The Institute for Labour Studies (ILS) comprises a group of students, researchers, and activists, who deal with social theory and criticism. It focuses on educational and research activities that forefront Marxism, but also regularly include other theoretical approaches relevant for understanding and critiquing social phenomena.
The Institute’s activities are planned and executed by the programme committee, whose activities currently include preparing annual lecture series, producing video content and establishing the Institute’s online encyclopaedia (The Encyclopaedia of Labour Studies).
Members of the programme committee: Martin Hergouth, Svit Komel, Nejc Kralj, Lea Kuhar, Arne Kušej, Jernej Meden, Uroš Mikanovič, Dragan Nikčević and Nesa Vrečer.
Current partners: Transform! europe
A Brief History of ILS
ILS was founded in 2014 by members of The Workers and Punks’ University (WPU), an institution created in 1997 as part of a research project by The Peace Institute. WPU was meant to aid in the development of independent and critical thought in Slovenia, and – as its name already suggests – it sought to do so by rooting itself both in the counterculture of the 1980s and in the long tradition of workers’ struggles under capitalism. In the sixteen years of its existence, WPU attempted to transcend the stale theoretical practices of official universities by binding its theoretical production to concrete social practices.
In 2013, WPU and the group Direct Democracy Now! came together to form The Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS), a political movement that responded to the demands of the mass protests and the so-called All-Slovenian Uprisings of 2011 and 2012. IDS attempted to promote the capacity of everyday people to make decisions about their own future at every level of society. Its radical idea of a truly democratic society included everything from the collective ownership and management of companies to politico-economic decision-making at the broadest social level. In 2014, IDS produced a political party of the same name, which later merged with The Party of Ecosocialism and Sustainable Development of Slovenia to form the influential democratic socialist political party Levica.
WPU transformed itself into ILS in order to continue its theoretical practices independently of IDS as a political party. In the years following its founding, ILS has organised several lecture series, international conferences, reading seminars, and other theoretical activities, collaborating with various foreign as well as local left-wing organisations, most notably with Rosa Luxemburg Stieftung, Transform!, and Sophia Publishing House.
The preparation of annual lecture series, organised around a different topic each year, has been a tradition since the founding of WPU. A number of internationally acclaimed theoreticians have participated in these lectures, including Michael Heinrich, Sandro Mezzadra, Heide Gerstenberger, Peter Hudis, Panagiotis Sotiris, Michael Roberts, Michael Perelman, Michael A. Lebowitz, Werner Bonefeld, Leo Panitch, Ricardo Bellofiore, Jan Toporowski, Jean-Pierre Dupuy, and Ishay Landa. So far, the lecture series have covered the following topics: Revolution (1998/99), The New Right (1999/2000), The Left (2000/1), Utopistics (2001/2), May ’68 (2002/3), Love and Politics (2003/4), Post-Fordism (2004/5), Political Ecology (2005/6), On Sin (2006/7), Totalitarianism (2007/8), Stupidity (2008/9), School as an Ideological Apparatus of Economy (2009/10), Class Struggle After Class Struggle (2010/11), Financialisation (2011/12), The Double-Crisis of European Integration (2013/14), The State (2014/15), Productivity (2015/16), Violence (2016/17).
The programme committee of WPU/ILS has also organised a number of so-called May Day Schools, international conferences that are meant to take place annually on the first of May. So far, the topics covered in these conferences have been the following: The Return of Political Economy (2008), The Critique of Non-Political Economy (2010), Self-management (2011), The Future of European Integration: Left Perspectives (2012), Transition, Austerity, and Primitive Accumulation – Answers from the Left (2013), Classes on the Periphery (2014), How to Think Fascism Today? (2015), Religion and Capitalism (2016), Labour and Technology (2017).