The current sense of crisis–in economy, ecology, politics, and society–is prompting many critical theorists to revisit the problem of capitalism. I salute this return to core issues of social theory after a period of neglect. But received understandings of capitalism are not adequate to 21st century conditions. I propose, accordingly, to re-examine a basic theoretical question: How is capitalism best conceptualized–as an economic system, a form of ethical life, or an institutionalized social order? To answer this question, I will integrate some relatively familiar concepts from Marx with newer insights from feminist, ecological, and political theorizing. Whereas Marx sought the essence of capitalism by looking beneath the sphere of exchange to the “hidden abode” of production, I shall look behind production to abodes that are more hidden still. The result will be an expanded conception of capitalism able better to accommodate the multiplicity of crisis tendencies and social struggles that characterize the 21st century.
David Frisby Memorial Lecture: Prof. Nancy Fraser
Prof. Fraser is currently Diane Middlebrook/Carl Djerassi Professor of Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge and Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research. She is well known for her work on justice and inequality as well as Marxist and Feminist theory. Her many publications include The Radical Imagination: Between Redistribution and Recognition (2003), Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World (2007) and Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013).