Rethinking Work: 15th Annual Conference of the Marxist Reading Group - March 21-23, 2013

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Marxist Reading Group, University of Florida
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Keynote addresses by: Fredric Jameson, Kathi Weeks, Michael Denning, and Kevin Floyd

March 21-23, 2013 at the University of Florida

Since the economic downturn of 2008, rhetoric about work has permeated political discourse in the United States, the European Union, and elsewhere. However, the notion that "work" has inherent, positive value regardless of its content, consequences, or level of compensation is seldom challenged. Instead, politicians on both the right and the left are confident that repeating the word "work" as a kind of incantation will conjure a safe and shared, if ultimately nebulous, set of assumptions. In turn, these assumptions are used as a means to manufacture political consensus, even as work (or its absence) is a primary determinant of economic and cultural division. Thus, this conference proposes to follow Marx's imperative to exit the "noisy" public sphere "where everything takes place on the surface and in full view of everyone" and instead enter "into the hidden abode of production" so that we may better understand the political power of the word "work," the concept it signifies, and its material consequences for workers and non-workers around the world.

This year's conference of the MRG marks the fifteenth anniversary and signifies a rejuvenation of the rich tradition of engagement with Marxism that this conference has come to represent. The MRG invites scholars to join us in rethinking work, a fundamental but under-theorized concept in Marxist thought, by submitting scholarly papers and presentations that investigate work from a Marxist perspective. We challenge scholars to clarify and explore such questions as: How does work mediate historical and contemporary social struggles, political economies, and domestic and international policy? How can work or the work ethic be periodized within different stages of capitalism? What have been the historical meanings and values attached to work in various cultures? In what ways have these notions changed or remained consistent amid the transition to the twenty-first century economy? What might work look like in a postcapitalist world? Why, or why not, work?

Fredric Jameson is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University. His many books include Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, The Modernist Papers, Archaeologies of the Future, Valences of the Dialectic, The Hegel Variations and Representing Capital.

Kathi Weeks is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at Duke University. She is the author of The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries and Constituting Feminist Subjects.

Michael Denning teaches American Studies at Yale University. His books include Mechanic Accents, Culture in the Age of Three Worlds, and The Cultural Front.

Kevin Floyd is associate professor of English at Kent State University and author of The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Cultural representations of work and work politics
Work in a globalized economy
The necessity of unemployment and unpaid labor in capitalism
Utopian visions of work
Jobs vs. work vs. labor
Refusal of work and anti-work politics
Work and identity politics
Sex as work and/or anti-work
The reification of intellectual labor
Posthumanist conceptions of work
Disability/inability to work
Affective labor
Possibilities for unalienated or de-alienated labor
The state of the labor movement

Please submit a 250-word abstract for a 20-minute presentation along with contact information to by January 11, 2013. Please indicate any a/v requests (DVD player and data projection available). Authors of accepted papers will be notified by February 3, 2013. For questions concerning the conference, please contact us at For more information, please visit our web site: