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CfH Lectures


This lecture is introduced by Prof. Rosi Braidotti.

Today we are facing many challenges and the whole society looks at two directions for salvation: the State and the Market. But salvation does not come, no direct solutions are offered by either actor. This dual perspective on the main “actors” in society stems mainly from the 19th century, when both the belief in the nation state as the ultimate governance model and the free market as the most successful economic model was firmly established. One of the consequences of this was that there was no more room for collectivities, for local forms of institutions for collective action, which were formed and governed by the stakeholders themselves (bottom-up), with the focus on resilience, utility and equity for those who were members of the institution. One example of such an institution – the common – was set up to organize collective use and management of land (mainly pasture land), thus avoiding or at least minimizing a number of risks that went along with making a living with agricultural activities. In the cities, the guilds united craftsmen of the same occupation to provide collective insurance against all risks in life. But collectivities were omnipresent in town and countryside and provided many different possibilities for their participants. Today we see that although citizens are no longer used to solve problems without interference of state or market, new forms of collective action emerge to fill the vacuum. In this lecture the focus will be on collective risk management in early modern Europe, but several links with todays “new collectivities” will be drawn and we will look into the opportunities but also other risks this again brings along.

This lecture was given within the framework of the 2012 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘Risk Societies and Cosmopolitanism’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of cross-national European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Cosmopolitanism and risk society, Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility, and Cosmopolitanism and the civic duty of Digital Media.