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A Guide to our Radical Thinkers!

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Our ever-popular Radical Thinkers series has been running over 13 years and in that time has offered an essential collection of accessible books for the discerning radical. But with now with over 120 books in the series, just how do you chose which books to buy?

Below is our guide to the all-time greats, and some forgotten classics you may have missed.

See our newest Radical Thinkers here.

 

VALUE AND CAPITAL

Ernest Mandel was one of the most influential Marxist of the latter half of the twentieth century. In this work, he analyses the development of Marx's economic thought from his earliest work through all three volumes of Capital. Lucid and accessible, this is the perfect introduction to Capital.

The first section of Marx's Capital on value is notoriously difficult. This selection of essays edited by Diane Elson is one of the first and most accessible statements on the value-form and opened the way for generations of value-form theorists to come.

You can't understand the development of Marxist philosophy in the twentieth century without getting to grips with this monster from Louis and his favourite student Etienne Balibar. Proper classic.

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HIGH CULTURE/LOW CULTURE

Raymond Williams is a towering presence in cultural studies, most importantly as the founder of the apporach that has come to be known as “cultural materialism.” Yet Williams’s method was always open-ended and fluid, and this volume collects together his most significant work from over a twenty-year peiod in which he wrestled with the concepts of materialism and culture and their interrelationship. 

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.

The Melancholy Science is Gillian Rose’s investigation into Theodor Adorno’s work and legacy. Rose shows Adorno’s most important contribution to be his founding of a Marxist aesthetic that offers a sociology of culture, as demonstrated in his essays on Kafka, Mann, Beckett, Brecht and Schönberg. 

In this stimulating collection of journalistic essays, Jean Baudrillard delves into a host of subjects, ranging from those of his familiar stomping ground (virtual reality, Disney, television) to topics further afield, such as children’s rights, Holocaust revisionism, AIDS, Formula One racing, mad cow disease and genetic cloning - demonstrating his huge range.

The renowned postmodernist philosopher’s tour-de-force contemplation of sex, technology, politics and disease in Western culture after the revolutionary ‘orgy’ of the 1960s.

The System of Objects is a tour de force—a theoretical letter-in-a-bottle tossed into the ocean in 1968, which brilliantly communicates to us all the live ideas of the day—offering a cultural critique of the commodity in consumer society.

From our finest radical literary analyst, a classic study of the great philosopher and cultural theorist.

In this book, perhaps the most cogent expression of his mature thought, Jean Baudrillard turns detective in order to investigate a crime which he hopes may yet be solved: the “murder” of reality

First published in 1967, Guy Debord’s stinging revolutionary critique ofcontemporary society, The Society of the Spectacle has since acquired a cult status. Credited by many as being the inspiration for the ideas generated by the events of May 1968 in France, Debord’s pitiless attack on commodity fetishism and its incrustation in the practices of everyday life continues to burn brightly in today's age of satellite televisionand the soundbite.

A history and critique of the last 200 years of cultural criticism, from Addison and Steele to Barthes and Derrida.

With this typically hyperbolic and provocative question as a starting point, Paul Virilio explores the dominion of techno-science, cyberwar and the new information technologies over our lives . . . and deaths.

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RADICAL POLITICAL THOUGHT

Laclau examines the internal contradictions of the notion of “emancipation” as it emerged from the mainstream of modernity, as well as the relation between universalism and particularism which is inherent in it. He explores the making of political identities and the status of central notions in political theory such as “representation” and “power,” focusing particularly on the work of Derrida and Rorty. Emancipation(s) is a significant contribution to the reshaping of radical political thought.

In State, Power, Socialism, the leading theorist of the state and European communism advances a vigorous critique of contemporary Marxist theories of the state. Arguing against a general theory of the state, Poulantzas identifies forms of class power crucial to socialist strategy that go beyond the state apparatus.

Building on an analysis of the dissenting movements to have emerged since the rise of modern capitalism, Anti-Systemic Movements uncovers an international groundswell of resistance still vitally active at the end of the twentieth century. Taking the year 1968 as a symbolic turning point, the authors argue that new anti-systemic movements have arisen which challenge the logic of the capitalist world-system.

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THE CRITIQUE OF IDEOLOGY

The ur-text of materialist work on ideology. You'll never look at a cop in the same way again.

The family is the primal scene of ideology. In this classic work of Marxist feminism Barrett and McIntosh dissect the network of household, kinship and sexual relations that constitute the family form in advanced capitalist societies to show how they reinforce conditions of inequality. This classic work explores the personal and social needs that the family promises to meet but more often denies, and proposes moral and political practices for more egalitarian caring alternatives.

Laclau's work has gained a sudden topicality after the rise of left populism in Europe since 2008. In this book, containing his formative essays on ideology and history, you can trace the development of this towering figure of twentieth century thought.

Chantal Mouffe is one of the most influential political theorists at work today. Her work has influenced political parties across Europe and continues to inform the direction of left politics. In this work, Mouffe argues that liberal democracy misunderstands the problems of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts because of its inadequate conception of politics.

What does the ruling class do when it rules? I suppose you've just got to read the book to find out.

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A MARXIST HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

Althusser's work not only brings Machiavelli in to the canon of proto-Marxist materialism, but offers a wonderful guide to the Florentine's work.

From our finest radical literary analyst, a classic study of the great philosopher and cultural theorist.

Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subject it to critique. In this book she sets out to renew the critical program of historical materialism by redefining its basic concepts and its theory of history in original and imaginative ways, using them to identify the specificity of capitalism as a system of social relations and political power.

With Hobbes and Locke, Spinoza is arguably one of the most important political philosophers of the modern era, a premier theoretician of democracy and mass politics. In this revised and augmented English translation of his 1985 classic, Spinoza et la Politique, Etienne Balibar presents a synoptic account of Spinoza's major works, admirably demonstrating relevance to his contemporary political life.

A classic study of modern philosophy's founder.

In this urgent response to violence, racism and increasingly aggressive methods of coercion, Judith Butler explores the media’s portrayal of armed conflict, a process integral to how the West prosecutes its wars. In doing so, she calls for a reconceptualization of the left, one united in opposition and resistance to the illegitimate and arbitrary effects of interventionist military action.

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RACE AND THEORY

With race and the police once more burning issues, this classic work from one of America’s giants of black radicalism has lost none of its prescience or power.

Since the book was written, the carceral system in the US has seen unprecedented growth, with more of America’s black population behind bars than ever before. The scathing analysis of the role of prison and the policing of black populations offered by Davis and her comrades in this astonishing volume remains as pertinent today as the day it was first published.

Freud and the Non-European builds on Said’s abiding interest in the psychoanalyst’s work to examine Freud’s assumption that Moses was an Egyptian and from there explore the limits of identity. Such an unresolved, nuanced sense of identity, Said argues, might one day form the basis for a new understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

This series of interlinking essays from the French philosopher Etienne Balibar and the American historian and sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein offers historical and theoretical analyses of race and nations. 

The distinguished American civil rights leader, W. E. B. Du Bois first published these fiery essays, sketches, and poems individually nearly 80 years ago in the Atlantic, the Journal of Race Development, and other periodicals. Part essay, part autobiography, Darkwater explicitly addresses significant issues, such as the oppression of women and Eurocentric standards of beauty, the historical rise of the idea of whiteness, and the abridgement of democracy along race, class, and gender lines.

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QUEER THEORY

After the leading organisations of radical sexual politics—the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Marxist Group—imploded or dissolved, the Gay Left Collective formed a research group to make sense of the changing terrain of sexuality and politics. Its goal was to formulate a rigorous Marxist analysis of sexual oppression, while linking the struggle against homophobia with a wider array of struggles, all under the banner of socialism. This anthology combines the very best of their work, exploring masculinity and workplace organising, counterculture and disco, the survivals of victorian morality and the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Though the interpretations of the interplay between sexism and capitalism, between the personal and the political, vary across this spectacularly wide-ranging collection, each essay shares two fundamental premises. First, that the oppression of gays and lesbians is not an isolated case, and therefore their struggle is necessarily part of a larger movement for social liberation. And, second, that the experience of gays and lesbians uphold the basic tenets of a foundational Marxism, and that they are uniquely placed to contribute to a revitalisation of Marxist theory.

Come Together tells the incredible story of the emerging radicalism of the Gay Liberation Front, providing a vivid history of the movement, as well as the new ideas and practices it gave rise to across the United Kingdom. Before marriage equality or military service, Come Togetherreminds us of paths forged but not taken by queer politics in its earliest stages.

A sweeping account of the way lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have challenged and changed society.

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HANDBOOKS FOR INSURRECTION

Out of the chaos following Lenin’s death and the mounting fury against Lukács and his freshly penned History and Class Consciousness (1923), this book bears an assessment of Lenin as “the only theoretical equal to Marx.” Lukács shows, with unprecedented clarity, how Lenin’s historical interventions — from his vanguard politics and repurposing of the state to his detection of a new, imperialist stage of capitalism — advanced the conjunction of theory and practice, class consciousness and class struggle.

The Paris Commune is one of the defining moments of left history. For 62 days, the workers of Paris controlled the greatest city in Europe. In this classic study, which is both a reading of Rimbaud's poetry and a a history and geography of the Commune’s anarchist culture, Kristen Ross offers one of the great works on revolutionary urban space.

Building on an analysis of the dissenting movements to have emerged since the rise of modern capitalism, Anti-Systemic Movements uncovers an international groundswell of resistance still vitally active at the end of the twentieth century. The authors suggest that the new assertiveness of the South, the development of class struggle in the East and the emergence of rainbow coalitions in various regions hold fresh promise for emancipatory politics. Taking the year 1968 as a symbolic turning point, the authors argue that new anti-systemic movements have arisen which challenge the logic of the capitalist world-system.

The now legendary Dialectics of Liberation congress, held in London in 1967, was a unique expression of the politics of dissent. Existential psychiatrists, Marxist intellectuals, anarchists, and political leaders met to discuss key social issues. Edited by David Cooper, The Dialectics of Liberation compiles interventions from congress contributors Stokely Carmichael, Herbert Marcuse, R. D. Laing, Paul Sweezy, and others, to explore the roots of social violence.

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MARXISM AND SCIENCE

A Realist Theory of Science is one of the few books that have changed our understanding of the philosophy of science. In this analysis of the natural sciences, with a particular focus on the experimental process itself, Roy Bhaskar provides a definitive critique of the traditional, positivist conception of science and stakes out an alternative, realist position. Since it original publication in 1975, a movement known as ‘Critical Realism’, which is both intellectually diverse and international in scope, has developed on the basis of key concepts outlined in the text.

A forgotten classic of British Marxism, Christopher Caudwell’s The Crisis in Physics is a stylish and readable analysis of the lines of connection between scientific theories and economic realities. 

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FREUDIANISM

Gifted with insight and compelled by fury, Catherine Clément contrasts the original, inspirational psychoanalytical work of Freud and Lacan to the obsessive imitations of their uninspired followers—the weary sons of Freud.

Philology cross-examines Freud in this sustained critique of psychoanalysis and its foundational notion of the slip. Challenging virtually every account of linguistic error in Freud’s work as arbitrary and constrained, Sebastiano Timpanaro advances an alternative picture keyed to the dynamics of “banalization,” “disimprovement,” and contextual play borrowed from the field of literary criticism.

Freudianism is a major icon in the history of ideas, independently rich and suggestive today both for psychoanalysis and for theories of language. It offers critical insights whose recognition demands a change in the manner in which the fundamental principles of both psychoanalysis and linguistic theory are understood. Volosinov went to the root of Freud's theory adn method, arguing that what is for him the central concept of psychoanalysis, "the unconscious," was a fiction. 

Second Wave feminism emerged as a struggle for women’s liberation and took its place alongside other radical movements. But feminism’s subsequent immersion in identity politics coincided with a decline in its utopian energies and the rise of neoliberalism. Now, foreseeing a revival in the movement, Fraser argues for a reinvigorated feminist radicalism able to address the global economic crisis.

Sensitive but uncompromising socialist-feminist critique of the nuclear family.

This classic book provides a historical overview of feminist strands among the modern revolutionary movements of Russia, China and the Third World. Sheila Rowbotham shows how women rose against the dual challenges of an unjust state system and social-sexual prejudice. Women, Resistance and Revolution is an invaluable historical study, as well as a trove of anecdote and example fit to inspire today’s generation of feminist thinkers and activists

A manifesto of sexual liberation, from the leading feminist thinker.

Classic statement of socialist feminism, from one of its leading thinkers.

This classic book provides a historical overview of feminist strands among the modern revolutionary movements of Russia, China and the Third World.

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ON THE (POST)MODERN

Adorno, Lukacs, Benjamin, Brecht, Bloch, and Jameson all in one volume. The essential volume on Marxist debates on literature, realism and politics.

The debates on postmodernism have always been concerned with questions of urban space and architecture. Postmodern Geographies stands as the cardinal broadcast and defence of theory’s “spatial turn.”

Benjamin's most sustained and original work, and one of the main sources of literary modernism.

A major interpretation of the concepts of modernism and modernity.
 

Debates have once again surfaced about the relation between postmodernism and politics. But, don't read Jordan Peterson's nonsense, read Fredric Jameson's classic essays instead.

The founding father of British cultural theory, Williams was concerned throughout his life to apply a materialist and socialist analysis to all forms of culture. In this major work, Williams applies himself to the problem of modernism. Rejecting stereotypes and simplifications, he is especially preoccupied with the ambivalent relationship between revolutionary socialist politics and the artistic avant-garde.

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See all the books in our Radical Thinkers series here.
 

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9781784782290
Edited by Diane Elson