Surplus Populations in East Asia and in Theory

Surplus Populations in East Asia and in Theory
Instructor: K. Kawashima

In a time when capitalist crisis has become chronic and political crisis has only strengthened liberal democracy, how is the political Left to articulate a concept of revolutionary politics within economic crisis? This course explores how the concept of surplus populations can productively contribute to a radical rethinking of political intervention within the crucible of economic crisis and chronic recession. How does the concept of surplus population function in relation to the general laws of motion of capitalist commodity economy (e.g., law of value and the law of profit)? How is it related to the law of populations endemic to capitalism, as well as to the repetition of crisis? What is the relationship between surplus populations and the fundamental historical ground of capitalist commodity economy? “Who” becomes the surplus population, or what is the “who-ness” of surplus populations? How does the nation-state reproduce surplus populations through law, war, and technology? These are some of the questions pursued in this course.
Texts used in the course include: Marx’s Capital (volumes 1 and 3); Uno Kozo’s Theory of Crisis; Foucault’s lectures on biopolitics; Deleuze-Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, and Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature; Negri’s Marx beyond Marx; Partha Chatterjee’s Politics of the Governed; Kalyan Sanyal’s Rethinking Capitalist Development; Kawashima’s The Proletarian Gamble: Korean workers in interwar Japan; and Park’s Two Dreams in One Bed: Empire, Social Life, and the origins of the North Korean revolution in Manchuria.

Final Paper: 40%
In-class presentation on one text: 30%
Three, one-page essays on texts: 30%