Early Announcement

• 18​ – 19​ 04​ 2017 •
Symposium The Extreme Centre

A Symposium on the Future of Politics in Times of Populism

Tue 18 04 2017
21:00 Performance by MICHAEL PORTNOY

Wed 19 04 2017
21:00 Performance by LAIBACH

Venue: Volksbühne am Rudolfplatz, Cologne
Tickets: Symposium 8 € / 5 € (reduced), group ticket (min. 10 people): 4 € per Person (only with reservation), Reservations until the 11 04 2017 via symposium17@academycologne.org
Michael Portnoy's performance is included in the price. Laibach Performance 28 € pre-sale of tickets and 30 € box office on the evening of the event; each incl. commission, tickets via www.koelnticket.de

In English and German

A seismic shock coupled with fear has seized the worldwide political landscape. Since the US presidential election and the UK’s vote to leave the EU, populist positions that until recently lurked in obscurity on the margins of democracy are abruptly gaining centrality. On the horizon appears not only a possible collapse of the EU but also a worldwide victory of authoritarian systems. Propaganda, hate speech, and attacks on minorities are suddenly becoming commonplace again. Is a new fascism imminent with the mainstream entry of right-wing nationalist positions? Or do different variations of fascism spread themselves out in a diversity of national flavours, whether in Europe or in the USA?

The conference takes up the title of a recently published book by the British historian Tariq Ali. It almost seems as though capitalism no longer needs democracy. Replacing the once reliable political categories of “left” and “right”, the “extreme centre” has emerged—a neoliberal consensus that, according to Ali, is distinguished primarily through a compliant service to the market.

Are Western democracies committing political suicide by increasingly adopting right-wing nationalist positions? What do these alarming developments mean for politics, society, and culture? Which arguments can curb the infamy of fabricated “facts,” a political rhetoric that disrespects all established democratic playing rules? Where can economic and political solutions be found and what do they look like?

Renowned sociologists, philosophers, theoreticians, and activists will meet in April in Cologne for a two-day conference to discuss these questions. Participants are Hungarian philosopher Ágnes Heller, Croatian philosopher and activist Srećko Horvat, and American sociologist Saskia Sassen on 18 04 2017; and British Pakistani historian and author Tariq Ali, Spanish doctor and theologist Teresa Forcades I Vila and German journalist and writer Andreas Speit on 19 04 2017. In close cooperation with regional universities, a student support program offering intensive workshops and discussions will complement the symposium. For this initiative, the Academy has issued an EU-wide Open Call.

Updated information at www.academycologne.org


TARIQ ALI, born in 1943, is a writer, historian and filmmaker. He counts as one of the most important voices of the European left, writes regularly for The Guardian and the London Review of Books and is co-editor of the New Left Review. In Germany, he writes for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the political situation in the Near and Middle East. Ali lives in London.

SASKIA SASSEN, born in 1949, is an American sociologist and economist. Known for her research on globalization and international migration, she is currently a professor at Columbia University in New York and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. Sassen coined the term global city.

ÁGNES HELLER, born in 1929, is a Hungarian philosopher and a Holocaust survivor. She worked with Georg Lukács and became Hannah Arendt’s successor as chair for philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York in 1986. Recently she positioned herself clearly against the policies of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

ANDREAS SPEIT, born in 1966, is a German journalist and author who has specialized in right-wing extremism and neo-nazism in Germany. In October 2016, his new book Bürgerliche Scharfmacher: Deutschlands neue rechte Mitte – von AfD bis Pegida (Middle-class stirrers: Germany’s new right-wing centre – from AfD to Pegida) was published. Speit lives in Hamburg.

SRECKO HORVAT, born in 1983, is a Croatian philosopher and activist. He worked with Slavoj Žižek and Yanis Varoufakis and is active in the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 2025). He writes regularly for The Guardian and The New York Times. Horvat will be in Cologne as a Fellow of the Academy of the Arts of the World in April and May 2017, and is co-curator of the symposium „The Extreme Centre“.

TERESA FORCADES I VILA, born in 1966, is a doctor and holds a PhD in theology. After studying medicine in Barcelona and New York and theology at Harvard she joined the Order of Saint Benedict in 1997. As a fierce opponent of the pharmaceutical industry Forcades is particularly critical of the medicalization of society. As a theologian she is committed to strengthening the rights of homosexuals und women, also within the Catholic Church. In her numerous speeches and contributions to debates she campaigns for direct democracy and a more equal distribution of goods. Forcades is considered one of the most influential voices of the intellectual left in Europe.

A literature list of the panellists is avaiable here.