Rethinking Nature with Aquinas and “New spirit of capitalism” à la Russe

    3rd open faculty research seminar


    Sept. 26, 59 Ordzhonikidze st., 19.00 – 21.00

    Free admission, everyone is welcome. The seminar is conducted in English.


    Seminar program

    • Zachary Reyna

      (PhD in Political Theory, John Hopkins University, USA)

      “Throwing out the Baby with the Bathwater: Rethinking Nature with Aquinas for Contemporary Environmental Politics”

      Over the past thirty years it has become increasingly popular to show how the conceptual boundary between the Natural and the Artificial is harmful for environmental and conservationist politics. This has led a growing group of critical scholars to argue for the rejection of the concept Nature as a term of art altogether. I turn to the 13th century natural law thought of Thomas Aquinas, who helped first consolidate Nature as a term of art, to argue why Nature as a concept should be retained by contemporary environmental politics.

    • Natalia Savelyeva

      (PhD in Sociology, Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Science)

      “‘New spirit of capitalism’ à la Russe: how multilevel marketing transforms subjectivities of workers”

      This presentation is dedicated to the research of multilevel marketing (or direct sales) organizations in Russia, and the way they impose certain beliefs on their distributors transforming their subjectivities and subjecting the very process of this transformation to capitalist ends.
      Multilevel marketing organizations (like Herbalife, Mary Kay, Amway, etc.) came to Russia in the time of Perestroika and symbolized the rejection of socialist values and way of life, as well as the acceptance of the new, capitalist ones. The presentation shows how these multilevel marketing organizations can be compared with “liberated enterprises” (L. Boltanski, E. Chiapello) which figure their workers as more “creative” and self-organized, while at the same time abandoning any social guaranties (social insurances, pensions, leave with pay, etc.). Consequently, the subjectivity of distributor becomes a central issue of concern: multilevel marketing organizations need to produce the proper type of individual, the self-organized individual, devoted to his work in order to persist. The presentation critically explores how multilevel marketing organizations seek to create this type of worker. Are there certain kinds of biographical circumstances which predispose distributors to perceive organizations’ ideology in this or that way? How do certain techniques and practices — including “practices of the self” — work as transformative ones?