Critical Theory: Verso Student Reading
Critique your critical theory reading with this crucial list of key books, including the indispensable texts of the great Marxist controversies over literature and art from the 1930s to the 1950s, Mario Tronti's classic text of Italian workerism, Samo Tomšič's thesis that psychoanalysis does indeed have the capacity to reaffirm dialectical and materialist thought – and never forgetting Henri Lefebvre's richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism, without which your bookshelf weeps.
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Nunes redefines the terms of organisational theory, and argues that organisation must be understood as always supposing a diverse ecology of different initiatives and organisational forms. Drawing from a wide array of sources and traditions Nunes develops a grammar that eschews easy oppositions between ‘verticalism’ and ‘horizontalism’, and offers a fresh approach to enduring issues like spontaneity, leadership, democracy, strategy, populism, revolution, and the relationship between movements and parties.
The Revenge of the Real envisions a new positive biopolitics that recognizes that governance is literally a matter of life and death. We are grappling with multiple interconnected dilemmas—climate change, pandemics, the tensions between the individual and society—all of which have to be addressed on a planetary scale.
In this follow-up to the acclaimed The Future of the Image, Rancière takes a radically different approach to this attempted emancipation. First asking exactly what we mean by political art or the politics of art, he goes on to look at what the tradition of critical art, and the desire to insert art into life, has achieved. Has the militant critique of the consumption of images and commodities become, ironically, a sad affirmation of its omnipotence?
A classic collection of essay by Jacques Rancière that focuses on the ways in which radical philosophers understand the people they profess to speak for.
It is frequently said that we are living through the end of politics, the end of social upheavals, the end of utopian folly. Consensual realism is the order of the day. But political realists, remarks Jacques Ranciere, are always several steps behind reality, and the only thing which may come to an end with their dominance is democracy.
Sassoon paints an unforgettable picture of our galloping descent into political barbarism, mixing blunt exposé and classical references with an astonishing array of data. Why does the United States proportionately have more civilians owning guns than Yemen, where there is a war on? Why did the UK enter the pandemic with fewer doctors than any EU country except Poland and Romania?
A survey of the key thinkers and ideas that are rebuilding the world in the shadow of the Anthropocene.
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 philosopher, maintained that Marx’s project could only be revived if its scientific and revolutionary novelty was thoroughly divested of all traces of humanism, idealism, Hegelianism and historicism. In order to complete this critical rereading, Althusser and his students at the École normale supérieure ran a seminar on Capital, re-examining its arguments, strengths and weaknesses in detail, and it was out of those discussions that this book was born.
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.
Classic study of Marx by Japan’s leading critical theorist.
Erik Olin Wright has distilled decades of work into this concise and tightly argued manifesto: analyzing the varieties of anticapitalism, assessing different strategic approaches, and laying the foundations for a society dedicated to human flourishing. How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century is an urgent and powerful argument for socialism, and an unparalleled guide to help us get there.
Collaborators for more than four decades, lawyer, author, filmmaker, and multimedia artist Alexander Kluge and social philosopher Oskar Negt are an exceptional duo in the history of Critical Theory precisely because their respective disciplines operate so differently. Dark Matter argues that what makes their contributions to the Frankfurt School so remarkable is how they think together in spite of these differences.
Assessing the legacy of the Frankfurt School in the twenty-first century.
It’s not capitalism, it’s not neoliberalism—what if it’s something worse?
Not available in North America.
In his most wide-ranging and accessible work, Frederic Jameson argues that postmodernism is the cultural response to the latest systemic change in world capitalism. He seeks here to crystallize a definition of a term which has taken on so many meanings that it has virtually lost all historical significance.
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 available for the first time in one complete volume. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, Critique was an inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France. It is a founding text of cultural studies and a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism.
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 understanding of how mourning and violence might instead inspire solidarity and a quest for global justice.
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 we no longer have such singular figures, but there are, instead, general intellects whose writing could, if read collectively, explain our times. Covering topics such as culture, politics, work, technology, and the Anthropocene, each chapter is a concise account of an individual thinker, providing useful context and connections to the work of the others. McKenzie Wark’s distinctive readings are appreciations, but are nonetheless critical of how neoliberal universities militate against cooperative intellectual work that endeavors to understand and also change the world.
Who were the Frankfurt School—Benjamin, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer—and why do they matter today?
Writing just after World War II and reflecting on the bureaucracy and myths of National Socialism and the inanity of the dawn of consumerism, Adorno and Horkheimer addressed themselves to a question which went to the very heart of the modern age: ‘why mankind, instead of entering into a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism’. Modernity, far from redeeming the promises and hopes of the Enlightenment, had resulted in the stultification of mankind and administered society, characterised by simulation and candy-floss entertainment. Tracing humanity’s modern fall to the very rationality that was to be its liberation, the authors exposed the domination and violence that underpin the Enlightenment project.
Not available in North America.
Adorno, Foucault, and the Critique of the West argues that critical theory continues to offer valuable resources for critique and contestation during this turbulent period in our history. To assess these resources, it examines the work of two of the twentieth century’s more prominent social theorists: Theodor W. Adorno and Michel Foucault.
Lemke offers the most comprehensive and systematic account of Michel Foucault’s work on power and government from 1970 until his death in 1984. He convincingly argues, using material that has only partly been translated into English, that Foucault’s concern with ethics and forms of subjectivation is always already integrated into his political concerns and his analytics of power. The book also shows how the concept of government was taken up in different lines of research in France before it gave rise to “governmentality studies” in the anglophone world.
In this ambitious and original study, Stathis Kouvelakis paints a rich panorama of the key intellectual and political figures in the effervescence of German thought before the 1848 revolutions. He shows how the attempt to chart a moderate, reformist path entered into crisis, generating two antagonistic perspectives within the progressive currents of German society. On one side were those socialists—such as Moses Hess and the young Friedrich Engels—who sought to discover a principle of harmony in social relations. On the other side, the poet Heinrich Heine and the young Karl Marx developed a new perspective, articulating revolutionary rupture, thereby redefining the very notion of politics itself.
A major, comprehensive study of the connection between their work, The Capitalist Unconscious resituates Marx in the broader context of Lacan’s teaching and insists on the capacity of psychoanalysis to reaffirm dialectical and materialist thought. Lacan’s unorthodox reading of Marx refigured such crucial concepts as alienation, jouissance and the Freudian ‘labour theory of the unconscious’. Tracing these developments, Tomšič maintains that psychoanalysis, structuralism and the critique of political economy participate in the same movement of thought; his book shows how to follow this movement through to some of its most important conclusions.