What remains of democracy when human beings are reduced not simply to rational economic actors, but to fragments of self-investing human capital? What happens when government is evaluated and legitimated by its capacity to facilitate economic growth or maintain strong credit rating? What do these developments entail for democracy’s foundation in popular sovereignty and promise of individual freedom and equality?
Political science professor Wendy Brown from the University of California, Berkeley will address these concerns in her talk "Homo Oeconomicus, Homo Politicus, and Predicaments of Contemporary Democracy" on Wednesday, April 24, at 5:30pm, in Taylor Hall room 203. This event is free and open to the public, and sponsored by the American Studies Program as part of its Crisis and Critique of Sovereignty lecture series.
Brown will discuss related ideas from her forthcoming book Neoliberalism and the Undoing of Democracy, as she considers the specific form of philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of homo oeconomicus in contemporary neoliberal reason, and the implications for the ideal or practice of democracy when this figure displaces its companion in modernity, homo politicus. (Homo oeconomicus is the concept in many economic theories of humans as rational and narrowly self-interested actors, whereas homo politicus is the concept in public policy theory of an individual who is interested in and acts in the public good.)
Brown is the Class of 1963 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She is best known for intertwining the insights of Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Freud, Frankfurt School theorists, Foucault, and contemporary Continental philosophers to critically interrogate formations of power, political identity, citizenship, and political subjectivity in contemporary liberal democracies. Brown's current research concerns the relation of religion, secularism, and capital in Marx's work along with the novel predicaments of democratic citizenship in contemporary neoliberal governmentality.
Brown is the author of Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone Books, 2010); Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Empire and Identity (Princeton University Press, 2006); Edgework: Essays on Knowledge and Politics (Princeton University Press, 2005); Politics Out of History (Princeton University Press, 2001); States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (Princeton University Press, 1995); Manhood and Politics: A Feminist Reading in Political Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 1988). She has co-authored Is Critique Secular? Injury, Blasphemy and Free Speech with Judith Butler, Saba Mahmood, and Talal Asad (University of California Press, 2009); and coedited Left Legalism/Left Critique with Janet Halley (Duke University Press, 2002).
Brown received her PhD. in Political Philosophy from Princeton University in 1983. She has recently been a Senior Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and a UC President's Humanities Fellow.
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