International workshop: Rethinking Institutions: Heterodox and Critical Perspectives

Rethinking Institutions: Heterodox and Critical Perspectives

An international workshop


Ljubljana, 25th and 26th August, 2022



Several questions arise from so-called new institutionalisms. Is social theory really to be amalgamated as an “ontology of optimization”? A discipline of assembling historical and empirical data for the purposes of modelling individual or group behaviour in accordance with a preestablished set of rules? Further, is it adequate to directly ascend to deontological issues of objects/subjects by relegating the social strata to incentives, rules and rationality principle without coming on par with pertaining methodological and conceptual objections?


How should we commit to these objections? What if we first posited institutions as a thought-construction, abstract objective forms that lead a life of their own, both subjectively and objectively? Advanced in this way they become structuring/structured objects of perceived actuality, shaping our symbolic realms and imaginaries, in the end producing a determinate social reality. In such a conceptual dispositive, rational-choice intersubjectivity moves to the background and the self as a mediating/mediated entity of human agency comes to the forefront in constructing and reproducing (historical) institutional frameworks. Furthermore, should we also address these frameworks in a non-substantialist and a-subjective manner, i.e. as purely objective frameworks devoid of any subjectivity?


Can Critical theory, by utilizing its vast underlying philosophical currents of German Idealism, Marx and materialist thought, Freud and contemporary psychoanalysis, provide a meta-theoretical discourse in determining the conceptual maturation of the notion Institution? Is it further still called upon to reflect on the conceptual unfolding and consequent truth(fullness)? This challenge would necessitate a discussion on the following issues: How do institutions conceptually emerge, what are their historical and material conditions, what are their modes of presentation and representation, what are they in essence and what forms do they acquire, how are they reflected in subject’ consciousnesses, what is the relation between human agency and institutional frameworks, etc? Can it transcend the analytical framework of rules, behaviour and coordination, by historically and ideologically deconstructing institutional structures and frameworks of contemporary societies?


The elucidation of these questions and the future articulation of answers already presuppose a materialist reorientation of institutions and their networks of individual and social significations. This undertaking aims to rearticulate the initial pathways brought by the originators of Institutionalist thought, The German Historical School and American Economic Institutionalism, towards a critical theory of institutions, giving definite answers to the problems of institutional subjectivity, normativity, historicity, change, etc.


Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Institutions and the German tradition (The historical school, Idealism, Marx and Marxist thought, Weber, Critical theory, etc.)
  • Institutions in the discourse of contemporary French philosophy/sociology
  • Institutions in psychoanalysis
  • Institutional economics of Thorstein Veblen
  • Epistemology of institutional frameworks
  • Concept of institutional change, subjectivity / a-subjectivity

Rethinking Institutions: Heterodox and Critical Perspectives

An international workshop

Ljubljana, 25th and 26th August, 2022


Provisional Programme

Thursday 25th August – ZRC SAZU


Introduction (9.30)


Uroš Kranjc (University of York)

An Introduction – Institutions and Society


Session 1 (10.00 – 11.30) – Philosophy and institutions


Oliver Feltham (American University of Paris)

Institution or Organization? A Humean reply to Nunes


Uroš Kranjc (University of York)

Can Institutions be Thought as Multiplicities – Marx, Veblen, Badiou


Coffee Break


Session 2 (12.00 – 14.00) – Sociological and political roots of contemporary institutions


Rudi Rizman (University of Ljubljana & University of Bologna)

What is Left of Institutional Regulation and Democracy in the Time of Neoliberal Hegemony?


Tomaž Mastnak (ZRC SAZU)

Is Economic Power an Institution? The Limits of August Ludwig von Rochau’s Redefinition of Liberal Politics


Peter J. Verovšek (University of Sheffield)

A Critical Theory of Political Institutions:

Charting the Frankfurt School’s Shift from Social to Political Categories




Friday 26th August – ZRC SAZU


Session 3 (9.00 – 12.00) – Psychoanalysis and institutions


Cindy Zeiher (University of Canterbury)

Psychoanalysis’ Slip of the Discourse


Mike Grimshaw (University of Canterbury)

Radical Theology and the ‘Weakening’ of Bourgeois Institutions


Jelica Šumič Riha (ZRC SAZU)

Sade or the Institution of the Right to Enjoyment


Lorenzo Chiesa (Newcastle University)

On Some Questions Prior to any Possible Treatment of Lacan’s Theory of Discourses as Political


Coffee Break


Session 4 (13.00 – 15.00) – Marx and the institutional dispositive


Carolina Alves (University of Cambridge)

Provisional: Marx’s Influence on Keynes Circle, Joan Robinson and Economic Institutions


Werner Bonefeld (University of York)

On Real Abstraction: Wealth, Suffering and Negation


Closing Remarks




Workshop participants:


Carolina Alves

Carolina Alves is a Joan Robinson Research Fellow in Heterodox Economics at the University of Cambridge, Girton College, who specialises in Macroeconomics, International Finance, Marxian Economics and International Political Economy. Carolina is currently part of the Cambridge Social Ontology Group, and the Alternative Approaches to Economics Research Group – Faculty of Economics, Cambridge, and co-editor of The Developing Economics blog. She is also the co-founder of initiative Diversifying and Decolonising Economics (DEcon).


Werner Bonefeld

Werner Bonefeld lectures in Politics at the University of York. Research interests include political economy, Marxist social theory, and European Integration. He has been on the editorial board of Capital & Class and is on the editorial board of Common Sense. He is also on the Advisory Board of Historical Materialism. He has published in a number of journals, including Capital & Class, Common Sense, and Review of Radical Political Economy. His work has been translated into many languages, including German, Greek, Spanish, Italian and French.


Lorenzo Chiesa

Lorenzo Chiesa is Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University (UK), where he serves as co-convenor of the Faculty Research Group in Critical Theory and Practice. He is also Visiting Professor at the socio-political philosophy programme of the European University at St Petersburg and teaches courses on philosophy and psychoanalysis at the Freud Museum, London. His general field of expertise is post-Kantian European philosophy. In particular, his research interests are in the area of Freudian and Lacanian theory, 20th and 21st century French philosophy, French and Italian bio-political thought, and Marxist theory.


Oliver Feltham

is Professor for Philosophy at the American University in Paris. Specializing in critical theory and early modern philosophy, he has translated and written extensively on Alain Badiou, His recent work has also focused on psychoanalysis and Jacques Lacan. Recently he was also developing a counter-history of political action.


Mike Grimshaw

is Associate Professor in Sociology at University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He is a series editor for Radical Theologies (Palgrave Macmillan) and founding Co-editor of Continental Thought & Theory. Working at the intersections of radical & political theology, continental thought & critical social & cultural theory, his research interests arise from a critical engagement with the intersection of religious and cultural theory as applied to both New Zealand and a global context. In this he makes use of Continental thought and theory, and in particular the ‘weak thought’ arising from the work of Gianni Vattimo. His longstanding focus is on radical theology and philosophy and in particular the social, cultural and philosophical impact of the death of God.


Uroš Kranjc

Uroš Kranjc is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Politics, University of York. His main research interests include epistemology of heterodox schools in economics, critique of political economy and contemporary French philosophy. His recent publications include “On the Notions of Police/State (of Situation): An Economic Perspective in Light of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” (Critical Horizons, 2021) and “The discontinuity between value and price form: tracking the subtraction of the qualitative” (Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review, 2021).


Tomaž Mastnak

Tomaž Mastnak is a sociologist, publicist and social and civic activist. He was a Director of Research at the Institute of Philosophy at the Center for Scientific Research at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana. He holds a master’s degree from the Department of Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy, and a doctorate from the Department of Sociology. He authored a large number of articles and books (Crusading Peace, 2002, Hobbes’s Behemoth: Religion and Democracy, 2009, etc.)


Rudi Rizman

Rudi Rizman, a native of Slovenia, holds doctorates from both the University of Ljubljana and Harvard. He teaches sociology and political science at the University of Ljubljana and the University of Bologna and has lectured at numerous universities in Europe and the United States. He was head of the Research and Scientific Institute of the Faculty of Arts at Ljubljana 2003 – 2009. His main research interests are globalization, democracy, nationalism, and social theory.


Jelica Šumič Riha

Jelica Šumič Riha is the acting Dean of the Postgraduate School and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy, both at Scientific Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana. She was a visiting professor at the University of Essex (1994-1998); University Paris 8 (2003-2004), and has conducted seminars at the Collège international de philosophie in Paris. She has published a number of philosophical works, including Politik der Wahrheit (with Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, and Rado Riha; ed. Rado Riha; Turia + Kant, Vienna 1997); she has edited and contributed to an ontology on Universel, Singulier, Sujet (with Alain Badiou, et al.; Kimé, Paris 2000); Mutations of Ethics (Založba ZRC 2002), etc.


Peter J Verovšek

Dr. Peter J. Verovšek is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Politics/International relations at the University of Sheffield. He studied Government (high honors) and German as a undergraduate at Dartmouth College (AB 2006, summa cum laude). He then conducted research on the continuing effects of the memories of World War II in the politics of the former Yugoslavia as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar (2006-07), before receiving his MA (2008), MPhil (2010) and PhD (2013) in Political Science from Yale University.


Cindy Zeiher

Cindy Zeiher is is senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand were she teaches critical theory. Her writings explore Freudian-Lacanian interventions and interpretations concerning contemporary questions of ontology. She is currently working on a book which interrogates Vladimir Janklevitch’s radical ‘refusal’ of politics from the perspective of Lacan’s theory of the speech-act. Cindy is co-editor of CT&T: Continental Thought and Theory and is currently training as a Lacanian psychoanalyst.