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FESA Seminar with Gustav Peebles

The Right to Be Lazy, Revisited

Copyright: New School

A floating and 'free' labor force has long been considered a vital pillar of capitalism. Indeed, Marx is insistent that, since surplus value emerges from labor, capitalism cannot thrive, or even exist, without it. But what of the role of labor’s opposite, idleness?

This presentation will begin by working through the arguments and historical conditions that have built up a belief in the centrality of labor; it will then move onto a consideration of the role of, for lack of a better term, non-labor, in the historical development of capitalism.

To do so, the presentation will probe the dangerous, but all too common, notion of the (supposedly) non-laboring 'parasite', as critiqued by forces from both the left and the right ends of the ideological spectrum (the former critique bankers as parasites, the latter critique the lumpenproletariat as parasites). In asking why the figure of the parasite keeps emerging, the presentation will consider the role of time, and people’s orientations toward it, as reflected by such seemingly humdrum instruments as interest rates.


Gustav Peebles is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the New School of Social Research in New York City and a visiting researcher at Stockholm University. His research interests include exchange theory, monetary history, ethnography of the state, economic theory, utopian visions, black markets, debt, and the European Union/Scandinavia. Gustav holds an MA and a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago, and he is the author The Euro and Its Rivals: Currency and the Construction of a Transnational City (Indiana U.P. 2010). His work has moreover appeared in Africa, Annual Review of Anthropology, Comparative Studies in Society and History, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory and Public Culture.


The seminars will take place in the seminar room on the third floor, Frederiks gate 2 - entrance via southern backdoor on Kristian IVs gate - ring the doorbell for third floor.



Published Aug. 24, 2017 1:30 PM - Last modified Oct. 9, 2018 10:52 AM