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Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis

“For anyone who cares about historical necessity, the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.” – Rachel Kushner
After the financial crash and the Great Recession, the media rediscovered Karl Marx, socialist theory, and the very idea that capitalism can be questioned.

But in spite of the publicity, the main paths of contemporary critical thought have gone unexplored outside of the academy. Benjamin Kunkel’s Utopia or Bust leads readers—whether politically committed or simply curious—through the most important critical theory today. Written with the wit and verve of Kunkel’s best-selling novel, Indecision, this introduction to contemporary Leftist thinkers engages with the revolutionary philosophy of Slavoj Žižek, the economic analyses of David Graeber and David Harvey, and the cultural diagnoses of Fredric Jameson. Discussing the ongoing crisis of capitalism in light of ideas of full employment, debt forgiveness, and “fictitious capital,” Utopia or Bust is a tour through the world of Marxist thought and an examination of the basis of Western society today.

Reviews

  • “Playful and unfailingly lucid...the book is one of the most enjoyable pieces of Marxist criticism in many years.”
  • “Rigorous and unapologetically Marxist.”
  • “The new sensation of literary New York.”
  • “Kunkel and his fellow co-founders of literary journal n+1 have recently been identified as members of a new generation of ‘public intellectuals.'”
  • “Benjamin Kunkel has pursued a lonely and taxing crash course in Marxist thought, the results of which, set forth here, are nimble, clear, and brave. He dedicates the book to anyone who can use it, which I’ll take a step further: it’s for anyone who cares about historical necessity, the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.”
  • “It’s wonderful to see Benjamin Kunkel turn his considerable talents from the business of novelwriting to these political essays—models of the genre, with plenty to offer to both newcomers to and veterans of radical thought.”
  • “Benjamin Kunkel, aside from having mastered the voice of bemused neuroticism in Indecision, has one of the most interesting minds around.”
  • “Those looking for alternatives, explanations, and a critical map of where Leftist thought stands in our current neoliberal age will find Utopia or Bust a must-read.”
  • “Six elegantly turned essays on contemporary Marxist thinkers”
  • “Kunkel follows his cult novel with this primer on the big names on radical reading lists, from Karl Marx to Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek”

Blog

  • The Verso Undergraduate Reading List



    BACK TO UNIVERSITY/SCHOOL! 50% OFF EVERYTHING FOR ONE WEEK ONLY!

    Feeling underwhelmed by your orthodox assigned readings? Expand your knowledge of left theory, give your political arguments some bite, and spark a love for revolutionary writers with this updated list of essential Verso books for undergraduates.

    Whether you're a student of history, sociology, political science, or geography, look no further for key radical texts and indispensable primers on today's top thinkers. 

    The list is divided into Politics, Philosophy, Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, History and Geography - see below for our recommended reading in these areas.

    All of these books will be discounted by 50%, with free shipping and bundled ebook, when you buy through our website until midnight on Tuesday September 16th! Not all books are available in all regions (apologies!) and - of course - only whilst stocks last.

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  • Verso at the 2014 Left Forum: Panels and a Launch Party!



    Verso Books is proud to represent once again at this year's Left Forum. The conference, which will take place May 30-June 1, will bring together some of the most important contemporary leftist activists and scholars. 

    To ring in the weekend, catch two Verso authors at the Friday evening plenaryMarina Sitrin, author of They Can't Represent Us!: Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy, and Stanley Aronowitz, author of the forthcoming Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Workers' Movement, who will join Cornel West and Immortal Technique to consider "Why Revolution Now? What Revolution Now?" The discussion will be moderated by Amy Goodman. 

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  • EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT - Chapter One of Utopia or Bust by Benjamin Kunkel



    All this week we will be bringing you an exclusive serialisation of the opening chapter of Benjamin Kunkel's Utopia or Bust. In the chapter entitled 'David Harvey: Crisis Theory', Kunkel begins his examination of the world of Marxist thought and the basis of Western society today with an exploration of Harvey's body of work and contribution to post-Marxian theory.


    The deepest economic crisis in eighty years prompted a shallow revival of Marxism. During the panicky period between the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the official end of the American recession in the summer of 2009, several mainstream journals, displaying a less than sincere mixture of broadmindedness and chagrin, hailed Marx as a neglected seer of capitalist crisis. The trend-spotting Foreign Policy led the way, with a cover story on Marx, for its Next Big Thing issue, enticing readers with a promise of the star treatment: “Lights. Camera. Action. Das Kapital. Now.”

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