Crisis Theory for Complex Societies




Sunday, April 8, 2012 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm


500 W. Cermak, Room 701


Brian Holmes

**Note: this event has been re-scheduled from April 1 to April 8th**

How do societies change? It has long been observed that capitalism develops in forty-to-sixty year cycles, bookended by great crashes and periods of stagnation. Technologies and relations of production are transformed along with modes of government and social reproduction. New patterns of trade and nternational relations emerge on the geopolitical level. Ten or fifteen years later, people look back and realize: "That was a turning point. The world is totally different now."

Such a change has been experienced in living memory, with the crisis of the late sixties/early seventies that ushered in neoliberalism. What will happen now? By bringing together various strands of Marxist crisis-theory (the technological innovation school, the regulation approach, world-systems theory) it's possible to show how a distinctly neoliberal society emerged from the political upheaval, long recession and monetary chaos of the sixties-seventies. Once we have identified the full range of neoliberal institutions, we can generate an analytical picture of the status quo around, say, 2005. And on that basis we can see what's changing right now, in many different arenas. Who are the agents of social change? Could we intervene in some of those arenas while everything is still in flux? Why wait fifteen years to discover the solutions that the elites will have arranged for us? The idea of this lecture/workshop is to lay the groundwork for a strategic observatory of the still-unfolding crisis.


Brian Holmes is an activist researcher and cultural critic. This proposal grows out of a collective seminar carried out last year at Mess Hall in Chicago, under the title "Three Crises: 30s-70s-Today." Archive at


Here is the link to the wildly-titled text, "Do Containers Dream of Electric People"?


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