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The Trouble With Alienation

Event Sponsor
CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
Encina Commons, Room 123

Alienation in industrialized, technologically enhanced societies is all around us. But is this really so bad? In this talk, the speakers will take a look into the history of alienation critique in the 20th century and see if it can help us understand how subjectivity is formed in contemporary circumstances of omnipresent smart devices. In the first part, Gregor will zoom in on two streams of radical thinkers in Yugoslavia (1945-1991). The first group, gathered around the journal Praxis and the series of international conferences called simply the “Korčula Summer School”, was a group of dissident Marxists who passionately rejected Stalinism and read Young Marx in the hope of building a dis-alienated, authentic, humanist socialism. More than a decade younger, the Ljubljana based sociologists and philosophers gathered around the journal Problemi, however, understood alienation as ultimately irreducible in human society. Completely abandoning the project of dis-alienation, they focused instead on the critique of ideology. In the second part of the talk, Bara will delve into Slavoj Žižek’s version of the graph of desire, which represents the conceptual fundament of Ljubljana’s critique of Ideology. In this text, Žižek explains why “the square of the circle of interpellation doesn’t work out” if one doesn’t consider the logic of desire and the aspects of phantasy and enjoyment. Driving on Louis Althusser’s concept of ideological interpellation and Jacques Lacan’s conception of subjectivity and its constitutive alienation, Žižek creates a secret potion of ideology critique that has proved to be extremely effective and philosophically fruitful and is considered today an indispensable reference for critical theory worldwide.

Gregor Moder is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. As of February 2024, he is also a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of English in Princeton University. He co-founded Aufhebung—International Hegelian Association and served as its first president (2014–2020). His works include Hegel and Spinoza: Substance and Negativity (Northwestern UP 2017), an edited volume on the Object of Comedy (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), and Antigone. An Essay on Hegel’s Political Philosophy (FDV 2023, in Slovenian). His forthcoming works include a German edition of Antigone (Turia+Kant, 2024) and an edited volume on The Ethics of Ernst Lubitsch (Rowman&Littlefield, 2024).

Bara Kolenc is a Research Associate at the Department of Philosophy of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. She was trained in the Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis and currently serves as the president of the International Hegelian Association Aufhebung. Her works include Repetition and Enactment (DTP Analecta 2014, in Slovenian) and the forthcoming Repetition and Subjectivity: Kierkegaard, Freud, Lacan. She is currently working on her new book project, The Spectacle of Instanternity: Voyeurism and Exhibitionism on the Internet.


Photo credits: ANA_Bara Kolenc_005_photo_AnaKovac; Grega foto Voranc Vogel 2023 1