A Guide to our Radical Thinkers! Verso Student Reading

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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 accesible books for the discerning radical. But with now with over 100 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.

All our student reading is 50% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.

ON THE (POST)MODERN

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.

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

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. 

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.”

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.

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.

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 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.

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

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

FEMINIST THEORY

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

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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See all the books in our Radical Thinkers series here.

Related Books

9781784782290
Edited by Diane Elson