Adam Smith's Dilemma and the Algonquian Model of Political Virtue

Adam Smith is usually remembered as a champion of commerce. But as a moral philosopher he understood that even as commerce inculcates the virtues of industry, frugality, and temperance, it also inculcates vices such as avarice, envy, and short-sighted self-centeredness. Smith recognized that good government requires virtues such as honor, moral rectitude, patriotism, magnanimity, and a far-sighted perspective, to which the commercial vices are fairly opposed. Smith considered this a problem in his own day, as Great Britain was threatening to become a nation of shopkeepers, ruled by classes trained not in statesmanship but in commerce, governed not by codes of honor but by self-interest. The problem has resonance today as well.

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Gillian Rose and Education

In her preface to the 1995 edition of Hegel Contra Sociology, Gillian Rose says that her project is “to demonstrate a nonfoundational and radical Hegel, which overcomes the opposit[ion] between nihilism and rationalism” and can renew critical thought “in the intellectual difficulty of our time.” However, I think this is not quite the case, for two reasons. First, Rose’s Hegel is not nonfoundational. Instead, as the book makes very clear, Rose’s Hegel does think the absolute, or the true. Yet her Hegel is also radical because she does not eschew the “ineluctable difficulty” of the authority of saying that truth either can or cannot be thought. Second, and in the teeth of this apparent inconsistency, thinking the absolute does not “overcome” such oppositions. Instead, it learns of their truth, their self-determination, by rethinking the religious and political presuppositions upon which these oppositions depend. Against the logic of mastery and ownership, or the propertied logic, that continues to dominate Western thinking, in Rose’s Hegel the learning and education which is endemic to the Aufhebung is not prejudged as “overcoming” (i.e., as abstract truth) or “failing to overcome” (yielding chaos and infinite regression). Instead, what it commends, and what I explore in this article, is a different logic of freedom, an educational logic, which can find its truth in preserving and reforming the opposition between nihilism and rationalism. This self-determining educational logic is the work in which thinking can renew itself in the intellectual difficulty of our time.

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Telos 173 (Winter 2015): Gillian Rose

Telos 173 (Winter 2015) is now available for purchase in our store.

Gillian Rose (1947–1995) had an influence in excess of her literary output and treatment in secondary literature. Author of eight books, two articles, and four book reviews, she also had important, though perhaps hidden, effects on the UK academic scene through academic friendship, doctoral supervision, and interdisciplinary work. She inspired many students and colleagues, even where she does not appear in bibliographies or citations. She made major contributions to introducing the Frankfurt School to the UK; aided the Hegel renaissance in English-language scholarship; and was an early critic of post-structuralism and political theology. Several of the papers gathered here were first given at a conference at Durham University on January 9, 2015, to mark the twentieth year since Rose’s death. That conference and this special issue of Telos are premised on the view that Rose’s work still has much philosophical insight and inspiration to offer. The authors of these papers were students, colleagues, and/or friends of Rose, or studied her work as part of their doctoral research. The diversity of their fields reflects some of the range and interdisciplinarity of Rose’s own work: Hegel, social theory, Marxism, politics, race, recognition theory, education, and theology. We hope that this issue provokes a renewed interest in what Rose can still offer us today.

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Education, Revolt!

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Matt Applegate looks at Paul Piccone’s “Students’ Protest, Class-Structure, and Ideology” from Telos 3 (Spring 1969).

Paul Piccone’s 1969 essay “Students’ Protest, Class-Structure, and Ideology” captures the revolutionary ethos of that time in the United States. Hippies, student politics, Black Power, as well as the work of such figures as Régis Debray and Herbert Marcuse all come under Piccone’s earnest critical consideration. His primary concern, however, is the link between these student revolts and the state of education in the United States. On the one hand, Piccone is intent on charting the means by which hyper-industrialization and the technologization of work lead to open student rebellion. On the other, he is interested in understanding why student rebellion is effective in relation to other forms of revolutionary organization that appear alongside it.

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The Roots of the Knowledge Factory: Coercion, Exploitation, and Pedagogy

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Matt Applegate looks at André Gorz’s “The Tyranny of the Factory: Today and Tomorrow” from Telos 16 (Summer 1973).

“There is a link between the crisis of School (school instruction) and the crisis of tyranny in the factory,” André Gorz proclaims in his 1973 article “The Tyranny of the Factory: Today and Tomorrow” (64). An Austrian-born social theorist, Gorz is known primarily for his interventions in political ecology and social analysis of capitalism. His focus on capital and education is not unrelated here, however. Substantively more than an abstract analysis of working conditions in the contemporary factory or a sweeping statement concerning the state of education in France, Gorz links the culture of factory labor to the imperatives of discipline and command in educational settings. The underlying claim here is that the logic of capitalism and the raison d’être of state-run education have become synonymous, resulting in both an auto-social response to capital’s hegemony in all forms of life and the elimination of pedagogical forms that inspire critical thought and practice. With this claim, at least three points of focus must be highlighted.

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The Politics of “Theory”

Arthur C. T. Strum’s “The Politics of ‘Theory’ in a Late Twentieth-Century University: A Memoir” appears in Telos 159 (Summer 2012). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue here.

In this essay, I explore my own experience as an undergraduate of two formations. One of these formations might be called “liberal pedagogy,” by which I mean something which its practitioners do not in the rule consciously profess, but which underlies their everyday practice, in and out of the classroom. The other formation is what denizens of the American university have for the past thirty years commonly called “theory,” whose adherents tended to define themselves against what they saw and see as the self-deceptions of liberal thought. I contend, against both the “theorists” and the university’s liberal defenders, that liberal pedagogy is in fact deeply political—far more profound, politically, than most “theory,” which tends not to get very far beyond what it thinks it contests: the structuring prejudices of present-day civil society. But I also try to show that the inclination towards “theory” has its own political profundity—whose ultimate implications, however, are ambiguous.

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