Friday, March 19, 2010

A Talk You Might Want to Attend at UCB

The Concept of Reaction

Tuesday, April 6th
12:00-1:30 pm
Mark Lilla
Professor of Humanities, Department of History, Columbia University
Martin Jay
Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley as respondent

ABSTRACT • What do we mean by the term "reaction"?  This concept, which drifted from the sciences to our political thought in the eighteenth century, is one of the least studied in modern intellectual history.  Libraries are full of books on "revolution" and "resistance"; there are very few on reaction, a phenomenon that has done as much to shape the West (and now the world) as the other two.  There have been potent reactions against the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, economic modernization, urbanization, colonialism, and now globalization.  The term is usually used to describe individuals and movements on the right, and is often confused with conservatism.  Yet reaction also occurs on the left (in radical environmentalism, for example).  This talk will explore the many meanings people have given to the concept and examine whether any of them advance our understanding of modernity.

Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities in the Department of History at Columbia University. He specializes in intellectual history, with a particular focus on Western political and religious thought. Before moving to Columbia in 2007 he taught in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and at New York University.  A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, he is the author of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West (2007), The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics (2001), and G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern (1993).  He has also edited The Legacy of Isaiah Berlin (2001) with Ronald Dworkin and Robert Silvers, and The Public Face of Architecture(1987) with Nathan Glazer.  He is currently writing a book on the history of the idea of conversion.
Martin Jay is the Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley.  An intellectual historian, he is the author of The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research1923-50 (1973), one of the most influential works written on the Frankfurt School.  His other books include Force Fields (1992), Marxism and Totality(1984), and Adorno (1984).  He has served on the editorial boards of Theory and Society and Cultural Critique, and he writes a regular column for the journal Salmagundi.
This event is free, wheelchair accessible, and open to the public.  For more information, call Elizabeth Carlen at 510-642-0813 or

Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements
Institute for the Study of Societal Issues
University of California, Berkeley
2420 Bowditch Street
Berkeley, Ca 94720-5670
Tel: 510.642.0813 Fax: 510.642.8674

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