Author Meets Readers: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos

Author Meets Readers: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos

Date: Tuesday 30 June 2015
Time: 4-6pm
Venue: Vera Anstey Room, LSE Old Building, Houghton Street.
Author: Wendy Brown (Political Science, UC Berkeley)
Readers: Anne Barron (LSE Law), Nick Couldry (LSE Media and Communications), David Graeber (LSE Anthropology), Anne Phillips (LSE Government).
Chair: Ayça Çubukçu (LSE Sociology)

The argument of Wendy Brown’s powerful new book is that neoliberalism is in the process of draining liberal democratic ideals – liberty, equality, legality, popular self-rule – of their distinctively political meanings. Worse, it is filling these terms with new meanings that represent the political as subsumable, like everything else, within a totally ‘economised’ world, a world ordered entirely by the imperative to maximise capital in all its forms – including that which is supposedly embedded in human capacities and potentials.

Drawing on, but also departing from, Foucault’s writings on neoliberal governmentality, Professor Brown characterises neoliberalism as a form of calculative reason that is colonising every domain of life in Euro-American societies today: from states and workplaces to educational institutions and households. Warning that both liberal democratic practices and radical democratic aspirations are threatened with extinction by these changes, Undoing the Demos (Zone Books, 2015) focuses particularly on three manifestations of what its author calls ‘neoliberalism’s stealth revolution’: the continued rise of governance as a characteristic modality of rule in the post-democratic state, an ongoing judicial trend towards extending ‘human’ rights to corporate persons, and tendencies in the organisation and culture of universities that are reducing higher education to little more than a site of human capital formation, justifiable only insofar as it delivers a competitive rate of return on students’ investments in themselves.

On Tuesday, June 30, Wendy Brown meets a panel of readers – Anne Barron, Nick Couldry, David Graeber and Anne Phillips – who will have approached her book from disparate perspectives informed respectively by legal theory, media theory, anthropology and political theory. This event is free and open to all with no ticket or pre-registration required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries, email a.barron@lse.ac.uk.

Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and a Shimizu Visiting Professor in the Law Department at LSE, 2015.
Anne Barron is an Associate Professor in the Law Department at LSE
Nick Couldry is Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE
David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology in the Anthropology Department at LSE
Anne Phillips is the Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at LSE
Ayça Çubukçu is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department and in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE


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