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Heide Gerstenberger – The Market, Violence and Consumers

Event Date: 7 November 2013
Room 264
Senate House
University of London
Malet St
London WC1E 7HU

The School of Management at Royal Holloway University of London presents:

Professor Heide Gerstenberger (Bremen) – The Market, Violence and Consumers

There is no doubt about it. Capitalism has been one of the great hopes in the development of mankind. And not only proponents of capitalism but also many of its Marxist critics have agreed that its development marks, indeed, an advancement in humanity. Contracts would – and they eventually more or less did –replace the use of direct violence in labor relations. And international trade relations, while not the civilising force which had been expected of them in the eighteenth century, are no longer most often established by force of arms. In some sense capitalism has become domesticated. It is no accident that it was in the 1970s that Johan Galtung has suggested to grasp the new forms of imperialism through the analytical concept of “structural violence”. Though it differs markedly from the Marxian analysis of the violence inherent in capitalist labor relations it is useful to capture trends of development which have become dominant after the Second World War.

I will endeavour to explain:

(1) that these dominant trends and dominant theories have neglected to take into account the amount of direct violence against persons which has been part and parcel of the real history of capitalism,

(2) that globalization has counteracted trends of domestication, and

(3) that from the use of sugar in the 18th century to the purchase of cheap T-shorts in the 21st century consumer practices have sustained slavery and slave-like labor relations.

Heide Gerstenberger has been a professor for the “theory of state and society” at the University of Bremen. She is now retired. Her research, though covering a wide range of topics, has been centered on the development of capitalist states. Since the end of the 1990s she has also been engaged in empirical research of  maritime labor in the epoch of globalization. At present she is working on “markets and violence”.

The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion with:

Dominique Bouchet founded the Marketing Department in the University of Southern Denmark with a view to understanding marketing in conversation with economics, philosophy and sociology. His positioning of the subject has come to be especially influential and the department he developed is recognised as a space that has fostered cultural and theoretically informed scholarship in marketing in general and in consumer culture theory in particular. He is a public intellectual figure in Denmark.

Kate Soper is a retired Professor of Philosophy and arguably the foremost philosopher of consumption today. She was particularly active with feminist and peace movements during the 1970s and regularly contributed to such journals as the New Left Review. She is author of various books including To Relish the Sublime and has co-edited influential texts like The Politics and Pleasures of Consuming Differently and Citizenship and Consumption.

Mike Saren is Professor of Marketing at University of Leicester and a seminal figure in the creation of critical marketing, the subject which seeks to bring the wider ideological practices of marketing into scrutiny with reference to tools developed in critical theory and elsewhere. He has co-edited such important texts as Rethinking Marketing and Critical Marketing as well as a huge range of published work.

Introduction by Dr Alan Bradshaw (RHUL):

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Heide Gerstenberger:

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Panel Discussion:

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