Morbid symptoms in the history of class now


Next week I am speaking at the Sydney Historical Research Network seminar, as part of their History Now series. The topic is ‘The History of Class Now’. Speaking chronologically are Hannah Forsyth (ACU), Terry Irving (University of Wollongong) and myself (UTS). This is the abstract for my talk:

Morbid Symptoms in the history of class now

Gramsci says in one of his early Prison Notebooks that if the ruling class is only dominant, and no longer leading (dirigente), then ‘the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies’. In these circumstances the ‘crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear (1930; Q3 §34). The unravelling of the era of mass politics in recent decades has opened a way for women and men of destiny to step into this breach, capitalising on anti-political sentiment and the growing detachment of citizens from politicians and politics in general. We see this manifest from Trump to Brexit, and from the Palmer United Party to Beppi Grillo’s Five State movement in Italy. At the same time the working class disorganised and no longer recognises those who purport to lead it, be that the traditional labour parties or the trade unions. What might we glean from these morbid symptoms, in terms of the history of the ruling and working classes now?

The seminar details are: 9 March at 5.30pm at UTS. Room 470 on Level 3 of Building 10. This is up one flight of stairs from the entrance hall of Building 10 on Jones St. 

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