'Filosofía pirata, edición libre', discussion with Perro Tuerto y Pucho (El Rancho Electrónico) y Gabriela Méndez Cota (Universidad Iberoamericana) for the Mexico city radio station Ibero, September 12, 2019.

Open Humanities Press – The Inhumanist Manifesto

Pirate Philosophy, This Is Not A Pipe Podcast

HyperCritical Theory

Übercapitalism and What Can Be Done About It

Recent publications

Masked Media (limited edition paper-only publication for The House That Heals The Soul exhibition, Tetley, Leeds, 2018) 

 The Inhumanist Manifesto: Extended Play (Techne Lab, 2017)

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repositories PURE here, and CURVE here 

Radical Open Access

« From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg | Main | Neoliberal Subjectivation »

Liberalism as a 'Way of Doing Things': Why Monkeys Should Be Able to Own Copyright

(What follows is the second part of an interview, 'Just Because You Write about Posthumanism Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t a Liberal Humanist: An Interview with Gary Hall' by Francien Broekhuizen, Simon Dawes, Danai Mikelli and Poppy Wilde. It is published in the MeCCSA-PGN Conference 2015 issue of Networking Knowledge, Vol 9, No 1 (2016). The first part of the interview, 'Neoliberal Subjectivation', is available here.)

THE EDITORS: Could you say more about the relation between the two models of subjectivity: are they mutually exclusive or fundamentally the same (i.e., liberal and neoliberal)? 

I would say that the new form of self-governing, self-disciplining, self-exploitative neoliberal subjectivity we’re referring to is different from the liberal humanist subject, but it’s also the same. If liberalism is concerned with respect for individual liberty and the defence of human rights, including those of citizenship and property rights, together with the institutions that protect and preserve them (parliamentary politics, the police, the press, the law, etc.), what is really being condemned in many accounts of the becoming business of the public university is the way in which one form of liberalism is being intensified and transformed into another. Specifically, this is a neoliberal interpretation of liberalism, and of which among those liberal rights and values are most important: the unassailable rights of property and extension of the values of the free market and its metrics to all areas of life. 

(There is of course a related emphasis in neoliberalism on privatisation, on deregulation, on low taxation for the rich, on weakening the power of the trade unions, and on reducing to a minimum the role played by the state, the public sector and the welfare system it is also important to mention in the context of this interview, given it is being conducted by postgraduate students. For not only is the degree of individual risk and debt carried by the majority of people today currently being enlarged as a result of governments continuing to pursue such neoliberal policies, it is being extended into the future. In the UK the latter is happening most notably in the form of the student debt created by the introduction and subsequent tripling of tuition fees. If the latest estimates are to be believed, many of today’s undergraduates will owe around £50,000 pounds by the time they graduate.)

Together with the failure to denaturalise and destabilise the liberal humanist model of academic subjectivity – to confront and rigorously think through our notions of individualism, human rights, property and so on (even though we understand that theory’s questioning of liberalism often involves questioning the human and human rights too) – this difference of intensity as much as of kind is arguably one of the reasons it’s been relatively easy for the commodifying, measuring logic of neoliberalism to control  our ways of acting and working as media, cultural and communication studies scholars. This logic is not so much going against the liberal values many of us continue to adhere to, as intensifying certain aspects of them. It’s an intensification and transformation of the very liberal humanism many of us are in fact anxious to retain. Consequently, even when we’re making a determined effort to resist or elude the processes of neoliberal subjectivation, we’re doing so much of the time by behaving as if we are autonomous, rational, self-identical and self-present, individual, liberal humanist subjects – which means it’s not that difficult for the forces of what we’re calling neoliberalism to control and repurpose such actions on our part. 

In saying this I’m aware those endeavouring to counter neoliberal subjectivation hold a range of political views and positions: Marxist, post-Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic and so forth. I’m also mindful of the fact that liberalism is a philosophy of many strands and varieties, some of which have indeed provided a means of opposing neoliberalism on occasion, and continue to do so. Still further, I’m conscious that, although they may share many things in common, liberalism and neoliberalism are not the same. Nor indeed is neoliberalism the perfect projection of a political desire: it’s no more free of contradiction and ambiguity than capitalism itself.  If we return to Foucault, however, we find him arguing in The Birth of Biopolitics that ‘liberalism’ should be analysed, ‘not as a theory or an ideology… but as a practice, that is to say, a “way of doing things”’.  When it is brought to bear on our own ways of doing things, this insistence on the importance of analysing liberalism as a practice can help us to understand something important, I think. For while many of us espouse explicitly anti-liberal and anti-neoliberal theories and philosophies in the content of our work – be they inspired by Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour or Karen Barad – we are liberals nonetheless by virtue of how we live, act and think in the world. Regardless of what theories and philosophies we profess, in our practice – in the forms our work takes, in the ways we create, publish and disseminate it, in our associated upholding of notions of individualism, individual rights, property and so on – we continue to act primarily according to a liberal humanist model of what it is to be and do as an academic. Put crudely, it’s a model that forecloses an appreciation of the processual and relational nature of identity – of the human’s co-constitutive psychological, social and biological relation not just to other humans, but to animals, technology and the environment as well as a whole host of other non-humans, objects, non-objects and non-anthropomorphic elements and energies – and instead presents the work of a writer or theorist as the original creation of an individualised, proprietorial human subject.  (For example, animals cannot own copyright, as we know from the recent case of the macaque monkey who took a famous ‘selfie’ photograph of itself.) 

One of the things I’m therefore endevouring to do in some of my work is experiment with different ways of acting, working, thinking and living as a critical media theorist. In this respect, my research is not so much concerned with coming up with a new theory or philosophy, something to rival new materialism, posthumanism or accelerationism, say, which of course is what theory traditionally tries to do. Instead, I’m interested in exploring different ways of being, different ways of doing things as a theorist.


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