Lecture: Interrogating the Global Dis/Order

New York – In 2018, John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff spoke at The New School for Social Research about

“Crime, Sovereignty, and the State: the Metaphysics of Global Disorder.” “The Global South” has become a shorthand for the universe of non-European, postcolonial peoples; it is that half of the planet about which, conventionally, the “Global North” spins theories. Rarely is it seen as a source of explanations for world historical processes, past or present, let alone as the source of those processes. Yet, as much of the northern hemisphere experiences increasing fiscal inscrutability and rising inequality, state privatization, crime and corruption, ethnic conflict, authoritarian populism, and other “crises,” it looks as though it is evolving southward, so to speak. Is this so? Might the relation of “north” and “south” be more a matter of complementary inequity, more a construct of the dialectical imagination, than a hard-and-fast empirical reality? In this seminar, we shall reverse the usual order of things, addressing a range of familiar themes in order to theorize them anew from the “eccentric location” of the “south,” broadly conceived: among those themes, neoliberalism and its futures; the changing relations among capital, the state and governance; democracy, authoritarian populism, and new forms of political life; the fetishism of the law and the judicialization of the public sphere; the paradoxes of twenty-first century nationhood and its jurisdictions; new magical economies; the crisis of liberalism; the meaning of crime and the metaphysics of disorder; and the present and future political economy of identity. This re-imagining of the contemporary global dis/order renders key problems of our time at once strange and familiar, giving an ironic twist to the evolutionary pathways long assumed by social scientists.