May Day School 2016: Religion and capitalism

May Day School 2016: Religion and capitalism

Ljubljana, 27th-30th April 2016

Venue: Stara mestna elektrarna – Elektro Ljubljana

The self-understanding of leftist, emancipatory project(s) is still largely determined by the blueprint, drawn somewhere at the outset of modernity, in early 19th century. The general political direction where ‘emancipation’ was to be found and the form it should possess, seemed comparatively clearer than today: a rebellion against any given transcendent authority with the final goal of maximal autonomy of everyone. Abolishment of religious, political, and finally economic domination could all appear as parts of a single, straightforward trajectory of modernity.

Today, it is obvious that this ancient blueprint of left politics includes many blind spots and points of tension – with religion being one of the most prominent: For traditional left, religion (particularly organised religion) was an adversary, but an adversary in decline, adversary, who had already been dealt a decisive blow by the movement of capitalism itself, where, famously: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.”

A list of contemporary phenomena which challenge this ‘traditional left’ outlook is long: the trend of secularisation hasn’t quite captured the globe with the same inevitabilty as capitalism did – indeed in many places, an opposite tendency is apparent; within theoretical sphere, the diagnosis of ‘postsecularity’ has been widespread; there has been a noticeable tendency of interweaving a secular authority with religious discourses and movements in some of the world’s major powers (USA, India, China); and, particularly confounding, a prominent religiosity of many antisystemic movements and rebellions, that are arising particularly at the margins of aggressive expansions of western capitalism (Islam being the most prominent in this respect recently).

On the other hand, as religion didn’t disappear from contemporary public discourse, neither did a fervent anti-religious critique – except that now, a political import of the latter is much more ambiguous. A warriors of ‘New Atheism’, for example, have been quite openly serving as legitimators of western imperialist projects, and, in Europe, references to secularism and enlightenment tradition have been increasingly appearing on right side of political spectrum, as a thin veil over anti-islamic racism.

This year’s Mayday school will therefore reopen the questions of religion, critique of religion, its role and pertinence in contemporary society, its interaction with capitalism and critique thereof. We will attempt to cover a range of topics and questions at various levels of abstraction: from general rethinking of relation between capitalism and religions as two principles of organisation of society, in their conflicts and affinities, to the attempts to confront the more manifest and pressing contemporary issues, such as tension between feminism and religious upsurge, or the precise role of Islamic religion in the structure of conflict(s) in the Middle East.