Spring 2021 – Thursdays, 12:30-1:45 p.m.
Virtual Zoom Lectures – The University of Maine
Zoom link for all Spring programs
Fall 2021 Schedule Coming Soon.
Past Programs: Spring 2021
Apr. 8: REVISITING MARX’S CRITIQUE OF LIBERALISM IN 2021: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLITICAL THEORY AND PRACTICE
Watch this program here.
Igor Shoikhedbrod, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Univ. of Toronto (Mississauga) and Adjunct Faculty, Trinity College, Univ. of Toronto (Toronto)
Karl Marx was a powerful critic of capitalism and a revolutionary democrat, whose critique of liberalism was inspired foremost by its failure rather than its success in bringing about human emancipation. In this talk, I propose an alternative way of approaching Marx’s treatment of rights that demonstrates why conventional liberal and Marxist interpretations on this topic are mistaken.
I begin by contrasting Marx’s critique of liberalism from rival critiques in the history of modern political thought. I first turn to Marx’s neglected journalistic writings for the Rheinische Zeitung, which compelled the young Marx to confront concrete instances of economic distress and human suffering. Marx’s confrontation with the plight of the Mosel winegrowers and the Prussian wood theft law shook his faith in rational right and inspired his lifelong critique of political economy but did not lead him to reject rights and their political value.
Although Marx’s critique of liberalism is usually traced back to his critique of rights in ‘On the Jewish Question,’ few of his interpreters (and even fewer of his critics) acknowledge that this essay was written with the aim of defending the equal rights of Jews after Marx was asked to endorse a petition for this very purpose. Marx’s chief critique of the so-called ‘rights of man’ is that they are structurally limited in bourgeois society and actively subvert the ‘rights of the citizen.’ Marx nevertheless continued to regard the achievement of political emancipation (the granting of rights) as a precondition for human emancipation.
The real test of Marx’s commitment to rights occurred during the revolutionary upheavals of 1848-49, which are documented in Marx’s writings for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Marx demonstrates in these journalistic writings the extent to which rights offer protections against unchecked executive power and are necessary bridges for advancing the ‘social revolution’. Looking at the state of contemporary politics, champions of freedom have renewed reasons for revisiting and rethinking the relevance of Marx’s critique of liberalism today.
Igor Shoikhedbrod is Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is also an adjunct faculty at Trinity College. Igor obtained his PhD at the University of Toronto in 2018, his M.A in Political Science from York University in 2011, and he also holds a B.A from the University of Toronto with a concentration in Ethics, Society, and Law. He has previously taught courses in political theory, legal theory, ethics, and political economy. Igor is the author of Revisiting Marx’s Critique of Liberalism: Rethinking Justice, Legality and Rights with Palgrave Macmillan, as well as several scholarly articles in Contemporary Political Theory, The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Critical Analysis of Law, The Hegel Bulletin, The Owl of Minerva, and the Marx and Philosophy Review of Books. He has an article forthcoming in Critical Horizons on “Market Morality, Socialism, and the Realization of Social Freedom: A Critique of Honneth’s Normative Reconstruction.”
Link to purchase Revisiting Marx’s Critique of Liberalism:
Review by Nader Andrawos in the LSE Review of Books:
Review by Matt McManus in Jacobin:
Review by Bill Bowring in Marx and Philosophy Review of Books:
Apr. 1: UNITED STATES RELATIONS WITH CHINA (SOUTHEAST AND EAST ASIA)
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Ngo Vinh Long, Professor of History, the University of Maine
At the bilateral meeting between China and the United States in Anchorage, Alaska on March 19, 2021, attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the two sides showed their marked and testy differences on a wide range of issues.
According to the U.S. State Department transcript of the opening remarks, Blinken stated at the outset that: “Our administration is committed to leading with diplomacy to advance the interests of the United States and to strengthen the rules-based international order. That system is not an abstraction. It helps countries resolve differences peacefully, coordinate multilateral efforts effectively and participate in global commerce with the assurance that everyone is following the same rules. The alternative to a rules-based order is a world in which might makes right and winners take all, and that would be a far more violent and unstable world for all of us.”
Yang Jiechi responded with a long statement which included the following lines: “The United States itself does not represent international public opinion, and neither does the Western world…. I don’t think the overwhelming majority of countries in the world would recognize that the universal values advocated by the United States or that the opinion of the United States could represent international public opinion, and those countries would not recognize that the rules made by a small number of people would serve as the basis for the international order.”
In his presentation on “United Relations with China” Ngo Vinh Long will explain some effects that US-China rivalry and cooperation have had on East and Southeast Asia and implications for the entire region. He will examine China’s long-term strategy called “China’s Dream,” how it has been carried out concretely and how China’s neighbors have been coping. The United States, in spite of its rhetoric under the Trump administration, practically withdrew most of its diplomatic support for Southeast Asian countries, thereby encouraging China to become increasingly aggressive in the region. The question now is whether the Biden administration would be able to do reverse the weakened presence and influence of the United States in the region and what it could contribute to the common efforts for security and prosperity.
Ngo Vinh Long has been professor in the History Department since 1985, teaching courses on China, Japan, India, South and Southeast Asia, Vietnam, the Cold War, Colonialism and Imperialism. He has also given frequent interviews, sometimes almost every week, to international mass media (such as the BBC, the Voice of America, Radio France Internationale, Radio Free Asia, Nikkei) on historical and current developments in Asia.
Mar. 25: THE SCORED LIFE: FINANCIAL ABSTRACTION AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
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Christian Haines, Assistant Professor of English, Penn State University
In The Financialization of Daily Life, Randy Martin argues that the financialization of global capitalism, especially the US economy, isn’t just a matter of the increasing dominance of Wall Street. It’s also a transformation of our everyday lives: “Financialization integrates markets that were separate, like banking for business and consumers, or markets for insurance and real estate. It asks people from all walks of life to accept risks into their homes that were hitherto the province of professionals [i.e. investment bankers]. Without significant capital, people are being asked to think like capitalists.”
In my current book project, The Scored Life: Contemporary Culture and Financial Abstraction, I extend Martin’s analysis of financialization by examining contemporary North American cultural and literary production in terms of the financial scoring or rating of life. Some of the questions I consider are: How do literary fiction and lyric poetry comment on credit and debt as mechanisms for valuing and devaluing life? How do television shows and films dealing with Wall Street represent the investment banker as a particularly savvy economic agent? How do cultural practices such as videogames serve as laboratories for testing out different attitudes towards finance? And, finally, how might science fiction, especially climate fiction, reimagine financial speculation in post-capitalist or utopian terms?
This talk focuses on how the videogame industry has been restructured by finance capital and how videogames train gamers in response to financialization. I look at two games released in the recent past: the multi-million dollar blockbuster game Cyberpunk 2077 and the anti-capitalist indie game Kentucky Route Zero. The former is an example of a game whose development has directly been influenced by financial market, its labor cycles accelerated in an effort to maintain the value of the company’s stock. It’s also a game that encourages its players to adopt an opportunistic attitude towards practical action and social connection. In contrast, Kentucky Route Zero is a game made by a small team of avant-garde digital artists, one that explicitly reckons with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, as well as with longer histories of class struggle in the US. In discussing these two games, and the medium of videogames more generally, I also offer some more general thoughts about how we internalize or embody financial value in our everyday lives and how the imagination of finance is itself an object of political conflict.
Christian P. Haines is an assistant professor of English at Penn State University. He’s the author of A Desire Called America: Biopolitics, Utopia, and the Literary Commons (Fordham University Press, 2019) and co-editor of a special issue of the minnesota review, “Is there a place for the commons?” (November 2019). He’s also a contributing editor for Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. His essays have been published in a number of journals, including Cultural Critique, Criticism, Genre, and LIT, as well as in edited volumes, most recently William Gibson and the Future of Contemporary Culture. He’s currently writing a book on finance and culture, The Scored Life. On a less scholarly note, he’s also a managing editor at the website, Gamers with Glasses, which fosters critical thought and enjoyable conversation about gaming.
Mar. 18: IPM RESPONDS TO COVID-19: NURTURING RESILIENCE AMONG IPM’S LATIN AMERICA COMMUNITY-BASED PARTNERS
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Joseph F. Cistone, Maine-based CEO, International Partners in Mission
Adela Zayas, International Director for Programs & Partnerships and Regional Director for the Latin America & the Caribbean
Vicky Jiménez, Director of Education & Immersion Experience Programming
Eneyda Ramos, Research and Resource Mobilization Coordinator
In response to COVID-19, Adela Zayas, Vicky Jiménez and Eneyda Ramos will highlight their work this past year as IPM continues to meet the unprecedented challenges. They will be introduced by Joseph F. Cistone, a prior Series speaker in 2017 on “Sanctuary: How We Prepare for Living that Commitment”— who will be happy to discuss how participants might get more involved with IPM here in Maine (he lives and works from MDI) and around the world.
Adela, a trained Psychologist with a particular passion for gender equity, joined IPM in 2016. Since then, she has been working directly with partners from throughout the Region providing human accompaniment & technical assistance to leverage their assets in response to self-identified community needs. Vicky oversees the proper execution of IPM’s transformational, educational programs (in-person and virtual), that allow friends, & partners to connect & learn from one another. Eneyda monitors & evaluates partnerships to later communicate challenges, successes, and the extensive work of our Partners to IPM’s varied constituencies
IPM was founded in 1974 and, as part of its core mission, accompanies & nurtures women-led, community-based, Project Partners, in 20+ countries around the world, in their transformative & sustainable programming. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Adela, Vicky, and Eneyda will highlight their extraordinary efforts this past year as IPM continues to respond to the unprecedented challenges of the Novel Coronavirus & COVID-19. During the past year, the pandemic created an unprecedented impact on countries, communities, and people around the world, but it didn’t affect everyone in the same way. Many had to put different tools & resources to adapt & thrive in the midst of global crisis. Resiliency is a powerful concept whenever we talk about crisis and adaptation. And just as there are different ways to theoretically approach the concept of resiliency, there are many important ways to live and experience it.
During this presentation, the IPM Staff from the Latin America & the Caribbean Office, located in El Salvador, will share lessons learned from their working experience with different community-based organizations throughout the Region over the past year. Topics, such as access to formal education, food sovereignty, gender equity, mental health, social equality, and women’s empowerment shall be discussed through the lens of Resiliency and Solidarity as essential components of how to face the global crisis of a pandemic collectively. Further, the Virtual Immersion Experience Program (created in the middle of COVID) will be presented as a way of practicing solidarity with our Project Partners.
Mar. 9: THE ABOLITIONIST ORIGINS OF RECONSTRUCTION
Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut
This is the Howard B. Schonberger Peace and Justice Lecture, hosted by the UMaine History Department. Howard Schonberger was a Professor of History at UMaine and a founder of the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series. This annual lecture honors his commitment to peace, justice, democratic socialism, economic equity, racial and gender liberation.
Feb. 25: AT WAR WITH GOVERNMENT: HOW CONSERVATIVES WEAPONIZED DISTRUST FROM GOLDWATER TO TRUMP
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Amy Fried, Professor of Political Science, the University of Maine
Americans’ trust in government has fallen dramatically since the 1950s to historically low levels. Fried argues this trend is not an inadvertent byproduct of other developments. Although distrust of authority is deeply rooted in American culture, it is fueled by conservative elites who benefit from it. Since the postwar era, conservative leaders have deliberately and strategically undermined faith in the political system for partisan aims. Distrustful efforts have often employed messages about immigrants and black and brown people.
After discussing four particular ways distrust has been used as a political resource, Fried turns to ways that citizens, leaders and organizations can revive trust. This is important because, while certainly skepticism of government power is warranted, the deployment of fear of and distrust in government has thwarted Americans’ ability to serve our common needs.
Amy Fried is the John M. Nickerson Professor of Political Science and the chair of UMaine’s political science department. Prof. Fried’s research primarily concerns the history and political uses of public opinion in the United States. Her co-authored book (with Doug Harris of Loyola University Maryland), At War With Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump, is forthcoming later this year. Her previous scholarly books are Muffled Echoes: Oliver North and the Politics of Public Opinion and Pathways to Polling: Crisis, Cooperation, and the Making of Public Opinion Professions. Fried provides analysis to a wide range of media outlets and writes a biweekly column for the Bangor Daily News. She is also a co-leader of the Maine chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network, a national group that brings together scholars to address public challenges and their policy implications.
Feb. 18: MORAL, PHILOSOPHICAL, AND SPIRITUAL NONVIOLENCE AND SOCIALISM IN 2021
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Doug Allen, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, the University of Maine
Incorporating the formative influences of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Prophetic insights, and Karl Marx, Doug Allen will present his own formulations developed over many decades of theory and engaged practice on this topic. What are some of the weaknesses of diverse “Moral,” “Philosophical,” and “Spiritual” approaches to nonviolence? Why is an interconnected moral, philosophical, and spiritual approach necessary today?
In addressing moral, philosophical, and spiritual “Nonviolence,” what do we mean by violence and nonviolence? What are some of the rejected alternative approaches to violence and nonviolence in the past and today? What is a moral, philosophical, and spiritual approach and interpretation of nonviolence that is most significant today?
How does all of this relate to “Socialism”? What are some of the rejected alternative views of socialism? What is a moral, philosophical, spiritual, nonviolence that is radically critical of capitalism and is necessarily socialism in 2021?
Doug Allen served as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maine for 46 years and became Professor Emeritus of Philosophy in September 2020. Author and Editor of 16 books and 150 book chapters and scholarly journal articles, he has been the recipient of Fulbright and Smithsonian grants to India, the Maine Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Maine Professor Award (given to the outstanding professor in teaching, research, and service). His most recent book is Gandhi after 9/11: Creative Nonviolence and Sustainability (Oxford University Press, 2019). A peace and justice scholar-activist, Doug Allen has been active in the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam/Indochina Antiwar Movement, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and many other struggles resisting violence, war, class exploitation, imperialism, racial and gender oppression, and environmental destruction. For Doug Allen’s publications, teaching, service, and honors, see his CV posted on his website at https://umaine.edu/philosophy/douglas-allen/
Feb. 4: CARBON DIVIDENDS AS UNIVERSAL PROPERTY
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James K. Boyce, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The limited capacity of the biosphere to safely absorb carbon emissions can and should be regarded as universal property – a resource that belongs to everyone in common and equal measure. Unlike private property, universal property cannot be bought or sold, or owned by corporations, or concentrated in a few hands. Unlike public property, it belongs directly to the people rather than to the government. Universal property is individual, inalienable, and perfectly egalitarian.
Carbon dividends would create an asset-based source for a universal basic income by charging for fossil fuel pollution rather than letting it be dumped into the atmosphere for free. This can be implemented by means of a carbon tax, auctioned permits up to a hard ceiling, or a combination of the two. The revenue then would be returned to equally to all as dividends, similar to the stimulus checks of the Covid pandemic but paid monthly or quarterly. This would help advance the twin goals of stabilizing the Earth’s climate and building a more egalitarian economy.
James K. Boyce is an author, economist, and senior fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His most recent books are The Case for Carbon Dividends (Polity, 2019) and Economics for People and the Planet (Anthem, 2019). He has written for Harper’s, Scientific American, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous scholarly journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ecological Economics, and Climatic Change. He received the 2017 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought and the 2011 Fair Sharing of the Common Heritage Award from Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation.
Nov. 12: THE HUMANITIES AS ACTIVISM IN CHICAGO (12:30 – 1:45 p.m.)
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This session will feature four remarkable panelists: Karen Sieber, Tonika Johnson, Kevin Coval, and Nicole Marroquin. This program is being sponsored by the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at the University of Maine.
Karen Sieber is Humanities Specialist at the McGillicuddy Humanities Center. She is a former Chicagoan, who is a public historian doing research on what she calls “tactical humanities,” or using the humanities in strategic outside-of-the-box ways to draw attention to urgent issues.
Tonika Johnson is a Chicago artist, photographer, and community activist. Her Folded Map project examines the long history of redlining and segregation in the city and works to address inaccurate negative perceptions about the South and West sides of Chicago. She is co-founder of RAGEnglewood and was named a 2017 Chicagoan of the Year.
Kevin Coval is a poet, the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors, and the founder of Louder Than a Bomb, the world’s largest youth poetry festival. Author of over a dozen books, including A People’s History of Chicago, and editor of BreakBeat Publishing, Coval was the recipient of the 2018 Studs Terkel Award.
Nicole Marroquin is an artist, educator, activist, and the creator of Chicago Raza Research Consortium, a grassroots effort to map, gather, and present Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Latinx, and Raza history in Chicago. She is Associate Professor in the Department of Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Oct. 29: KARL MARX IN 2020 (12:30 – 1:45 p.m.)
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Cindy Isenhour, Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute
Michael Howard, Professor of Philosophy
Doug Allen, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
The three panelists, among the most productive and influential faculty at UMaine, maintain that the insights, methodology, theoretical framework, and interpretations formulated by Karl Marx, when creatively formulated and applied, are more essential and significant for understanding our world of 2020 than during his lifetime. How does Marx help us to understand conflict-based theories of change? How does commodity fetishism mask the true social, economic, and environmental cost of goods and why is it unsustainable? How can an updating of Marx’s social vision inform a defense of worker-managed market socialism? How can Marx’s vision of the transition from “each according to work” to “each according to need” inform recent work on universal basic income? How can Marx’s historical and dialectical approach provide the most insightful analysis of class relations, exploitation, oppression, corporate domination, globalization, and imperialism? How does Marx allow us to understand alienation and meaninglessness today, and how we can express social and moral development and unalienated human flourishing?
Oct. 15: THE DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIAN DISCOVERY AND DOMINATION, COLONIZING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, AND THE STATE OF MAINE (12:30 – 1:45 p.m.)
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John Dieffenbacher-Krall, Chair of the Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations and former Executive Director of Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission
Chelsea Fairbank, PhD Candidate in Anthropology & Environmental Policy
Darren Ranco, Chair of Native American Programs and Associate Professor of Anthropology
The Doctrine of Christian Discovery and Domination comprises a worldview and promotes the legal and moral authority justifying the invasion and conquest of non-Christian lands. Historically, this Doctrine’s legal and moral authority derive from papal bulls, edicts and declarations, from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the later use by Western Christendom’s secular leaders to reference the Doctrine to authorize their voyages of “discovery” into the New World. This Doctrine of Discovery forms the foundation of Federal Indian Law and the most important U.S. Supreme Court case affecting the Original Nations and Peoples of this land. The University of Maine exists on occupied Penobscot Indian Nation land legally justified via the Doctrine. Panelists will develop this program by presenting information on “Settler Colonialism, the Doctrine of Discovery, Capitalism, and Extractivism,” and on “the Doctrine of Discovery and the State of Maine.”
Sept. 24: LOVE, MARXISM, AND READING (2:00 – 3:15 p.m.)
Phillip E. Wegner, Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar and Professor of English, University of Florida
What does it mean to read as a Marxist? Building on a lifelong passion for reading, the essays collected together in Phillip Wegner’s latest book, Invoking Hope: Theory and Utopia in Dark Times (U of Minnesota P, 2020), make an appeal for the undiminished importance of the practices of theory, utopia, and deep close, and even critical reading in our current situation of what Bertolt Brecht refers to as finsteren Zeiten, dark times. The roots of his argument can be found in a chapter entitled, “‘The Point Is…’: On the Four Conditions of Marxist Cultural Studies,” from his previous study, Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative (Northwestern UP, 2014). In his talk, Wegner will explore the links between the work done in the earlier essay and in Invoking Hope, and he will reiterate the importance, especially in our current dark times, for any Marxist practice of reading to be attentive to what Alain Badiou terms the fourth condition of truth, that of love.