t mean to belittle it, but in addition to
that move, we also need to ask whether
Kant’s project entails a different kind of formation,
one focused not on appetites and desires but
on the development of a capacity for judgment
and practical reasoning of a particular sort. The object of formation,
what is molded, is thus importantly different
in this conception of formation from what we started
with in Aristotle. Hollywood might be seen as
pointing us in this direction, but she doesn’t go
far enough in trying to tease out these various
kinds of formation. Thus it’s not enough to
suggest that in addition to Kant’s focus on
practical reason and the categorical
imperative, there is also another dimension to ethics. Nor is it enough to argue
that acting autonomy out of the motive of duty alone
requires some kind of tamping down of appetites and desires. Rather, it will also
require a kind of formation that differs not with
respect to the kinds of emotional responses
that it cultivates, but with respect to the
molding of our judgement rather than our appetites. What exactly this
means is something I see myself as still
very much working through both in relation
to Kant and others. It will concern developing
our capacity to reason. Perhaps it has a great deal
to do with our capacity for critical thinking. And importantly, with respect
to the models of formation with which we began
this discussion, it may not involve the
body to the same extent or in the same way. And it may have a very
different, or perhaps even more limited, role for
repeated practice. To be clear, though,
my point here is not to argue for
this model of formation, much less for its
adequacy on its own. Rather, in the present
context, my point is simply to argue for a
broad notion of formation within which we develop as
much precision as possible regarding different particular
conceptions of formation. Bringing together this interest
in distinct models of formation within the history of ethics,
on one hand, and attention in a broad range of recent
work in the human sciences on the pervasiveness of
formation on the other, does more than provide a
way of reframing the history of western ethical thought. By drawing attention
to extensive work on formation that is explicit
about its normative engagement and commitments,
bringing these analyses into a conjunction
with each other simultaneously points toward
the ethical entailments or entanglements of
a great deal of work that rarely presents
itself as making normative ethical claims. That is, as someone who
identifies as frequently working in areas called
religious and philosophical ethics, one of the things I
find striking in a good deal of recent literature from
across the humanities and social sciences that attends
closely to actual practices is that it frequently
resists avowing explicitly normative ethical claims. The point is not that
this literature does not make normative claims. Rather, it’s that it frequently
does so only implicitly, such as by developing
critiques that call for and partly presuppose an
account of what would be better. Portions of Foucault’s
corpus read this way, as does important work by Talal
Asad, Robert Orsi, and Saba Mahmood. These materials provide
invaluable insight into processes of
formation operating in particular contexts. The work is frequently animated
by criticism of oppression and domination, and does much to
uncover their subtle and not so subtle workings. Moreover, they expose
the naivete of much work that presupposes
simplistic models of agency in which human agency is
understood predominantly in terms of overcoming
the impact of tradition in order to be able to think
for oneself without realizing the extent to which
independent thought is itself the result of specific
practices of formation. I find Mahmood’s
Politics of Piety very helpful on these issues. Nonetheless, I find
that these works and many of the discussions
they generate frequently both resist claims
about what would be better models of formation
and resist the making of such claims by anyone else. That resistance,
particularly the latter form, seems to me to
lack justification. The critique of one set
of practices implicitly or explicitly depends upon
criteria by which practices are judged better or worse. By virtue of its critiques,
then, this literature explicitly or implicitly
raises questions regarding what would constitute
better practices of formation. Importantly, responses
to this question might be of many
different sorts. While some might attempt to
ground their answers in what they take to be universal
conceptions of reason, of natural law, and/or of human
nature, many others will not. One might, for instance,
argue for better forms of ethical formation
through imminent criticism of existing practices. And even such eminent
criticism can take many forms. Thus it’s important
not to conflate calling for an
acknowledgement, and at times defense of explicitly
normative ethical demands, with a call for a universal
ethical standpoint grounded in pure practical
reason in natural law or in some other equivalent. The latter are only some
of the possible ways of doing the former, that is,
of making ethical normative claims. I emphasize this point
because I suspect that the impasses
we sometimes reach in interdisciplinary
discussions are caused more by terminological
confusion about what we mean by normative claims than
by intellectual differences. To be clear, my
point is certainly not that all of these
authors should always be developing explicitly
normative ethical claims. Nor am I calling for everyone
to abandon the kinds of work they’ve been doing in
becoming ethicists. I certainly believe strongly in
a division of academic labor, both within the work of an
individual as well as across and between individuals. But what I am calling
for is the recognition that the kinds of
normative ethical claims that I have
in mind, claims about different
types of formation being better and
worse– and yes, clearly part of what we’ll debate how
to cash out better and worse– but that these claims are of
a piece with the attention to practices of
formation that is so widespread in the academy. Ethical claims about
how we ought to live, whether that we is defined
expansively or more narrowly, are solicited and
often presupposed by just this body of material. Attention to formation
and its significance across these discourses helps
to illuminate this point. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So the floor is open for these
two really terrific talks that were really different
in genre, although I can see a there’s
lot of crossovers, and I’m very eager to see her
people’s views about all that. So I have Sharon, William,
Timothy, Amanda, and James. And Lucas. [INAUDIBLE] Sorry. OK. Sharon. Thank you. Thank you guys for
these wonderful papers. There’s so much to talk
about in both of them. I’m just going to limit
myself to basically one question for each of you. For Alex, you know,
I think the tension that you described in your third
point about the right to strike and other liberal
rights is important. But I wonder, maybe
it’s not as deep a tension as it
might seem if you think about the ways in
which the kinds of freedom– the kinds of rights that
are clearly in tension with the right to strike are
already recognized as being limited in important ways. The right to property. You know, I’ve got a knife,
I can do what I want with it, but I can’t stab you with it. So the right to property
is constrained already, and the right to
freedom of contract– maybe there are reasonable
ways to understand limitations on that right. I didn’t catch the third one. Freedom of association. Freedom of association. Anyway, so maybe the tensions
aren’t so fundamental as it may seem. And maybe thinking
about balancing them is just yet another
thing that has to be, or set of goods and
rights and values that have to be balanced in a
liberal or democratic society. So what about that. And then for Tal, I’m so
sympathetic to your project in formation, and also to the
dissatisfaction and frustration you have with the way
in which so much work in contemporary
political theory is resistant to allowing
its own ethical purposes or itself as an ethical project. When you started
talking, I was thinking, just because of the
concept, I was thinking about social formation,
maybe because it was paired with Alex. I was thinking about
social formation in the way you talk about it
in connection with Talal Asad, I think, in terms
of social groups and institutions and things
that brings about strikes, so the things that people
strike against and so on. So I wanted to ask
you to just say something about how the
formation of selves, how you see that as being connected to
social formations in his more collective sense as kind of,
on the one hand, the mechanisms through which selves are
formed, but also as setting up the ends or purposes for
particular kinds of formations of selves. You know, just thinking about
Foucault, the modern self as disciplined for
particular purposes, you know, the docile
subject of the modern state, the efficient worker of the
modern capitalist economy and so on. So I would just be
interested to hear you say more about how these
two aspects of formation are connected in your mind. So thanks for that
question, Sharon. I didn’t really have
a chance to explain quite the sense
in which I thought there was a strong
connection between the right to strike and
these other rights. So the reason that we can’t
solve the problem by saying, well, all rights are
restricted in some way. Rights get restricted
so that everyone can enjoy equal rights. They also get
restricted in order to guarantee even more
fundamental, important values, like I don’t have a right to
use my property to kill you or to harm you. So those are all
perfectly justified restrictions. on
exercise of rights. My point about the
right to strike, especially when it’s exercised
in the particular ways I described, is that
it goes further. It ends up violating
the rights of others. The distinction between a
restriction and a violation is, a violation is
when you interfere with the exercise of a right in
central range of application. So the difference between
strikers taking over a factory and preventing the
employers from deciding when it’s going to
be operated or not– the difference between that and
me using my knife to strike you is, no one thinks that
the central reason why we have property
rights is so that I’d be free to harm people, whereas
the central reason we have rights of private property
and productive assets is so that those who own it
have total discretion over what economic uses it’s
going to be put to. And so to the point about a
strike is that it violates or it interferes
with the exercise of that right in its central
range of application, not just with any of the
standard restrictions we think are normal
to any incident of the exercise of the right. So that’s why I think it’s not
enough to recognize that it was a [INAUDIBLE] which is a
[INAUDIBLE] way of saying that [INAUDIBLE] it’s even
more fundamental than the [INAUDIBLE]
property [INAUDIBLE], which is that this
sounds like we don’t have a good argument
any more for having those rights of
private property. That doesn’t sound very liberal. Or we’re going to
say we just recognize two rights that are in
pretty profound tension with each other, because
the exercise of one is going to interfere with the
central range of application or exercise of that right, not
just the normal [INAUDIBLE] restrictions [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you very much
for the questions, kind of an invitation
to think and talk more specifically about the
other side of the formation. And when I initially chose
the topic of formation, part of my reason for
the interest in the term is precisely that duality
between both individual sort of thinking about the
formation of the individual, but also thinking
about the– again, I think of a kind of
solidification or reification of social practices
in particular kinds of institutions. So coming back to sort
of formation broadly, I think about it very much
as something that occurs through social practices. And talking about
social formations is a way of talking about the
way in which those practices are not merely
individual practices, but they are broader
shared practices that create both sort of shared
ways of doing things as well as the actual institutions
that enforce them, whether through various kinds of
laws, policing property rights, or these kinds of issues. But I think part of what I
also like about formation is it gives us a sense of the
ways in which sometimes we are quite conscious of
these social practices, of these social formations,
and yet much of their work is done in ways that are
hidden from us, right? And I think there’s a lot more
to be said on whether they are necessarily hidden, and
which ones can be brought to consciousness and
which ones cannot. But the way in which social
practices and the practices of formation tie
together, processes through which we think about
how we comport ourselves in a seminar setting like
this, what kind of respect we owe to others in
situations of strikes, the entire– our
political engagement in other kinds of public
political activities. And I think the
focus on formation connects with the way
in which each of those are deeply shaped by various
kinds of social practices that are interconnected. So it sort of feels
more like a yes, and then caching it
out in particular ways for particular situations. And I suppose– well, I want
to go to the next question, but I suppose one of the
issues would be, of course– Please use the mic. Ah, sorry. I suppose one of the– to
get some friction going between the talks, one question
to be raised as we go along might be that in a society in
which there are conflicting formative processes,
how that actually works and how that may
complicate it the analysis. William. Thanks to both of you
for those great talks. My questions are
mainly for Alex. But I just want to
say to Tal, what you were saying about Bordieu
is of great interest to me. I have something fairly brief
to say about Bordieu in my talk tomorrow. So I was taking
notes. [INAUDIBLE]. So Alex, two things. One, I was very
struck by how long it took you to say the
word “union” in your talk. And interestingly, it came
in in the second section when you were addressing the
question of the heterogeneity of the concept of the strike. And I just want to take
note of that and raise it, I suppose, as a question. I mean, there is at
least the possibility of strikes happening
without the workers who are striking being organized. But most of the time,
the question of they’re being organized, of
how they’re organized, of the relationship
of those organizations to the rest of society would
seem to be really pivotal. And I would like to hear you
talk about that a bit more. And secondly, just
on the question of the right to strike,
surely those rights are determined by a
political and legal system of a specific kind in which the
interests of different classes in society are not the same. That is, you tended to
address that question from the point of view
of, in a liberal society, this is what rights are and
this is the way they work, and this is the complicated and
often contradictory way they come into play in the case of
a strike, which leaves open, still, the question of how
those laws are written. I don’t mean only in the
narrow sense of labor law, but laws more generally. And that could then lead on
to the question which you also raised, but I’d like to
hear you say more about, of the way in which strikes,
within a given political legal system, can often at least
raise the possibility not just of a job action that
involves a refusal to work, and how far it can go
within that system, but of taking on
the system in a more fundamental way, the
anti-capitalist potential of your talk. Thank you for those. Great questions. And they’re things I’ve
been thinking about, which I didn’t have a chance
to talk about within the timing of the talk. But on the question of unions,
I keep those more– the question about strikes versus
unions I keep separate, more separate than we
might tend to think, because for one thing,
a lot of strikes are called against the wishes
of the union leadership. And some of the most important
strikes of the 20th century, especially in the
US, were basically wildcat strikes
called by workers who refused to go along with the
kind of political conservatism of the union leadership. And there’s a lot of
arguments for unionization that have nothing
to do with striking. And so I think that they end
up being somewhat different. We are talking about groups
of workers, organized workers. But that’s slightly
separate from saying, well, we’re talking about
unions first and then strikes. The second thing
is, a lot of strikes historically have
been strikes in order to win recognition for unions. And so the strike
comes first and then the union comes second. And these days in
the US, I would say a lot of strikes– or
I’d hope that at some point a lot of strikes end up being
strikes against the laws regulating the ways in
which unions get formed, because the laws of
the United States strongly encourage the formation
of very particular kinds of very conservative, interest
group, fragmented unionization. With respect to the sort of
legal and political situation of striking, and the
anti-capitalist undercurrents of it, part of what I
was trying to get at, I was trying to do this
immanently– speaking of sort of immanent
criticism– in a way, you start with, we have liberal
societies which all, on the one hand, are basically capitalist
and protect private property rights that create certain
class relationships. On the other hand, they do
recognize the right to strike. And one of the
problems is, having now spent the 20th century
recognizing in las– sometimes in constitutions, as in
Canads– that there is something deeply exploitative and unfair
about the class relationships of the society. They end up giving
it legal recognition, I think, in order
to control and limit it– the nature of strikes,
how they’re formed– which means they end up
sort of– within law, I think it’s almost
going to be inevitable that liberal societies are
going to recognize a right and a justification for it,
and then constantly produce laws that undermine precisely
the kinds of activities that the argument is
supposed to defend, which means that when I
say the right to strike, I’m actually talking
about a right that workers claim
against the state. I’m not talking
about a moral right that I think should be
translated into legal rights, because I think it’s
a right that workers claim against an already unjust
legal and economic order. And so there’s no reason to
actually really trust the state to properly inscribe it in law. And I think that the story
from the New Deal onwards is essentially the
disciplining of the labor movement via legal
recognition of this right. So the kind of full argument
about domination [INAUDIBLE] would be that actually I’m
arguing about a right that isn’t a right. In a certain way to it’s
a moral justification that isn’t quite a right, if we
think that all moral rights are in some sense arguments
for the production of, and their recognition in law. Tim. Thanks a lot. I enjoyed both talks a lot. Actually, my question is a
version of Sharon’s question. I was very intrigued
by that moment, Tal, where you referred to
Talal Asad and the two formations of formation,
and particularly that you claimed that the
second notion of formation as the result is as much
an interest of yours as the idea of the
act of formation, which I take you to be
talking as much about bildung and culture. I mean, there are a
number of different terms that you could have been using. And it was very interesting
that you chose the formation. But I guess my reading of your
paper, up until that point, was that in fact your
entire analysis is really, at the moment, it seems
to me, inhospitable to that Asadian
notion of formation, because he seems so
much more Foucauldian. By formation I think he means
dispositif, he means apparatus. He means it’s essentially
a disciplinary idea. And I don’t see, really,
how you can incorporate a notion of formation
as dispositif, which would seem to want to account
for the very formation of the individual of a
formation of the subject as part of that essentially
disciplinary process. I don’t see how you
can really accommodate that, which I know sounds more
like a comment than a question. I think it’s partly
I’ve also been thinking, ever since Suzanne
asked her question about the subject in response
to both Sharon and James’s talk, that in fact
subject is this highly– I mean, it’s a very
different concept, but it’s doing very different
work in relationship to discourse than the
terms around agency and that were coming out
in the earlier discussion. So essentially, I mean,
it’s a comment, really, but I’d also be very interested
in your further nuancing that moment in your talk. Great. That’s a tremendously
helpful comment, whether it’s a
question or comment. So first I wanted to
make an observation. It was very interesting in the
discussion of Sharon’s paper, Sharon had most of her paper
focusing on individual agency and had a kind of
short aside of, I’m interested in
collective agency, but I’m not dealing
with it here. And a tremendous amount
of the conversation subsequently dealt
with collective agency. And there’s a kind
of parallel, though I don’t think it’s a complete
parallel, in that I talked about one
kind of formation and made this aside about
another kind of formation, and then both of the questions
deal with the second kind that I didn’t deal with. And I think there’s
something interesting going on there in terms of
what issues and concerns are sort of of broader
interest to the group. When you first
started your comment and you used the language
of the second model as a result of the first,
so the social formation as a result of bildung or
culture used in that sense. Which is what you said. But I want to push back
against the language of result, and I might have– if I used
that, I misspoke or miswrote initially, in that
I don’t at all want to say that the
kinds of institutions are simply subsequent to
that initial formation. To the contrary, they’re very
much what do that forming. And in that sense, I
see it as something more like a circular process
in which we can only talk about a
particular– I mean, that formation of any
particular individual always happens within
broader, usually multiple, social
formations of the sort that Assad is talking about. I would completely
want to go that way. But I suspect, and maybe
not, that you’re still going to resist and
say, nonetheless there’s a remaining
tension between the notion of disciplining in
someone like Foucault and what I want to claim. And I’m not convinced of that. And I’m not sure the best
way to talk about it further, in that if the
question is, do I want to keep some sense of a
reflective subject that understands itself and
has a sense of identity, and that is somehow–
where we need resources other than simply talking
about the way in which broader social practices are
working through this figure. I want to say yes, I think we
want something beyond that. Does that look like a kind
of– I mean, coming back to the previous discussion,
where Paul was making the point about a Cartesian
sovereign subject– no, absolutely not. That social formation
of that subject is always already
there in that subject. I want to say that very much. But I mean, whether
right now or later, I would really love to talk
more about what you think that does and doesn’t capture. Well, again, I
was, again, trying to bring things together. I think of the figure of Ali La
Pointe in Battle of Algiers– people know that
movie– as somebody who comes into a
disciplinary subjectification through the organization
of a general strike. But we’ll leave that for a
little bit later, perhaps. Amanda. OK. My question– I guess I have
a quick question for Alex and then a slightly
longer one for Tal. But it’s very related
to Tim’s, so I’ll try I’ll try to keep it brief. Alex. I kind of kept
waiting for, I guess I want to say evaluative
clarification, because there were a couple
of moments– or normative clarification– because there
were a couple of moments where you said, in that incredible
diagnostic performance that you gave, that some distinction or
some recognition of complexity was not interesting
in and of itself, but crucial for moral
and political thought. And in your last answer I felt
like you began to answer it, or elaborated, by contraposing
the moral to the legal, which also seemed like the moral and
the political to the legal. And maybe that’s where it lies. But I– kind of at
the end, I wanted to say, well, strike,
for or Against You know, like what’s your– OK. So anyway, that’s
my question for you. And it’s in the spirit
of Tal’s diagnosis of pervasive cryptonormativity. OK. For Tal. Yeah, I got to say, I
don’t think formation works as a bridge concept. OK. That would be my strongest
way of putting it. So what I think is that– I kept
thinking as you were speaking, especially late in the
paper– formation of what? OK, of the subject, probably. But then also, what
kind of formation? And very late in
the paper you said, ethical formation, which was
just one way of signaling your, I would say, primary commitment
to the first formal formation, which is a kind of
self-cultivation, which you, very interestingly, are
wanting to extend to forms of ethical thought
that are typically seen as non-Aristotelian. Totally down with that. But it seems to me that– I
think you precisely should not use the word formation when
you’re talking about power. Why? Because I think it
kind of– I guess I just feel like
you’re losing precisely the ethical specificity
that you want. You have a critique. And the other
question, too, in terms of, like, social
formation or the ways in which institutional,
social, cultural power are affecting or
conditioning subjects. On the one hand,
you kind of want to make appeal to the ways in
which certain kinds of work have implicit normative
claims when they critique the way that’s going on. So that seems really important. But it seems like
your main commitment is to this notion of the
practices of self-cultivation. And so I feel that
there is a kind of– I guess I want to say that there’s
a kind of problematic punning going on with the
word formation. And I think it’s one of
the dangers of, actually, the political concepts
initiative, which is that the concept has
to become too flexible. Now, you know– anyway, that’s
a strong way of putting it. But I kind of feel like the
project would be sharpened– and I think it’s
a great project– but if you actually used a
different word for formation number two, which is sort of in
the spirit of Tim’s question. Also formation number one. Right. Yeah. Like, I can name a couple. I definitely want to respond. Do you want to– Go first. You’ve had more time to think. Yeah, that’s the only reason. So thanks for that. I don’t know,
somehow I thought– it’s called political
concepts, so I thought it was about
conceptual analysis. So I took a lot of the
normative stuff away. So the first time someone said
it wasn’t normative enough. So that was entertaining
to me, anyway. So yeah, I mean, this is part of
a broader project in which I’m giving account of, among
other things, the right to strike and the obligations
of workers to go on strike. And the basic argument is I
think that workers have a right to go on strike in order
to reduce the exploitation and domination that
they’re subject to as part of the normal
feature of being workers in a capitalist society. The reason that
matters– the reason that these conceptual
moves matter that I did in that
sort of second part was, one thing that’s
going to matter in the normative argument is
whether a strike’s effective, because if you have a right
to do something because of its ability to reduce the
injustice you’re subject to, then it matters whether
it’s effective at reducing that injustice. But what’s the that
and what’s the effect that we’re trying to analyze? If we’re thinking about
strikes as isolated, separate incidents,
then the degree to which it’s been
successful or not is a question of whether they
won that particular strike and its demands. Did the strikers in
that particular case happen to get what they wanted
or part of what they wanted? Or did they at least
have a reasonable chance of getting what they wanted? But if part of what we think
is required for strikes to be success successful
is for workers to develop the capacity to
go on strike successfully in the future, to develop
bonds of solidarity, to be able to publicize their
cause and attract other people their cause– in other words, if
what we’re really talking about is the effectiveness
of a broader struggle and strike wave– then whether
a particular strike won its formal demands doesn’t
really settle the issue. You could lose a
strike but still think that isn’t a big
problem, because the point of these strikes was to
start developing the capacity to actually start
winning strikes. Nothing comes of
nothing, and especially in the case of things
like a labor movement, there’s a huge number of
defeats along the way. And you might even
argue that workers are obligated to participate
and go out on the streets, even if they know there’s
a good chance they’re going to lose that one,
if what you are doing is trying to see it as
part of an interconnected series of events
rather than isolated, discrete, separate
phenomena, separate events. So that’s one point. Another point is that if you
accept the basic moral argument that I’m giving for why
workers have a right to strike, then it turns out that there
is an even better argument for more mass and
industrial kind of strikes. Strikes that are sympathy
strikes, secondary strikes, general strikes have an
even stronger justification on this account than
individual strikes that are purely
[? sector ?] and individual, because in those cases
they’re actually doing less to challenge the various
structures of domination that give rise to that justification
in the first place. And that puts the argument
in explicit in direct odds with all labor law, I
mean, to cash it out as direct political consequence. American labor
law prohibits most of those activities
that we would think would be most justified if
you accept this argument for the right to strike. So to put some more
normative flesh on the bones of the
argument, that’s sort of why those were there. Thank you very much. This is very helpful, as
I am in the early stages of working through it. But your comment that it
seems that I’m ultimately most interested in
self-cultivation is interesting in that– I
mean, the relationship, then, between self and cultivation. It suggests that
the agency there lies with the person
being cultivated. And I’m no less interested–
perhaps, in some ways, more interested,
actually, in those cases where the cultivation
or the formation happens without any desire,
consciousness, or anything else of the person who’s
thereby formed. And I think one of the
ways of maybe making some of these issues
more vivid is thinking about Mary Wollstonecraft. I mean, I actually
find her really helpful for thinking through
and thinking about many of these issues, and it
may make more concrete some of what I have in mind. But as one thinks
about a vindication of The Rights of Woman, part
of what’s so interesting is that certain parts
of her initial argument sound very much
like Kantian claims about thinking for oneself. But so much of the
project is deeply engaged in how one comes to
think for oneself. And one essential
aspect of it is, we aren’t just born that way. We have to learn to do. That we have to be formed
or educated in order to be able to think
for ourselves. Part of the problem today–
as she is writing this, she argues– is that the kinds
of formation that are going on are often very bad formation,
and so the most obvious ways of thinking about this are in
terms of the kind of education of women that’s happening. Part of that has to do with
the misconceived notions of the virtue of modesty that
are being instilled in people. She has this great
line that people have heard me quote
a number of times where she talks about
women being too engaged in their needlework. And the problem is that their
thoughts follow their hands, with that idea that when their
physical activity is occupied with the triviality, as she sees
it, of these fashion designs, they are being distracted
from and being misformed, so they don’t think about the
appropriate kinds of things. She talks interestingly
about different professions and the role, particularly of
the military and the clergy, as two professions
that form people not to think for themselves. But the answer or
response to that for her is not to get rid of
formation, to develop better forms of formation. And part of the reason that I
want to keep power in there, or that I don’t want to
say that this is something different from what’s
happening with power, is not only our attention to the
role of power in misformation, but she’s also very
aware– particularly when she’s talking about
education and the education of small children– that there
is an irreducible element of authority there. And she’s very specific about
the ways in which, when you’re teaching children, when
you’re not letting children act on what they think
they ought to do, that you have to explain
to them that I’m only forcing you to do this
as a way to strengthen your reason until
you are strong enough to think for yourself on
these kinds of things. She also talks– I mean,
the issues of embodiment are so vivid. And just things like having
children dress themselves rather than being
dressed by others. And I take her to be
making very strong claims about the interweaving
of the kind of being able to do things for
yourself physically, being able to
think for yourself. And part of what’s
so striking to me is that it does seem
to me that there’s an acknowledgement of an
inevitable role for formation imposed by power, by certain
kinds of authority figures, particularly thinking
about parents and teachers, in some of her
work that, as much as it’s a formation for
freedom in her work, there’s still power
going on there. And I think the kind of
connections between that and what is happening in
other kinds of power analysis are crucial, particularly
because the kind of broader social formations and
forces are absolutely central to that picture. It’s not just what
happens in the home, but what happens in
the home is crucially imbricated in these
broader power relations. So I certainly want to keep
talking about those things, and whether that captures and
gives you reason to think maybe it’s worth bringing these
things together or not. Before I go on, could
I get a time check from the– like, 10 minutes? OK. What’s that? OK. We got a lot, though. OK. Let’s do two a time, two by two. James. What? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Want to do all of them at once? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Yeah, one way to go is
just collect them all. All right. We’re going to
collect all of them. All right. James. OK. Then this is for Tom
and exclusively for Tom, and I apologize. I thought I understood what
the paper is about perfectly, but then I was translating it
back from English into German. I assumed you’re
talking about bildung. So if you said bildung
instead of formation, you have a great concept. If you say formation,
it does seem that there is a problem
in people understanding what you’re talking about. And talking about it
as self-cultivation, well, we know that
self-cultivation is a really bad
translation that people were using for
bildung for a while until they realized there
are better translations. So what’s the
significance of the fact that we don’t have a good
English word for what you’re talking about? Or did we have it
at some point, maybe in the late 18th, early
19th century and then somehow we lost it? That’s it. Lucas. OK. My question is for Alex. I was just going to invite
you to kind of think about the relationship between
the concept of strike and two others, one of
which you mentioned, the other one you did not. So the first one that you
did not mention is war. And the other one, which you
did mention, is revolution. And you characterized– you
made the point that people often think of strikes as kind
of mini-revolutions, and there’s reasons
why you think that’s not a satisfactory
way of thinking about it. I’m wondering what
might happen if we think of them as temporary revolutions
rather than mini-revolutions, so the idea being not to kind
of change the rules of the game, but rather suspend them
or change them temporarily in order to induce
what you might describe as a kind of
Rawlsian moment right where– a kind of
Rawlsian moment where the kind of inertia
of modern capitalism is interrupted such that a
reshuffling of the balance of power can take place. And then the regular
rules of the game are reinstated, but with the
power relationships having been at least partially shifted. So that was my question. Bonnie. Add Joan to the list too. What’s that? She’s had her hand up
for awhile also, just to add her to the list. Oh. Sorry. OK. So briefly, Alex, you mentioned
two different views of strike, the one that says what’s
important about them is the no, the
non-instrumental one, which is the Sorel, Benjamin,
Agamben view, and then the one that’s the
well-organized instrumental one, and expressed your
preference for the latter. And I’m just
wondering– I’ve been thinking about this myself,
also, in a different context. And I’m wondering
if it might not be interesting to think about
why these two might need each other instead
of thinking about, well, I have to
pick between them. And one possible
answer to that question would be that that view
of narrow instrumentality, which we associate
with the second view, might also be the
undoing of the strike. In other words, if strikes
are only instrumental, then the people who are
participating in them are calculating instrumentally,
and that, of course, poses a collective action
problem eventually. So when we supplement
the second view of strike with the first, in which there’s
a certain pleasure to being in concert with
others, and there’s an enjoyment of the suspension
of the calculative, that provides a kind of
solution or alleviation of the collective action
problem that is caused by the instrumentalism you want
to endorse for strike purposes. But that pre-supposing
or requiring each other might be an
interesting– I don’t say that Sorel and
Benjamin necessarily think about it like
that, but I don’t know why they should
force the choice on you. Maybe you know why you want
the choice forced on you. I don’t know. And then for Tal– I have some
other questions for you, Alex. I’ll save them for later. But Tal, I’m wondering,
why wouldn’t you argue that Kant is a
theorist of character? You just stopped short of that. I think there are
grounds for it. The lectures on ethics
would be exhibit one. The examples that he gives
in The Metaphysics of Morals and The Elements of
Justice is another. So I think at some level
there’s this question underneath your question. I don’t mean it just as
a historical question, although it sounds that way. But why have people
have been misreading Kant for so long, as if
there is this opposition between Aristotle and Kant? Is it a late modern
rationalist approach that reads selectively? Is it because of a
historical approach that there may be a story
about on the second critique rather than on the
first or the third? At some level, I think I
once had a view about this, and I don’t know what
my view is any more. I’m quite curious to hear yours. Oh, I don’t know. Is Joan next? Or who’s after me? Last two are Audie and Joan. OK. Joan and Audie. OK. I have this heavy thing,
so– my question for Tal– thank you both very
much for your papers. I really enjoyed them. And my question for Tal
is, why is st Augustine absent from this paper? It seems that– I mean, I guess
in your talking about formation and the real perplexities
of formation, I kept thinking of
The Confessions. And Augustine, on the
one hand, is sort of, this is an intellectual
search going on throughout the first
half of The Confessions for some kind of rational
understanding of truth. And then his conclusion
that, really, desire is at the heart of morality. And then he has–
the big question is, how do you
redirect your desire? I mean, because for him, it
wasn’t getting rid of desire, but desiring the right things
rather than the wrong things, and desiring them– the
eroticism of the desire wasn’t the problem. It was the object that you
desired that was a problem. And so he has to figure out,
how do I redirect my desire? But when he writes
about his childhood, he also tells these
very disturbing stories about– not disturbing to
him– about the way in which his nurse would withhold water
from him as a children to get him used to
disciplining his desire. So I think it’s just
such a rich text for grappling with a lot of the
questions that you’re raising. So I guess that’s
my question for you. Where is Augustine? And then for Alex,
you know, I thought you were going– when
you first began to speak, I thought you were going to
end up really challenging the right to private property. And you never quite got there,
so that in a way, the paper– I think this is a danger. Maybe you don’t. But it seems that it’s in danger
of remaining sort of safely within liberal parameters
so that the problem is, you’ve got these two right and
they clash in liberal society. But from a more
wing perspective, the right to private
property is the right that has to be
really challenged, because capital– at least
capital productive property is accumulated dead
labor, unrewarded. And so strikes are
a rightful attempt of workers to– depending
on what the strike is for– but to try to control
more of the labor process and to get some of that
surplus back for themselves. But you never quite got to the
point of challenging the right to private property,
and I guess I wondered where you stood on that. Audie. So I’ll continue with
a question to Alex. First let me add
a type of strike that you have not mentioned. I would like to call it
the bureaucratic strike. The union send orders,
the members obey. No one is really interested, but
because of some power dynamics within the union, and between
the union and the company, there is a strike. This is the most annoying
strike, the most boring strike, and the one that exemplifies
the importance of the strike that you try to marginalize
or to understate, which is the performance,
the festivity, stopping work and doing
something else somewhere else in order to experience a
different form of being together. And you’re right that if this
doesn’t lead to anything, it may be questionable. But maybe the thing
that it leads to is precisely this experience
of a different kind of being together. And to this I would
like to add something about the relations between all
the different types of strikes that you mentioned. I think that the important
point, the missing link there, was the term potentiality. [INAUDIBLE] Potentiality. [INAUDIBLE] Potentiality. The strike is
nonviolent, but violence is potentially violent. It is instrumental. But it is potentially
non-instrumental, or vice versa. All these are potentially
in the strike itself. And this is why it
is so dangerous or so frightening to those
who try to constrain it. Yeah, sure. So how much time do
I have to respond? Because I don’t want
to– two minutes. Two minutes. OK. So let me just say something
since a number of people brought up this point
about enjoyment being– I’m demoting enjoyment. So the reason for–
and you’re right, I think I’ve sort of put too
much weight on dismissing that form of argument, because
the way in which one tends to find it in arguments
about the strike is to celebrate strikes as
purely non-instrumental forms of action. What’s great about them is
the social performance itself, which then means there’s
really nothing in the writing to be able to distinguish
between the strike as one of these carnivals
that just reproduces society. The moment of temporary
suspension that’s necessary is a form of social release
that actually supports the system of domination. To be able to distinguish
that kind of activity from a form of
social power that’s able to actually challenge
the existing rules or carries the potentiality
to challenge the existing rules of society and actually
seeks to attain some ends. And what happens
in those arguments, then, is that it
ends up trivializing the enormous sacrifices that
workers often end up making. If you watched this
documentary by Barbara Kopple about the Hormel strike. This was a long,
difficult strike. It involved a lot of dances
and parades and festivities, but they lost at the end. And they all– I mean,
they were devastated. It was total destruction
of that community. Half of them had to leave and
travel to– and they lost. Part of the loss was that
they lost the ability to be together anymore,
because half of them had to emigrate to
other parts of the US. Emigrate– you know,
that’s what they were, the emigres from the strike. So you’re right. We have to find a way
of putting it together. And I think part
of it is to ask, what is it that is enjoyed? One of it is just the
experience of leisure. And here I wanted to actually
sort of– something I want to say to Tal is that I noticed
in the discussion of formation, work doesn’t– I mean, you’re
talking about embodiment, practices, formation
of habits, desires, but work is like the central
activity of modern social theory, the theory of formation. And part of what strikes
have often been about is not about higher
wages or fewer hours, but just the release from
the unbearable routines to which workers are
subject and stultified. Marx quotes Smith
when he wants to talk about the stultifying
and damaging habits that are inculcated by engaging
in certain kinds of work. So what I do need to
work into the argument is precisely part of what’s
positive and important about enjoying the strike
isn’t just the political aspect of enjoying the
practice of experiencing this collective social
and political power, but also in which it
affirms a kind of new value for the social conditions
under which individuals should form themselves. And what’s enjoyed,
then, is the leisure for its sort of relationship
to self-creation. And for that reason
I should actually say to Joan that on this, I’m a
Marxist, not a [? Plutonian. ?] So the problem with exploitation
is not centrally that there’s a whole bunch of value
that workers don’t get back but have some right to. But rather, it’s the
actual harm to human beings that is the central
characteristic of capitalist exploitation. So he doesn’t think
that workers have a right to the full
value of their product because he thinks that is itself
a myth of private property, that the deepest,
most central harm of modern capitalist
exploitation is precisely the defamation,
the damage it actively does to human beings
as self-creating beings full of potentiality. And that would be
something I’d want to add to the strike,
and maybe the way to do it is to the points that
Bonnie and Audie have said with respect to weaving back
in the positive, celebratory aspects of the strike. And sorry, Lucas. On Moore, I should
just say that there’s an aspect of this project which
is pointing out the just war theory can be pretty useful
to thinking through some of the questions about when
strikers may use violence, because it’s very similar. And in fact, one of the few
works in political philosophy on the strike basically
does that, says strikes are a form of just war
theory– the right to strike should be understood
through just war theory. Thank you. I will try to be
brief, but there are so many things that are–
firstly, just briefly on the issue of work,
I could not agree more. One of the few things I’ve
published related to this, actually, is a piece on
work as formation in Smith, Wollstonecraft, and Hegel. I mean, the opening of
The Wealth of Nations, where he talks about the
different character cultivated by different
arrangements of labor, is absolutely crucial to this. And I think there’s
a broader way in which one of the reasons
that I think attention to– I’m going to stick with
the word formation for the moment– drops
out of a great deal of modern ethical
thought is precisely because some of the key sites
where it’s happening– it’s no longer happening in
monasteries, for instance, in a post-Reformation context,
anyway, but happening at work, happening in child rearing,
in early education and so forth, which are not the
realms that philosophers tend to write about as much as
they do a lot of other things. So it’s not a coincidence that
it’s Mary Wollstonecraft, who runs a school, who’s really
one of the key figures, I think, for
thinking about this. So there’s a lot more on that. Segues somewhat
into the question about sort of translating
back from the German, and why not use bildung
or something like this. I’m sticking with the term. And I think I want to
say, well, it’s probably no accident that I’ve spent
a lot more time working on German-speaking
intellectual worlds during this period
than English-speaking. And I’m sort of expanding
the project in that way. But I think one of
the ways putting part of why I want
to resist just using the language of
cultivation, bildung, or culture, is
those tend to have quite positive connotations. Those tend to be, we’re talking
about the good versions. And I’m no less– I
mean, I’m interested in the good versions,
but I’m also very interested in all of
this forming that goes on that we might think of as not
necessarily very intentional, or at least not
intended by many people, we might think is for quite
bad effects, and those kinds of things. And so formation,
to me, does have a kind of broader neutrality
vis a vis some of those issues that, for me, is part of why
I think it enables me to bring in some of the kinds of
critics– coming back to Foucault or something in
the account of discipline in Foucault– in
ways that I worry that cultivation
or bildung might make that a little harder. I don’t want to insist too
much on the terminology, but that’s part of my
reason for seeking a broader term in that way. And I think in terms of whether
there was an English term, I’m not sure. I’d have to go back
and think about that. Then I just have Kant
and Augustine to cover. On why not go with Kant as
a theorist of character, I’m not resisting that. I think certainly
in the subfields that I’ve been doing
the most work in, there was a great deal of
interest generated in the 1980s by people like
McIntyre and others about the importance of virtue,
and Kant just kind of gets portrayed as the villain. Then one of the things
we’ve seen in response to that is a great deal
of work on Kant saying, no, Kant cares
about virtue, too. Kant has an extensive account
of virtue and so forth. And I’m very
sympathetic to that. What I was trying to highlight
just in this specific context is to try to get a sort of
distinctive sense of formation, of the kind of formation
of judgment or formation of practical reason, that might
be one element of what I think Kant might force us to think
about in being more precise about different senses and
kinds of formation that is, in addition to the
things that Kant may have to contribute in terms of
the formation of appetites and desires, for instance. So it’s not that I
mean against that. I meant that, but I
think of it that way. I hope that helps. In terms of why the misreading
of Kant, it is really interesting to me,
thinking about the lectures on pedagogy
by Kant, one of the most frequent
responses I get is, oh, I haven’t read those. And they are lectures
that Kant gave that he had one of his students assemble. So they get a certain degree
of marginalisation by Kant himself, and yet he does
have them published. He gave the lectures. And then they almost
drop out completely from a great deal of
the reception history. So there’s this kind of two-step
marginalization of attention to those kinds of
issues with regard to Kant that I think is
also part of the story, and explaining that is a
further piece, I think. I think Augustine raises a lot
of really fascinating issues. Certainly he’s absolutely
part of this larger story, and for a variety
of different ways. I think there are other
ways in which Augustine has been claimed as a
figure for whom precisely the kinds of models of formation
that Aristotle might have epitomize, Augustine can be seen
as critiquing, as exhibiting pride on the part of the
person who is trying to become a better person on his own
without the role of grace, that in certain readings of
Augustine, the role of grace really undermines much of
the account of formation. And yet, exactly as
you’re pointing out, there are other
parts of Augustine that offer crucial
resources for precisely these issues around formation. The term bridge concepts
comes from the work of Aaron Stalnaker, who has a
book on Xunzi and Augustine, who wants to argue that contrary
to many readings of Augustine, precisely in the context
of the history of the study of religion, that
he has a great deal to say about the practices
of cultivating the self. I also think of
John Cassian, who is Augustine’s
contemporary, who’s had a tremendous
impact on the history, within Christian context, of
thinking about cultivation and in some ways is an
alternative to Augustine. But certainly that’s part
of the broader history. One of the things that I do find
interesting about the period that I’m talking about– that
is, the early modern period– is particularly because
of the Reformation, there is a sense in which
many of the discussions that had been taking place with
their kind of principal focus as being on monastic
life within much of the history of Christianity,
look very different than, or get challenged, when the
monasteries are abolished and you get a kind of
turn toward everyday life. So part of what’s
also interesting is that turn toward
everyday cultivation and the question of,
well, what does this mean? And I think we start getting
more attention to what does this mean for non-elites,
those who are working in factories, who are raising
children, et cetera, in ways that I think are part of the
bigger picture and story. That’s it. Thank you so much
for the comments. I really am grateful. All right. Let’s thank our speakers
and go have lunch.

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