Why Theory Matters; or, How a Derridean became a Marxist
Friday, June 7, 2019 - 12:45pm

Why Theory Matters; or, How a Derridean became a Marxist

A lecture by Samuel A. Chambers
Friday, June 7, 12:45pm
The Finnish Room (Cramer Hall, Room 124)

“Theory” ever seems to be “in retreat” or “under attack,” not the least in times, like these, of crisis. But the fact that theory is always already giving way to non-theory (e.g. “practice” or "the real world”) should, if we look carefully, tell us something important about theory in the first place. This talk will consider the status of “theory” in the current conjuncture, by way of some brief reflections on Dr. Chambers’s own circuitous path from an insistence on the power of language to attentiveness to the force of the economic. Dr. Chambers will defend a particular conception of theory as necessarily mediated by and linked to concrete history, so as to suggest that good theory today must include careful concern for the economic. 

Samuel A. Chambers teaches political theory and cultural politics at Johns Hopkins University. His interests are broad and interdisciplinary—ranging from central issues in social and political theory, to engagements with contemporary feminist and queer theory, to contributions to critical television studies. All of his work maintains a core concern with a sort of “glue” that holds together things—e.g., political regimes, sex/gender identities, pedagogical relations—in a way that is neither narrowly political (in the traditional sense of legislation or public policy), nor reductively socio-biological, nor grounded in ethics or morality à la so-called normative political philosophy. He has recently published the monograph, There is No Such Thing as “The Economy”: Essays on Capitalist Value (Punctum, 2018), and the article “Undoing Neoliberalism: Homo Economicus, Homo Politicus, and the Zoon Politikon,” Critical Inquiry 44.