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Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left

Thinking past the twin insanities of terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Renowned critical theorist Susan Buck-Morss argues convincingly that a global public needs to think past the twin insanities of terrorism and counter-terrorism in order to dismantle regressive intellectual barriers. Surveying the widespread literature on the relationship of Islam to modernity, she reveals that there is surprising overlap where scholars commonly and simplistically see antithesis. Thinking Past Terror situates this engagement with the study of Islam among critical contemporary discourses—feminism, post-colonialism and the critique of determinism.

In a new preface to this paperback edition, Susan Buck-Morss reflects on the events that have marked the world since the book was first published.


  • “An insightful and important new edition to critical theory for our century.”
  • “This is a highly appealing scenario of communication producing and illuminating dissent.”
  • “Thoughtfully and insightfully written... Thinking Past Terror looks forward to the goal of a cosmopolitan Left that can find unity and strength to remain viable in ever-changing times.”
  • “Susan Buck-Morss enables us to discover the Islamists as our neighbors: neither as fundamentalist fanatics unable to cope with modernity, nor as the exotic authentic Other, but as people sharing the same global predicament as ourselves.”


  • McJihad: Empire and Islam between The US and Saudi Arabia

    It has become popular today to say that we live in an era of what Benjamin Barber has labelled "Jihad vs. McWorld." The globalising powers of capitalism ("McWorld") are confronted with or resisted by the forces that Barber labels "Jihad" — the variety of tribal particularisms and "narrowly conceived faiths" opposed to the homogenising force of capital. Even those with a critical view of the growth of American empire and the expansion of what is erroneously termed the global market usually subscribe to this interpretation. In fact it is the critics who often argue that we need a better understanding of these local forms of resistance against the "universal" force of the market.

    The terms of this debate are quite misleading. We live in an age, to adapt Barber’s nomenclature, of "McJihad." It is an age in which the mechanisms of what we call capitalism appear to operate, in certain critical instances, only by adopting the social force and moral authority of conservative Islamic movements. It may be true that we need a better understanding of the local forces that oppose the globalisation of capital; but, more than this, we need a better understanding of the so-called global forces of capital.

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  • Perpetual War and Permanent Unrest: The Battle of Algiers After 9/11

    This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States. 

    Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.

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  • Rationale for Surveillance: the CAGE report on the 'radicalisation' study underpinning Prevent

    — a UK non-profit that advocates on behalf on communities affected by the War on Terror — has released a new report examining the classified study that underpins Prevent and Channel, two of the British government's "anti-radicalisation' counter-terror
     programmes. Reviewed by 18 academics from a variety of disciplines, The 'Science' of Pre-Crime challenges the evidence base and methodology used to develop Extremist Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+), the assessment tool designed to help public sector workers identify those vulnerable to Islamic 'radicalisation'. 

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