Earthly Plenitudes: A Study on Sovereignty and Labor
Publication Year: 2009
Gullì first reviews approaches to sovereignty by philosophers as varied as Gottfried Leibniz and Georges Bataille, and then looks at concrete examples where the alliance of sovereignty and capital cracks under the potency of living labor. He examines contingent academic labor as an example of the super-exploitation of labor, which has become a global phenomenon, and as such, a clear threat to the sovereign logic of capital. Gullì also looks at disability to assert that a new measure of humanity can only be found outside the schemes of sovereignty, productivity, efficiency, and independence, through care and caring for others, in solidarity and interdependence.
Published by: Temple University Press
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I want to thank Pedro Can� and Andr� Cechinel for their careful and insightful reading of the entire manuscript. In this sense, my thanks also go to the anonymous Temple reviewers. Sophia Wong read and commented on chapter 5, a section of which I delivered as a paper at the Radical Philosophy conference at San Francisco State University. An earlier version of the material that formed the base for chapters 2 and 3 was published as...
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Toward the end of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s great novel Sozaboy, Mene, the main character and narrator (a young lorry driver dragged into a devastating war), says: “I begin to think that the world is not a good place even” (1994: 164). Indeed, it did not seem to be after his town, Dukana, and his private life were destroyed, and sickness and death prevailed, as the war had “uselessed1 many people, killed many others” (p. 181). Yet, at the outset...
Part I: Critique of Sovereignty
1. Singularity or the Dignity of Individuation
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The free development of each individual, the free development of all, their dialogical and dialectical relationship, can only be understood outside of the logic of domination, the logic of sovereignty, underlying all history (with some possible exceptions), and certainly (and specifically) the history of capitalist societies. Here the sovereignty of capital over labor becomes the omnipresent...
2. Exception and Critique
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In Leibniz sovereignty becomes a relative concept when applied to the political sphere, and full sovereignty only obtains in the sphere of theology. But there, too, it does not have (to use Schmitt’s expression) a decisionist character; rather, it has a rational one. In other words, it is not based on the will, but on reason. Or God would also operate in accordance with the logic...
3. Bataille's Special Use of the Concept of Sovereignty
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In his Nietzsche-inspired philosophy against servility, in the space of turbulence it opens up, Georges Bataille also deals with the concept of sovereignty in important ways. Indeed, volume 3 of The Accursed Share, Sovereignty, offers an interesting, although unusual, analysis and employment of the concept. In the first part of the volume, which bears the title of “What I Understand by Sovereignty” and the subtitle...
Part II: Sovereignty and Labor
4. Ax and Fire: Knowledge Production and the Superexploitation of Contingent Academic Labor
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With the restructuring of the university, its corporatization, its full acceptance of the logic of capital, the fact of contingent academic labor should not be seen as an aberration, a scandalous (but perhaps temporary) anomaly that could be solved within and by the very system that produces it. Rather, the ever-increasing number of contingent academic workers, and the consequent reduction in the number and...
5. Sovereign, Productive, and Efficient: The Place of Disability in the Ableist Society
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The critique of productivity and sovereignty yields a radically different concept of labor. This is the concept of labor as care, which has been recently worked out in gender and feminist philosophy. Eva Feder Kittay (1999), in particular, speaks of it as the work of dependency—a concept which, not confined to the economic sphere, has the power to redraw the map of political philosophy as a whole, as well as of the study of...
Conclusion: Labor without Sovereignty
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At the end of the last chapter of this book, Pothier and Devlin’s critique of the ideology of productivity and efficiency points to the possibility of unshackling labor from the yoke of sovereignty. This labor, or rather the many labors expressing human creativity and praxis, human activities, can enter a completely new dimension, take on a new form, and be, not sovereign in turn, but free of...
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Publication Year: 2009