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The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

Fully Automated Nicholas Kiersey

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The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

    Episode 24: Foucault & Neoliberalism, with Magnus Paulsen Hansen

    Episode 24: Foucault & Neoliberalism, with Magnus Paulsen Hansen

    Hello, Fully Automated friends! For your coronavirus lockdown listening pleasure, we are today releasing a really special episode. Our guest is Dr. Magnus Paulsen Hansen, who is an Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences and Business, at Roskilde University. Magnus researches the role of ideas and evaluation in the legitimation of welfare state transformations. But he is also a bit of a Foucault ninja. And he is joining us today to discuss a question that has vexed me for a long time: was Foucault a neoliberal?







    Veteran listeners may recall the last time we discussed this issue, when we had Mark GE Kelly on the show, all the way back in Episode 2! But I wanted to get Magnus on the show to go a little deeper into some of these arguments, as its a debate that doesn’t seem to be going away. In 2015, Magnus published an article in the journal Foucault Studies, entitled Foucault’s Flirt? Neoliberalism, the Left and the Welfare State; a Commentary on La dernière leçon de Michel Foucault and Critiquer Foucault. For me, it stands as one of the most exhaustively researched and argued rebuttals of the contention, by Daniel Zamora, and other fellow travelers (see also here), that Foucault bears some kind of intellectual responsibility for the rise of neoliberal thought.







    Honestly, I’ve always been a little alarmed by the argument that Foucault was a neoliberal. Its not so much the idea itself that offends me, as the slipshod nature of the way the argument is made. With a strong tendency towards ad hominem argumentation, and little consideration for Foucault’s core teachings on power, the argument appears to be quite ideologically driven. Often, it seems to boil down simply to the argument that Foucault was some sort of intellectual magpie, and all too easily distracted by shiny objects. Zamora and his fellow travelers claim that Foucault was “seduced” by the basic model of freedom offered by neoliberal thought, and that he was thus blinded to its more disciplinary tendencies. Given Foucault’s prestige and influence among the left, this was an abdication from his intellectual duty, weakening the left just at the moment of Reagan and Thatcher’s arrival.







    In this interview, we discuss the danger of looking for “hidden” or “unconscious” intentions in an author, and the idea that such intentions might relate to any conclusion about an author’s politics. We discuss the “best case” defense of the claim that Foucault was somehow seduced by neoliberal thought, and the way this argument often gets linked in an under-nuanced way to Foucault’s critique of the post-war welfare state. We also explore the various ways in which Foucault, while often categorized as a libertarian, with anti-state proclivities, was equally opposed to anarchist theoretics of the state, going even so far as to refer to them as a form of “state phobia” — something that is especially interesting think about today, in light of Agamben’s recent interventions on Coronavirus measures as amplifying permanent state of exception (I discussed this at length in the intro to our last episode, with Garnet Kindervater).

    • 1 hrs 17분
    Episode 23: Coronavirus, Catastrophe & Agamben, with Garnet Kindervater

    Episode 23: Coronavirus, Catastrophe & Agamben, with Garnet Kindervater

    This episode is about the biggest story of the decade so far, COVID-19, or the coronavirus. But its also an episode with someone I’ve been wanting to have on the show for a long time, Garnet Kindervater.







    Before we get started, just a few observations about the politics of the coronavirus itself. I don’t know if its fair to say viruses have a politics, but their human victims certainly do. And, as some of you may have been following, we’ve seen a big debate break out this week over a piece on the virus by Giorgio Agamben. Garnet and I don’t talk about Agamben in this interview. At the time of recording, we were only just becoming aware of this debate. But I want to talk a little bit about it before we get started, as I think its relevant to the interview you’re about to hear.







    Agamben’s basic position seems to be an extreme take on the libertarian left’s impulse to read the state, or sovereignty, as a technology of control in itself. And so, for him, living in Italy in the midst of the state’s effort to control coronavirus, there seems to be a natural connection between the way the state is expressing its power right now, isolating large portions of the population, and his overall thesis that since the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001, government has become a permanent state of exception. Here’s a quote:









    “It is blatantly evident that these restrictions are disproportionate to the threat from what is, according to the NRC, a normal flu, not much different from those that affect us every year … We might say that once terrorism was exhausted as a justification for exceptional measures, the invention of an epidemic could offer the ideal pretext for broadening such measures beyond any limitation.”









    Now, I’m not an epidemiologist. But neither is Agamben. So I am not sure how take this statement. According to the New York Times, the death rate among those contracting the seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S. Whereas estimates of the death rate among those contracting COVID-19 in China vary between 1.4% and 2.3%. In the literature, there’s a lot of commentary about regional variation and stuff like that, but the bottom line is that Agamben does seem to be trivializing the matter to a degree that could be considered irresponsible, or even negligent.







    Now of course, that’s not to discredit Agamben’s intellectual program necessarily. There’s a long history of theorists making bad calls on specific controversies. But there have been number of replies published to Agamben. Two have stood out for me, and I want to mention them now as I think they’ll maybe help listeners better understand the value of the interview.







    The first piece that I thought worth mentioning is by Slavoj Zizek. In a piece published on the blog The Philosophical Salon on March 16, Zizek rebukes Agamben for what amounts to an “extreme form of a widespread Leftist stance of reading the “exaggerated panic” caused by the spread of the virus as a mixture of power, exercise of social control and elements of outright racism.” For Zizek, however, Agamben’s folly is not in the same breath an excuse for a return to some kind of idealized left authoritarianism. To the contrary, its a demand for a new, democratic form of communism. Whatever the successes of China in combating COVID-19,

    • 1 hrs 34분
    Episode 22: Sinn Féin and the 2020 Irish election, with Colin Coulter

    Episode 22: Sinn Féin and the 2020 Irish election, with Colin Coulter

    Today we are joined once again by Colin Coulter, of National University of Ireland, Maynooth. You might remember Colin from way back in Episode 8. That was like. 3 years ago! I didn’t even know I’d been doing this for three years!







    But I wanted to ask Colin back on this week to talk about the recent election in Ireland. Because it turns out this wasn’t any old election in Ireland! In a stunning result, Sinn Fein, a party which probably more than any other symbolizes the troubled history that many Irish people would sooner forget, surged from the 23 seats it won in the 2016 election, to 37 seats. Now, considering that prior to 2016, Sinn Fein typically never had more than 4 or 5 seats, the momentum here is clear. But it is now the second largest party in the Dail, just one seat behind Fianna Fáil (38 seats). Yet Sinn Fein isn’t just a relic of Ireland’s Civil War history. While it is a party with a complicated and often contradictory set of ideological commitments, the 2020 election result (ironically!) suggests a major realignment of the Irish political spectrum, away from Civil War politics, and towards something much more like the traditional European left-right model.







    Colin Coulter is going to talk us through it all in just a moment. Before we get to the interview tho, Colin asked me to mention that he has a new article he has out, with Francisco Arqueros-Fernández, called “The Distortions of the Irish ‘Recovery.’” You can find it in the Spring 2020 issue of the journal Critical Social Policy:







    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0261018319838912







    As ever, if you have any feedback, you can reach us on Twitter @occupyirtheory. If you like this episode, please leave us a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or your preferred podcast provider. This is an occasional show. Its free. We never ask you for money. But we do want to spread the word.

    • 1 hrs 7분
    Episode 21: Morbid Symptoms on Brexit Day, with Owen Worth

    Episode 21: Morbid Symptoms on Brexit Day, with Owen Worth

    This episode comes to you on February 6, 2020, just six days after so-called “Brexit Day.” That is, the day Britain legally departed from the European Union. In honor of this occasion, in this episode we talk to another returned guest, Owen Worth, of the University of Limerick. You may remember Owen from Episode 4, where we talked with him about the 2017 British General Election, and the surprising performance of Jeremy Corbyn, and the British Labour Party. In this episode, Owen is going to help us try to get our heads around not only some of the implications of Brexit but, more importantly, the implications of the 2019 election for the British left.







    Now, as you know, in our last episode, we had Lee Jones of the Full Brexit blog on, giving his take on the election. And Lee’s views on the election are complex, but the basic idea I think is that he sees the election as effectively a second referendum on Brexit, and an underlining of the desire of the British electorate to leave the European Union. In this sense, taking his cues from scholars like Peter Mair, Lee sees the election as a kind of revenge of those who feel themselves materially abandoned by mainstream liberal democracy.







    Owen Worth doesn’t necessarily disagree with Lee Jones. Yet, as you’ll hear, he traces a somewhat longer history of the decline of the British Labour Party. As we will discuss, this decline isn’t necessarily straightforward our easy to understand. After all, the Labour Party did extremely well in 2017, largely not he basis of a robust manifesto and a commitment to honor the results of the Brexit referendum. In this episode, you are going to hear Owen and I debate the extent to which the Labour Party’s U-turn on Leave was a decisive factor in the election. Listeners to this show won’t be surprised to hear that I tend to agree more with Lee Jones on this point, but Owen does present some interesting figures on the low turnout among young voters.







    Leaving the immediate subject of the election, we some of Owen’s recent work, applying an article he wrote in 2019 in the journal Globalizations, applying Gramsci’s notion of the War of Position to the Corbyn left. We are also going to get stuck into Owen’s new book, Morbid Symptoms, just out from Zed Books. As you’ll hear, Owen believes that one major reason for the recent spike in popularity of far right ideas is the left’s failure to mount a radical alternative to the prevailing order.







    A quick plug before we get started — many American listeners may be feeling a little stressed out right now about recent shenanigans in Iowa. But look, you can’t spend your whole day reading about Bernie Sanders knifed in the chest by the DNC. So, as a way of bringing a little diversity to your day, next week we are going to bringing Colin Coulter back on the show to talk about this weekend’s upcoming elections in Ireland! Some of you may have heard that Sinn Fein has been surging. And, to say this is unusual would be something of an understatement. So, we’ve got to check in with our resident expert on the Irish left, Colin Coulter, and see what’s going on there. Stay tuned!







    Footnote: here is the blog post from Lord Ashcroft Polls cited by Owen, on tactical voting in the 2019 election.

    • 1 hrs 18분
    Episode 20: UK General Election with Lee Jones

    Episode 20: UK General Election with Lee Jones

    Hello friends, and welcome to Episode 20 of Fully Automated, an Occupy IR Theory podcast.







    Its January 4, 2020, and kicking off our fourth season of the show 2020 with two episodes on the recent elections in the UK. In this episode, we are joined by a former guest, Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics at Queen Mary, University of London, who is also a contributor at the blog, The Full Brexit. In the next episode, which should be posting sometime in the next few days, we’ll have Owen Worth, of the University of Limerick.







    Now, both these guests have been on before and, as you’ll see, they have slightly different explanations not only about what happened in the UK election, but about where the left goes from here. But today we get the ball rolling with Lee Jones. The last time you heard him on this show was in Episode 14, in December 2018. We recorded that episode right after the European Council had agreed to the terms of Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. Its hard to imagine that, a year later, after countless delays, Britain is actually about to leave the European Union!







    The UK election took place on December 12, just before Christmas. The results were one of the worst ever for the British Labour Party and so, as we might expect, there have been a lot of “what happened” pieces circulating in the last couple weeks. But one of the more prominent explanations circulating is that the result was kind of a “revenge of the boomers” scenario, or the triumph of British nationalism, or what some even call “nativism.” On the night of the election, for example, Paul Mason tweeted that the results represent “a victory of the old over the young, racists over people of colour, selfishness over the planet.”







    In this episode, you’re going to hear Lee Jones repudiate that argument in no uncertain terms. As he argued in a recent blog post on The Full Brexit, the results of the election are intimately connected to the politics of Brexit, which itself can’t be understood unless we first have a grasp on the strange tragedy of the British left. In the episode, we’re going to talk about the significance of the decision at the Labour Party’s 2019 annual conference, to support the call for a second referendum. For Lee, however, this decision was merely the latest in a long series of betrayals by the Labour Party of its working class base. This is a contestable argument, I should note, and in our next episode you’re going to hear Owen Worth push back on it, a little. For now though, Lee’s critical point is that this defeat was more a wake up call for the British left than a defeat of leftist ideals and principles. And, as we discuss towards the end of the show, there are lessons here for other leftist parties around the world, and especially for activists supporting the Bernie Sanders campaign in the United States.

    • 1 hrs 23분
    Episode 19: Generation Left, with Keir Milburn & Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction

    Episode 19: Generation Left, with Keir Milburn & Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction

    Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated! Our guest for this episode is Keir Milburn, Lecturer in Political Economy and Organization at the University of Leicester. Keir has a new book out, called Generation Left. I had a chance to discuss the text recently, with my Columbus, OH-based friends, Chairman Moe’s Magic Contradiction (AKA Charlie Umland and Jim Calder). We liked it so much, we thought we’d reach out to Keir and see if he’d come on the show, to discuss.







    American audiences may have heard Keir interviewed by Chuck Mertz a couple of weeks ago, on This Is Hell! We’re kind of hoping this could be a good companion episode to that interview, as we go deep into some aspects of the book that Chuck didn’t have time to address. And there is a LOT going on in this book! It starts by questioning the popular notion that Millennials and Zoomers are a bunch of entitled snowflakes, and suggesting that this myth is actually doing quite a lot of work, politically, in dividing young and old members of the working class, giving them over to the idea that they have fundamentally different interests.







    But of course, as with many myths, an investigation of the facts produces a rather different persecutive. It turns out, says Keir, that the generations are stuck in rather different material trajectories. One statement Keir makes early in the book really caught our attention: “the older generation are still tied to the neoliberal hegemony of finance while the young seek to escape it.” But these trajectories are not a given. To the contrary, the logic of neoliberalism forces the Boomer generation to hold onto its material advantages, as a retirement strategy. And, as it does this, it condemns Millennials and Zoomers to a life of debt and forces them into a culture of cynical entrepreneurialism.







    In the show, we talk with Keir about the role of events in composing generations. Events, he says, can disrupt our accepted ways of making sense of the world, and lead to the emergence of radically new social energies. But not every disruptive event will necessarily lead to some kind of new configuration, nor will every new configuration necessarily be a progressive one.







    One particular event, the 2008 financial crisis, of course looms large in Keir’s story. Unleashing austerity on the developed world, it represents in a sense the apogee of neoliberal governmentality. Milburn cites academic theorists like Wendy Brown, Maurizio Lazzarato, and Jennifer Silva to try to explain how neoliberal capitalism tries to get us to think and act as if there is no alternative to neoliberalism, even tho we all know its not working — we know we can’t all be entrepreneurs. (This reminded us a bit of Adam Curtis, and his hyper-normalization documentary). A key figure for Milburn here is Mark Fisher, and his argument about consciousness deflation.







    Whatever we want to call this system (authoritarian neoliberalism? zombie capitalism?), clearly it is making us sick. Throughout the text, Milburn make repeated reference to how we are living in the midst of an epidemic of “depression, insomnia and mental distress.” Yet there’s kind of a mystery to unpack here. He cites Jennifer Silva, for example, to explain how capitalism prefers us to internalize these issues, making them questions more to to do with our emotional and psychic resilience, than anything to do with the structure of the economy.







    And, as he argues, this way of thinking about our mental wellbeing even showed up in the “assemblyism...

    • 1 hrs 45분

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