Conference questions triumphant capitalism
Rick Joines
March 1999

Has the possibility for radical critique of capitalism passed? Should we accept the way the world is as the way it ought to be? Is it the best of all possible worlds where CEOs receive 212 times the salary of their average employees, where the real wages of the majority are falling to fill the pockets of a ever decreasing minority of merger happy capitalists?

On March 19-20, 1999, the Marxist Reading Group of the University of Florida is hosting a conference called "On Pain of Extinction: Marx at the Millennium." At this conference these kinds of questions will be addressed as we assess the status of Marxism, and the Left in general, as we face the millennium.

On Friday, March 19, at 8:00 P.M., Doug Henwood, author of Wall Street: How it Works and For Whom, The State of the USA Atlas, and editor of the Left Business Observer will speak on issues of Marxism, money, and the millennium in Gannet Auditorium, 1064 Weimer Hall on UF's campus. Henwood has been called "scum" by the editors of the Wall Street Journal, which by itself is a ringing endorsement. Henwood also regularly writes for The Nation and In These Times. Henwood pulls no punches when going after the corporate elite, and his talk promises to be exciting.

On Saturday, March 20, at 8:00 P.M., Evan Watkins will also speak in Gannet Auditorium, 1064 Weimer Hall. Watkins is the author of Everyday Exchanges: Marketwork and Capitalist Commonsense, Throwaways: Work Culture and Consumer Education, and Worktime: English Departments and the Circulation of Cultural Value. His talk is entitled, "How to Play Dead." Watkins' work is based in the writings of Gramsci, who sees communism as a "philosophy of praxis." In each of his three books, Watkins has taken on the capitalist corruption of "common sense," showing how the cultural institutions of capitalism attempt to "train" us to be good subjects who do not question the status quo.

Panels will run all day Friday and Saturday, March 19-20, in the O. Ruth McQuown Room, 219 Dauer Hall on the UF campus. At 9:30 Friday there will be a panel called "Prescribed Fun" dealing with issues of politics in the work of Brecht, in Hindi cinema, and in Cubo-Futurist film. The Reagan Era is the topic of the panel beginning at 11:00 called "Raygunorama." In this panel, the effects of Reaganomics on workers and on the culture will be addressed. The panel beginning at 1:30, "Celebrity Ground Zero," will focus on the bombshells and celebrity hype. At 3:00, the panel "Redesigning Woman" will confront issues of abortion protesters, thinness, and biotechnology. The final panel, "Political Identities and Geographies," beginning at 4:30 takes a Left perspective on ethnic studies, the South, nationalism in William Blake, and value in Lacan.

On Saturday, March 20, the first panel begins at 8:30. Called "Please Standby: Teaching Difficulties," it looks at controversies concerning ISIS at UF, teaching a curriculum based on the idea of justice, and Cuba and the internet. At 10:00 there will be a "Labor Forum." Local labor activists will speak about their work in Gainesville. We hope there will be some "educating of the educators" at this panel. At 11:15, "Class Acts" takes a class-based look at issues of everyday conversation and political debates. The 2:00 panel, "What Society Inflicts, You Must Learn to Enjoy," takes a look at mass culture, and the final panel at 3:45, "Left at the Millennium" focuses on the possibilities of a Left political philosophy at the so-called "end of history."

This conference is made possible by CLASC (the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Student Council), Graduate Assistants United, EGO, and the UF Department of English. Attendance is free for all panels and keynote speeches. For further information, e-mail:

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