Philosophy: Verso Student Reading

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Continental Philosophy is one area that no self-respecting lefty student can choose to ignore, yet with dense prose and endless concepts it's a notoriously difficult subject. Whether you're just starting down the road, or you're a seasoned theory-fan, we've picked a list of our top theory titles to help you on your way.

See all our student reading here.

A guide to the thinkers and ideas that will shape the future from McKenzie Wark. Covering topics such as culture, politics, work, technology, and the Anthropocene, each chapter is a concise account of an individual thinker, providing useful context and connections to the work of the others. McKenzie Wark’s distinctive readings are appreciations, but are nonetheless critical of how neoliberal universities militate against cooperative intellectual work that endeavors to understand and also change the world.

The perfect primer to the world of contemporary critical theory. 

The Left Hemisphere offers the first global cartography of the expanding intellectual field of critical contemporary thought. More than thirty authors and intellectual currents of every continent are presented in a clear and succinct manner. A history of critical thought in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is also provided, helping situate current thinkers in a broader historical and sociological perspective.

One of the most influential works of Marxist philosophy of the twentieth century in a full, unabridge English edition for the first time. No philosophy bookshelf is complete without it!

The three-volume text by Henri Lefebvre is perhaps the richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism to emerge from one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers and is now available for the first time in one complete volume. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, Critique was an inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France. This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

A classic of twentieth-century thought, charting how society devours itself through the very rationality that was meant to set it free.

Slavoj Zizek's first book is a provocative and original work looking at the question of human agency in a postmodern world. In a thrilling tour de force that made his name, he explores the ideological fantasies of wholeness and exclusion which make up human society.

Let your favourite grumpy German tell you why everything you like is fascist. Minima Moralia is one of the most influential works of philosophy and literature of the twentieth century, and its attempts to diagnose the authoritarianism in mass culture is more relevant now than ever.

In Metaphilosophy, Henri Lefebvre works through the implications of Marx’s revolutionary thought to consider philosophy’s engagement with the world. A key text in Lefebvre’s oeuvre, Metaphilosophy is also a milestone in contemporary thinking about philosophy’s relation to the world.

In her most impassioned and personal book to date, Judith Butler responds in this profound appraisal of post-9/11 America to the current US policies to wage perpetual war, and calls for a deeper understanding of how mourning and violence might instead inspire solidarity and a quest for global justice.

An intense and lively debate on literature and art between thinkers who became some of the great figures of twentieth-century philosophy and literature.

The clearest, boldest and most systematic statement of Simon Critchley’s influential views on philosophy, ethics, and politics, Infinitely Demanding identifies a massive political disappointment at the heart of liberal democracy. Arguing that what is called for is an ethics of commitment that can inform a radical politics, Critchley considers the possibility of political subjectivity and action after Marx and Marxism, taking in the work of Kant, Levinas, Badiou and Lacan

The work of Laclau and Mouffe on populism and socialist strategy has been hugely influential for the new left populisms across Europe. In this, there most influential work, Laclau and Mouffe examine the workings of hegemony and contemporary social struggles, and their significance for democratic theory. With the emergence of new social and political identities, and the frequent attacks on Left theory for its essentialist underpinnings, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy remains as relevant as ever, positing a much-needed antidote against 'Third Way' attempts to overcome the antagonism between Left and Right.

John Locke's foundational place in the history of British empiricism and liberal political thought is well established. So, in what sense can Locke be considered a modern European philosopher? Identity and Difference argues for reassessing this canonical figure.

The perfect primer to the philosophical aspects of Marx's work from one of France's most influential contemporary philosophers - now in a new and updated edition.

A milestone in the development of post-war Marxist thought. This is the work in which Louis Althusser formulated some of his most influential ideas. For Marx, first published in France in 1968, has come to be regarded as the founding text of the school of “structuralist Marxism” which was presided over by the fascinating and enigmatic figure of Louis Althusser.

Badiou for those who haven't got the time to trawl his really big books. In Ethics, one of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy explodes the facile assumptions behind the recent ethical turn.

What is the contemporary legacy of Gramsci's notion of Hegemony? How can universality be reformulated now that its spurious versions have been so thoroughly criticized? In this ground-breaking project, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek engage in a dialogue on central questions of contemporary philosophy and politics.

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