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The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde

Elaborates a dialectics of modernity, eternity and tradition.
If Aristotle sought to understand time through change, might we not reverse the procedure and seek to understand change through time? Once we do this, argues Peter Osborne, it soon becomes clear that ideas such as avant-garde, modern, postmodern and tradition—which are usually only treated as markets for empirically discrete periods, movements or styles—are best understood as categories of historical totalization. More specifically, Osborne claims, such ideas involve distinct “temporalizations” of history, giving rise to conflicting politics of time.

His book begins with a consideration of the main aspects of modernity and develops though a series of critical engagements with the major twentieth-century positions in the philosophy of history. He concludes with a fascinating history of the avant-garde intervention into the temporality of everyday life in surrealism, the situationists and the work of Henri Lefebvre.


  • Social acceleration and the need for speed

    In Western turbo-capitalism, people move faster and faster, but still feel stuck in the same place. Hartmut Rosa, professor of Sociology at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, explains such a paradox in his studies on “social acceleration”. Among his other books are Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality and High Speed Society, Social Acceleration, Power, and Modernity, Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity and, most recently by Verso, Sociology, Capitalism, Critique, co-authored with Klaus Dörre and Stephan LessenichThe following interview was originally published by the LA Review of Books. June 28th, 2015.

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  • COMPETITION: Win the entire Radical Thinkers backlist!

    And here are the answers you've all been so patiently waiting for. Congratulations to our incredibly well-read winners!

    Get your radical thinking caps on...To celebrate the publication of Set 5 of the Radical Thinkers series, Verso is offering 2 lucky winners the chance to win all available titles in the five sets published to date.

    The highly popular series publishes new editions of important works of continental philosophy in beautifully-designed and affordable editions. Covering the full spectrum of critical thought, the series includes work from radical thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Judith Butler, Louis Althusser, Jean Baudrillard, Guy Debord, Georg Lukács, Jean-Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno and many more. 

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  • Andrei Platonov, the Bush doctrine, and Robin Blackburn on human rights—new issue of New Left Review out now

    The new issue of New Left Review (NLR 69 May/June 2011) is out now. Highlights include:

    * Andrew Bacevich tracing the origins of the Bush doctrine of preemptive war to the thought of Albert Wohlstetter.

    * Robin Blackburn, whose latest book, The American Crucible, examines the relationship between the struggle for emancipation and the discourse on human rights, reviewing The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History by Samuel Moyn.

    * A study of Spain—last frontier of the Eurozone crisis and recent site of mass resistance to the austerity project—in which Isidro López and Emmanuel Rodríguez track the development of the Iberian bubble economy.

    * A review of François Dosse’s biography of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari by Peter Osborne, author of The Politics of Time.

    * ‘On the First Socialist Tragedy,’ an article from 1934 by Andrei Platonov, in which he reflects on man, technology and the dialectic of nature.

    * Tariq Ali, whose book The Obama Syndrome is out in paperback soon, reviewing Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm X.

    For information on how to subscribe, visit New Left Review.

Other books by Peter Osborne