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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/The Platypus Affiliated Society at the Left Forum 2014

The Platypus Affiliated Society at the Left Forum 2014

When: May 30 - June 1

Where: 524 West 59th Street, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York


( 1 ) Art and Class

Although the art world seemed mostly unscathed by the 2008 financial crisis and the Occupy movement, a notable focus on the art market and the power structures of the art world has emerged in the past few years. This trend has been visible in gallery and museum shows, which have taken on a more introspective, historical character and largely shied away from the overblown spectacle of years past, and in numerous articles in various media outlets, from niche blogs to the New York Times. Moreover, the language of the art world, from gallery or museum press releases and catalogs to reviews to lengthy theoretical articles, has long been steeped in Marxist cultural critique, although this influence mostly remains implicit, unstated, and perhaps unconscious. Ben Davis’s recent book, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, arrived as something of an anomaly in this atmosphere. A welcome anomaly, though, and one worth exploring further. What does a Marxist approach to contemporary art look like, separate from merely a critique of the art market or a preference for overtly “political” art? Davis and others have suggested that art’s true power lies in the utopian image of the figure of the artist, who embodies personally fulfilling labor, rather than art as such. This begs the fundamental question: what is the role of art itself in the contemporary landscape, and can this be separated from the structures (institutional and financial) in which it is embedded?

Chair: Robin Treadwell

Speakers: Bret Schneider (Platypus), Lindsay Caplan (The CUNY Graduate Center), Saul Ostrow (Critical Practices Inc.), Oxana Timofeeva (Chto delat?/What is to be done?)

When: Session 2, Sat 12:00pm - 01:50pm

Where: Room 1.93

Reading List
Ben Davis, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (Haymarket Press, 2013) excerpt
Lindsay Caplan, Framing Artwork

( 2 ) The Politics of Work

We generally assume that Marxists and other Leftists have the political responsibility to support reforms for the improvement of the welfare of workers. Yet, leading figures from the Marxist tradition– such as Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky– also understood that such reforms would broaden the crisis of capitalism and potentially intensify contradictions that could adversely impact the immediate conditions of workers. For instance, full employment, while being a natural demand from the standpoint of all workers’ interests, also threatens the conditions of capitalist production (which rely on a surplus of available labor), thereby potentially jeopardizing the current system of employment altogether. In light of such apparent paradoxes, this panel seeks to investigate the politics of work from Leftist perspectives. It will attempt to provoke reflection on and discussion of the ambiguities and dilemmas of the politics of work by including speakers from divergent perspectives, some of whom seek after the immediate abolition of labor and others of whom seek to increase the availability of employment opportunities. We hope that this conversation will deepen the understanding of the contemporary problems faced by the Left in its struggles to construct a politics adequate to the self-emancipation of the working class.

Chair: Justin Elm

Speakers: Jon Bekken, Alan Milchman, James Livingston

When: Session 4, Sat 05:00pm - 06:50pm

Where: Room 1.113

Program, with questions for panelists and select quotations

The Politics of Work is one of our international series. For recordings and/or transcripts from the other fora in the series (in Amherst, Halifax, Chicago, London, and Toronto) please go to the website at The Politics of Work



( 1 ) Revolutionary Politics and Thought

This discussion will reflect on the relationship between revolutionary politics and thinking in the past and present and ask why has it become increasingly difficult to render political life intellectual and intellectual life political today? Panelists will consider the historical role of revolutionary theory as a moment of revolutionary politics, and the ways in which thinking can be held responsible for politics, and politics held responsible for thinking.

Chair: Benjamin Blumberg Speakers: Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Jason Wright (IBT), RCP Speaker

When: Session 5, Sunday, 10:00am - 11:50am

Where: Room 1.75

Reading List

Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution?
Vladimir Lenin, What is to be Done?
Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics; "Marginalia to Theory and Praxis;" "Resignation"
Max Horkheimer and Adorno, Towards a New Manifesto
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

( 2 ) Sexual Liberation Today

Much has taken place over the last 50 – 60 years in the realm of sexual liberation. The new left of the 1960s and 70s sparked a progression of women's liberation and gay rights by challenging both legislation and cultural norms. In the 1980s and 90s a sexually constricting society was further challenged through sex-positive activism in art and politics and on the street. Today, trans-identified individuals are more prominent in the media, non-heteronormative sexual identifications are more widely accepted, and the binary of gender is challenged through queer theory and supportive communities more widely accessible through the internet. Despite apparent gains in the project of sexual liberation, human sexuality remains subject to daily constraints: structural sexism persists, sex-work remains criminalized, the bourgeois family is the social norm, and impotence and fear of intimacy are among the many rampant inhibitions to sexual experience. What orientation should a movement for sexual liberation take toward sexuality? How can we today reflect on the efficacy or inefficacy of past movements. What are the limitations of politics today to address sexuality? Also, what is sexual repression and how does it function in society? Did past movements for sexual liberation undermine themselves? How were they successful and how did they fail?

Chair: Tana Forrester (Platypus)

Speakers: Cornelia Möser, Lonely Christopher (Kristiania Collective), Jamie Keesling (Platypus)

When: Session 5, Sun 10:00am - 11:50am

Where: Room 1.103

Reading List

Juliet Mitchell, "Women: The Longest Revolution" (1966)
John D'Emilio, "Capitalism and Gay Identity"(1983)
Adorno, "Sexual Taboo and the Law Today" (1963)
Reich, "Ideology as a Material Force" (1946)
Juliet Mitchell, "On Freud and the Distinction Between the Sexes" (1974)
Freud, "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love" (1912)
Freud, "Femininity" (1933)
Which way forward for sexual liberation? (Platypus Review)
Sexual Freedom and the History of the Left (Platypus Public Forum)


The Platypus Affiliated Society, established in December 2006, organizes reading groups, public fora, research and journalism focused on problems and tasks inherited from the “Old” (1920s-30s), “New” (1960s-70s) and post-political (1980s-90s) Left for the possibilities of emancipatory politics today.

For more on the Platypus Affiliated Society in New York, please visit

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