The Way of the World: Neoliberal reason vs. common reason

Encounter with Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot

October 22, 2015 - 8:00 p.m.
Until full capacity is reached
Sabatini Building, Auditorium

Manuel Borja-Villel, director of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía


Jorge Alemán, psychoanalyst, writer and Cultural Adviser for the Argentinian Embassy in Spain

Organized by
Fundación de los Comunes, Escuela de Afuera, Traficantes de Sueños, La Hidra Cooperativa and Synusia, associated library from the Ateneu Candela, with collaboration from Medialab Prado, Institut Français and the IGOP and the support from from Gedisa.
Adolfo Senbra. Popular assembly in Valencia, 2011
Adolfo Senbra. Popular assembly in Valencia, 2011

This encounter, within the framework of the project Redes, from the Museo’s Study Centre, sees sociologist Christian Laval and philosopher Pierre Dardot set out a reflection of “the common” as a strategic paradigm for considering new socio-economic and political concepts of use in the design of new forms of democratic organisation that go beyond the categories of representation and political sovereignty that are consubstantial with modernity. The authors of The New Way of the World (Verso, 2013) and Común (Gedisa, 2015) come together to analyse two discordant logics - neoliberal reason and common reason – in order to gain an idea of the political future in the crisis-hit times we find ourselves immersed in and which will define the years to come.

Laval’s and Dardot’s writings have explored the origins, cultural constructs, logics and mechanisms that build these two reasons and which influence how the world works today. As both authors assert: “Neoliberalism is not primarily governed by ideology, but by the pressure exerted on individuals by the competitive situations that create it. This “reason” is on a worldwide scale and “makes the world” inasmuch as is stretches across all spheres of human existence without boiling down to economic issues.”

In opposite poles, Dardot and Laval suggest that there is another reason, common reason, which bases its principles on behaviour that opposes competition and non-inclusive appropriation, present throughout history in the common management of all number of shared resources. This common culture has gained greater visibility through movements in cities’ central squares (the Arab Spring, 15M anti-austerity movement in Madrid, the Occupy movement, etc.), which have taken place over the last five years. By analysing these experiences, the authors take a Common look at the political principle that runs through these processes, and the profound meaning that stems from joint participation in deliberation and decision-making, resulting in another social norm. Thus, the notion of politics takes on a meaning that deviates from the action of imposing order through the decision-making monopoly of professional politicians and experts, by a caste of leaders that are increasingly more detached from democratic processes in the accountability of citizenship. Common politics are understood as an activity governed by the principle of equality in deliberation and decision-making processes, through which male and female citizens together endeavour to determine what is just and sustainable in order to implement it with a criteria of shared and agreed responsibility.

Equally, this encounter aims to set out a consideration of new institutionality and its relationship with present-day demands and social needs, which contribute to inventing other forms of sociability and political co-existence, approached nowadays not solely from the world of work, but also from the combination of the reproduction of social and individual life.

Christian Laval is a Professor of Sociology at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense and programme director at the Collège International de Philosophie. He is also a member of the Bentham Centre and research associate at the Institute of the Fédération Syndicale Unitaire. His recent work includes: L'homme économique. Essai sur les racines du néolibéralisme (2007), La nouvelle école capitaliste (2011) and Marx au combat (2012).  

Pierre Dardot is a teacher and philosopher specialised in the work of Marx and Hegel. Alongside Christian Laval, he founded the group Question Marx in 2004 and both have worked together to publish various books on the life and work of Marx, including: Sauver Marx? Empire, multitude, travail immatériel (2007) and Marx, Prénom: Karl (2012)