Reading list

Philosophy Undergraduate Reading List

Verso Books 6 September 2016

Philosophy Undergraduate Reading List

Temperatures will drop and leaves will change color, but there is perhaps no better sign of autumn’s beginning than the resumption of dorm-room debates on human nature and practicality of socialism. Many will be tempted to evoke the old man: philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it. But for the heretical undergraduates who see these efforts to interpret the world as fundamental to its transformation, we've got a Philosophy 101 syllabus just for you.

The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today

by Razmig Keucheyan

“An impressive tour de force, providing us with a summary of contemporary critical theories that is both rigorous and clear.”
– Philosophie

This panoramic sweep of today’s major thinkers provides one of the best, accessible introductions to contemporary critical theory. Covering Hardt and Negri, Balibar, Agamben, Ranciere, Badiou, Žižek and just about every other key thinker currently at work. The Left Hemisphere is a vital guide for everyone interested in contemporary philosophy.

Reading Capital: The Complete Edition

by Louis AlthusserEtienne BalibarRoger EstabletPierre Macherey, and Jacques Rancière

Originally published in 1965, Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations. Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosopher, maintained that Marx’s project could only be revived if its scientific and revolutionary novelty was thoroughly divested of all traces of humanism, idealism, Hegelianism and historicism. In order to complete this critical rereading, Althusser and his students at the École normale supérieure ran a seminar on Capital, re-examining its arguments, strengths and weaknesses in detail, and it was out of those discussions that this book was born.

Previously only available in English in highly abridged form, this edition, appearing fifty years after its original publication in France, restores chapters by Roger Establet, Pierre Macherey and Jacques Rancière. It includes a major new introduction by Étienne Balibar.

The Sublime Object of Ideology
by Slavoj Žižek

“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.” – New Republic

Slavoj Zizek is the maverick philosopher, author of over 30 books, acclaimed as the "Elvis of cultural theory", and today's most controversial public intellectual. His work traverses the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory, taking in film, popular culture, literature and jokes.

The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek's first book, is a provocative and original work looking at the question of human agency in a postmodern world. The original, and still the best, place to begin your explorations of his work.

Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life
by Theodor Adorno

“A primary intellectual document of this age.” – Sunday Times

Minima Moralia is a seminal text in the Critical Theory tradition. Written during his wartime exile in America, Minima Moralia is a series of aphorisms and reflections on everything from the state of politics and culture in the 1940s America, the encroaching totalitarianism of liberal capitalism and philosophical speculations on Hegel to a student’s bookshelf filled with cheap editions of Proust (‘Moncrieff’s translation deserved a better fate…’). Wonderful and profound, this is the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to delve into twentieth-century German thought.

by Henri Lefebvre

In Metaphilosophy, Henri Lefebvre works through the implications of Marx’s revolutionary thought to consider philosophy’s engagement with the world. Lefebvre takes Marx’s notion of the “world becoming philosophical and philosophy becoming worldly” as a leitmotif, examining the relation between Hegelian–Marxist supersession and Nietzschean overcoming. Metaphilosophy is conceived of as a transformation of philosophy, developing it into a programme of radical worldwide change. The book demonstrates Lefebvre’s threefold debt to Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, but it also brings a number of other figures into the conversation, including Sartre, Heidegger and Axelos. A key text in Lefebvre’s oeuvre, Metaphilosophy is also a milestone in contemporary thinking about philosophy’s relation to the world.

Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence

by Judith Butler

“Judith Butler is quite simply one of the most probing, challenging, and influential thinkers of our time.” – J. M. Bernstein
One of the most influential thinkers working today, Judith Butler’s work has helped transform the fields of philospophy, feminism and queer theory. In Precarious Life, Butler responds to post-9/11 America and 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.

Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance

By Simon Critchley

“Simon Critchley is the most powerful and provocative philosopher now writing about the complex relations of ethical subjectivity and reinvigorated democracy." Cornel West
For all those of you who veer closer to an Anarchist politics, Simon Critchley's Infinitely Demanding will provide the neccesary theoretical weight. Updating Anarchist thought and practice for the twenty-first century, Critchley's work considers the possibility of forming a new political subjectivity formed via an ethics of commitment. Inspired, and inspiring, the global Occupy movement, Infinitely Demanding is a fresh and enlightening take on some of the most pressing contemporary political problems.

Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics
by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe

The work of Laclau and Mouffe has gained a sudden topicality due to the rise of Left-Populist parties in Greece and Spain. Spain’s Podemos was founded via a Laclau and Mouffe reading group organised by a young Pablo Iglesias, then a professor of politics in Madrid. In this groundbreaking work of post-Marxist analysis, Laclau and Mouffe examine the development of social movements in order to propose a new, radical, theory of democracy. Essential reading for anyone interested in the intersections of politics and philosophy in the modern world.

Identity and Difference: John Locke and the Invention of Consciousness

by Etienne Balibar

“Etienne Balibar has established himself as one of France's foremost philosophers on the Left.” – Radical Philosophy
Those of you studying in an Analytic department no longer have to feel left out! Identity and Difference is Etienne Balibar's wonderful work of historical and philosophical investigation into Locke's treatise on identity from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (a staple of any Anglophone philosophy course). This edition is prefaced by Stella Sandford's essay charting the English language reception of Locke's treatise and the separation of distinct Continental and Analytic spheres of philosophical enquiry.

The Philosophy of Marx

by Etienne Balibar

“A very intelligent and creative work: succinct and informative.” – Fredric Jameson

Etienne Balibar was Althusser’s favourite student, and his work has continued in the tradition of scholarship inaugurated by his teacher. The Philosophy of Marx is an accessible and vigorous introduction to the thought of Marx and his key followers. A perfect introduction for anyone new to left-theory, and with enough original and stimulating scholarship to keep even the keenest Marxologist happy.

For Marx

by Louis Althusser

Althusser was one of the most influential Marxist thinkers of the 20th century, inspiring a whole generation of writers through his work and teaching, including Badiou, Ranciere, Balibar and Derrida. For Marx is the book where Althusser first develops his unique take on Marxism, critiquing the young Marx’s humanism and advocating for a structuralist antihumanism. Althusser is essential for anyone grappling with French philosophy

Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil
by Alain Badiou

“This lively, stimulating book is an attempt to make us think differently about what matters to us.” – Times Literary Supplement

One of the most influential thinkers currently at work, Badiou’s philosophy is a notoriously dense combination of set-theory, ontology and political commitment. Ethics, with its introductory essay by Peter Hallward, is the perfect introduction to this broader project, laying down the key tenets of Badiou’s work in an admirably clear style whilst skewering the pretensions of liberal ethics.

Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left
by Judith ButlerErnesto Laclau, and Slavoj Žižek

Three titans of philosophy battle it out over three key concepts: contingency, hegemony and universality (funnily enough). Their essays, organized as separate contributions that respond to one another, range over the Hegelian legacy in contemporary critical theory, the theoretical dilemmas of multiculturalism, the universalism-versus-particularism debate, the strategies of the Left in a globalized economy, and the relative merits of post-structuralism and Lacanian psychoanalysis for a critical social theory.

More reading lists:

Art and Aesthetics Undergraduate Reading List
Economics Undergraduate Reading List
Race and Ethnicity Undergraduate Reading List

History Undergraduate Reading List
Political Theory Undergraduate Reading List
Feminism and Gender Undergraduate Reading List
Cities and Architecture Undergraduate Reading List


Filed under: reading-list, sale, undergraduatereadinglist