13 Critical Theory Books That Came Out in November

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Vulnerability In Resistance

Edited by Judith Butler, Zeynep Gambetti, and Leticia Sabsay

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“Vulnerability and resistance have often been seen as opposites, with the assumption that vulnerability requires protection and the strengthening of paternalistic power at the expense of collective resistance. Focusing on political movements and cultural practices in different global locations, including Turkey, Palestine, France, and the former Yugoslavia, the contributors to Vulnerability in Resistance articulate an understanding of the role of vulnerability in practices of resistance. They consider how vulnerability is constructed, invoked, and mobilized within neoliberal discourse, the politics of war, resistance to authoritarian and securitarian power, in LGBTQI struggles, and in the resistance to occupation and colonial violence. The essays  offer a feminist account of political agency by exploring occupy movements and street politics, informal groups at checkpoints and barricades, practices of self-defense, hunger strikes, transgressive enactments of solidarity and mourning, infrastructural mobilizations, and aesthetic and erotic interventions into public space that mobilize memory and expose forms of power. Pointing to possible strategies for a feminist politics of transversal engagements and suggesting a politics of bodily resistance that does not disavow forms of vulnerability, the contributors develop a new conception of embodiment and sociality within fields of contemporary power.”

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Black

By Alain Badiou

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“Who hasn’t had the frightening experience of stumbling around in the pitch dark? Alain Badiou experienced that primitive terror when he, with his young friends, made up a game called “The Stroke of Midnight.” The furtive discovery of the dark continent of sex in banned magazines, the beauty of black ink on paper, but also the mysteries of space and the grief of mourning: these are some of the things we encounter as the philosopher takes us on a trip through the private theater of his mind, at the whim of his memories. Music, painting, politics, sex, and metaphysics: all contribute to making black more luminous than it has ever been.”

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Object Oriented Feminism

Edited by Katherine Behar

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“The essays in Object-Oriented Feminism explore OOF: a feminist intervention into recent philosophical discourses—like speculative realism, object-oriented ontology (OOO), and new materialism—that take objects, things, stuff, and matter as primary. Object-oriented feminism approaches all objects from the inside-out position of being an object too, with all of its accompanying political and ethical potentials.

This volume places OOF thought in a long history of ongoing feminist work in multiple disciplines. In particular, object-oriented feminism foregrounds three significant aspects of feminist thinking in the philosophy of things: politics, engaging with histories of treating certain humans (women, people of color, and the poor) as objects; erotics, employing humor to foment unseemly entanglements between things; and ethics, refusing to make grand philosophical truth claims, instead staking a modest ethical position that arrives at being “in the right” by being “wrong.””

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The Child to Come

By Rebekah Sheldon

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“Generation Anthropocene. Storms of My Grandchildren. Our Children’s Trust. Why do these and other attempts to imagine the planet’s uncertain future return us—again and again—to the image of the child? In The Child to Come, Rebekah Sheldon demonstrates the pervasive conjunction of the imperiled child and the threatened Earth and blisteringly critiques the logic of catastrophe that serves as its motive and its method.

Sheldon explores representations of this perilous future and the new figurations of the child that have arisen in response to it. Analyzing catastrophe discourse from the 1960s to the present—books by Joanna Russ, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy; films and television series including Southland Tales, Battlestar Galactica, and Children of Men; and popular environmentalism—Sheldon finds the child standing in the place of the human species, coordinating its safe passage into the future through the promise of one more generation. Yet, she contends, the child figure emerges bound to the very forces of nonhuman vitality he was forged to contain.

Bringing together queer theory, ecocriticism, and science studies, The Child to Come draws on and extends arguments in childhood studies about the interweaving of the child with the life sciences. Sheldon reveals that neither life nor the child are what they used to be. Under pressure from ecological change, artificial reproductive technology, genetic engineering, and the neoliberalization of the economy, the queerly human child signals something new: the biopolitics of reproduction. By promising the pliability of the body’s vitality, the pregnant woman and the sacred child have become the paradigmatic figures for twenty-first century biopolitics.”

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The Idea of Socialism

By Alex Honneth

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“The idea of socialism has given normative grounding and orientation to the outrage over capitalism for more than 150 years, and yet today it seems to have lost much of its appeal. Despite growing discontent, many would hesitate to invoke socialism when it comes to envisioning life beyond capitalism. How can we explain the rapid decline of this once powerful idea? And what must we do to renew it for the twenty-first century?

In this lucid, political-philosophical essay, Axel Honneth argues that the idea of socialism has lost its luster because its theoretical assumptions stem from the industrial era and are no longer convincing in our contemporary post-industrial societies. Only if we manage to replace these assumptions with a concept of history and society that corresponds to our current experiences will we be able to restore confidence in a project whose fundamental idea remains as relevant today as it was a century ago – the idea of an economy that realizes freedom in solidarity.”

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Lacan and Deleuze

Edited by Bosjan Nedoh and Andreja Zevnik

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“It is often said that Lacan is the most radical representative of structuralism, a thinker of negativity and alienation, whereas Deleuze is pictured as a great opponent of the structuralist project, a vitalist and a thinker of creative potentialities of desire. It seems the two cannot be further apart.

This volume of 12 new essays, breaks the myth of their foreignness (if not hostility) and places the two in a productive conversation. By taking on topics such as baroque, perversion, death drive, ontology/topology, face, linguistics and formalism the essays highlight key entry points for a discussion between Lacan’s and Deleuze’s respective thoughts. The proposed lines of investigation do not argue for a simple equation of their thoughts, but for a ‘disjunctive synthesis’, which acknowledges their differences, while insisting on their positive and mutually informed reading.”

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Adorno and Existence

By Peter E. Gordon

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“From the beginning to the end of his career, the critical theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy but enduring bond with existentialism. His attitude overall was that of unsparing criticism, verging on polemic. In Kierkegaard he saw an early paragon for the late flowering of bourgeois solipsism; in Heidegger, an impresario for a “jargon of authenticity” cloaking its idealism in an aura of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even in the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno saw a vain attempt to break free from the prison-house of consciousness.

Most scholars of critical theory still regard these philosophical exercises as marginal works—unfortunate lapses of judgment for a thinker otherwise celebrated for dialectical mastery. Yet his persistent fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology suggests a connection far more productive than mere antipathy. From his first published book on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature studies in negative dialectics, Adorno was forever returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, seeking the paradoxical relation between their manifest failure and their hidden promise.

Ultimately, Adorno saw in them an instructive if unsuccessful attempt to realize his own ambition: to escape the enchanted circle of idealism so as to grasp “the primacy of the object.” Exercises in “immanent critique,” Adorno’s writings on Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Heidegger present us with a photographic negative—a philosophical portrait of the author himself. In Adorno and Existence, Peter E. Gordon casts new and unfamiliar light on this neglected chapter in the history of Continental philosophy.”

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The Essence of Nihilism

By Emanuele Severino

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“Between 1961 and 1970, Emanuele Severino was subjected to a thorough investigation by the Vatican Inquisition. The “fundamental incompatibility” identified between his thought and Christian doctrine ejected him from his position as Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic University in Milan. The Essence of Nihilism, published in 1972, was the first book to follow his expulsion, and it established Severino’s preeminent position within the constellation of contemporary philosophy.

In this groundbreaking and classic book—now for the first time available in English—Severino reinterprets the history of Western philosophy as the unfolding of “the greatest folly,” that is, of the belief that “things come out of nothing and fall back into nothing.” According to Severino, such a typically Western understanding of reality has resulted in a conviction that there is a radical “nothingness” to existence. In turn, this justifies the treatment of the world as an object of exploitation, degradation and destruction.

To move beyond Western nihilism, suggests Severino, we must first of all “return to Parmenides.” Joining forces with the most venerable of Greek philosophers, Severino confutes nihilism’s “path of night”, and develops a new philosophy grounded on the principle of the eternity of reality and of every single existent thing.”

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The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book

Illustrated by Meggyn Pomerleau

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“Vulvas are too often either crudely objectified or shrouded in mystery. No longer! The Post-Structuralist Vulva Coloring Book demystifies gender and interrogates your assumptions as you are drawn into its mesmerizing patterns, folds, and whorls. Color away the false binaries between male and female, words and text, inside and outside, art and nature. As you meditate on the sameness and difference of the vulvas on each page, you will question your interpellation into dominant systems of knowledge. By overwhelming the senses with vulvas, you can easily deconstruct the meaning and very existence of this social construct we call the “vulva” and the instructions for living that come with it. Quotations from post-structuralist philosophers accompany the art, and can be colored and even edited into new constructs and critiques. Perfect for the recovering graduate student who wants to deconstruct gender without being themselves dismantled by the tools of deconstruction.

Printed on one side, with perforated pages so you can easily color and display your masterworks.”

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Not Saved: Essays After Heidegger

By Peter Sloterdijk

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“One can rightly say of Peter Sloterdijk that each of his essays and lectures is also an unwritten book. That is why the texts presented here, which sketch a philosophical physiognomy of Martin Heidegger, should also be characterized as a collected renunciation of exhaustiveness.

In order to situate Heidegger’s thought in the history of ideas and problems, Peter Sloterdijk approaches Heidegger’s work with questions such as: If Western philosophy emerged from the spirit of the polis, what are we to make of the philosophical suitability of a man who never made a secret of his stubborn attachment to rural life? Is there a provincial truth of which the cosmopolitan city knows nothing? Is there a truth in country roads and cabins that would be able to undermine the universities with their standardized languages and globally influential discourses? From where does this odd professor speak, when from his professorial chair in Freiburg he claims to inquire into what lies beyond the history of Western metaphysics?

Sloterdijk also considers several other crucial twentieth-century thinkers who provide some needed contrast for the philosophical physiognomy of Martin Heidegger. A consideration of Niklas Luhmann as a kind of contemporary version of the Devil’s Advocate, a provocative critical interpretation of Theodor Adorno’s philosophy that focuses on its theological underpinnings and which also includes reflections on the philosophical significance of hyperbole, and a short sketch of the pessimistic thought of Emil Cioran all round out and deepen Sloterdijk’s attempts to think with, against, and beyond Heidegger. Finally, in essays such as "Domestication of Being" and the "Rules for the Human Park," which incited an international controversy around the time of its publication and has been translated afresh for this volume, Sloterdijk develops some of his most intriguing and important ideas on anthropogenesis, humanism, technology, and genetic engineering.”

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The Leveller Revolution

By John Rees

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“The Levellers, formed out of the explosive tumult of the 1640s and the battlefields of the Civil War, are central figures in the history of democracy. In this thrilling narrative, John Rees brings to life the men—including John Lilburne, Richard Overton and Thomas Rainsborough—and women who ensured victory and became an inspiration to republicans of many nations.

From the raucous streets of London and the clattering printers’ workshops that stoked the uprising, to the rank and file of the New Model Army and the furious Putney debates where the Levellers argued with Oliver Cromwell for the future of English democracy, this story reasserts the revolutionary nature of the 1642–51 wars and the role of ordinary people in this pivotal moment in history.

In particular Rees places the Levellers at the centre of the debates of 1647 when the nation was gripped by the question of what to do with the defeated Charles I. Without the Levellers and Agitators’ fortitude and well-organised opposition history may have avoided the regicide and missed its revolutionary moment. The legacy of the Levellers can be seen in the modern struggles for freedom and democracy across the world.”

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Ethics and Politics After Poststructuralism

By Madeleine Fagan

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“This groundbreaking book offers a fresh and innovative perspective on ethics and politics after poststructuralism. Madeleine Fagan argues that the “ethical” should not be understood as a label; it does not mean “good” or “right”, and is not an evaluation or guide. Rather, both the ethical and the political are descriptions of the context in which we find ourselves. Fagan offers an account of the inseparability of ethics and politics that challenges existing accounts of poststructuralist ethics and shows the need for a practice-based rethinking of the ethico-political. Drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy, Ethics and Politics after Poststructuralism puts forward a radical and far-reaching critique of both foundational and non-foundational ethical theory.”

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A Life Worth Living: Camus and the Quest for Meaning

By Robert Zaretsky

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“In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Albert Camus declared that a writer’s duty is twofold: “the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance against oppression.” These twin obsessions help explain something of Camus’ remarkable character, which is the overarching subject of this sympathetic and lively book. Through an exploration of themes that preoccupied Camus—absurdity, silence, revolt, fidelity, and moderation—Robert Zaretsky portrays a moralist who refused to be fooled by the nobler names we assign to our actions, and who pushed himself, and those about him, to challenge the status quo.

Though we do not face the same dangers that threatened Europe when Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger, we confront other alarms. Herein lies Camus’ abiding significance. Reading his work, we become more thoughtful observers of our own lives. For Camus, rebellion is an eternal human condition, a timeless struggle against injustice that makes life worth living. But rebellion is also bounded by self-imposed constraints—it is a noble if impossible ideal. Such a contradiction suggests that if there is no reason for hope, there is also no occasion for despair—a sentiment perhaps better suited for the ancient tragedians than modern political theorists but one whose wisdom abides. Yet we must not venerate suffering, Camus cautions: the world’s beauty demands our attention no less than life’s train of injustices. That recognition permits him to declare: “It was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.””

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