University of Melbourne, Friday/Saturday, 23/24 February 2001.

Spirit, Money & Modernity

The planet is more homogenised and interconnected than ever before. Our world is engulfed in a global economy dominated by a few corporations. At the same time, it gives the appearance of multiplicity and fragmentation, of individuality and cultural diversity. How can this be? This two-day seminar presented by Andy Blunden, Geoff Boucher and Anitra Nelson will investigate this problem with readings of Hegel, Vygotsky and Marx.

The seminar will introduce notions of how human beings construct ideals, and give these ideals material form (in institutions, money, laws etc.) to constitute the organising principles of social life, and discuss notions of objectivity, relativism and necessity in this context. There will be three major presentations, each session being followed by group work with a tutor, discussing a relevant classic text, and a "Panel Discussion" in the final half-day.

Geoff Boucher will challenge the dominant interpretation of Hegel in the English-speaking world, which views Hegel as a metaphysics of cosmic spirit. By arguing for a "non-metaphysical Hegel" Geoff will introduce some of the central concepts of dialectics in a plausible way and offer a fresh look at Hegel’s philosophy.

Reading Material: Introduction and Preface (optional) to the Phenomenology of Spirit by Hegel,
and the Explanation of these texts given by J.N. Findlay.

Andy Blunden will present a synopsis of "Cultural Historical Activity Theory", a current in Cognitive Psychology which arose from the Vygotsky School in the USSR, outline the roots of this theory in Hegel, its limitations and what it has to offer in understanding the social foundation of ideals. See text of talk.

Reading Material: The problem of the cultural development of the child , by Lev Vygotsky and
The Concept of the Ideal, by Evad Ilyenkov (optional).

Andy's Talk: The Vygotsky School

Anitra Nelson will present a outline of Marx's theory of money and its role as an organising principle of modern society and alternatives to the market principle.

Reading Material: Sacred Matter, by David Suzuki and Estranged Labour, and Power of Money, by Karl Marx.

Anitra's Talk: Money and Social Justice

The Panel discussion will be entitled "Non-Market Utopias" and will highlight the practical and ethical aspects of dialectics, rather than providing a forum for airing blue-prints for a future society. See notes for Andy's talk and Anitra's talk.