Unexceptional Politics

Unexceptional Politics:On Obstruction, Impasse, and the Impolitic

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A new vision of politics “below the radar”

Unexceptional Politics develops a vocabulary of terms drawn from a wide range of media (political fiction, art, film, and TV serials), highlighting the scams, imbroglios, information trafficking, brinkmanship, and parliamentary procedures that obstruct and block progressive politics. The book proposes a new mode of dialectical resistance, countering notions of the “state of exception” embedded in theories of the “Political” from Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt. Apter advances a critical model of micro-politics, or “politics with a small ‘p,’” that offers a way of representing a politics that has generally eluded our conceptual grasp, and that has been unintelligible or resistant to classical political theory. Confronting us with the realization that we really do not know what politics is, where it begins and ends, or how its micro-events should be described, this experimental glossary opens the possibility of confronting the contingent and immaterial conditions of politicking that contribute to disturbance and interference within the institutional structures of our capitalo-parliamentarist systems of rule.


  • Unexceptional Politics is a book that teaches walking the walk by exposing the talk talked. Very few academic books of this intellectual quality can serve as a guide for activism in the interest of social justice. A text for careful reading.

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
  • At a moment when so much thought on the left has been reduced to an exercise in personal brand-building, Emily Apter has dared to produce an uncompromisingly serious work of political imagination. In its commitment to history, to theoretical precision, and to the insistent aliveness of the revolutionary project, it joins Joshua Clover's Riot, Strike, Riot as one of those rare indispensable interruptions of speculative business as usual.

    Anahid Nersessian, author of Utopia, Limited
  • Apter’s concept of unexceptional politics is an exceptional achievement. While most definitions of politics (or the political) smuggle a normative notion of politics and, as Latour strongly argued, fail to give a convincing account of politics as a specific dimension of our lives which is not a separate domain of objects (e.g. laws, state decisions, etc.) but rather a particular way of doing things in general, Apter succeeds in making it tangible maybe for the first time in such a thorough and subtle way by tapping in theory, literature, film and news with dazzling erudition. Anyone interested in contributing to an anthropology of politics must read this book.

    Patrice Maniglier, University of Paris Ouest-Nanterre