The Future with Marx

International Conference
May 24-25, 2019

Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences

Derrida has famously stated that "there will be no future without Marx, without the memory and inheritance of Marx". The multiplicity of academic and popular events in the year of Marx's anniversary testifies to the truth of these words. Two hundred years after his birth, the thought of Karl Marx remains a rousing way to look at the future.

The fall of the Soviet project has effectively eliminated all major social alternatives from the current world order and impoverished the global political imagination. It is no accident that the two most recent decades have generated no utopias and in numerous polities witnessed the hegemony of nostalgic conservative projects of returning into an imagined past to become "great again." However, the dissatisfaction with the disappearance of the meaningful future is constantly growing, and Marx has now been rediscovered as a visionary who knew to see seeds of the future in the present. His books are bestsellers again on both sides of the Atlantic, where people are desperately searching for answers to the challenges of the XXI century: inequality, fundamentalism, imperial wars, and crisis of democracy.

One year after Marx's anniversary, we gather in Moscow to inquire about the future with Marx. How can Marxian thought help us imagine a better future? What is the hope that it provides today? How does Marxist imagination account for the Soviet experience and how can it operate within the societies that emerged from the Soviet past? What is the Marxist view of history today and what are the social classes capable of developing it? What do we learn from Marx after the end of classical Marxism?

The purpose of this two-day conference is to familiarize a wide public in Russia with the visions of future in contemporary Marxist and Post-Marxist thought. It is also meant to question what could be the Marist view from Russia today by bringing Russian scholars into dialogue with the leading intellectuals from other countries.

Eric Alliez
Philosopher, researcher in history of art; Professor of Contemporary French Philosophy at Kingston University in London, Professor at University Paris VIII
Cinzia Arruzza
Researcher in feminist theory and political thought of ancient Greece and Rome; Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New School, New York
Alain Badiou
Philosopher; Honorary Professor at University Paris VIII, Professor of Philosophy at European Graduate School
Ilya Budraitskis
Historian and political theorist; Lecturer at Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences
Elena Gapova
Researcher in gender and social inequality studies; Associate Professor of Sociology in Western Michigan University
Jodi Dean
Political theorist; Professor in the Political Science department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York
Maurizio Lazzarato
Sociologist and philosopher; Researcher at Pantheon-Sorbonne University (University Paris I)
Artemy Magun
Philosopher; Professor of Democratic Theory, Department of Sociology and Philosophy at European University at Saint Petersburg
Antonio Negri
Political philosopher and essay writer
Alexei Penzin
Philosopher; Researcher in contemporary interpretations of Marxist thought; Reader at Wolverhampton School of Art; Researcher at Institute of Philosophy, Moscow
Marina Simakova
Social researcher and cultural critic, laboratory assistant at the Center for Theory of Democracy European University at St. Petersburg
Michael Heinrich
Political theorist; Research fellow in Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin
Greg Yudin
Philosopher and sociologist; Professor at Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences
Session 1. Marx and Contemporary Materialisms
In terms of the old divide between materialism and idealism, the contemporary philosophical conjuncture is rather paradoxical. Alain Badiou recently branded as "democratic materialism" the currents of contemporary thought that base themselves on the assumption that "there are only bodies and languages" while excluding the concept of truth as evental and revolutionary process. Badiou argues that this variety of materialism rather supports the ideological discourse of late capitalism. Although the legacy of German Idealism is a vital part of today's discussion, it is unlikely that any current of contemporary thought would declare itself as "idealist" except a poetic or an openly religious phenomenology. Today, we have a Kampfplatz of multiple "new materialisms" and "realisms" rather than a divide between materialism and idealism. However, the underlying antagonism within this field is the same as the division that has always been present in capitalist modernity. The varieties of contemporary materialism can be seen as either being timidly or openly complying with the late-capitalist ideological discourse, or as being rebelliously anti-capitalist. The panel will ask what are those specific division lines in the contemporary struggle of materialisms? What should the strategy be of the materialism that would allow the Marxist tradition reinvent itself in this complex conjuncture? This question seems to be even more complicated since, at different stages of Marx's philosophical formation, the latter had also been reflecting the "idealist" aspects inherited from German classical thought. Additionally, the panel will question if we have to limit ourselves to a "ruthless criticism" of those supposed materialisms which both betray the emancipatory and radical tradition of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and instigate a "speculative" detachment from the toxic pressures of the current political momentum, or can we consider a contemporary materialist approach that admits a materialist "speculation" similar to the late-Soviet philosophical debates on the concept of the "ideal" in the 1970's and 1980's. Finally, from today's viewpoint, how can the post-Soviet and postcolonial conditions contribute not only to the emergence of the "new materialisms", but also to a resurgence of the materialist philosophy that would be faithful to Marx?
Session 2. Marx and the Politics of Time
One of the most widespread criticisms mounted against Marx over the past century is related to his endorsement of the idea of linear progress. As a matter of fact, Marx's historical optimism was closely linked to the universal characteristic of capital of its incessant expansion, where "all that is solid melts into air", including pre-capitalist relations. Thus, the progressive effect of the destructive work of capital provides a historical justification for capital itself, while rendering anything that does not fit into its totality insignificant. Yet, various thinkers, from Althusser and Bloch to world-system and postcolonial theorists, oppose such a progressivist (and deterministic) understanding of Marx. Instead, they insist on the historical specificity of capitalism and its destructive effect (and hence, its dialectical sublation) which does not inevitably culminate in a social alternative. Benjamin's critique of "homogeneous empty time", intrinsic to historical progress, is crucial to this approach. In contrast, it offers a vision of contemporaneity that allows for temporal non-simultaneity and incorporates all of the "survivals" of the pre-capitalist past — albeit alien to market rationality — into its complex structure. At the same time, this "melancholic" tendency that has in many ways defined Marxism in past decades has been vehemently criticized by the "left accelerationists" who wish to revive the Marxist belief in the limited development of capitalist relations, which is seen as a necessary precondition for capitalism to be overcome. In this sense, can we say (following Wallerstein) that there are "two Marxs" — progressivist and anti-progressivist — who oppose each other within the Marxist tradition? Could ''melancholic" Marxism be conducive to the understanding of current political phenomena (i.e., right-wing populism and the renaissance of conservative ''archeopolitics''), and, if so, in what way? Or, could the return to the progressivist perspective help us reveal the emancipatory potential of the increasingly rapid development of technologies?
The call for papers aims at organizing two panels within the conference, to invite the researchers in all areas related to Marx' political and philosophical legacies. Proposals from early career researchers are particularly encouraged.

Please submit abstracts of not more than 250 words and two-page academic CV (both in English) to

The selected participants will need to apply for travel funding from their home institutions or elsewhere. The conference will issue formal invitations for the visa application process, if needed.

The deadline for applications is February 25, 2019.
Conference is organized by Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences with Institute for Social Sciences RANEPA.

Organizing Committee:

Greg Yudin (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences)
Artemy Magun (European University in Saint-Petersburg)
Marina Simakova (European University in Saint-Petersburg)
Alexei Penzin (University of Wolverhampton)
Ilya Budraitskis (Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences)

The web-site is made by Armen Aramyan and Nastya Podorozhnya (DOXA).

Illustrations by Martin Rowson, Tulio Fagim