Sunday 28.5.2023. / 21.00 / MULTIMEDIAL INSTITUTE - MaMa / LECTURE

Peer Illner: The Mutual Aid Dilemma: Disasters, Crises and Social Reproduction

In our age of Covid and climate catastrophe, mutual aid has gained renewed importance in     providing relief when hurricanes, floods and pandemics hit, as cuts to state spending put  significant strain on communities struggling to survive. Harking back to the self-organised welfare programmes of the Black Panther Party, radical social movements from Occupy to  Black Lives Matter are building autonomous aid networks within and against the state. As governments increasingly retreat from disaster relief, however, mutual aid faces a profound dilemma: do ordinary people become complicit in their own exploitation?

Framing mutual aid through the lens of social reproduction, this talk proposes a labour theory of community care work that pits itself against accounts of mutual aid as prefiguring non-capitalist social relations. By discussing the exemplary case of Occupy Sandy, the talk  embeds mutual aid within a distinctly capitalist dynamic between the state, the market and civil society that is only set to intensify as climate change worsens and sea-levels rise.


Peer Illner is a writer, editor, and researcher. His work examines disasters and crises from the perspective of social reproduction. Peer’s monograph, Disasters and Social Reproduction (Pluto Press 2021), looks at the history of community mutual aid initiatives in the US and the ways in which social movements from the Black Panther Party to Occupy have resisted the combined and uneven effects of economic and natural disaster. His edited collection, Unworking (August Verlag 2021), examines critiques of work in politics, philosophy, and art. Between 2021 and 2023, Peer was Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester. Previously, he worked as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Normative Orders at Goethe University Frankfurt. He is a guest lecturer at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.


Moderated by: Martin Beroš

The lecture was organized in collaboration with the portal Slobodni Filozofski.