I have recently beome more involved in reading Zygmunt Bauman and discussing his ideas, particularly with respect to the contribution of sociology to understanding contemporay society and what a leftist agenda and programme might be – the practical contribution of his sociology. This is in addition to returning more explicitly and systematicall to a marxist account of capitalism and the current finacial crisis and a renewd discussion with my colleague, Richard Kilminster, on Norbert Elias’s theories. Which of these three, Bauman, Elias or Marxs, gives us the best understanding of our prblems – social, economic and political – and the best basis for developing political and personal strategies ? It seems to me that there is no simple answer and in any case it may be a mistake to assume any one social thinker is sufficient. This is my current position – Bauman for his continued belief in the values of socialism and his coherent account of how sociology should still be politically engaged, Elais for theoretical and conceptual rigour, and Marx for his diagnosis of capitalism.
I am writing ans article on Zygmunt Bauman’s view of what sociology could and should be, its value and function, in conditions of liquid modernity. Zygmunt sees sociology’s role today, in conditions of liquid modernity, as supporting civic society and servicing a continuous dialogue, a dialogue with no predetermined outcome, that clarifies issues and accommodates multiple voices. Our job is to “defamiliarise the familiar and make the familiar unfamilar”, to make visible the invisible links and connections that lie behind the life world and to keep the conversation going. However “we cannot stay neutral or indifferent when the future of humanity is at stake”. See post at http://sociology.leeds.ac.uk/blogs/zbi/2010/09/08/conference-day-two-%E2%80%93-first-reflections/
Where does this leave socialism as a valid project? Is it just one set of ideas and a vision that some voices can bring to the discussion but without any claim to legislative privilege? Socialisms project to legislate and administer a particular sort of society (no doubt a good and egalitarian society)? I think the answer is to see socialism as a establishing a set of conditions for the conversation rather than an end point itself in a particular society. Socialism is a process rather than a fixed goal or outcome – the project of socialism should be development and the nurturing of the conversation, perhaps the creation of the sociality of the social state (not necessarily in conflict with elements of the bureaucratic and market state).
Great description of what the conversation should be like in the last paragraph of page xxi in the introduction to Intimations of Postmodernity.
Heads of cabbage and mouths full of water by Mark Neocleous. Radical Philosophy Nov/Dec 2003
“The law which shaped the modern corporation as a new form of legal person has been reluctant to admit that the same persons can commit illegal acts and recognizable harms. The law, in other words, has been structured in a way that is far more accommodating to corporate subjects than to human ones. In this way the ruling class has more or less deﬁned capital as beyond incrimination: the ‘harms’ committed by corporations are treated as the result of a failure to follow regulations and procedures and thus are not ‘crimes’ in the way that laypersons might think. Apropos of right-wing attacks on ‘welfare scroungers’ and ‘the idle poor’, one might say that it is the corporation that has acquired plenty of rights but few responsibilities. Capital has used the corporate form to its advantage by avoiding some of the most obvious disadvantages of being a legal subject, namely responsibility for one’s acts”.
STAGING POWER: MARX, HOBBES AND THE PERSONIFICATION OF CAPITAL by Mark Neocleous.
Law and Critique 14: 147–165, 2003. © 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
“The law which granted the modern corporation fully-fledged status as a juridical person has been reluctant to admit that the same persons can commit illegal acts and recognisable harms; the corporation is a person when it comes to the advantages of law, but a ‘nonperson’ when it comes to crimes seemingly committed by it. The individualizing nature of bourgeois law constructs the corporation as a person but then resists punishing it on the grounds that it is not a person at all but a collective which has no mind per se. The state personalizes capital, but doesn’t punish it as a person. It punishes it (when it does) as capital – as something different to (human) persons. A propos of attacks on ‘welfare scroungers’ and ‘the idle poor’, one might say that it is the corporation that has acquired plenty of rights but few responsibilities. In Marxist terms we might say that the unity of the corporate persona created by the state has helped consolidate the domination of capital over everyday life. Capital has used the corporate form to its advantage by avoiding some of the most obvious disadvantages of being a legal person, namely responsibility for one’s acts. The outcome has been the tendency to treat ‘crimes’ committed by corporations as mere failure to follow regulations and procedures and thus not ‘crime’ at all: the ruling class has defined capital as beyond incrimination. But then this should not surprise us: as with bourgeois law in general, the corporation is, after all, constituted as a person for purposes of capital accumulation and not for the purposes of justice.
There is a tendency among writers on ‘corporate crime’ to argue that “while . . . the charge of corporate manslaughter remains a highly difficult one to pursue successfully, there are no insuperable problems intrinsic to law to the effective criminalisation of such offences; . . . what is commonly lacking is political will”. Maybe so; but the implication of my argument is that any such ‘political will’ would have to be rooted not in the current structures through which mainstream politics is organized – political parties and reformist groups – but in a movement that would be willing to challenge the whole edifice on which political and social power is structured – the state and the individualizing tendencies of bourgeois law as well as capital itself. Moreover, any such challenge would have to take on board the fact that capital uses the persona in bourgeois law as the veil of its power”.
Both articles via Joss Winn http://stuck.josswinn.org/