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Political Theory

H01(a) - Political Theory and Karl Marx

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 08:45am to 10:15am | Location: SWING 305

Chair/Président/Présidente : Steven Klein (University of Florida)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Steven Klein (University of Florida)

Big Data, Class Composition, and the Multitude: Sam Popowich (University of Birmingham)
Abstract: Antonio Negri positions his concept of the multitude, adopted from Spinoza, between the poles of a “people” and “the masses”, and also defines the multitude against any restrictive conception of a “working class”. As recent electoral history has shown (e.g. the Cambridge Analytica example), Big Data can be used to intervene in the process of political identity-formation. This attempt to manipulate public opinion in elections raises the question of the construction of political identities (i.e. a people or a nation) to strengthen and maintain structures of domination. Using Italian autonomist theory, this paper will look at the tensions between the attempt to construct a political identity through the use of Big Data on the one hand, and the ways in which Big Data might allow the forging alternative communal identities on the other hand, precisely through the contradiction between the needs of capital for a fragmented society, and the ability of linked data to allow for collaboration and cooperation. Connecting the idea of class composition in autonomist thinking with Negri’s concept of the multitude, this paper will argue for the role of public engagement on the part of political science researchers as participants in the process of class (re)composition within the current cycle of political struggle.


National Debt Between Past and Future: Primitive Accumulation and Time: Robert Sparling (University of Ottawa)
Abstract: In the first volume of Capital, Marx offers a brief account of the rise of national debt as an important aspect of primitive accumulation. The imperial military-fiscal state, with its massive carried debts, served as a means not merely of violently transforming pre-market into market societies, but of permitting the accumulation necessary for the explosion of industrial production. What is remarkable about this period as Marx describes it is that national debts bolstered state power even as they rendered states subservient to financial markets. In this paper I wish to explore—by means of an examination of Marx’s view of national debt as a lever for primitive accumulation—the manner in which national debt serves both to make and to unmake the state, solidifying the state apparatus even as it makes all that is solid melt into air.