top of page
BICAR LOGO_edited.png

View More: Courses

Theoretical Explorations Module XIX

Jan '24

Hostage: Capitalism, Democracy, Ethics

Hostage: Capitalism, Democracy, Ethics

We typically think of hostages as things or people (turned into things) used by one side for the purpose of extracting something from another. Hostage situations are clearly exploitative and must be prevented. That’s why states refuse to meet the demands of hostage-takers, for fear of incentivizing and thus generalizing the practice. Instead of negotiating, states tend to wait out or fight to rescue hostages and, if that fails, hostages are typically honored for having sacrificed for society, forestalling an economy of desire through which people would be able to get whatever they want by taking hostages. In this course, we’ll complicate our aversion to hostage cases; beginning with a close reading of Paul Claudel’s ‘modern tragedy’, The Hostage, we’ll see how our world order – a nexus of free market capitalism, parliamentary democracy, and humanitarian ethics – is structured through the very hostage framework we oppose on a case-by-case basis.

Specifically, we’ll analyze how capital holds us hostage to the perpetual accumulation of profit despite repetitive booms and busts (Marx, Jacques Le Goff, Kojin Karatani, Mladen Dolar); the state holds us hostage to peace as wars and inequality intensify (Kafka, Claude Lefort, Joan Copjec, Eric Santner); and, we’ll learn how a humanitarian ethic premised on rights and identity multiplications holds us hostage to recognizing, accepting everything that appears to us without any criteria of judgment (Levinas, Robert Meister).

Fortunately, we’ll conclude the class with a close reading of Jacques Lacan’s Marxian-Freudian thought and psychoanalytic practice, a real treatment, cure of the hostage we keep making ourselves in contemporary society.

About the professor

Rohit Goel

bottom of page