As individuals and communities struggle to cope with daily life in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, we have witnessed impressive forms of grass-roots organization to meet basic material and social needs, often in the absence of state-level support (e.g., Mutual Aid networks). To what extent do these projects reflect a drive towards rediscovering “the social” which some claim has all but disappeared in advanced capitalist states? Rather than just celebrating these initiatives as hopeful intimations of a better future, I will offer some reflections on the questions and the challenges they pose for our political thinking. I will bring these reflections into dialogue with a variety of theorists and ideas, including Hannah Arendt’s distinction between “the social” and “the political”; Hanna Pitkin’s criticism of Arendt’s conception of “the social”, Banu Bargu’s work on commensality, and anarchist theories of prefiguration, human nature, and organization.
I want to resist the idea of “learning from the crisis”, and to offer, instead, a tentative attempt at learning in the crisis, thinking aloud through a mixture of reflection on personal experience, philosophical musings, and political anxieties. Seminar participants will be invited to engage in a conversation about our political concepts and how they inform our critique of current society, our action, and our ability to imagine alternatives.
Facilitator: Judith Suissa is Professor of Philosophy of Education at UCL Institute of Education, London, UK. Her research interests are in political and moral philosophy, with a focus on anarchist theory, questions of social justice, radical and libertarian educational traditions, utopian theory, the role of the state, and the parent-child relationship. Her publications include Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective (2006) and The Claims of Parenting: Reasons, Responsibility and Society (with Stefan Ramaekers, 2012).