The Politics of Death-Making/Assisted Suicide: A Castoriadan Reading
Commentators on the left have generally ignored the perspective of people with disabilities who have raised questions about the ethics of death making or physician assisted suicide in an ableist world. In the aftermath of the shocking murder of Tracy Latimer by her father in 1993, an act widely defended by many on the left, disability rights advocate worry that the lack of understanding of a disabled life and the meaning of equality for people with disabilities may foster a culture where there is a duty to die, with harrowing implications and expectations for people with disabilities. This paper explores the misunderstood and controversial issue of the murder of children with disabilities. I suggest that the writings of the Greek-French scholar, Cornelius Castoriadis, and the American theorist, Jasbir Puar, can help ground an interpretation of this issue which respects the perspective of people with disabilities while building a better world.
Capitalism and Disability: The political economy of disablement
This presentation will draw heavily on the pioneering work of the late disability scholar and activist Marta Russell, with particular reference to the recently-published book I edited, “Capitalism and Disability: Selected Writings by Marta Russell” (Haymarket Books, 2019, https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1289-capitalism-and-disability).
The overall thesis is that capitalism and disability are intimately, dialectically, and ontogenetically linked in a process of mutual creation and reinforcement. The modern phenomenon of disability arose with industrial capitalism and the spread of alienated wage-labor as the dominant form of economic production. The economic theories of Karl Marx are thus acutely valuable in understanding this relationship.
The privatization of the land, tools, and means of production; the atomization of society into discrete, competing vendors of individual labor power; the inexorable creation of the relative surplus population, or the reserve army of the unemployed; and the tyranny of dead labor over living labor within the relations of production (i.e., labor forced to accommodate the needs of capital, rather than vice-versa). All of these processes are an essential feature of the production and reproduction of both capitalism and disability.
Consequently, the abolition of capitalism and the abolition of disability oppression (or disablement) must necessarily be coincident moments in the advent of any truly emancipated, egalitarian, and democratic society to come.