The Freedom of Capital

The dissertation project inquires into the structure and the material conditions of the socially dominant liberal understanding of freedom. Drawing on contemporary feminist critiques of capitalist subjectivation (by Wendy Brown, Melinda Cooper, Nancy Fraser, and Silvia Federici, among others), the project examines the connection between the logic of capitalist production and a conception of freedom that implies the appearance of permanent change and of unlimited possibilities for transformation. At the methodological level, the work takes up Hegel’s and Marx’s analyses of bourgeois society, which reveal the genesis and inner logic of the liberal concept of freedom, and draws on them to show that the liberal state cannot conceive of the subjectivity-generating processes in political terms and thereby deprives itself of the possibility of shaping them. Contrary to this concept of freedom, which relies on the model of the freely choosing subject who is not restricted by any external conditions, the dissertation project will deal in the final part with practices of self-education as they were conceived by representatives of proletarian education and the women’s movement (especially Alexandra Kollontai, Nadezhda Krupskaya, and Clara Zetkin). Do changes in the organization of social production and reproduction also lead to changes in the modes of action and desire of the subject? Can we identify a changed concept of the free subject here, understood as one who freely gives him- or herself political determinations? To what extent do the processes of subjectivation taking place here point beyond the disciplining practices of subjectivation in capitalism, rather than merely founding another disciplinary system?

Nature’s Reason

Frankfurt School Critical Theory is a theory of crises with a long history of critical interventions. Yet its voice is barely audible in the context of the climate crisis. Currently, therefore, the dynamics of the crisis of social relations to nature are increasingly being discussed in theoretical languages that exhibit only a meager social-theoretical and ideology-critical profile. The project assumes that conceptual problems of contemporary Critical Theory contribute to its disregard and that the theoretical elucidation of its own sources represents a starting point for its revision. The hitherto unsystematized reception of Schelling’s philosophy in Frankfurt School Critical Theory serves as a starting point for this undertaking.


What Am I Actually Doing Here? Practice, Experiences and Subjective Conceptions of Volunteer Work Using the Example of Volunteering in Welfare State Organizations

Freiwilligenarbeit – häufig auch verhandelt unter Begriffen wie ‚Ehrenamt‘ oder ‚Engagement‘ – ist ein fester Bestandteil arbeitsteilig organisierter, moderner Gesellschaften und wird in diesen vornehmlich affirmativ verhandelt. Diesem affirmativen Blick wird in der Dissertation eine gesellschaftstheoretisch fundierte arbeitssoziologische Perspektive entgegen gestellt, die Arbeit als Mittlerin zwischen Subjekt und Gesellschaft versteht und die handlungsleitenden Orientierung von Freiwilligen in und bei ihrer Arbeit rekonstruiert und zu Typen von Freiwilligenarbeit(er*innen) verdichtet. Mithilfe der vorgeschlagenen kritisch-rekonstruktiven Perspektive und der darauf aufbauenden Typenbildung gelingt es, die gesellschaftstheoretische Relevanz von Freiwilligenarbeit zu erfassen und das Dilemma der Freiwilligen zwischen der Konzeption von Freiwilligenarbeit als Nicht-Arbeit und den Ansprüchen an professionelle Arbeit empirisch fundiert zu beschreiben.


Dirty Capitalism and Struggles for Social Reproduction in Marseille

My PhD thesis deals with the coloniality of social reproduction. On the one hand, this takes the form of a theoretical examination of analytic concepts such as the coloniality of labor, gender, and the city. On the other hand, I examine how the various dimensions of coloniality information and what forms of emancipatory resistance develop out of this. For this purpose, I am conducting a qualitative ethnographic study of striking cleaners since 2019 and a district union in Marseille.


On the Construction of Enemy Images: Populism and Authoritarianism in Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and the Frankfurt School

The question of antagonism is a constant in political theory. It has been at the center of major historical events, such as the French Revolution, and it is still at the core of contemporary debates. The much-discussed crisis of (liberal) democracy, for example, is closely related to the question of how to shape antagonistic oppositions.

In my study, I analyze the theories of Laclau, Mouffe, and the first generation of Critical Theory in terms of three dimensions that play a central role in the construction of antagonism: (1) the political, (2) the social, and (3) the psychological or psychoanalytic dimension. From this follows the thesis that a theory which aims to systematically grasp the complexity of antagonism must include all three of these aspects. On this basis, critical research can be conducted on the construction of productive and destructive antagonisms, such as in the context of the contemporary crisis of liberal democracy.

Epistemologien des Spekulativen

Kritik ist auf Spekulation angewiesen. Das spekulative Moment in der Kritik darf sich aber nicht von der Kritik und dem zu Kritisierenden ablösen. Kritik muss also spekulativ, Spekulation aber auch kritisch sein. In dieser Arbeit soll das Verhältnis von Kritik und Spekulation in den Arbeiten von Theodor W. Adorno, Donna J. Haraway und Saidiya Hartman herausgearbeitet und untersucht werden. Alle drei Autor:innen ringen angesichts der herrschaftsförmigen Organisation des Wissens und der Wissenschaft darum, ein kritisches Wissen zu produzieren, das mit den herrschenden Wissens- und Denkformen bricht und andere Formen des Nachdenkens über die Welt ermöglicht. Insofern, so lautet die These der Arbeit, ist das spekulative Moment in der Kritik epistemologisch sowie politisch von großer Bedeutsamkeit. Neben der Frage, wie kritisches Wissen produziert werden kann, ist das spekulative Moment unabdingbar, wenn in der radikalen Gesellschaftskritik an der Möglichkeit einer freien Gesellschaft festgehalten werden soll.

The Order of Inequality. An Ethnography of Melilla

The project analyzes the socio-structural, urban and normative reproduction of social inequality in democratic-capitalist societies. It does so focusing on the case of the Spanish exclave of Melilla. On the basis of ethnographic-qualitative material, it reconstructs three borders or boundaries that shape inequality in the small Spanish town on the African continent:

1) The European external border and, in particular, the economic function of the European border regime in the contemporary capitalist world system. Here, the work also focuses on the micrological exclusionary mechanisms of the border regime.

2) The inner-city boundary between the affluent multicultural center of the city and the socially and infrastructurally disadvantaged Muslim periphery. To understand the reproduction of this segregation, the effective gendering, racialization and postcolonial continuities are of particular interest.

3) The border between the periphery and the “Cañada de Hidum” neighbourhood, stigmatized as a meeting place for jihadists and the drug mafia. In order to understand the production of this “problem district”, practices of policing, illegalization and also compensatory care networks are examined.

Overall, the work thus aims to develop a theory of the production of social inequality in Europe's democratic capitalism based on the case of Melilla.