Reading list

New Works of Theory in Context

Verso Books 5 April 2024

New Works of Theory in Context

Theory never takes place in a void. The greatest advances often come through work that finds a way of engaging critically with arguments of the past, building on them and putting a new spin on the deepest questions of politics, economics, psychology, culture, and social life. The list below is organized around conversations between texts, from new releases to Verso classics. 

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Art and Aesthetics

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"Anna Kornbluh brilliantly reinvigorates critique for an age drowning under the deluge of self-presentation. Embracing structure over style, representation over personalization, and collectivity over narcissism, she creates a space for thinking -- the necessary space for politics." – Jodi Dean, author of Comrade

Read Immediacy with: 

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"Dominique Routhier's innovative analysis transcends the discipline of art history, allowing us to link early 20th century avant-garde struggles against the alienated separation of art and labour with all the nuances of the SI imperative. Given our anxieties today about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on labour and art, Routhier's study could not be more timely." – Abigail Susik, author of Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work

Read With and Against with: 

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Psychology and Social Theory

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"Drawing on Marx, Spinoza, and popular film, Jason Read builds an illuminating analysis that not only astutely captures, but also helps to make sense of, our double experience of wage work as a locus of freedom and compulsion, hope and fear, self-actualization and self-impoverishment, love and hate. This book is a must read for students of contemporary capitalism." – Kathi Weeks, Duke University

Read The Double Shift with: 

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Technology, Automation and A.I. 

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"Georgina Voss thoughtfully explores the dizzying operations and implications of the vast machineries that dominate contemporary life, without ever losing sight of their everyday physicality: their meat and flesh, silicon and steel. A brilliant and hugely enjoyable read." – James Bridle, author of New Dark Age

Read Systems Ultra with: 

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"In this original and extremely timely book, Matteo Pasquinelli offers nothing less than a long-range history and critical analysis of a labour theory of automation and knowledge. [...] At a moment when apostles and prophets of machine intelligence proclaim both a utopian world of effortless control and a catastrophe of extinction, Pasquinelli's patient and clever work provides a crucial insight into the past and future of AI monopolies and their consequences." – Simon Schaffer, author of Babbage’s Intelligence (1994) and OK computer (2001)

Read The Eye of the Master with: 

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Political Theory

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"In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Beaumont reminds us that walking is far from a neutral activity; it is, rather, “irreducibly political”. With the help of Frantz Fanon, Beaumont locates freedom at the level of the body; free from the systems of oppression, exploitation, and harassment." – Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse

Read How We Walk with: 

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Economic Theory 

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"Not a day goes by without a question imposing itself on the minimally sane mind: how can all this shit around us just go on? In this masterful study, Søren Mau methodically drills into the core of the matter: the deeply entrenched power of some people over others, and of capital over everyone." – Andreas Malm, author of How To Blow Up A Pipeline

Read Mute Compulsion with: 

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Fascism

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"There are no unearned claims here. Rather, one feels that Toscano has thought through the political stakes of every single sentence in this crucial book. Late Fascism is painstaking in accounting for, differentiating, and connecting the many historical contexts and iterations of fascism - from the onset of colonial modernity, through the mid-twentieth century, to the present day." – Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

Read Late Fascism with: 

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Black Radicalism

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"A fiercely argued case for looking to the anticolonialism and Marxism of Red Africa in our current engagements with decolonisation. Okoth's critical assessment of certain variants of 'decolonial studies' and 'Afro-Pessimism' is welcome." – Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire

Read Red Africa with: 

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The Frankfurt School

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"That Martin Jay is not only the leading historian of the Frankfurt School, but one of its most creative and interesting practitioners in the third generation, becomes irrevocably apparent in this superb collection of articles. Circling around the notion of "immanent critique", these articles explore the viability of some of this tradition's core ideas in a time of political turbulences and postcolonial challenges. In so doing, Martin Jay teaches us how to actualize Critical Theory without credulously sticking to the original texts." – Axel Honneth

Read Immanent Critiques with: 

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Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism
Contemporary cultural style boosts transparency and instantaneity. These are values absorbed from our current economic conditions of "disintermediation": cutting out the middleman. Like Uber, but f...
On the New

On the New

On the New looks at the economies of exchange and valuation that drive modern culture’s key sites: the intellectual marketplace and the archive. As ideas move from one context to another, newness i...
24/7
24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep explores some of the ruinous consequences of the expanding non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism. The marketplace now operates through ev...
What Comes After Farce?
If farce follows tragedy, what follows farce? Where does the double predicament of a post-truth and post-shame politics leave artists and critics on the left? How to demystify a hegemonic order tha...
Duty Free Art
In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, in the present age. What can we do when arms manufacturers sponsor museums, and some of the worl...
The Postconceptual Condition
If, as Walter Benjamin claimed, “it is the function of artistic form…to make historical content into a philosophical truth” then it is the function of criticism to recover and to complete that trut...
The Social Photo
With the rise of the smart phone and social media, cameras have become ubiquitous, infiltrating nearly every aspect of social life. The glowing camera screen is the lens by which many of us apprehe...
Paperback
With and Against
No other art movement has so profoundly influenced radical politics as the Situationist International. But beyond the clichés about its purported leader Guy Debord, the "society of the spectacle," ...
The Beach Beneath the Street
Over fifty years after the Situationist International appeared, its legacy continues to inspire activists, artists and theorists around the world. Such a legend has accrued to this movement that...
Automation and the Future of Work
Silicon Valley titans, politicians, techno-futurists and social critics have united in arguing that we are living on the cusp of an era of rapid technological automation, heralding the end of work ...
Critique of Everyday Life
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 availabl...
Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde
Since the decidedly bleak beginning of the twenty-first century, art practice has become increasingly politicized. Yet few have put forward a sustained defence of this development. Revolutionary ...
Inventing the Future
Neoliberalism isn’t working. Austerity is forcing millions into poverty and many more into precarious work, while the left remains trapped in stagnant political practices that offer no respite.Inve...
Artificial Hells
The award-winning, highly acclaimed Artificial Hells is the first historical and theoretical overview of socially engaged participatory art, known in the US as “social practice.” In recent decades,...
The Double Shift
Even as the rewards of work decline and its demands on us increase, many people double-down on their commitment to wage slavery—working harder, doing overtime, and learning to hustle. To paraphrase...
Willing Slaves of Capital

Willing Slaves of Capital

Why do people work for other people? This seemingly naïve question is more difficult to answer than one might at first imagine, and it lies at the heart of Lordon's Willing Slaves of Capital. To ...
Communism and Strategy
If the question of communism is making a comeback today, this renewed interest is often accompanied by an abandonment of any concrete political perspective. Critical philosophies are flourishing an...
Transclasses
One is not born a worker or a boss, one becomes one from father to son... or almost. Social reproduction is not an iron law; it admits of exceptions that must be accounted for in order to measure i...
Reading Capital
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 philosophe...
Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility
Originally published in 1974, Kojin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility has been among his most enduring and pioneering works in critical theory. Written at a time when the political...
The Philosophy of Marx

The Philosophy of Marx

Written by one of political theory’s leading thinkers, The Philosophy of Marx examines all the key areas of Marx’s writings in their wider historical and theoretical context—including the concepts ...
Systems Ultra
Systems Ultra explores how we experience complex systems: the mesh of things, people, and ideas interacting to produce their own patterns and behaviours.What does it mean when a car which runs on c...
New Dark Age
From the highly acclaimed author of WAYS OF BEING. We live in times of increasing inscrutability. Our news feeds are filled with unverified, unverifiable speculation, much of it automatically gener...
Sinews of War and Trade
On the map of global trade, China is now the factory of the world. A parade of ships full of raw commodities—iron ore, coal, oil—arrive in its ports, and fleets of container ships leave with manufa...
Future Histories
The key to understanding technology lies not in the future--but in the past. That's the contention of Lizzie O'Shea's Future Histories, a grand tour through past and present to explore the practica...
Glitch Feminism
The divide between the digital and the real world no longer exists: we are connected all the time. How do we find out who we are within this digital era? Where do we create the space to explore our...
Road to Nowhere
Silicon Valley wants us to believe that technology will revolutionize our cities and the ways we move around. Autonomous vehicles will make us safer, greener, and more efficient. On-demand servi...
Radical Technologies
Everywhere we turn, a startling new device promises to transfigure our lives. But at what cost? In this urgent and revelatory excavation of our Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Gree...
The Eye of the Master
What is AI? A dominant view describes it as the quest "to solve intelligence" - a solution supposedly to be found in the secret logic of the mind or in the deep physiology of the brain, such as i...
Revolutionary Mathematics
Our finances, politics, media, opportunities, information, shopping and knowledge production are mediated through algorithms and their statistical approaches to knowledge; increasingly, these metho...
Workers and Capital
Workers and Capital is universally recognised as the most important work produced by operaismo, a current of political thought emerging in the 1960s that revolutionised the institutional and extra-...
Automation and the Future of Work
Silicon Valley titans, politicians, techno-futurists and social critics have united in arguing that we are living on the cusp of an era of rapid technological automation, heralding the end of work ...
An American Utopia

An American Utopia

Fredric Jameson’s pathbreaking essay “An American Utopia” radically questions standard leftist notions of what constitutes an emancipated society. Advocated here are—among other things—universal co...
General Intellects
What happened to the public intellectuals that used to challenge and inform us? Who is the Sartre or De Beauvoir of the internet age? General Intellects argues that we no longer have such singular ...
Archaeologies of the Future
In an age of globalization characterized by the dizzying technologies of the First World, and the social disintegration of the Third, is the concept of utopia still meaningful? Archaeologies of the...
Paperback
How We Walk
You can tell a lot about people by how they walk. Matthew Beaumont argues that our standing, walking body holds the social traumas of history and its racialized inequalities. Our posture and gait r...
Restless Cities

Restless Cities

The metropolis is a site of endless making and unmaking. From the attempt to imagine a ‘city-symphony’ to the cinematic tradition that runs from Walter Ruttmann to Terence Davies, Restless Cities t...
The Situationists and the City
The Situationist International (SI), led by the revolutionary Guy Debord, were active throughout the 1950s and 60s. They published the journal Internationale Situationniste that included many incen...
Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the si...
Frantz Fanon
Born in Martinique, Frantz Fanon (1925–61) trained as a psychiatrist in Lyon before taking up a post in colonial Algeria. He had already experienced racism as a volunteer in the Free French Army, i...
A Philosophy of Walking

A Philosophy of Walking

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history ... The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no...
Self-Defense

Self-Defense

Is violent self-defense ethical? In the history of colonialism, racism, sexism, capitalism, there has long been a dividing line between bodies "worthy of defending" and those who have been disar...
Mute Compulsion
Despite insoluble contradictions, intense volatility and fierce resistance, the crisis-ridden capitalism of the 21st century lingers on. To understand capital’s paradoxical expansion and entrenchme...
The New Spirit of Capitalism
In this major work, sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello go to the heart of the changes in contemporary capitalism. Via an unprecedented analysis of the latest management texts that have fo...
On the Reproduction of Capitalism
Louis Althusser’s renowned short text "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" radically transformed the concept of the subject, the understanding of the state and even the very frameworks o...
Democracy Against Capitalism
Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “postmodern” fragmentation, “difference”, and contingency can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subjec...
The Limits to Capital
Now a classic of Marxian economics, The Limits to Capital provides one of the best theoretical guides to the history and geography of capitalist development. In this edition, Harvey updates his cla...
Paperback
The Origin of Capitalism
In The Origin of Capitalism, a now-classic work of history, Ellen Meiksins Wood offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to the theories and debates concerning the birth of capitalism, im...
Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
In this hugely influential book, Laclau and Mouffe examine the workings of hegemony and contemporary social struggles, and their significance for democratic theory. With the emergence of new soci...
Late Fascism
The rich archive of twentieth-century debates on fascism can steer a path through an increasingly authoritarian present. Developing anti-fascist theory is an urgent and vital task. From the ‘Great ...
The US Antifascism Reader
Since the birth of fascism in the 1920s, well before the global renaissance of “white nationalism,” the United States has been home to its own distinct fascist movements, some of which decisively i...
The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe
Drawing on a Gramscian theoretical perspective and developing a systematic comparative approach, The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe challenges the received Tocquevillian consensus on author...
Prophets of Deceit
A classic book that analyzes and defines media appeals specific to American pro-fascist and anti-Semite agitators of the 1940s, such as the application of psychosocial manipulation for political en...
Liberalism
In this definitive historical investigation, Italian author and philosopher Domenico Losurdo argues that from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up wi...
The Authoritarian Personality
What makes a fascist? Are there character traits that make someone more likely to vote for the far right? The Authoritarian Personality, written in the shadow of Fascism and the Holocaust, looked t...
The Morals of the Market
Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framewo...
Red Africa
Red Africa makes the case for a revolutionary Black politics inspired by Marxist anticolonial struggles in Africa. Contemporary debates on Black radicalism and decolonisation have lost sight of the...
Decolonial Marxism

Decolonial Marxism

Early in life, Walter Rodney became a major revolutionary figure in a dizzying range of locales that traversed the breadth of the Black diaspora: in North America and Europe, in the Caribbean and o...
Paperback
A Kick in the Belly
The forgotten history of women slaves and their struggle for liberation.Enslaved West Indian women had few opportunities to record their stories for posterity. In this riveting work of historical r...
Abolition Geography
Gathering together Ruth Wilson Gilmore's work from over three decades, Abolition Geography presents her singular contribution to the politics of abolition as theorist, researcher, and organizer, of...
Revolution
This book reinterprets the history of nineteenth and twentieth-century revolutions by composing a constellation of “dialectical images”: Marx’s “locomotives of history,” Alexandra Kollontai’s sexua...
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is an ambitious masterwork of political economy, detailing the impact of slavery and colonialism on the history of international capitalism. In this classic book, R...
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...
Immanent Critiques
Fifty years after the appearance of The Dialectical Imagination, his pioneering history of the Frankfurt School, Martin Jay reflects on what may be living and dead in its legacy. Rather than treati...
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...
The Ruthless Critique of Everything Existing
For several years after 1968, Herbert Marcuse was one of the most famous philosophers in the world. He became the face of Frankfurt School Critical Theory for a generation in turmoil. His fame rest...
One-Way Street

One-Way Street

Walter Benjamin is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic intellectual figures of this century. Not only was he a thinker who made an enormous impact with his critical and philosophical writings...
Grand Hotel Abyss
In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominen...
The Destruction of Reason

The Destruction of Reason

A classic of Western Marxism, The Destruction of Reason is Georg Lukács's trenchant criticism of German philosophy after Marx and the role it played in the rise of National Socialism. Originally pu...
Splinters in Your Eye
Although successive generations of the Frankfurt School have attempted to adapt Critical Theory to new circumstances, the work done by its founding members continues in the twenty-first century to ...

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