News & Events
The Mosse-Lectures at Humboldt University in Berlin, founded in 1997, commemorate the history of the Mosse-family, the German-Jewish publishing house Rudolf Mosse, and George L. Mosse – the eminent historian – who gave the series’ opening speech on May 14, 1997. As an academic institution, the Mosse-Lectures continue the tradition of democratic liberalism, which was established and defended by Mosse’s newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, in their commitment to the support of cultural exchange, transfer of knowledge, and political enlightenment. With support from The Mosse Foundation, the Department of German will bring selected Mosse Lectures to Berkeley.
We would like to thank The Mosse Foundation and Stanford University Press for their generous support.
The Fourth Annual Mosse-Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley:
We were able to hold the 4th Mosse Lecture at Berkeley in person at the Brower Center after a long hiatus due to a halt to public events during the pandemic. We had invited Ilija Trojanow last year but had to postpone due to ongoing restrictions to international travel. Special thanks go to our distinguished speaker who traveled from afar and was incredibly generous with his time. He offered a week-long writing workshop with colleagues and students from Cologne, Münster, and Berkeley. Participants benefited greatly from lively discussions, his passion for good prose, thorough research, and political engagement, along with practical tips on writing.
We are grateful to Roger Strauch from the Mosse Foundation for generously enabling these public events and helping to establish the Mosse Lectures at Berkeley and to our co-sponsors at UC Berkeley: the Institute for European Studies, the German Historical Institute, and the newly established Environmental Arts and Humanities Network at UC Berkeley.
Ilija Trojanow spoke to us as a novelist who has spent the past years exploring the history of Utopia and working on a utopian novel to be published next year. A political activist who is engaged in PEN Germany, he initiated Der utopische Raum [The Utopian Space], a multimedia platform for debate on visionary, provocative thinking in Vienna, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. A recent television documentary produced by 3Sat and ORF, Oasen der Freiheit, features the writer traveling to explore various utopian experiments. At a time when news of droughts and floods, war and destruction, violence and hunger dominate our minds and screens, as we reckon with humankind’s destruction of nature, Trojanow calls for a reboot of utopianism and reminds us of literature’s potential to imagine alternatives and possibilities.
Ilija Trojanow is the most worldly and well-travelled among writers in the German language. Carrie Smith-Prei called him “a cosmopolitical public intellectual.” He is a prolific transnational writer, translator, and editor who works across language as a Sprachwechsler, and has published some 40 books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Born in Bulgaria, he has lived in Germany, Kenya, India, and Austria. In 2001, he crossed Tanzania on foot, retracing the routes of British Orientalist explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton whom he featured in his bestselling novel Der Weltensammler (2006) / The Collector of Worlds (2009) – for which he was awared the prize of the Leizig Book Fair – and in Nomade auf vier Kontinenten (A Nomad on Four Continents, 2007).
Trojanow has reported regularly on India, Africa, and other parts of the world for newspapers such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and other papers, and he has published multiple volumes of collected essays. He continues to write about current controversies in the column Schlagloch in die tageszeitung. With Ranjit Hoskote, he co-authored Kampfabsage (2007) / Confluences: Forgotten Histories from East and West (2012). In his ecofictional novel EisTau (2011) / The Lamentations of Zeno (2016), he took on the melting of glaciers and travels to Antartica. We might get to hear a brief passage from that book at the end of today’s discussion. Further recent books include: Macht und Widerstand (Power and Resistance, 2015), the gripping memories of an aging dissident in Bulgaria; Nach der Flucht (After Flight, 2017), which is inspired by African American painter Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and composed of aphorisms and short scenes that encapsulate the experience of exile. The essay Hilfe? Hilfe! Wege aus der globalen Krise (Aid? Aid! Ways out of Global Crisis) (co-authored with Thomas Gebauer, 2018) offers a critique of philanthropy. Doppelte Spur (Dual Trace, 2020) is a Cold War novel about a dual agent. He is a masterful narrator, and he might well be Germany’s candidate for the nobel prize some day.
The Third Annual Mosse-Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley:
Thinking in Pictures by Ulrike Ottinger
The Second Annual Mosse-Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley:
Jan-Werner Mueller is a professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He works on democratic theory and the history of political thought. His books include “Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe” (2011) and “Constitutional Patriotism” (2007). His book “What is Populism?” has been translated into more than 20 languages. (http://www.princeton.edu/~jmueller)
The Mosse-Lectures at Humboldt University in Berlin, founded in 1997, commemorate the history of the Mosse-family, the German-Jewish publisher Rudolf Mosse, and George L. Mosse – the eminent historian – who gave the series’ opening lecture on May 14, 1997. As an academic institution, the Mosse-Lectures follow the tradition of democratic liberalism in the spirit of Mosse’s newspaper Berliner Tageblatt with a strong commitment to cultural exchange, transfer of knowledge, and political enlightenment. With generous support from The Mosse Foundation, the Department of German brings selected Mosse-Lectures to Berkeley.
The Inaugural Mosse-Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley
Joseph Vogl (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin / Princeton University)
The Specter of Capital
The Strange Survival of Theodicy in Economics
Respondent: Martin Jay (University of California, Berkeley)
April 7, 2016
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were witness to the rise of theodicy as an attempt to justify the rational and providential workings of God in a world full of plagues and disasters. Likewise, today’s liberal theory of markets and, most notably, financial markets claims that the current economy has brought the best of all possible worlds, despite the recent bankruptcies and crashes. At the heart of this modern dogma of liberalism lies something that we could call ‘oikodicy’ – a doctrine that seeks to justify all the evils and catastrophes that seem irreconcilable with the wisdom of established economic paradigms. This doctrine’s success is evident not only in the fact that oikodicy reduces complex social processes to simple operations, such as acts of exchange, but also as the embodiment of a fundamental figure of hope. Today, this figure of hope still remains connected to financial markets in the following notions: that the market is the privileged location of social order, that it is distinguished as the exponent of practical reason, and that, in the figure of the market, the old divine Providence is usurped by the regularity of the system. Here, economic theory is not vaguely realistic, but deeply moralistic, metaphysical, and theological. All this raises the question as to whether the latest financial crisis might not have a similar effect on social life as the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1775. Contemporary attempts at theodicy in the wake of the 1775 Lisbon earthquake were fundamentally thwarted and could only survive in satirical form, as in Voltaire’s Candide. What is at stake is nothing less than the validity, possibility, and tenability of a liberal or capitalist oikidicy – a theodicy of the economic universe.
Joseph Vogl is a professor of German Literature, Cultural and Media Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a permanent visiting professor at Princeton University. He is the author of over one hundred articles and book chapters on German literature, literary and media theory about the history of knowledge and political thought. His books include Ort der Gewalt: Kafkas literarische Ethik (1990), Kalkül und Leidenschaft: Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen (2002), Über das Zaudern (2007) / On Tarrying (2011), Soll und Haben: Fernsehgespräche (2009, co-author: Alexander Kluge), Das Gespenst des Kapitals (2010) / The Specter of Capital(published by Stanford University Press in 2014), and Der Souveränitätseffekt (2015).