Thursday, 21 January 2016



with Olivier Tonneau 

5pm (5.15 start) - 6.45pm, Tue 26 Jan
Room 3, Mill Lane Lecture Theatres
Why bother today with Robespierre? There is at least one reason: he remains one of the scarecrows used to turn people away from radical democracy. Following the historiographical triumph of François Furet, hostility to Robespierre has even spread to the Left, with Mouffe and Laclau’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy being predicated upon the rejection of Jacobinism, conflated with Stalinism. Paradoxically, Mouffe and Laclau aimed to hegemonize the French Revolution’s democratic discourse while conjuring the threat of its only radical proponent. They wanted, to quote Robespierre, ‘a revolution without a revolution’ – an inconsistency that can be traced, decades later, in Mouffe's difficulty, within her 'agonistic pluralism', of naming the enemy. Yet this inconsistency has disappeared from the works of one Pablo Iglesias who, whilst drawing upon Mouffe and Laclau’s work, does not hesitate to quote from Robespierre. Podemos is but one example of a massive reinvestment of the French revolution’s heritage by radical movements. What does the return of Robespierre contribute to radical politics? I will argue that it opens access to untapped theoretical resources, and powerful mobilizing symbols.
Olivier Tonneau is a Lecturer in Modern Languages at Homerton College, Cambridge. He is currently exploring anti-colonial uses of the French revolution, especially in the works of Aimé Césaire, Kateb Yacine and Alejandro Carpentier (see his article in the January issue of Radical Philosophy).
This is the second of our Critical Theory and Practice seminars this year. The aim of these seminars is to integrate radical theory with political practice and activism. Each consists of a presentation followed by a Q&A session (and trip to the Anchor pub round the corner). We record each session, so if you can't make it, like our pages so you get updated once the video is uploaded. Organised with the help of Cambridge Defend Education (CDE) and Cambridgeshire Left.
Upcoming talks for Lent 2016 (more details to come, look out for our termcard)

Tue 9 Feb | 'The Politics of Grieving: A Panel-led Discussion' Mill Lane Lecture Theatres Room 9

Tue 16 Feb | Peter Hudis, 'Frantz Fanon on Race, Recognition, and Revolution: A Re-examination' Mill Lane Lecture Theatres Room 1

Tue 23 Feb | 'Policing Neoliberalism in Egypt: The Rise of the "Securocratic" State' (Cancelled) 
Keynes Hall, King's College

Tue 1 Mar | Andreas Malm, 'On the birth -- and possible death -- of fossil capital', Mill Lane Lecture Theatres, room 1

Tue 8 Mar | The theory and practice of decolonizing higher education, from South Africa to the UK: an open dialogue with Adam Branch, Arathi Sprikarash and activists from Cambridge, SOAS, Oxford and South Africa

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