I’ve just had two intense weeks at Birkbeck’s London Critical Theory Summer School. Teaching was scheduled throughout the two weeks with summary debates on each Friday. During the first week we had: Michael Lowy taking “Marxism and Romanticism,” Jacqueline Rose taking “Limits of theory, limits of thought – psychoanalysis/politics/sexual difference,” Stephen Frosh taking “On denial, resistance and Psychoanalysis,” Costas Douzinas taking “The Left in Power” and Esther Leslie taking “Doing the Spiel.” The second week comprised of Susan Buck-Morss taking “Pre-History of the Post-Colonial,” David Harvey taking “Value Theory in Marx” and Slavoj Žižek taking “On the Capitalist Discourse.” The two weeks delivered over 30 hours of teaching and of course, inevitably, all the lecturers gave way more than their allotted time.
Personally, I came away with many thoughts and perspectives. Especially relevant was the interweaving of contemporary events such as Brexit and the coup in Turkey into the lectures and discussions.
The two weekly Friday debates synthesised the previous lectures and provided an opportunity to discuss and examine terms between each of the academics.
For me, while the subject areas of each lecture were distinct, there were also many cross overs and parallels and all of these fed into my own areas of interest and research.
Notably, Slavoj Žižek was able to explain and contextualise Lacan’s four discourses in a way that I’d previously not conceived them. David Harvey’s explanation of Marx’s Value Theory was also incredibly useful. He articulated how labour theory of value is derived from commodity exchange. With these sessions taking on an analysis of what happens when value circulates and specifically what occurs when there is a ‘blockage.’
One of the many takeaway quotes from the week came via David Harvey, who suggested “real social change depends on the transformation of social relations.” He also talked a lot about concrete production in China.
During week two there was some ‘added value’ when on one evening we attended a book launch of “The Trouble With Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis” by Aaraon Schuster as well as a screening of Beyonce’s “Lemonade.”
It was a privilege to be taught by such a diverse range of academics, to meet some really interesting (and I use this term not as Žižek described it) people and overall it was an experience I would highly recommend.