Friday, 28 April 2017

Call for Applications

The Max-Weber-Kolleg invites applications for up to
4 positions for Ph.D. projects (TV-L 13, 65%)
in the fields of Religious Studies, Sociology, Philosophy, History, Classics and related subjects within the framework of the International Research Training Group "Resonant Self-World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices".

Christoph Henning asks: What can we learn from Karl Marx today?

On May 1, thousands of people in Germany are again on the road to demonstrate for more justice and improved working conditions. As a 'Labor Day', the national holiday continues the legacy of the workers' movement, which since the second half of the nineteenth century has struggled in many places against the oppression and exploitation of the working classes newly created by industrialization. For the socialist-communist camp within the workers' movement, Karl Marx once provided the theoretical background, and even today the social theorist is gladly quoted. But what does Karl Marx actually say? Christoph Henning, Junior Fellow for Philosophy at the Max Weber College of the University of Erfurt, asked: 'What do we still have in common with Karl Marx's contemporary workers today, and what can we do for our work? Can capitalist societies still learn from Marx today?'

The writings of Marx still address us in many ways. So we can find a number of answers. I would first distinguish between crisis diagnosis and therapy. If one follows the Marxian theory, then the disruption of the present is mainly due to economic mechanisms: the capitalist mode of production in which everything is based on the profit-making of capital is a process, subject to a destructive growth strategy. If the prospects for profit become uncertain, as in the past decades, the capital goes hunting for other profitable investment opportunities, 'robbery' - public goods, natural goods, intellectual property, or hitherto collectively managed regions are incorporated into capitalist forms by use of violence. This is called 'privatization, globalization, or financing', or less soothingly, for example, 'takeover'.
According to Marx, profit is achieved on the one hand through the exploitation of labor, but on the other hand also by the appropriately questionable appropriation of seeming, miserable goods (accumulation by expropriation). And as in the time of Marx, most people today still need to find a 'buyer' for their workforce, and to make themselves as marketless as possible, at the risk of impoverishment and exclusion. In the present, therefore, not only are processes such as the rising social inequality or the spread of crisis-prone financialised capitalism us well explained with Marx, but also the increasing phenomena of an 'exhaustion' or a burnout which I would call with Marx 'alienation'.
As to the possible answers to this smoldering crises, one can learn from Marx that 'national' answers lead to a dead end. Of course, one can try to get rid of these dangers and build walls (in the minds or at the supposed borders). But since capital, goods and money (and, in many cases, labor too) are mobile on a global scale, the problems may be exacerbated in this way - and they also see xenophobia and exclusion. It is therefore still a matter of transforming the destructive tendencies of the capitalist mode of production either into socially and more environmentally compatible ways of dealing, or, if this does not succeed, at least to curb them, but without falling back into repressive and exclusive patterns of a central administration. To strive for this in international co-operation is a challenge that has grown even more since the time of Marx. Since the next year marks the 200th anniversary of Marx, I therefore expect a small revival. We will also organize events in Erfurt.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Claudia Bergmann is going to present a working paper on 'Messiah and Meal: Early Jewish and Christian Ideas of the Role of the Anointed One at the Meal in the World to Come'

My Habilitation „Endzeit als Mahl-Zeit“ investigates early Jewish texts that develop the idea of an abundant meal in the World to Come. Located at the intersection of Religious and Ritual Studies, it discusses the foods served at the utopian meal, the location imagined for the meal, the participants at the table and the hierarchies among them and attempts to develop a matrix, with which to understand this biblical and extrabiblical motif.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sarah Al-Taher presents a working paper on 'Anthropological (pre)condition: Human being as deficient being in Plato´s myths'

There is no explicit systematic anthropology in Plato's work. Nevertheless, elements of an anthropology can be found in several of Plato’s dialogues including the myths.  In this chapter, I am concerned with the question of whether, and if so to what extent, humans can be understood as deficient beings in Plato’s Work, und what kind of anthropology that would bring forth. This is followed by further questions: How can deficiency be understood, how deficiency relates to human beings and what anthropological consequences result from it.
For this purpose this paper will study the myth of the origin of living beings (Protagoras), the myth of the spherical human the so called “Kugelmenschen” (Symposion), as well as the myth of the chariot of the soul (Phaidros).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Jana Ilnicka is going to present a working paper on 'Die Göttliche Selbstbestimmung und Personkonstituierung nach Meister Eckhart' (Divine Self-constitution and constitution of personhood in Meister Eckhart)

In this paper I am dealing with the question of relation, from the newly re-discovered manuscript of Wartburg, in comparison with certain German sermons of Meister Eckhart. The question on the Wartburg manuscript shows many parallels with other texts of Eckhart and offers a more explicit representation of his ideas.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Valentina Cuzzocrea presents a working paper on 'Moratoria or waithood? Revisiting forms of time taking in the transition to adulthood'

Youth transitions literature takes as a central theme the procrastination in the assumption of adults role, departing from Erikson’s concept of ‘psychological moratorium’ (1968). That young people find themselves taking time before embarking on definite routes, or while doing so, has in fact been seen as a constitutive element of transition to adulthood, whether in erratic forms devoted to experimentation or under more institutionalised or middle class oriented shapes, such as gap years’ spent travelling. However, such a developmental need enters in contrast with institutional demands related to the imperative of becoming fit for work’, mainly through obtaining more qualifications and skills considered essential to meet the challenges of employment, and ultimately embody a model of ‘active citizenship’ (Rosa et al 2016). But how do the two contrasting demands come to terms with each other in the experience of youth? Confronting the concept of psychologic moratorium (and its developmens) with a wider literature on social acceleration, where an emphasis on active citizenship and employability can be located, this paper seeks to revisit the meaning of moratoria and contrast it with different forms of youth time taking. It does so by discussing a Sardinian case study, where forms of time taking also take the shape of ‘waithood’, but more generally seeks to engage with broader political underpinnings of these findings.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Felipe Torres is going to present a working paper on 'Modern regimes of temporalities - A Paradox between Diversification and Homogenization'

The following is the exposure of the structure for a research project that is focused on the centrality of Modern experience on Time as structural condition on contemporary societies. In this sense this writing represents a first introduction draft for an approach on “regimes of temporality”.
As a first background, the connectivity of today's World, facilitated by the progressive advances of media and technology, creates a global atmosphere in which space and time acquire new states. Coordination between different cultural spaces requires the emergence of universal mechanisms of interaction, from a standardized global timetable to mobile communication devices, laptops, Internet access, etc. All these account for a World that is globalized though means that generate uniform frameworks for interaction. Moreover, the plurality of lifestyles that are proposed (i.e. through advertising and identity construction and the consumption of certain differentiating products) indicates a reality opposed to standardization or homogenization, with diversity as a value, a search for cosmopolitanism, and an enhancement of originality and innovation. This work suggests that this paradox is observed in a privileged way through an analysis of the experience of modern times: as a mechanism of social coordination (Elias, 1984), time tends to standardize social relations beyond elements that seek to make it measurable in order to coordinate social ties. At the same time, modern time has no "center" to the extent that society is not governed by the existence of "one" time: time is experienced differently whether we are in the East or West, North or South, and it also can depend on social classes, age groups, gender, etc. This characteristic allows us to speak of a multiplicity of times (Fabian, 1983).
How is this apparent contradiction possible? What are the possible causes of this phenomenon? These are some of the questions that the following work proposes to address.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Markus Vinzent presents a working paper on 'Retrospections – A History of early Christians'

The project develops first a new approach to the writing of history in terms of retrospections to then test it by using several case studies. These cover the two earliest ‘Christian’ monuments (the ‘Abercius’ inscription; the Hippolytus statue), the first preserved apology (Aristides); the first collection of non-canonical letters (Ignatius); the first catechism (Didache); the first ‘Christian’ iconography (Dura-Europos); the first Gospel (Marcion); the first ‘Christian’ witness (Paul).

In this first methodological chapter I reflect upon the paradoxical nature of writing history. Though we cannot but approach the past by retrospection and reflecting upon what we think we perceive, most historiographical narratives proceed in a chronological way, as if we were able to first jump into the period we are looking at, and then, once arrived there, start following the lives of our protagonists. This, as I think, clouds the fact of the hiatus between than and now, it also gives the impression of a neutral, contemporary observer who is capable of following the events described and the fact that what the historian is doing is anachronistic creation. Furthermore, the initial leap obscures the initial stages through which I have come to be informed of the past. Instead, retrospection, as will be developed here, reveals that perspectivity is a core notion that is linked with ephemeral individual insights. Retrospection also re-evaluates the objects that are targeted. Instead of the idea of sources that were handed down through history – explicated in the fashionable new historicity, new philology, reception history or Überlieferungsgeschichte – retrospection highlights that all targets are actively appropriated, isolated and shaped by the viewers. It then reveals that such appropriations continuously happens, but that major steps of appropriation in history took place (the early 20th and second half of the 19th centuries; the High Middle Ages; the fifth and the fourth century; the late second century). Until we can target the evidence of the second and first century, we have to make a long journey backwards through layers of such appropriations to be discovered in retrospection.

Cesare Cuttica offers a paper on 'Democracy and Crisis in the 1640s in England: The Ochlocratic Moment'

This paper, which is here presented in its very first (and long) draft, wants to provisionally do three things. First, it discusses – at an inevitably general but hopefully helpful and explanatory level – the currently much-debated term ‘crisis’ as well as some philosophical and historiographical views of it. In particular, relying on Reinhart Koselleck’s work, the paper focuses on one of its key (and historically original) meanings: the medical one.

Second, the following pages briefly illustrate the origins of the not-oft-heard classical political concept ‘ochlocracy’ (‘government of the rabble’). Subsequently, by connecting the medical connotation of crisis to the surge in use of ‘ochlocracy’ in the 1640s in England, the paper claims that the politico-religious situation of that troubled, and novelty-soaked, decade can be better understood in some of its central ideological features. In so doing, a few important methodological questions (inspired by Hannah Arendt’s essay The Crisis in Education) are also advanced: how does political thought react to critical moments in history? Does political thought produce ‘crisis/es’? Are moments of ‘crisis’ moments of creativity for the history of political thought and political theory?

Third, the paper pays specific attention to a series of texts composed in the heat of the polemics of the 1640s where various groups of political and religious actors – Levellers, sectaries, Independents – were attacked as people who attempted to erect an ‘ochlocracy’. This analysis will show the relevance of the medical meaning of crisis in these debates in that the already unhealthy democracy (indeed, a disease) was then thought to have degenerated into the even worse (that is, lethal) ochlocracy. Thus, the medical sense of a disease (democracy) that had reached an acute phase (ochlocracy), out of which either life or death of the body politic arose, will serve to put forward some general considerations on the potential outcomes of a deeply critical moment in political practice and theory.

Ultimately, the paper intends to present a contextually-defined instance of a crisis and of how some people reacted to it. It also wants to offer some reflections on the role of the history of political thought and intellectual history as disciplines engaged in reading the past through the study of language as well as chart the development of ideas through time.

Peter Schröder is going to present a paper on 'Trust and Mistrust in Early Eighteenth Century International Political Thought, 1713-1763'

This project builds on my previous work on seventeenth century international political thought to explore the role of trust and mistrust between European states in the emergence of international political thought through the first half of the eighteenth century, from the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 to the Peace of Paris in 1763. In the short introductory part I will give an overview of some of my leading research questions my project wants to tackle, before the second part presents a preliminary case study of two eighteenth century natural law thinkers, i.e. Johann Jacob Schmauß (1690-1757) and Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681-1741).