Recently, there has been a surge in critical activity around neoliberalism, which has led to the emergence of an increasingly settled understanding of its political, economic and cultural mechanics. Most critiques, however – whether undertaken from a Marxist, Foucauldian, or sociological-historical perspective – have proven reluctant to engage neoliberalism on the territory that it has so conspicuously made its own: namely, freedom.
This surge in critical activity has been matched by a similar surge in attempts to imagine a future beyond capitalism. Approaches from Paul Mason, Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, and Peter Frase all attempt to envision what a postcapitalist society might look like. These texts raise interesting questions: is freedom after neoliberalism also freedom from capitalism? Or might capitalism after neoliberalism be transformed or accelerated into something conducive to freedom?
This conference aims to rethink, re-evaluate and perhaps renovate the many meanings of freedom beyond its limited economic function in neoliberal theory and practice, and to imagine what freedom might look like in a world beyond neoliberalism. We seek to explore the broad cultural impact of neoliberalism on art and culture, identity and subjectivity, politics, ecology, and more, and to try to imagine if, and how, we might disentangle these various concepts from the web of what Mark Fisher has called neoliberalism’s ‘business ontology.’
This conference builds on an existing research strand, and reading group, which is very well attended by those at all three of the White Rose Universities. It will appeal especially to the large group of postgraduates who are working on themes relating to the conference, across disciplines. In particular, English departments at York and Leeds run MA courses relating to these themes, which have created a large postgraduate research hub. This conference offers these students an opportunity to share their work alongside established academics.
Harriett Neal, York
Other student organisers
Joseph Rollins, University of York Adam Bristol Smith, University of York Sam Perks, Leeds University