Bernard E. Harcourt | On Axel Honneth and the Democratization of Work

In his new book on the democratization of labor, *The Working Sovereign*, Axel Honneth takes a realist and pragmatist approach, advocating both for alternative democratic changes to the organization of labor and reforms to capitalist labor structures. It is a formidable intervention; but does Honneth’s account adequately take into account that the valuing of labor was itself a motivated project: labor became an object of value—whether in the work of Locke, or the early Protestant work ethic, or Hegel—driven or inspired by a deliberate (though perhaps not fully articulated or conscious) effort to make work appear valuable to laborers. Labor was transformed or shaped into a valuable performance in these philosophical interventions. But these philosophical constructions may be illusions, fabricated ways of trying to convince workers of the importance of their work as a way to reproduce more workers. If we look at it from this instrumental perspective, then the question that would arise is: What work are those philosophical discourses doing? And why might it be important to look at the work that they were doing? [To continue, read here….]

Bernard E. Harcourt | Imagining a Coop University

The university, as a collegium of scholars and students, is under threat across the globe and in the United States. State governments are interfering with academic freedom and knowledge, dictating what can and cannot be taught. Private donors are interfering with the scholarly project and the discourse of learning. University administrators are throwing our shared values away. Whether at public universities or private universities, the climate of learning has become intolerable.

Join us for an exploration of another model: a multi-stakeholder cooperative university run by and for those who want to learn, to develop critical thinking, to share community–the faculty and students, staff and workers, and the community. The model dates back to the Middle Ages at least, when universities were first born as cooperatives of faculty and students. Let’s explore together a new model for critical thought in the twenty-first century!

Benjamin P. Davis | Critique at Sea Level: Paul Gilroy’s Renewed Critical Theory

In a 2015 lecture, the British cultural theorist Paul Gilroy argued that risking one’s life to save that of another is “not something to pass over casually.” Gilroy went on to suggest that an individual’s “bravery could have something to teach the rest of the EU about primal, humanitarian responsibility to and for others less fortunate than oneself.” Gilroy’s invocation of an ethical obligation to others as a natural or “primal” part of human life cuts against the grain of much critical theory today. In “progressive” or “radical” circles, claims to essence and nature are avoided at all costs. Gilroy’s willingness to make such a foundationalist claim was part of why he earned the title, in a 2021 profile in The Guardian, “The last humanist.” [Continue reading here…]

Chloe Howe Haralambous | The Rescue Wars

On the morning of April 12, 2023, a 26-meter ship cut crisply through the waters of the Mediterranean with 800 people on board. Keeping an even keel, her skipper made for the Sicilian port of Catania where she docked, to the wonder and celebration of her passengers. Visible on her bow through a thin coat of paint, the ship’s name read “Kefah 1” or, “struggle.” The Kefah 1’s arrival marked the last in a spate of border crossings from Libya on that Easter weekend. But unlike the rubber dinghies and rotting trawlers that usually made the passage, she was a fair ship: a dazzling blue and white with a fine bridge and two radar antennae. To the Italian police authorities gathered on the quay, she looked uncannily familiar. It soon emerged, to public scandal, that years earlier, the ship had been part of the civil rescue fleet, employed by European activists and humanitarians to rescue migrants 2 attempting the passage to Europe. [Continue reading here…]

Bernard E. Harcourt | Introduction to Coöperism 11/13: Rescue at Sea

The civil rescue operations in the Mediterranean lie at the intersection of cooperative practices and governance. They represent a microcosm of cooperation in the interstices of and against the violence of the state. Just like the Black Panther Party in the previous seminar, these civil society initiatives constitute a form of governing.  [To continue, read here]

Suzanne Cope | Food as a Tool for Social and Political Change

Making and consuming food is, inherently, a cooperative activity. These acts derive much of their power from being a communal activity. This had such resonance in the Black Panther Party’s work. The Free Breakfast for Children program fulfilled specific needs: of feeding children and getting them to school. But it was also the choice of food, how the Panthers sourced the food, who made the food, and everything that happened during and around eating: homework help, Black history, and the mentoring from young, smart people in the young childrens’ community. And the amount of coordination — and cooperation! — that had to occur to actually run the breakfast program was astounding. [Continue reading here…]

Flores A. Forbes | Survival Programs Pending Revolution

The foundation for a conversation about the Black Panther Party’s social programs should begin with the Ten Point Platform and Program. Almost all of the programs began with an innovative example that then became part of sustainable community programs, like churches, hospitals and other non profits. Some of the programs like the Free Breakfast for Schoolchildren Program were actually community organizing tools because local residents were hosting kids in their homes, pastors in their churches etc. [Continue reading here…]

Bernard E. Harcourt | Conditions of Necessity: The Black Panther Party and Cooperation

When we tell the history of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, we often focus on the open carrying of guns and the armed police patrols. That was spectacular. It is what propelled the Black Panthers into the national spotlight—especially the confrontation at the California statehouse in Sacramento on May 2, 1967. But what receives less attention is that, at the very moment the Black Panther Party emerged in October 1966, it came to life with a mission focused on community service and cooperation: a ten-point platform and program focused on combatting poverty in African-American communities. The platform demanded social and economic rights, including full employment, housing, food, education, land, clothing, as well as justice and peace, and very quickly cooperative community programs were put in place for child and adult nutrition, education, health and welfare. Community service and cooperation were central to the mission. [Continue reading here…]