The Minimum

Standards and ethics of the minimum

Against the pursuit of infinite capitalist economic growth based on extractivism and exhaustion of land, labor, and bodies, there is growing unrest among urban populations to radically reassess and challenge the enduring political and economic standards? that render capitalism a powerful engine for social inequalities and insecurities: the ongoing climate crises with extreme weather events; war and political instabilities; global energy shortages; housing crises; and the not-quite-yet-over pandemic, among many other issues, pose fundamental risks to human and non-human life. The current regime is governed by the “minimalist state” and the techniques of the “minimum” (Lorey 2015) which serve to minimize social welfare and maximize social inequality and precarity.

With this annual theme, we are interested in how the “minimum” is negotiated, governed and managed? Where is the “minimum” located? between prosperity and precarity, between the unrealized liberal economic promises of prosperity and equality and today’s “extinct” safeguarding policies of the welfare state? What are the standards? of secure working and living conditions? How do urban populations adapt and arrange their everyday lives with the dynamically redefined and lowered minimum? How might the “minimum” be also a question of ethics in the light of resource scarcity and the imminent global recession? In how far can, thus, maintenance and repair provide a “corrective framework (Mattern 2018)” and guiding principle for “minimum” in achieving a socially and ecologically just city? And, finally, what kind of politics is called for in “maximizing the minimum”?

Lorey, Isabell, Aileen Derieg, and Judith Butler. 2015. State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious. Translated by Aileen Derieg. Verso Books.
Mattern, Shannon. 2018. ‘Maintenance and Care’. Places Journal, November.

Annual theme cover
Les Olympiades, Paris. Photo: Antonia Lembcke