Elizabeth Grosz: The Future of Feminist Theory: Dreams for New Knowledges

This fascinating talk by feminist theorist Elizabeth Grosz was recorded in Duke in 2007 as part of a 2 day feminist theory workshop there that year.  This talk was the keynote, offering a ‘utopian’ future vision and direction for feminist theory.  Her vision is largely Deleuzian, foregrounding events, becoming and the importance of concepts for feminist and social theory.  One aspect in this vision that I particularly liked is the necessity for feminist theory to transcend discourse and representation; to finally engage with the real, ‘which exists before texts and allows texts to refer’.  Perhaps unexpectedly, Grosz, here and elsewhere, aims to reintroduce Darwin as a ‘radical social thinker’.  Her conclusion rests on a number of recommended ‘displacements’ necessary for the future of feminist theory, which are based on the turn from identity politics and the ‘subject’.  She recommends a ‘five-year moratorium on speaking on the ‘self'”, for example’.  Secondly, she suggests a turn from epistemology toward ontology; for a thinking of the real over and against representation.  A thinking of real matter, force and energy etc.  Finally, Grosz recommends not an affirmation of the subject subjectified by culture, but rather an affirmation of the in-human; of animal becoming and microbial becoming, and to think what this means for sexual difference.

My only comment is that Whitehead might also be deployed in this project.  Most of what is said here is decidedly Whiteheadian as much as it is Deleuzian, if not more so. There are also echos of Latour and Stengers, two well known champions of Whitehead, in this new feminist future.  I wonder, in the five years since this talk was recorded, if much progress has been made in this, I think correct, direction?  Or has the lure of anthropomorphism and ‘the subject’ proved too strong?

Accepting what A.R. Ammons called ‘the becoming thought’ is nevertheless where theoretical thinking  appears to be currently at.  It would be interesting to read a Whiteheadian feminist theory in place of the more common Deleuzian one.  Perhaps that will fall to Butler in the future.

Elizabeth Anderson, “Tom Paine and the Ironies of Social Democracy”

The 2011-12 Dewey Lecture in Law and Philosophy, recorded on February 29, 2012, was presented by Elizabeth Anderson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Rawls Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan.  The talk is introduced by Martha Nussbaum


Critics of every social insurance proposal in the U.S., including recent health care reform, have called them socialist attacks on private property. To be sure, social insurance is a central pillar of social democracy, and social democratic parties originated in a socialist critique of capitalism. Yet the equation of social insurance with socialism is doubly ironic. The first realistic proposal to abolish poverty by means of universal social insurance was Thomas Paine, who explicitly advanced his scheme as a defense of private property against socialist revolutionaries. And the first actual social insurance scheme was introduced by Otto von Bismarck, who advanced it against the German Social Democratic Party, which opposed his plan. This talk will consider how Paine grounded the justification of social insurance in a neo-Lockean theory of private property rights, and explore the implications of the ironic inversion of social insurance from a bulwark of to a perceived assault on capitalism.