87 Texts Every Critical Theorist Needs to Read

The following was posted to Reddit by user Adartesirhc. We have linked to the free public domain work where applicable. All other links are to Amazon.

Kant, Idealism, and Nietzsche:

# 1 Kant – Critique of Pure Reason

kant critique of pure reasonDownload the free ebook from Project Gutenberg.

#2 Kant – Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

groundwork moral kant

Read it for free here.

#3 Fichte – An Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation

fichte critique pure revelation

Buy it here.

#4 Hegel – The Phenomenology of Spirit

Phenomenology hegelBuy it here.

#5 Hegel – Philosophy of History

hegel history of philosophyBuy it here.

#6 Schopenhauer – The World as Will and Representation

schopenhauer will representation

Read it for free here.

#7 Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil

beyond good and evil nietzscheRead it for free here.

#8 Nietzsche – On the Genealogy of Morals

nietzsche geneology of moralsRead it for free here.

#9 Nietzsche – Twilight of the Idols

twilight of the idols nietzscheBuy it here.

  • TrevorSG
  • bernardza

    Interesting list. I would add:
    Du Bois. Souls of Black Folk
    Fanon, F. Black Skin, White Masks (arguably a richer text of critical theory than Wretched of the Earth, without denying the latter’s importance)
    Mbembe, A. On the Postcolony.
    Postone, M. Time, Labor and Social Domination.

    • Critical Theory

      The first two are on my reading list as well. Haven’t heard of the second two.

  • Epicurus

    No Arendt? A huge shortcoming.

  • Damos

    I noticed all these have incredibly artsy, eye catching covers.

    • Daniel McGee

      I agree! Really cool designs

      • Alan Nikolai Stratmann

        Yes, not something you’d want to get if you don’t want to be bothered by anyone else.

  • David Michael Mullins

    No Derrida, Arendt, or Paul De Man, and yet all the deconstructive postcolonial and feminist people? And Agamben, whose entire project is enabled by deconstruction? For shame!

  • Abbas

    Why there is no sign of Arendt’s “Human Condition”, “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and “The Life of Mind”?

  • RW

    Third for adding Arendt, The Human Condition at least.

  • Razvan Repciuc

    Riiiiiight; I’m supposed to assume that these texts have been adequately read and studied by the fine folk that recommend and discuss this list.

  • Guest

    I would like to add some books that address
    the questions of the largest democracy of the world with varied problems relating
    to huge population, deplorable human conditions yet it is home to a good
    numbers of billionaires and millionaires, from socio-economic-political and spiritual
    point view. Those books which provide a comprehensive account of the problems
    that India face and how problems could be solved in a best possible democratic
    ways.

    1. Caste in India: Their Mechanism,
    Genesis and Development

    2. Annihilation Caste.

    2. The riddles of Hinduism.

    4. Buddha and his Dhamma

    All these books were written by Dr. B.
    R. Ambedkar who was the first to link the problems of caste based inequities
    with gender inequities. Who spoke that division of labor was not merely a division
    of labor but division of laborer purely from the human right perspectives. He established
    a rational-legal account of ‘scientific Buddhism’ called ‘Navayana Buddhism’
    that can suit and cope with the changing needs of the present generation of
    people.

  • Pabitra Bag

    I would like to add some books that address
    the questions of the largest democracy of the world with varied problems relating
    to huge population, deplorable human conditions yet it is home to a good
    numbers of billionaires and millionaires, from socio-economic-political and spiritual
    point view. Those books which provide a comprehensive account of the problems
    that India face and how problems could be solved in a best possible democratic
    ways.

    1. Caste in India: Their Mechanism,
    Genesis and Development

    2. Annihilation of Caste.

    2. The riddles of Hinduism.

    4. Buddha and his Dhamma

    All these books were written by Dr. B.
    R. Ambedkar who was the first to link the problems of caste based inequities
    with gender inequities. Who spoke that division of labor was not merely a division
    of labor but division of laborer purely from the human right perspectives. He established
    a rational-legal account of ‘scientific Buddhism’ called ‘Navayana Buddhism’
    that can suit and cope with the changing needs of the present generation of
    people.

    • Prabhsharanbir Singh

      There are not critical theory books. It is a list of only best critical theory books and not books in general.

      • Siddharth Sinha

        Critical theory aims “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.” By this declaration it’s hard to see Ambedkar as anything but a critical theorist when we consider his immense contribution to our understanding of Indian history and society. Ambdekar’s books should be as important as any other in the context of Indian society and the lives of its most oppressed.

  • Dr. Renaldo

    gilles deleuze’s difference and repetition.

  • Thomas Edwin Elliott

    No Paul Virilio? Surely “Speed & Politics” or “Pure War” deserve to make this list.

  • Daniel McGee

    Great list!
    I agree about adding Du Bois.
    Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark
    Bakhtin

  • Alan Nikolai Stratmann

    I find it somewhat strange to start off with Kant instead of Plato. For me, the starting point for Western philosophy (and all of the disciplines that sprang from it) is The Apology of Socrates. Even to read something easy like Descartes’ Meditations you need to at least be roughly aware of Medieval Scholastic beliefs on the relationship between soul and the body, which were taken from both Aristotle and Plotinus, who in turn both derived their systems from Plato (as explained in Phaedo). Likewise, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason makes very little sense on its own unless you know about the Rationalist/Empiricist debate that happened in the 17th/18th century, and their distinct postures on a priori/a posteriori knowledge.
    Marx’s critique of capitalism in Das Kapital springs from a centuries’ long tradition of political theory that probably begins all the way back in Plato’s Crito. Neither Marx nor any of his successors ever bothered themselves to explain why an individual human being is worth caring for anymore than anyone else, because they merely picked up on the same notions of individuality and individual rights that had been floating around since at least the Classical Antiquity.
    Why should it matter to study Greek/Roman philosophy? Or Mediaeval philosophy? Most philosophers or thinkers depend upon concepts or ideas that were first defined or popularized by people who came long before them. Why does it matter to do this? It’s what gives a base, a foundation which to build upon, what lets one know what has been said, what could be restated, or what should be improved upon, in order to be able to contribute something which actually makes sense, and which does not rest solely on baseless arguments.

    I imagine that most people who are already into critical theory should’ve already studied Greek philosophy, modern philosophy, and contemporary philosophy during their undergraduate studies in college before getting into post-modern critical theory, even though my advice goes for everyone.