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Michael Raeber

Michael Raeber

Centre for the Study of Social Justice Visiting Research Fellow
01 October 2021 until 31 December 2021
Office Address:
Department of Politics and International Relations, Manor Road, Oxford. OX1 3UQ

I am a social philosopher and currently a postdoctoral researcher on a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation. Previously, I was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, a postdoctoral fellow and PhD candidate at the Department of Political Philosophy at the University of Zurich, where I received my PhD in political and social philosophy. I held doctoral fellowship at ETH Zurich between 2012 and 2015 and was a visiting researcher at Yale University during that time.

My work broadly speaking focuses on critical and normative social philosophy from the perspective of philosophical pragmatism, critical theory, and poststructuralism, at the intersection of continental and analytic philosophy, and in the areas of democratic theory and theories of recognition, aesthetics and art, philosophy of culture and media, and the history of social and political thought. I also teach in these areas.

I understand social philosophy and political theory as a reflective engagement with contemporary social and political problems and challenges. At the center of my research is the question of how our judgments, practices, and imaginations can critically engage with, and alter, our inherited conceptions of subjectivity and collectivity in the social, political and natural worlds. I explore this question in three interrelated dimensions of social philosophy: (1) democracy, judgment and knowledge, (2) media, aesthetics, subjectivity (3) post-growth, work, and the Anthropocene.

(1) I recently published a book Knowing Democracy (2020), where I studied the question of how to justify democracy’s trust in the political judgments of ordinary people by engaging with the pragmatism of John Dewey, Hannah Arendt’s aesthetic conception of political judgment and with epistemic conceptions of democracy. I concluded that such a justification resides in an egalitarian conception of democratic inquiry that blends the epistemic and the aesthetic aspects of the making of political judgments, and that contemporary democratic subjects and collectives, in light of current technological changes that continue to pull us toward algorithmic decision-making and value constitution, should embrace a renewed commitment to a judgment practice that emphasizes our human capacities for affective, imaginative, and intellectual value constitution.

(2) Currently, I am working on a book, Social and political in/visibility, where I analyze the aesthetic dimension of social equality, political participation and social recognition, through an exploration of the concepts of visibility and invisibility and of their functions for a democratic society and democratic subjectivity. The premise of the book is that contemporary democratic subjects are participants in ocularcentric societies that privilege vision and are characterized by the ubiquitous availability of images, driven by technological and cultural changes on a global scale. But what does it mean to be a viewing subject in a democratic society, and what does it mean to be visible to others? What are the aesthetic, social and political presuppositions and implications of seeing and visibility in today’s democracies? By exploring these questions, I suggest that questions of social and political participation and belonging – questions of social justice and democratic participation – are not adequately addressed when theorized in terms of distribution of resources, rights, or opportunities, or in terms of epistemic, moral, and legal recognition and representation alone, but that they must also be theorized in terms of in/visibility and its aesthetic, social, and political conditions.

(3) A third area of my philosophical work deals with the promises, challenges and problems that go along with the continued rise of a technocratic regime that compulsively seeks to optimize every possible human operation without knowing how to ask what is optimal, what the purpose of optimization, growth and productivism is. By engaging with current debates about post-work, post-growth, and the Anthropocene from a critical perspective, I examine how this regime relates to our modernist hopes for progress and how it creates and sustains conditions that run counter to the ideals of political freedom, social justice, and more generally the well-being of people and nature, and what is needed to change these conditions.