Zygmunt Bauman: ”Liquid Modernity revisited”

In the introduction to my new Global Society class in QUB today I mentioned Bauman’s work on Liquid Modernity in the context of debates on globalization. In this lecture, given in Aarhus in 2012, he gives a useful overview of his approach to some of these issues, which (my own) students especially might find interesting.


Living in and coping with world risk society – Ulrich Beck

In this talk (from a few years ago, 2011 I think), sociologist Ulrich Beck outlines and updates his theory of reflexive modernization and the ‘risk society’. He suggests that, to the extent that risk is experienced as omnipresent in the current age, there are only three possible reactions: denial, apathy or transformation. The first, he says, ‘is largely inscribed in modern culture, the second resembles post-modern nihilism, the third is the “cosmopolitan moment” of world risk society’.

In the talk that follows he structures his argument around three key points. In  the first he outlines the distinctive, new features of this world risk society. There is a distinction between risk and catastrophe – they are not the same things. Risk is about the anticipation of catastrophe. This is why, despite the fact that Europe and ‘The West’ are relatively safe, globally speaking, or perhaps even ‘objectively’ so, it is the global anticipation of catastrophe (propagated via symbolic forms in the mass media etc) that is fundamental to the shaping of contemporary societies. These global perceptions of risk have three features: de-localization ( in spatial, temporal and social terms), incalculableness, and non-compensatibility.

His second key point stresses the fundamentally global character of these process, over and against the nation-state as a political level of analysis, and transformative action. Against this methodological nationalism he offers a defence of his cosmopolitan vision for the social sciences, outlined in more detail in his Power and the Global Age (2005). His final point offers some consequences of his position, in general, and a (sympathetic) critique of alternative theoretical conceptions of risk, most notably those of Mary Douglas and Michel Foucault. What is needed is a paradigm shift in the social sciences – the emergence of a cosmopolitan social science – a ‘cosmopolitan turn’.

This defence of cosmopolitanism – his cosmopolitical realpolitik –  is, of course, open to many criticisms and questions, as are his wider arguments about risk, decision-making etc.  There are some questions/discussion after 26 mins or so.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: ASA Junior Theorists Symposium 2015


This has been doing the rounds for a few days now but it is an excellent opportunity for serious, theory-orientated early career sociologists. If they can afford it of course.


2015 Junior Theorists Symposium

Chicago, IL

August 21, 2015


We invite submissions for extended abstracts for the 9th Junior Theorists Symposium (JTS), to be held in Chicago, IL on August 21st, 2015, the day before the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The JTS is a one-day conference featuring the work of up-and-coming theorists, sponsored in part by the Theory Section of the ASA. Since 2005, the conference has brought together early career-stage sociologists who engage in theoretical work.

We are pleased to announce that Patricia Hill Collins (University of Maryland), Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University), and George Steinmetz (University of Michigan) will serve as discussants for this year’s symposium.

In addition, we are pleased to announce an after-panel on “abstraction” featuring Kieran Healy (Duke), Virag Molnar (The New School), Andrew Perrin (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago). The panel will examine theory-making as a process of abstraction, focusing on the particular challenge of reconciling abstract “theory” with the concrete complexities of human embodiment and the specificity of historical events.

We invite all ABD graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors who received their PhDs from 2011 onwards to submit a three-page précis (800-1000 words). The précis should include the key theoretical contribution of the paper and a general outline of the argument. Be sure also to include (i) a paper title, (ii) author’s name, title and contact information, and (iii) three or more descriptive keywords. As in previous years, in order to encourage a wide range of submissions we do not have a pre-specified theme for the conference. Instead, papers will be grouped into sessions based on emergent themes and discussants’ areas of interest and expertise.

Please send submissions to the organizers, Hillary Angelo (New York University) and Ellis Monk (University of Chicago), at juniortheorists@gmail.com with the phrase “JTS submission” in the subject line. The deadline is February 13, 2014. We will extend up to 12 invitations to present by March 13. Please plan to share a full paper by July 27, 2015.

A Brief History of Liberty – and its Lessons: A Public ‘Ethics Initiative’ Lecture by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University in NUI Galway.


Distinguished Irish philosopher Prof. Philip Pettit of Princeton University will give a public lecture on ‘A Brief History of Liberty — and its Lessons’ in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway at 4pm on Tuesday, 17th June 2014. This talk is being presented as part of the President of Ireland’s ‘Ethics Initiative’, and organised by the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Research Cluster of the School of Political Science & Sociology. The President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, will be in attendance at the lecture.  All are welcome and the event is free, but we would appreciate if you could register your attendance here.

Philip Pettit, originally from Ballygar Co. Galway, is L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, where he teaches philosophy and political theory. He is particularly renowned for his revival and development of republicanism within political philosophy, and for his work on group agency.  Among his books are The Common Mind (1996); Republicanism (1997); The Economy of Esteem (2004), with G. Brennan; A Political Philosophy in Public Life: Civic Republicanism in Zapatero’s Spain, with J.L. Marti (2010); and Group Agency (2011), with C. List.  Professor Pettit is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of academies in his two countries of citizenship: Ireland and Australia.  His recent book On the People’s Terms (2012) is published with Cambridge University Press. It is based on the 2009 Albertus Magnus Lectures in Cologne, and the 2010 Seeley lectures in Cambridge.  Also forthcoming is a book with W.W.Norton for a general audience, entitled Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World. He is giving the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Berkeley in 2014-15.

While in Ireland, Prof. Pettit will also be involved in a number of workshops, based on his work, in UCD, and will give the opening keynote address, on the infrastructure of democracy, to the third annual Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School in Dublin later in June.

Abstract for the lecture is below the fold.

Continue reading “A Brief History of Liberty – and its Lessons: A Public ‘Ethics Initiative’ Lecture by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University in NUI Galway.”

The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology

Following Slavoj Žižek’s relatively reasonable reflections on world power and Ukraine in The Guardian this week, I was told that someone has uploaded his new-ish documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology to Youtube. This installment follows on from his 2006 film The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, which was also directed by Sophie Fiennes. Like the earlier film, this is Žižek at his most accessible, riffing, in his way, on some well known Hollywood films like Taxi Driver, Full Metal Jacket and The Dark Knight, along with some other, less well known offerings. Those familiar with Žižek’s shtik will have heard some of the gags and observations before, and, of course, everything is ‘ideology at its purist’ but nevertheless the film provides an enjoyable enough distraction for those interested in film, theory etc.

Call for Papers – ESA Emotions Network Midterm Conference 2014**DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 6TH 2014**

Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004 4 mm square section mild steel bar 225 x 218 x 170 cm Photograph by Stephen White, London
Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004
4 mm square section mild steel bar
225 x 218 x 170 cm
Photograph by Stephen White, London


The ESA Emotions Network (RN11) will hold their 6th midterm conference between 25-27 September, 2014. The conference will take place on the island of Rhodes, Greece, in the University of the Aegean. This year, in addition to the usual streams, the conference will feature two special workshops on emotions – one for PhD students (featuring Prof. Helena Flam and Prof. Helmut Kuzmics), and one on the use of literary analysis for sociology of emotions research (again, featuring Prof. Helmut Kuzmics and Dr. Stephanie Bird). The proposed sessions, towards which you might pitch your abstracts, include: Theorizing Emotions; Emotions and: Morality; Globalization; Religion; Civic Action; Power; Literature; Law; Finance; Visuals; Migration-Sensations-Spaces; Post-Atrocity Emotions; and Researching Emotions Empirically. The full call for papers is here: CfP RN 11 Midterm Rhodes final(pdf).

Abstracts not exceeding 300 words should be sent by the 31st of March 2014 to Jochen Kleres (jkleresATposteo.de). Please use “RN 11 midterm submission”in the subject line of your email. Also, please send your abstract indicating whether it is for a specific session listed above. Notifications about the abstracts selected for presentation at the midterm conference will be made by mid-May 2014. Conference fees, more precise conference times, and links to accommodation will be announced then.

I hope to make it this year myself and I urge those working on affect or emotions to submit an abstract. I have been to other conferences with this group and always found them both intellectually stimulating and, perhaps more importantly, filled with interesting, warm and (not least) fun social scientists from all over the world. But hurry up! The deadline is Monday!


Diana Coole talk on May 20th, NUI Galway – on the ‘Population Question’


We are delighted to announce the second guest speaker of the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Cluster (School of Political Science & Sociology) this year is Prof Diana Coole of Birkbeck  University of London. The talk, based on the ‘Population Question’ (specifics below), will take place at 3pm on 20th May in the SAC Room/CA110, Cairnes Building (St. Anthony’s, ground floor)  NUI Galway. All are welcome.

The title of the paper will be ‘From Population Control to Behaviour Modification: Liberty, Coercion and Behaviour Modification in Pursuit of Sustainable Wellbeing’. The abstract is below, but a useful introduction to these issues and Coole’s perspective on the population question in general may be found in her 2013 paper ‘Too Many Bodies? The Return and Disavowal of the Population Question’, which is currently open access (as one of Routledge’s ‘most popular’ politics papers of 2013).

The abstract for the Galway talk, and the speaker’s bio, are below the fold.


Continue reading “Diana Coole talk on May 20th, NUI Galway – on the ‘Population Question’”

William Reddy – Do Emotions Have a History? The Example of Romantic Love.

In this fascinating talk William M. Reddy, the William T. Laprade Professor of History and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, expounds on the theme of romantic love.  This is the subject of his recent (and award-winning) book called The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900-1200 CE (2012).  The talk took place at the University of Melbourne in March of last year, in association with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. The blurb for the talks is below.  Reddy’s earlier work, and his concept of ’emotional regimes’ in particular has been influential for my own work in the sociology of emotions.  I have recently aquired this book and look forward to reading it.  The talk offers a reasonable summary of the main arguments, which suggests that the history of love is different in Europe to elsewhere, where love and sexual desire are united.  In Europe this was the case prior to, but not after, the 12th century CE, when the medieval notion of courtly love developed in opposition to moral theological definitions of sexual love as an ‘appetite of the body’ to be suppressed, controlled and subject to discipline. Love became ‘split’ or bifurcated, as is the Western tendency, into ‘bad/profane’ sexual desire and ‘pure/sacred’ sublime love – body and soul.  This split did not occur elsewhere, according to Reddy, who uses (primarily) literary examples from Japan, Asia and other cultures to make a comparative ethnography of love.  These themes, and much more besides, feature in the talk.      

Are emotions hard-wired, or are they subject to cultural or historical variation? In general, emotions are not subject to voluntary control; we do not get to pick which ones we will feel. Some emotions, like fear or anger, may trigger physiological changes. Others, like pride or nostalgia, do not. Are emotions hard-wired? Or are they subject to cultural or historical variation? Or perhaps, some are hard-wired, others shaped by culture?

For decades experts have been divided on the subject. The question of romantic love is a good entry point for appreciating the complexities social scientists face in trying to make sense of emotions. It seems that romantic love, of one kind or another, can be found in almost every part of the world. Is it universal, a product of neurotransmitters interacting with subcortical structures? The record suggests, on the contrary, not only that romantic love has gone through some striking transformations over the centuries, but also that collective action can make a difference in how we feel.

Professor William M. Reddy is the author of the seminal work on the History of Emotions, The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions. (Cambridge University Press, 2001). His most recent book is The making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan, 900-1200CE (University of Chicago Press) was published in 2012.

The Emotive Philosophies of A. N. Whitehead: Lecture by Dr Michael Halewood

Interesting, if a little scattered, presentation of Whitehead’s core ideas by Michael Halewood (University of Essex) from last September.  The lecture took place as part of the Autumn Series of talks at the Parasol Unit (a foundation for contemporary art) in London, and touches on Whitehead’s treatment of aesthetics in particular.  The talk is audio only.  Halewood is the author of  A.N. Whitehead and Social Theory: Tracing a Culture of Thought (2011).

(From the website) Unlike more dogmatic writers, Alfred North Whitehead does not tell us what to think, but offers us ways of thinking differently. For this talk, Dr Michael Halewood will offer a survey of A. N. Whitehead’s on-going impact in contemporary thought, discussing his philosophy of education and the radical and intriguing demand he places on the role of art. Tracing ideas through Whitehead’s major metaphysical work, Process and Reality, Halewood will introduce some of the strange but enticing moves that Whitehead makes by differentiating between “feelings”, “emotion” and the “aesthetic”.


Michael Halewood is a senior lecturer at the University of Essex. He has written extensively on the work of Alfred North Whitehead, including his book A. N. Whitehead and Social Theory. Tracing a Culture of Thought(Anthem Press). He has also published pieces on the relation of contemporary philosophy to social theory, including texts on Deleuze, Badiou, Marx, Irigaray and John Dewey.

He is currently working on a book charting the development of the concept of “the social” in the 19th century, as well as a text titled Words and Things which investigates recent moves regarding how we think, talk and write about the world.