International conference "Act, labor, creation, 23–24 September 2021

«Stasis» Center for Practical Philosophy

International conference "Act, labor, creation". Dates: 2324 September 2021         

Our time manifests and demands hectic activity. We cobble pieces together, drive around, push buttons, carry weights, chatter, smile, sell —  even our thinking is part and parcel of our work. Ever since Aristotle, Western thought proceeds on the assumption that activity is prevalent over all other modes of being. Today, this imperative appears to serve as a justification for the capitalist system, wherein it is money that truly works: hence the multiple theoretical approaches advocating  an end to work, or procrastination. However, being busy is arguably not the same as being truly active: committing acts, such as heroic exploits. Our everyday fuss is, arguably, merely a passive activity. Hannah Arendt, whose terms roughly correspond to the title of this conference, attempted to distinguish the higher meaning of action, or act, as a free, existential achievement, from the more mundane phenomena of work or invention. However, history has proved her wrong, with its continuous intermingling of the three elements — existential action becoming subsumed into instrumental activities such as communication or entrepreneurship.

Is there such a thing, these days, as meaningful work, and which forms does it take? Is the new (cognitive, communicative, emotional) labor the same as work in general, or does it require a new ethic? What kind of subjectivity does it presuppose? Can we distinguish between productive and non-productive labor under contemporary capitalism? Can work be saved, or should we, as far as we can, abandon work and leave it to robots? Should we choose the vita activa, a new vita contemplativa, or claim that intense rest is the highest activity? Can we re-create a theory of activity (as opposed to heroic action), beyond the ideological normativity with which it has been associated, in both Soviet theory (Vygotsky, Leontiev, Ilyenkov et al.), and American pragmatism (Dewey, Searle, Rorty et al.)? Is there a way to restore the hieratic seriousness of acta without falling into new forms of obscurantism? These and other questions will be discussed at the conference.

Panel titles:

  •           Transformations of work and contemporary forms of labor
  •           Ethics today: action and passion, negativity and joy
  •           Hannah Arendt’s tripartite division and its problems
  •           Soviet theory of activity
  •           Political action and the revolutionary act
  •           Theologies of work
  •           Exploiting the non-human in the general economy

          … and others.

Organizing Committee: Artemy Magun (chair), Oleg Kharkhordin, Yoel Regev, Marina Simakova, Anton Syutkin, Oxana Timofeeva.

Call for Papers:

Please submit your paper proposals along with a short CV to: Paper abstracts should not exceed 800 words

Deadline for submissions: 21 June 2021.

Please email with any further inquiries.

Proceedings will be published in Stasis.


The conference is supported of Volga Dnepr Group.