Events and media

The SCRN runs seminars and workshops with leading international scholars to deepen our understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our social contract today.

Upcoming events

Michel Foucault and the Social Contract

This online Zoom event will take place on Tuesday 13 April, 6pm Melbourne time (time conversion below).

  • Melbourne, Australia      Tue, 13 Apr 2021 at 6:00 pm AEST
  • New York, USA             Tue, 13 Apr 2021 at 4:00 am EDT
  • Los Angeles, USA          Tue, 13 Apr 2021 at 1:00 am PDT
  • London, United Kingdom    Tue, 13 Apr 2021 at 9:00 am BST

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Open to the public. To receive the Zoom link for this event, please email socialcontractresearchnetwork@gmail.com.

Speakers:

Stuart Elden (Warwick University), 'The Yoke of Law and the Lustre of Glory'

Perhaps surprisingly, Foucault does not talk about social contract theory very often. In this talk I will briefly survey his discussions of the term and the tradition of political thought, especially in his Collège de France lecture courses – his discussion of civil war and the contract in The Punitive Society; the challenge to the tradition in ‘Society Must Be Defended’; and his indication of a shift from the implicit contract of security in territory to population security in his work on governmentality. The main focus, however, will be on a remark Foucault makes in ‘Society Must Be Defended’ about the dual nature of sovereignty, of the relation between political, juridical power and magical, supernatural power. These two faces or aspects are the power to bind and command, and the power to dazzle and petrify. He calls this the “yoke of law and the lustre of glory”. I will explore the links between this understanding of contracts and Georges Dumézil’s work on Indo-European mythology.

Mark Kelly (Western Sydney University), 'Social Contract as Norm'

While Foucault's own direct engagements with the social contract are few and far between, I want to offer a Foucauldian critique of social contract theory qua normative political theory. Contractarianism is notoriously premised on a profound ontological individualism, on the idea that individuals are prior to society, and can therefore either (on a strong reading) constitute civil society based on their free contracting to bring it into existence or (on a weak reading) change the form of society in accordance with their wishes. Against this, Foucault argues that the individual (and thus discourses of individualism like social contract theory) is an invention of disciplinary modernity. I will seek to progress this line of critique by combining it with Foucault’s critique of utopianism to suggest that social contract theory represents an incipient normalisation of society itself, indeed one that precedes and provides the background for the intense normalisation of individuals in late modernity.


Feminist Perspectives on Social Contract Theory

This online Zoom event will take place on Friday 21 May, 9am Melbourne time (time conversion below).

  • Melbourne, Australia      Fri, 21 May 2021 at 9:00 am AEST
  • New York, USA             Thu, 20 May 2021 at 7:00 pm EDT
  • Los Angeles, USA          Thu, 20 May 2021 at 4:00 pm PDT
  • London, United Kingdom    Fri, 21 May 2021 at 12:00 midn BST
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    Open to the public. To receive the Zoom link for this event, please email socialcontractresearchnetwork@gmail.com.

    Speaker:

    Janice Richardson (Monash University).

    Author of The Classic Social Contractarians: Critical Perspectives from Contemporary Feminist Philosophy and Law


    The Most Absolute Authority: Rousseau’s Divided Legacy

    This online Zoom event will take place on Tuesday 1 June 2021, 6pm Melbourne time (time conversion below).

    • Melbourne, Australia      Tue, 1 Jun 2021 at 6:00 pm AEST
    • New York, USA             Tue, 1 Jun 2021 at 4:00 am EDT
    • Los Angeles, USA          Tue, 1 Jun 2021 at 1:00 am PDT
    • London, United Kingdom    Tue, 1 Jun 2021 at 9:00 am BST

    Add this event to your Google calendar:

    Open to the public. To receive the Zoom link for this event, please email socialcontractresearchnetwork@gmail.com.

    Speaker:

    Peter Hallward (Kingston University), ‘The Most Absolute Authority: Rousseau’s Divided Legacy’.

    ‘The most absolute authority’, Rousseau writes, ‘is that which penetrates to man's inmost being, and affects his will no less than it does his actions.’ The famous account of a ‘general will’ that Rousseau then develops as a way of understanding the depth and breadth of such penetration can be understood in two ways. On the hand, Rousseau’s emphasis on political psychology seems to cross a threshold in the long history of modern power, from a Hobbesian emphasis on forceful compulsion and outward obedience through Marx’s analysis of the ‘golden threads’ of capitalist coercion to Foucault’s analysis of the mechanisms whereby power comes to work directly on the inward dynamics of the psyche. On the other hand, Rousseau’s account of a general will also helps to clarify what needs to be done, in situations structured in dominance and hierarchy, to acquire and sustain a capacity for collective, egalitarian and autonomous self-determination. Rousseau can either be denounced as the architect of a newly sinister ‘soulcraft’, or embraced as the revolutionary prophet of mass emancipation. Which path should we choose? And how far do they diverge?


    Past events

    The Ends of Autonomy Colloquium

    15-16 December 2020, UK time (time conversions here)

    An international, interdisciplinary online Zoom colloquium hosted by Monash University, drawing together insights from philosophy, economics, literary and cultural theories into how the concept of autonomy is changing today.

    Keynote speakers:

    Mark Andrejevic

    Jessica Whyte

    Zoom colloquium, open to the public (registration required, see below).

    To view videos from the June Warwick colloquium,  please see the Ends of Autonomy webpage.