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A Guide to our Radical Thinkers!

Challenge yourself with new discoveries in our Radical Thinkers series.

Verso Books22 August 2023

A Guide to our Radical Thinkers!

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.

Value and Capital

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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.

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

Radical Political Thought

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Responding to the US’s perpetual war, Butler explores how mourning could inspire solidarity.

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Laclau 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.

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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.

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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.

The Critique of Ideology

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

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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.

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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.

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Chantal Mouffe is one of the most influential political theorists at work today. In this work, Mouffe argues that liberal democracy misunderstands the problems of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts because of its inadequate conception of politics.

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

Race and Theory

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

Queer Theory

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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. 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.

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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.

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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.

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

Freudianism

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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.

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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.

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Freudianism is a major icon in the history of ideas, independently rich and suggestive today both for psychoanalysis and for theories of language. Volosinov went to the root of Freud's theory and method, arguing that what is for him the central concept of psychoanalysis, "the unconscious," was a fiction. 

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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.

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

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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

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

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

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

On The (Post)Modern

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

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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.”

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

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A major interpretation of the concepts of modernism and modernity.
 

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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.

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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.

See all our recommended Student Reading here.

The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx
In this republication of the 1971 original, Ernest Mandel traces the development of Marx's economic ideas from the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts to the completion of the Grundrisse. In a ser...
Value

Value

This influential collection of essays focuses on the elusive concept of “value,” and aims to answer the question “Why is Marx’s theory of value so important?” Aboo Aumeeruddy and Ramon Tortajada ...
Reading Capital

Reading Capital

Establishing a rigorous program of “symptomatic reading” that cuts through the silences and lacunae of Capital to reveal its philosophical core, Louis Althusser interprets Marx’s structural analysi...
Culture and Materialism
A comprehensive introduction to the work of one of the outstanding intellectuals of the twentieth century.Raymond Williams is a towering presence in cultural studies, most importantly as the founde...
Minima Moralia

Minima Moralia

Written between 1944 and 1947, Minima Moralia is a collection of rich, lucid aphorisms and essays about life in modern capitalist society. Adorno casts his penetrating eye across society in mid-cen...
The Melancholy Science
The Melancholy Science is Gillian Rose’s investigation into Theodor Adorno’s work and legacy. Rose uncovers the unity discernable among the many fragments of Adorno’s oeuvre, and argues that his...
Screened Out

Screened Out

‘Watching the president’s Christmas message produces this necropolar, white-mass sensation. Seeing the video broadcast of the Christmas service in the cathedral itself, with these pathetic screens ...
The Transparency of Evil

The Transparency of Evil

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

The System of Objects

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 criti...
Walter Benjamin
This momentous study of Benjamin’s critical practice marks a sea change in Eagleton’s thought. Its goal is not merely to contemplate Benjamin’s approach to language, history, and art but to chart a...
The Perfect Crime

The Perfect Crime

In his new 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...
Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

Comments on the Society of the Spectacle

First published in 1967, Guy Debord’s stinging revolutionary critique ofcontemporary society, The Society of the Spectacle has since acquired acult status. Credited by many as being the inspiration...
The Function of Criticism
This wide-ranging book argues that criticism emerged in early bourgeois society as a central feature of a “public sphere” in which political, ethical, and literary judgements could mingle under the...
The Information Bomb
“Civilization or the militarization of science?”With this typically hyperbolic and provocative question as a starting point, Paul Virilio explores the dominion of techno-science, cyberwar and the n...
Precarious Life
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 un...
Emancipation(s)
In Emancipation(s), Ernesto Laclau addresses a central question: how have the changes of the last decade, together with the transformation in contemporary thought, altered the classical notion of “...
State, Power, Socialism
Developing themes of his earlier works, Poulantzas here advances a vigorous critique of contemporary Marxist theories of the state, arguing against a general theory of the state, and identifying fo...
Anti-Systemic Movements
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 ac...
On Ideology

On Ideology

The publication of For Marx and Reading Capital established Louis Althusser as one of the most influential figures in the Western Marxist tradition. On Ideology charts Althusser’s critique of the t...
The Anti-Social Family
Despite much talk of its decline, the nuclear family persists as a structure central to contemporary society, a fact to be lamented, according to the ideas of Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh. T...
Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory
Ernesto Laclau is best known for co-authoring Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, with Chantal Mouffe. Politically active in the social and student movements of the 1960s, and a member of PSIN (Social...
The Return of the Political
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 t...
What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules?
In his new book, Göran Therborn – author of the now standard comparative work on classical sociology and historical materialism, Science, Class and Society – looks at successive state structures in...
If They Come in the Morning
The trial of Angela Davis is remembered as one of America's most historic political trials, and no one can tell the story better than Davis herself. Opening with a letter from James Baldwin to Ange...
Freud and the Non-European

Freud and the Non-European

Using an impressive array of material from literature, archaeology and social theory, Edward Said explores the profound implications of Freud’s Moses and Monotheism for Middle-East politics today. ...
Race, Nation, Class
Forty years after the defeat of Nazism, and twenty years after the great wave of decolonization, how is it that racism remains a growing phenomenon? What are the special characteristics of contempo...
Darkwater

Darkwater

“I have been in the world, but not of it,” W.E.B. Du Bois begins this book, a continuation of the project he began in his celebrated work The Souls of Black Folk, describing the devastation of segr...
Homosexuality
After the leading organizations 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 sens...
Pink Triangles
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 fund...
Come Together
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 ac...
American Homo
American Homo offers a sweeping interpretation of the political, cultural and economic struggles of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to reveal how sexual minorities have challenged and changed Amer...
The Weary Sons of Freud

The Weary Sons of Freud

The Weary Sons of Freud lambasts mainstream psychoanalysis for its failure to grapple with pressing political and social matters pertinent to its patients’ condition. Gifted with insight and comp...
Freudian Slip
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 arbitr...
Freudianism

Freudianism

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 dema...
Fortunes of Feminism
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 dec...
The Anti-Social Family
Despite much talk of its decline, the nuclear family persists as a structure central to contemporary society, a fact to be lamented, according to the ideas of Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh. T...
Women, Resistance and Revolution
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 t...
Straight Sex
Is heterosexual sex inherently damaging to women? Is it possible for women to enjoy sensuality and pleasure with men that does not increase male power? Lynne Segal's unflinching examination of femi...
Woman's Estate
Combining the energy of the early seventies feminist liberation movement, with the perceptive analyses of the trained theorist, Women's Estate is one of the most influential socialist feminist stat...
Women, Resistance and Revolution
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 t...
Aesthetics and Politics
No other country and no other period has produced a tradition of major aesthetic debate to compare with that which unfolded in German culture from the 1930s to the 1950s. In Aesthetics and Politics...
Postmodern Geographies
Postmodern Geographies stands as the cardinal broadcast and defence of theory’s “spatial turn.” From the suppression of space in modern social science and the disciplinary aloofness of geography to...
The Origin of German Tragic Drama

The Origin of German Tragic Drama

The Origin of German Tragic Drama is Walter Benjamin's most sustained and original work. It begins with a general theoretical introduction on the nature of the baroque art of the sixteenth and seve...
A Singular Modernity
The concepts of modernity and modernism are amongst the most controversial and vigorously debated in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory. In this intervention, Fredric Jameson—perhaps the m...
The Cultural Turn
Fredric Jameson, a leading voice on the subject of postmodernism, assembles his most powerful writings on the culture of late capitalism in this essential volume. Classic insights on pastiche, nost...
Politics of Modernism
Considered to be 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, defined generously...

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