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The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today

A panoramic account of the world’s leading writers and thinkers

As the crisis of capitalism unfolds, the need for alternatives is felt ever more intensely. The struggle between radical movements and the forces of reaction will be merciless. A crucial battlefield, where the outcome of the crisis will in part be decided, is that of theory.

Over the last twenty-five years, radical intellectuals across the world have produced important and innovative ideas. The endeavour to transform the world without falling into the catastrophic traps of the past has been a common element uniting these new approaches.

This book—aimed at both the general reader and the specialist—offers the first global cartography of the expanding intellectual field of critical contemporary thought. More than thirty authors and intellectual currents of every continent are presented in a clear and succinct manner. A history of critical thought in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is also provided, helping situate current thinkers in a broader historical and sociological perspective.

Contents:

PART I: CONTEXTS

1 The Defeat of Critical Thinking (1977-93)
2 A Brief History of the 'New Left' (1956-77)
3 Contemporary Critical Intellectuals: A Typology

PART II: THEORIES

4 System

Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, or the 'Joy of Being Communist': Operaismo - Empire and Multitude - Towards a Cognitive Capitalism?

The Revival of Theories of Imperialism: Marxism and Imperialism - Leo Panitch - Robert Cox - David Harvey

The Nation-State: Persistence or Transcendence?: Benedict Anderson and Tom Nairn - Jürgen Hambermas and Étienne Balibar - Wang Hui - Giorgio Agamben

Capitalisms Old and New: Critique of Cognitive Capitalism - Robert Brenner - Giovanni Arrighi - Elmar Altvater - Luc Boltanski

5 Subjects

Equality as Event: Jacques Rancière - Alain Badiou - Slavoj Žižek

Post-Femininities: Donna Haraway - Judith Butler - Gayatri Spivak

Class Against Class: E. P. Thompson - David Harvey - Erik Olin Wright - Álvaro García Linera

Conflictual Identities: Nancy Fraser, Axel Honneth, Seyla Benhabib - Achille Mbembe - Ernesto Laclau - Fredric Jameson

Conclusion: Worksites

Index

Reviews

  • “A dizzying menagerie of anti-capitalist thought.”
  • “Explains the key ideas, and the contradictions within them, of authors who are often cited but rarely read.”
  • “A precious tool permitting us to escape the whingeing about the mediocrity of thinkers today and to help us anticipate the tremors yet to come.”
  • “Written with intelligence and clarity.”
  • “In this courageous and audacious work, the sociologist Razmig Keucheyan offers a robust ... panorama of contemporary critical theories.”
  • “An impressive tour de force, providing us with a summary of contemporary critical theories that is both rigorous and clear.”

Blog

  • Mélenchon: a vote to prompt the future

    Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon’s campaign is now at an impasse, because he couldn’t see that the neoliberal fox would refuse to accommodate to the socialist hen, while Mélenchon takes an opposing strategy, write Cédric Durand and Razmig Keucheyan. First published in Libération. Translated by David Broder.



    Elections were for long time rather boring. Carried forth by a liberal wind, there was a seamless exchange of office between the self-assured Right and the lightweight Left — these wholehearted converts to market modernisation — in the eternal present of capitalism. Capitalism had been made master of a globalised space and a financialised time. Endemic unemployment, consumerist exultation and terrorist/criminal horror made up the three dramatic extremes of a little game buzzing along, spiced up only by the candidates’ antics or the scenes made by betrayed friends.

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  • The Common Thread of Pessimism: Razmig Keucheyan on contemporary critical theory

    Razmig Keucheyan's The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today has recently appeared in its first Greek edition, published by Angelus Novus. Earlier this month, Keucheyan spoke with Tasos Tsakiroglou of Efimerida ton Syntakton about the book and contemporary critical theory — in the context of climate change, and in relation to recent European electoral contests, including the 2017 French presidential election. 



    In the panorama of the different critical theories that you analyze in your new book The Left Hemisphere, and despite their diversity, do you discern a common thread that unites them? and what is it?

    Pessimism certainly is a common thread. None of these thinkers believes that overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with another, relatively better, system is an obvious possibility. Some of them believe it is not possible, and think “resistance” to power and “micropolitics” is our only option. This pessimism is a consequence of the tragic experiences of the 20th century, especially Stalinism.

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  • Stuart Hall: Gramsci and Us

    On this day in 1891 one of the most influential Marxists of the 21st Century, Antonio Gramsci, was born in the small town of Ales in Sardinia. Gramsci's work transformed how we think about a Marxist politics. Whereas the Russian Revolution occured in the "backward" Russia, and as such was as much a revolution against the "old regime" as against capital, Gramsci attempted to wrestle with the question of how we build a revolutionary movement in the developed areas of Western Europe. In particular it was his development of the concept of "hegemony" which was to prove the most influential. In this piece, from the great Stuart Hall and published in The Hard Road to Renewal, Hall attempts to expand these insights of Gramsci's to analyse the "regressive modernisation" of Thatcher. In an age where many are tackling the question of how to build a new left modernity, Gramsci and Hall are as relevant as ever.



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