Programme notes

Malcolm BullIntroduction to Special Issue on Globalization and Biopolitics

Malcolm BullVectors of the Biopolitical

Taking coordinates from Aristotle, Malcolm Bull finds in Agamben’s biopolitics and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach the disconnected fragments of a lost vision of society, adumbrated by Marx, glimpsed and rejected by Arendt. Strange meetings as the trajectories of the disenfranchised and the empowered, human and non-human, converge.

John ChalcraftLabour in the Levant

Against celebrations of the messianic potential of migrant labour, John Chalcraft presents the case of Syrian workers in Lebanon, where porous borders and hybrid identities serve to reproduce exploitative conditions. What motivations and aspirations underpin migration—and what routes might lead out of commodification’s web?

Sanjay ReddyDeath in China

Does the PRC’s staggering economic growth confirm the thesis that ‘wealthier is healthier’? Using life expectancy data from three decades, Sanjay Reddy measures China’s advances against those of other countries—and finds explanations for its relatively poor performance in the marketization of health care and shrinkage of state spending since 1980.

Kaushik Sunder RajanExperimental Values

Drawing on fieldwork in India, Kaushik Sunder Rajan analyses the mechanics of global pharmaceutical trials. The outsourcing of drug testing not as neo-colonial plunder, but part of a dual dynamic, under the aegis of ‘biocapital’: expropriation of Third World subjects, exploitation of medicated populations in the First.

Clive HamiltonBuilding on Kyoto

A critical assessment of George Monbiot’s scheme for a 90 per cent cut in carbon emissions. Given the psychological grip of capitalist consumption patterns, and the forces blocking attempts to tackle climate change—fossil fuel lobby, heavy industry, airlines—what is the best strategy for environmental action? Can ambitious targets and moral exhortations bring any improvement on existing treaties?

George MonbiotEnvironmental Feedback

Responding to Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot stresses the inadequacies of current governmental efforts to address rising global temperatures, and the need for targets to be set by science rather than political expediency. An attack on the cruelties of cost-benefit analysis, and a call for genuine ethical commitment to replace tokenism.

Sven LüttickenUnnatural History

Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.

Jane BennettEdible Matter

Jane Bennett presents a case for seeing matter as actant inside and alongside humankind, able to exert influence on moods, dispositions, decisions. Might food in fact be seen as possessing a form of agency? Vitality and volition in motifs from Thoreau and Nietzsche, viewed through the prism of the biological and physical sciences.