Skip to main content Skip to navigation

CRPLA Reading Group: Philosophy in a Time of Crisis

In Term 1, CRPLA will host a reading group focused on the concept of crisis. The importance of this notion is all too apparent in 2020, as we respond to difficult circumstances – of health, economic stress, climate breakdown, education and sociability – that are often termed ‘crises.’ Our goal is to prompt collective thinking and conversation about the history and current meanings of the concept. We will explore its role across different discourses, including science, medicine, political economy, the arts, education and the environment. What can we learn from understanding how people have understood, and now turn to, the notion of crisis?

We will gather online at our usual research seminar time, 5:30 pm (UK time) on Tuesday of Weeks 2, 4, 8, and 10, to discuss readings suggested by various CRPLA members. Discussion will be initiated by different faculty members across the term: by Miguel Beistegui in Weeks 2 and 4, with help from Dan Katz in Week 4, by Eileen John in Week 8, and Nick Lawrence in Week 10. Please contact Eileen John ( to sign up for the reading group; you will be sent the details for online access to the sessions.

Schedule of topics and readings
Week 2 (13 October): Intro: A brief history of the concept of crisis; the concept of crisis in political economy and legal theory

Foucault, M. (2003). Le pouvoir psychiatrique. Cours au Collège de France. 1973-1974.
Paris: Gallimard/Seuil. Psychiatric Power. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973-74, trans.
Graham Burchell. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
• Lecture of 23 January 1974. French edition: pp. 241-48 + notes 23-41, pp. 258-
63. English edition: pp. 241-48 + notes 23-41, pp. 258-262.

Marx, K. (1863). Theorien über den Mehwert. Das Kapital, Vierter Band. Werke, Berlin,
Dietz, vol. XXVI. Zweiter Teil, Siebzehntes Kapitel: Ricardos
Akkumulationstheorie. Kritik derselben (Entwicklung der Krisen aus der Grundform des Kapitals).
Translated as Theories of Surplus-Value, Capital, Volume 4, Part II, Chapter 17 (especially
§§ 8-11): “Ricardo's Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it. (The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises).”
See the extended bibliography for full suggestions from Marx and Schmitt.

Week 4 (27 October): The concept of crisis in philosophy (including the philosophy of science)

Fraser, N. (2014). “Democracy’s Crisis.” In Public Seminar, 24 November 2014.

Fraser, N. Crisis (2013a). “Critique, Capitalism – A Framework for the 21st Century.”
Patočka Memorial Lecture.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press. - Chapters 6-8.

Week 8 (24 November): The concept of crisis in the arts and in education

Mallarmé, S. (2007). “Crise de vers.” In Divagations, Œuvres completes II, edited by
Bertrand Marchal. Paris: Gallimard, 2003. “Crisis of Verse” in Divagations.
Translated by Barbara Johnson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Doris Sommer (2008). “Crisis means turning point: a manifesto for art and accountability.” In A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy. Ed. James J. Bono, Tim Dean, and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek. Fordham University Press. 210-25.

N. Katherine Hayles (2008). 'The future of literature: complex surfaces of electronic texts and print books'. In A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy. Ed. James J. Bono, Tim Dean, and Ewa Plonowska Ziarek. Fordham University Press.180-209.

Further reading:

Judith Suissa (2020). “Oikophobia and Not Being at Home: Educational Questions.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 2 April 2020.

Week 10 (8 December): Climate crisis and narrative

Amitav Ghosh (2016). The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. University of Chicago Press.