Agency and Art in a Hyper-Consumerist Culture: The Agent as Artist, as Consumer and as Citizen

Inaugural Lecture Tue 25 Sep 2007 6.30PM-8.30PM The New School, Wollman Hall
55 West 11th Street (enter at 66 West 12th Street), 5th Floor
Admission: $8, free for all students, as well as New School faculty, staff and alumni with valid ID
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Each year, an inaugural lecture launches the Vera List Center's annual theme, defining the intellectual territory that will be explored in public programs throughout the year. The lecturer introduces the theme in the broadest sense, serving as a guide to the range and richness of the topic at hand, and rooting the concept within The New School's intellectual tradition.

The inaugural lecture of the Vera List Center's 2007-2008 theme "Agency" is delivered by Benjamin R. Barber, Professor of Civil Society, University of Maryland. Professor Barber will explore the impact of the commercialization and commodification of art and the subordination of art to utilitarian ends (such as happiness and wealth) through the lens of agency and freedom. The term "cultural property," the kind of freedom associated with consumers as citizens (their private vs. public liberty), and its impact on notions of agency, suggests some of the issues to be addressed.
Benjamin R. Barber is the Gershon and Carol Kekst Professor of Civil Society and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, president of the international NGO CivWorld, and distinguished senior fellow at Demos. An internationally renowned political theorist, Dr. Barber brings an abiding concern for democracy and citizenship to issues of politics, culture and education in America and abroad. He consults regularly with political and civic leaders in the United States and around the world.

Benjamin Barber's 17 books include the classic Strong Democracy (1984) reissued in 2004 in a twentieth anniversary edition; the recent international best-seller Jihad vs. McWorld (1995 with a Post 9/11 Edition in 2001, translated into twenty-seven languages) and Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, published by W.W. Norton.

Barber's honors include a knighthood (Palmes Academiques/Chevalier) from the French Government (2001), the Berlin Prize of the American Academy of Berlin (2001) and the John Dewey Award (2003). He has also been awarded Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Social Science Research Fellowships, honorary doctorates from Grinnell College, Monmouth University and Connecticut College, and has held the chair of American Civilization at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris. He writes frequently for Harper's magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Prospect, Le Nouvel Observateur, Die Zeit, La Repubblica, El Pais, and many other scholarly and popular publications in America and Europe. He was a founding editor and for ten years editor-in-chief of the distinguished international quarterly Political Theory. Barber holds a certificate from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an M.A. and Doctorate from Harvard University.

This event is presented as part of the Vera List Center's program cycle on "Agency," and is co-sponsored by the Wolfson Center National Affairs.