Isabell Lorey & Stefano Harney

Precarization in neoliberalism and the logisticality of the undercommons - a conversation

Bergen Public Library
Strømgaten 6, Bergen Map

At 18:00

Artists have long confronted the interplay of autonomy and precarization. But today as these conditions become more general conditions of work and life in the developed world, and show no signs of abating in the developing world, this tension has become a widespread social phenomenon. Indeed the mechanism by which artists legitimate their precarity by pointing to their supposed freedom and independence is now a familiar discourse across the employment landscape, and indeed in the realm of social reproduction.

Thus it becomes all the more timely to examine the constitutive political and economic entanglement of the modern ideas of autonomy and precarization, including their ideological origins in the romance of the creative genius. In contemporary neoliberal regimes the autonomous individual finds her/himself in a process of fundamental change. The relationship between autonomy and precarization is renewed and heightened and becomes an instrument of further domination in combination with self-responsibility.

How are autonomy and precarization intertwined with financialization? Are there possibilities for cooperation, for the development of the common when social relations are turned into something economic and work is not even recognized as work that is to be paid for? Where can we find example of new practices and expressions operating within and beyond this precarization?

Harney and Lorey will discuss the meaning of concepts like autonomy and freedom against the background of algorithms and logistics and the thematization of new and persistent forms of subjectivization.

Isabell Lorey & Stefano Harney

Isabell Lorey is a political theorist at the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (EIPCP), based in Berlin, and an editor of transversal texts. She has taught political theory, social science, cultural and gender studies at several European Universities: Zentrum Gender Studies at the University of Basel (since 2012); Humboldt University Berlin (2010 and 2011); and the University of Vienna (2009 and 2010). She has published extensively on the precarization of labour and life in neoliberalism, the critical theory of democracy and representation, biopolitical governmentality, and political immunization. Recent book: State of Insecurity. Government of the Precarious, London/New York Verso 2015.

Stefano Harney is Professor of Strategic Management Education, Singapore Manage-ment University and co-founder of the School for Study, an ensemble teaching project. He employs autonomist and postcolonial theory in looking into issues associated with race, work, and social organization. He is a co-artistic director of the 2016 Bergen Assembly as part of the Freethought collective and author with Fred Moten of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia 2013). This book is available free to download at

The conversation is funded by Fritt Ord and is in collaboration with Bergen Public Library. It is part of Imagining Commons – twelve days of exhibitions, performances, a camp, talks and lectures 5th – 17th June 2015 in Bergen. Imagining Commons is funded by Arts Council Norway, City of Bergen, Fritt Ord and Public Art Norway (URO).

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