Category Archives: Post-Modern Prince

Capitalism, Karl Marx & the European protests against the Bologna Process

The deep, profound and continuing global economic crisis has prompted a global revival of interest in the work of Karl Marx as well as much greater militancy in European universities. One example of this was at a one-day conference that was organized by graduate students at the University of Tampere in Finland on 16 October 2009, which was called Economic Crisis and Marx’s Comeback. For details of this conference (in Finnish) and the podcasts of the lectures click here. The PowerPoint of my lecture can be accessed here (1.1MB PPT file) and a shorter version of the lecture may be downloaded here (33MB OGG file – can be played in VLC Media Player).

The conference was linked to wider trends: sales of Das Kapital have multiplied enormously, with Karl Marx reading groups sprouting on campuses throughout the world, whilst in Europe, campus protests have erupted across the continent, most recently at the University of Vienna.

The protests link a critique of capitalist development to an outcry against the so-called Bologna Process, which involves neo-liberal reforms to the higher education systems of the member states of the European Union.

As readers of this website will know, I am currently a Visiting Research Professor at the University of Helsinki, where earlier this year there were occupations of the administration buildings and similar protests to those in Vienna – opposing reforms which are being implemented within Finland to make its university system consistent with the Bologna process.

Many of the protests concern how Bologna involves a shift in the governance of universities towards North American models and standards in ways that will eliminate many of the progressive reforms and intellectual freedoms won in the aftermath of the 1968 protests.

Reflections on global organic crisis and progressive political agency

On 23 June 2009 I gave a lecture “Global Organic Crisis and Political Agency in the 21st Century” to the conference: “Shaping Europe in a Globalized World? Protest Movements and the Rise of a Transnational Civil Society” at the Universität Zürich in Switzerland.

The lecture defines two concepts – “organic crisis” and “Post-Modern Prince” – that may be useful in interpreting some of the political and broader social and ecological aspects of the present global political conjuncture.

My lecture argued that we can use these concepts to help look beyond the present crisis of global capitalist accumulation (which has resulted in a much steeper collapse of world trade, industrial production and world stock markets than in the Great Depression of the 1930s) and to probe more deeply the nature of present global situation – in all its reality, its violence, and its political potentials.

Indeed, a wide-ranging combination of economic, social and ecological crises characterizes the present global conjuncture. Its crisis is far more deep-seated than an economic depression or a cyclical crisis of capitalist economic growth. This crisis involves emerging challenges to the knowledge forms and political dominance of neo-liberal market civilization & capitalist globalization. Together what might be called these “post-modern” contemporary political and social conditions form part of the global organic crisis.

In this crisis many progressive forces are coalescing to produce a new form of political agency. Drawing on Machiavelli’s The Prince and Gramsci’s, The Modern Prince, I call this multiple and complex set of forces and movements the “Post-Modern Prince.” The “Post-Modern Prince.” draws on a lineage of progressive traditions, networks, forums and organizations that have developed over decades.

The term post-modern used here therefore both refers to some of the specific social and political conditions that characterize key aspects of the early 21st century as well as denoting some of the progressive political forces and movements which are forming to confront the organic crisis.

Indeed, despite the tendency in orthodox political discourse and the media to represent the present realities as if there is no alternative to the mainstream parties, political leaders and government regimes, the “Post-Modern Prince” signals emerging challenges to the forms of knowledge and dominant political frameworks of neo-liberal globalization and capitalist market civilization.

The PowerPoint presentation for this lecture can be downloaded here.