The Power of the Norm:
Fragile Rules and Significant Exeptions

Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XXXV
IWM, Vienna 2016 [Published on the Web]

Edited by: Eloisa Betti and Katherine Miller

Contributions by: Kristina Andělová, Eloisa Betti, David Jenkins, Valeria Korablyova, Katherine Miller, Rafael Zawisza

The Power of the Norm: Fragile Rules and Significant Exceptions

Certain exceptions, it is said, prove the rule. This has sometimes been understood to mean that identifying a given instance of a phenomenon as exceptional implies the existence of a rule to which it does not conform. The exception may then direct our attention to special circumstances under which the rule does not apply. Alternatively, under an older meaning of the word ‘prove,’ the phrase suggests that exceptional cases test or call into question taken-for-granted rules or expectations. ...
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Precarious Work: Norm or Exception of Capitalism? Historicizing a Contemporary Debate: A Global Gendered Perspective

Is precarious work the product of specific historical circumstances, such as Post-Fordism and neoliberalism, or is it the real norm of capitalism, while the so-called "standard employment model" is actually the historical exception? This paper compares and contrasts the different interpretations of the role of precarious work in the history of capitalism provided in the past two decades by socio-economic and legal scholars and, more recently, by historians, feminist and post-colonial scholars. Such a debate aims to prove the relativity of the concepts of norm and exception, defined as such according to specific and competitive theoretical frameworks discussed in the paper. Exploring the invention of a norm (i.e. the standard employment relationship) and its more recent subversion, the paper intends to show the shift occurring in knowledge systems as a result of the global and gender turn spreading since the edge of the New Millennium in social and historical sciences. Conceiving the role of precarious work in the history of capitalism as a norm has, therefore, challenged the hegemonic model of understanding the social world, revealing the multiple facets and variations of an enduring phenomenon, no longer recognizable as an exception.
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Exceptions as Possibilities

The world is an unjust place. What sustain these injustices are the norms people follow in their day to day interactions, especially – but by no means exclusively – as these relate to consumption and production. Therefore, if justice – and morality more widely – are things with more than merely aesthetic or theoretical value the exceptions to these norms, as and when they occur, are the moments by which justice/morality are to be enacted. I attempt a survey of this thought via the work of the American political scientist/activist Frances Fox Piven.
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From Ordinary Exception to Exemplary Exclusion: Arendt-Jaspers Epistolary Exchange on Jewishness and Nationality

This text relates to the philosophical dissent between Hannah Arendt and Karl Jaspers from the 1930s, when they were bitterly discussing the question of national rootedness and human groundlessness on the basis of a nascent biography of Rahel Varnhagen (a German Jewess from Romantic epoch) that Arendt was writing at that time. When it comes to method, it is particularly important to stress that the text examines the concepts used by Jaspers and Arendt in their private correspondence: since the status of these concepts was unstable, in a process of establishing distinctions, an emphasis is put more on the context of their appearance than on their supposed meaning. In effect, concepts uncover their strategic, polemical dimension, which is in that case their only initial, unstable meaning, which usually remains invisible.
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Particularity and Exception: Ethnographic Commitments and Moral Exemplars

This paper takes up the idea of exception from the perspective of anthropology. For a discipline with sustained commitments to ethnographic particularism as well as to the generation of theoretical models, the exception appears not as a taken-for-granted status of certain cases with respect to pre-given rules. Rather, exceptions are actively made and unmade through the interpretive and social practices in which both anthropologists and their interlocutors in the field engage. The people of Hunza, Northern Pakistan engage the tropes of geographic, political and religious exceptionalism that have defined them in the eyes of outsiders in efforts to create social boundaries and exclusions regionally while simultaneously forging bonds of relatedness with valued others. The paper concludes that the designation of exceptional cases is a form of social action that takes place against the background of rules and expectations that are pervasively, rather than occasionally, normative, and that its implications are always at least potentially moral.
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Reinventing Central Europe and the Decline of Marxism:
Czech “Orientalism” through the Lens of Intellectual History

In my paper I focus on the profound intellectual change that occurred during 1970s and 1980s when the belief that communism can be reformed gradually disappeared among the majority of intellectuals both in the East and in the West with the growing condemnation of Marxism as the ideology that gave birth to communist totalitarianism. Following Tony Judt analysis I argue that the decline of Marxism as a political theory since the 1970s and the increasing attention towards Central Europe are two interrelated processes, both among Eastern and Western leftist intellectual. Once they stopped identifying themselves with Marxist political theory and gave up Marxist political language, geopolitical arrangements were likewise reconsidered. Such geopolitical exceptionalism ultimately produced the new imagination of boundaries between former “socialist brothers” (those belonging to Central Europe and those outside). Thus, new ways of hierarchy appeared, sometimes bringing back a new (occasionally chauvinist) form of nationalism, which seemed to have, at the time, a special liberating potential against unifying Soviet claims. Such disillusionment led to a gradual de-legitimization of Marxism and communism and its externalization beyond Europe. This process ended, beside to other things, with a production of a hostile discourse towards Russia and Eastern Europe – a discourse which helped to shape a new Central European exclusivism: in comparison with the rest of the Eastern block, Central Europe was seen as an exceptional region with distinctive and more “Western” cultural qualities.
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The EU Project of Europe: The ‘Inclusion – Exclusion’ Game?

The paper tackles the EU as a version of Europe’s geopolitical configuration and the concept of Europe as it has been implied or articulated at different stages of its development. The demarcation line is drawn between the “Old” EU in the shadow of the bipolar world structure and the “New” EU after its expansion eastwards. The theoretical framework of the research involves symbolic geography and ideology studies. The focal point would be the gap between Western and Central-European Europe in their imaginaries concerning themselves, ‘Europe’ as a symbolic entity, and strategic positioning of themselves within this entity. The range of questions to be posed in the context contains the following: What does the geocultural notion of ‘Europe’ imply? Is the EU as ‘Europe’ functioning as an inclusive project as it ultimately declares, or has exclusion always been its flip side? And how do different parts of ‘Europe’ correspond to each other within the EU project?
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