Critical Intro Summersemester 2024

This semester we are also getting off to a critical start with the introductory days to critical theory!

Overview of the events:

  • 16.04.| 18:00 | U2-205 | Totality. The Problem of a Critical Theory of Society. | Alex Struwe
  • 15.05. | 18:00 | Lecture hall 2 | Karl Marx and his project of a “critique of political economy” | Michael Heinrich
  • 05.06. | 18:30 | U2-205 | What does critical theory (of anti-Semitism) mean? | Luise Henckel
  • 13.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Benjamin’s critique of the conception of history | Lea Fink
  • 19.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Postcolonial Critique Ralf Rapior
  • 27.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Materialist Feminism | Franziska Haug
16.04.| 18:00 | U2-205 | Totality. The problem of a critical theory of society. | Alex Struwe

Society has long been considered so complex that it cannot be reduced to a simple concept. And yet it still functions as a whole: as a context of domination, as capitalism, as an administered world whose global crises increasingly point to the fact that everything is connected to everything else. How can this contradiction be understood?

The concept of totality is linked to the question of whether and to what extent an overall social context can be defined. The lecture develops totality as a problem in the history of critical social theory and attempts a current definition. For without a concept of totality, there can be no objection to the prevailing conditions.

15.05. | 18:00 | Lecture hall 2 | Karl Marx and his project of a "Critique of Political Economy" | Michael Heinrich

For a long time, Karl Marx was considered scientifically irrelevant in Germany. He has been on the classics shelf for a few years now: a great thinker, but rather irrelevant to the problems of the present, capitalism has developed quite differently than Marx predicted. But did Marx really make so many predictions, and then wrong ones at that? The lecture aims to make it clear that Marx’s analyses are still relevant for understanding current conditions, as Marx examines the capitalist economy on a much more fundamental level than modern economics and social sciences do. However, it should also become clear how incomplete Marx’s project of a “critique of political economy” has remained. It is not, as has long been claimed, an (almost) finished system, but a fragmentary research program that can only now be surveyed with the texts published in recent years in the Marx Engels Complete Edition (MEGA).

05.06. | 18:30 | U2-205 | What does critical theory (of anti-Semitism) mean? | Luise Henckel

A frequently quoted statement by Max Horkheimer – but one that cannot be found in the complete edition in the place usually indicated – reads (translated): “As true as it is that anti-Semitism can only be understood from within our society, it seems to me to be becoming just as true that now society can only be adequately understood through anti-Semitism.”

The passage, allegedly written in 1941 in a letter to the English economist and philosopher Harold Laski, is a minor mystery of Horkheimer research but also an excellent example of sentences that could just as easily have been written if they were not actually written. The quote describes the seemingly increasingly irreplaceable connection between critical social observation and reflection on the conditions for the reproduction of anti-Semitism. In doing so, it sheds light on an essential insight of the first generation of critical theorists – the understanding of society as a historically mediated and inscrutable totality. The lecture offers an introduction to the basic concepts and considerations of early critical theory that initially raise such questions. This will be understood as a context for processing the essential experiences of the first decades of the early 20th century: The increasingly darkening prospect of transforming the given social conditions into a rational (communist) institution and the reversal of social dynamics into fascist collectivization and anti-Semitic extermination intentions.

13.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Benjamin's critique of the conception of history | Lea Fink

Historiography between “homogeneous and empty time” and “past that has become space”

Walter Benjamin’s critique of the concept of history as a linear progression of time and a teleological focus on progress calls into question how bourgeois society, as well as Marxism, assumes causality and meaning in the writing of history. Lea Fink will embed the theses “On the Concept of History” historically (Benjamin’s flight, the Paris exile experience, the German-Soviet non-aggression pact) and in terms of the genesis of his works (the Passages complex). With the dialectical image of the city and architectural metaphors, Benjamin offers an approach “to combine increased vividness with the implementation of the Marxist method” (Pasagen-Werk, vol. 1, p. 575). We will trace this using Benjamin’s urban observations of Berlin and Germaine Krull’s Parisian photography of concrete objects/places.

19.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Postcolonial Critique Ralf Rapior

The countries of the global North like to describe themselves as the inventors of enlightenment, human rights, freedom, equality and justice, science and the arts. But from a southern perspective, the North looks different. Here, the great values and words of the European Enlightenment often appear as a cover for Western imperialism, Western domination of the world and exploitation of people and nature. In my lecture, I will take Southern classics such as Césaire, Fanon and Spivak as a starting point to examine the critical potential of anti-, post- and decolonial thinking and how our mostly Eurocentric world view can be decolonized. From an anti-imperial perspective, Western civilization and modernity, its politics, its capitalism and its sciences, have been closely linked to colonialism and racism from the beginning and continue to be so today. Anti-imperial thinking therefore also means criticizing oppression through capitalism, racism and patriarchalism globally and intersectionally.

Finally, I invite you to discuss how we can translate anti-imperial critique and decolonization into our scientific and political practice.

Everyone is welcome!

27.06. | 18:00 | U2-205 | Materialist Feminism | Franziska Haug

Feminism and Materialism/Materialist Feminism.

Materialism faced each other. In debates about the so-called main and secondary contradictions, questions of gender justice all too often competed with the struggles for social justice. This is surprising insofar as there were lines of connection between feminism and materialism long before the emergence of intersectional theory; for example, in the socialist feminism of Alexandra Kollontai or in Black Feminism. The lecture will trace these lines and an overview of theories and movements of feminist

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