Written between 1944 and 1947, Minima Moralia is a collection of rich, lucid aphorisms and essays about life in modern capitalist society. Adorno casts his penetrating eye across society in mid-century America and finds a life deformed by capitalism. This is Adorno’s theoretical and literary masterpiece and a classic of twentieth-century thought.
Written in exile from Germany, this potent study of Europe’s most controversial composer explodes the frontiers of musical and cultural analysis. Measuring key elements of Wagner’s oeuvre with patent musical dexterity, Adorno sheds light on a nineteenth-century bourgeois figure whose operas betray the social gestures and high-culture fantasies that helped plant the seeds of the modern Culture Industry. A foreword by Slavoj Žižek situates Adorno’s reflections within present debates over Wagner’s anti-Semitism and the moral status of his work, proving why this book remains one of the most important character studies of the twentieth century.
Debates Between Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Georg Lukács.
No other country and no other period has produced a tradition of major aesthetic debate to compare with that which unfolded in German culture from the 1930s to the 1950s. In Aesthetics and Politics the key texts of the great Marxist controversies over literature and art during these years are assembled in a single volume. They do not form a disparate collection but a continuous, interlinked debate between thinkers who have become giants of twentieth-century intellectual history.
How and why did experience and knowledge become separated? Is it possible to talk of an infancy of experience, a “dumb” experience? For Walter Benjamin, the “poverty of experience” was a characteristic of modernity, originating in the catastrophe of the First World War. For Giorgio Agamben, the Italian editor of Benjamin’s complete works, the destruction of experience no longer needs catastrophes: daily life in any modern city will suffice.
Agamben’s profound and radical exploration of language, infancy, and everyday life traces concepts of experience through Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Benveniste. In doing so he elaborates a theory of infancy that throws new light on a number of major themes in contemporary thought: the anthropological opposition between nature and culture; the linguistic opposition between speech and language; the birth of the subject and the appearance of the unconscious. Agamben goes on to consider time and history; the Marxist notion of base and superstructure (via a careful reading of the famous Adorno–Benjamin correspondence on Baudelaire’s Paris); and the difference between rituals and games.
After the Second World War, nationalism emerged as the principle expression of resistance to Western imperialism in a variety of regions from the Indian subcontinent to Africa, to parts of Latin America and the Pacific Rim. With the Bandung Conference and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, many of Europe’s former colonies banded together to form a common bloc, aligned with neither the advanced capitalist “First World” nor with the socialist “Second World.” In this historical context, the category of “Third World literature” emerged, a category that has itself spawned a whole industry of scholarly and critical studies, particularly in the metropolitan West, but increasingly in the homelands of the Third World itself.
Setting himself against the growing tendency to homogenize “Third World” literature and cultures, Aijaz Ahmad has produced a spirited critique of the major theoretical statements on “colonial discourse” and “post-colonialism,” dismantling many of the commonplaces and conceits that dominate contemporary cultural criticism. With lengthy considerations of, among others, Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, and the Subaltern Studies group, In Theory also contains brilliant analyses of the concept of Indian literature, of the genealogy of the term “Third World,” and of the conditions under which so-called “colonial discourse theory” emerged in metropolitan intellectual circles.
Erudite and lucid, Ahmad’s remapping of the terrain of cultural theory is certain to provoke passionate response.
This is the work in which Louis Althusser formulated some of his most influential ideas. For Marx, first published in France in 1968, has come to be regarded as the founding text of the school of “structuralist Marxism” which was presided over by the fascinating and enigmatic figure of Louis Althusser. Structuralism constituted an intellectual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s and radically transformed the way philosophy, political and social theory, history, science, and aesthetics were discussed and thought about. For Marx was a key contribution to that process and it fundamentally recast the way in which many people understood Marx and Marxism.
This book contains the classic statements of Althusser’s analysis of the young Marx and the importance of Feuerbach during this formative period, of his thesis of the “epistomological break” between the early and the late Marx, and of his conception of dialectics, contradiction and “overdetermination.” Also included is a study of the materialist theater of Bertolazzi and Brecht and the critique of humanist readings of Marxism. Since his death in 1990, Althusser’s legacy has come under renewed examination and it is increasingly recognized that the influence of his ideas has been wider and deeper than previously thought: reading For Marx, in its audacity, originality and rigor, will explain why this impact was so significant.
The publication of For Marx and Reading Capital established Louis Althusser as one of the most influential figures in the Western Marxist tradition. On Ideology charts Althusser’s critique of the theoretical system unveiled in his own major works, and his developing practice of philosophy as a “revolutionary weapon.”
Establishing a rigorous program of “symptomatic reading” that cuts through the silences and lacunae of Capital to reveal its philosophical core, Louis Althusser interprets Marx’s structural analysis of production as a revolutionary break—the basis of a completely new science. Building on a series of Althussers’s conceptual innovations that includes “overdetermination” and “social formation,” Étienne Balibar explores the historical and structural facets of production as Marx understood them, scrutinizing many of the most fundamental points in Capital, as though for the first time.
This is an abridged version of the 2016 publication Reading Capital: The Complete Edition.
With Hobbes and Locke, Spinoza is arguably one of the most important political philosophers of the modern era, a premier theoretician of democracy and mass politics. In this revised and augmented English translation of his 1985 classic, Spinoza et la Politique, Étienne Balibar presents a synoptic account of Spinoza’s major works, admirably demonstrating relevance to his contemporary political life.
Balibar carefully situates Spinoza’s major treatises in the period in which they were written. In successive chapters, he examines the political situation in the United Provinces during Spinoza’s lifetime, Spinoza’s own religious and ideological associations, the concept of democracy developed in the Theologico-Political Treatise, the theory of the state advanced in the Political Treatise and the anthropological basis for politics established in the Ethics.
In his new book, perhaps the most cogent expression of his mature thought, Jean Baudrillard turns detective in order to investigate a crime which he hopes may yet be solved: the “murder” of reality. To solve the crime would be to unravel the social and technological processes by which reality has quite simply vanished under the deadly glare of media “real time.”
But Baudrillard is not merely intending to lament the disappearance of the real, an occurrence he recently described as “the most important event of modern history,” nor even to meditate upon the paradoxes of reality and illusion, truth and its masks. The Perfect Crime is also the work of a great moraliste: a penetrating examination of vital aspects of the social, political and cultural life of the “advanced democracies” in the (very) late twentieth century. Where critics like McLuhan once exposed the alienating consequences of “the medium,” Baudrillard lays bare the depredatory effects of an oppressive transparency on our social lives, of a relentless positivity on our critical faculties, and of a withering “high definition” on our very sense of reality.
This third book in the Cool Memories series is culled from Baudrillard’s notebooks in the period when he was composing The Illusion of the End and The Perfect Crime. In it, he resumes his investigation of the meta-metaphysics of objects. Like its predecessors, the book is a work of brief meditations, of poetic musings: in a word, of fragments.
The System of Objects is a tour de force—a theoretical letter-in-a-bottle tossed into the ocean in 1968, which brilliantly communicates to us all the live ideas of the day—offering a cultural critique of the commodity in consumer society.
The renowned postmodernist philosopher’s tour-de-force contemplation of sex, technology, politics and disease in Western culture after the revolutionary “orgy” of the 1960s.
Cited by Lukács as a principal source of literary modernism, Walter Benjamin’s study of the baroque stage-form called Trauerspiel (literally, “mourning play”) is the most complete document of his prismatic literary and philosophical practice. Engaging with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century German playwrights as well as the plays of Shakespeare and Calderón and the engravings of Dürer, Benjamin attempts to show how the historically charged forms of the Trauerspiel broke free of tragedy’s mythological timelessness. From its philosophical prologue, which offers a rare account of Benjamin’s early aesthetics, to its mind-wrenching meditation on allegory, The Origin of German Tragic Drama sparkles with early insights and the seeds of Benjamin’s later thought.
A Realist Theory of Science is one of the few books that have changed our understanding of the philosophy of science. In this analysis of the natural sciences, with a particular focus on the experimental process itself, Roy Bhaskar provides a definitive critique of the traditional, positivist conception of science and stakes out an alternative, realist position. Since it original publication in 1975, a movement known as “Critical Realism”, which is both intellectually diverse and international in scope, has developed on the basis of key concepts outlined in the text. The book has been hailed in many quarters as a “Copernican Revolution” in the study of the nature of science, and the implications of its account have been far-reaching for many fields of the humanities and social sciences.
In Ethics – Politics – Subjectivity, Simon Critchley takes up three questions at the centre of contemporary theoretical debate: What is ethical experience? What can be said of the subject who has this experience? What, if any, is the relation of ethical experience to politics? Through spirited confrontations with major thinkers, such as Lacan, Nancy, Rorty, and, in particular, Levinas and Derrida, Critchley finds answers in a nuanced “ethics of finitude” and defends the political possibilities of deconstruction. Democracy, economics, friendship, and technology are all considered anew in Critchley’s bold excursions on the meaning and value of recent French philosophy.
Guy Debord’s silver-tongue-in-cheek autobiography mixes precision and pastiche in a whirlwind account of philosophy, exploit, and inebriation. From the stark professions of Volume I to the illustrated sequences of Volume 2, Panegyric confronts us with a figure who strategically, demonically tried to wrest life from the disabling modern “spectacle.”
Until relatively recently, Jacques Derrida was seen by many as nothing more than the high priest of Deconstruction, by turns stimulating and fascinating, yet always somewhat disengaged from the central political questions of our time. Or so it seemed. Derrida’s “political turn,” marked especially by the appearance of Specters of Marx, has surprised some and delighted others. In The Politics of Friendship Derrida renews and enriches this orientation through an examination of the political history of the idea of friendship pursued down the ages.
Derrida’s thoughts are haunted throughout the book by the strange and provocative address attributed to Aristotle, “my friends, there is no friend” and its inversions by later philosophers such as Montaigne, Kant, Nietzsche, Schmitt and Blanchot. The exploration allows Derrida to recall and restage the ways in which all the oppositional couples of Western philosophy and political thought—friendship and enmity, private and public life—have become madly and dangerously unstable. At the same time he dissects genealogy itself, the familiar and male-centered notion of fraternity and the virile virtue whose authority has gone unquestioned in our culture of friendship and our models of democracy
The future of the political, for Derrida, becomes the future of friends, the invention of a radically new friendship, of a deeper and more inclusive democracy. This remarkable book, his most profoundly important for many years, offers a challenging and inspiring vision of that future.
Over the last two decades, contemporary French philosophy has exercised a powerful influence on intellectual life, across both Europe and America. Post-structuralist strategies and concepts have played an important role in many forms of social, cultural and aesthetic analysis, particularly on the Left. Despite the widespread reception, however, there has still been comparatively little analysis of the basic philosophical assumptions of post-structuralism, or of the compatibility of many of its central tenets with the progressive political orientations with which it is frequently associated.
In this book, Peter Dews seeks to remedy this situation by setting post-structuralist thought in relation to another, more explicitly critical, tradition in the philosophical analysis of modernity – that of the Frankfurt School, from Adorno to Habermas. Logics of Disintegration will be of interest to readers across a wide range of disciplines, from literary criticism to social theory, which have felt the impact of post-structuralism – and to anyone who wishes to reach a balanced assessment of one of the most influential intellectual currents of our time.
From our finest radical literary analyst, a classic study of the great philosopher and cultural theorist.
This wide-ranging book argues that criticism emerged in early bourgeois society as a central feature of a “public sphere” in which political, ethical, and literary judgements could mingle under the benign rule of reason. The disintegration of this fragile culture brought on a crisis in criticism, whose history since the 18th century has been fraught with ambivalence and anxiety.
Eagleton’s account embraces Addison and Steele, Johnson and the 19-century reviewers, such critics as Arnold and Stephen, the heyday of Scrutiny and New Criticism, and finally the proliferation of avant-garde literary theories such as deconstructionism.
The Function of Criticism is nothing less than a history and critique of the “critical institution” itself. Eagleton’s judgements on individual critics are sharp and illuminating, which his general argument raises crucial questions about the relations between language, literature and politics.
Fredric Jameson, a leading voice on the subject of postmodernism, assembles his most powerful writings on the culture of late capitalism in this essential volume. Classic insights on pastiche, nostalgia, and architecture stand alongside essays on the status of history, theory, Marxism, and the subject in an age propelled by finance capital and endless spectacle. Surveying the debates that blazed up around his earlier essays, Jameson responds to critics and maps out the theoretical positions of postmodernism’s prominent friends and foes.
In the name of an assault on “totalization” and “identity,” a number of contemporary theorists have been busily washing Marxism’s dialectical and utopian projects down the plug-hole of postmodernism and “post-politics.” A case in point is recent interpretation of one of the greatest twentieth-century philosophers, Theodor Adorno. In this powerful book, Fredric Jameson proposes a radically different reading of Adorno’s work, especially of his major works on philosophy and aesthetics: Negative Dialectics and Aesthetic Theory.
Jameson argues persuasively that Adorno’s contribution to the development of Marxism remains unique and indispensable. He shows how Adorno’s work on aesthetics performs deconstructive operations yet is in sharp distinction to the now canonical deconstructive genre of writing. He explores the complexity of Adorno’s very timely affirmation of philosophy — of its possibility after the “end” of grand theory. Above all, he illuminates the subtlety and richness of Adorno’s continuing emphasis on late capitalism as a totality within the very forms of our culture. In its lucidity, Late Marxism echoes the writing of its subject, to whose critical, utopian intelligence Jameson remains faithful.
In Emancipation(s), Ernesto Laclau addresses a central question: how have the changes of the last decade, together with the transformation in contemporary thought, altered the classical notion of “emancipation” as formulated since the Enlightenment? Our visions of the future and our expectations of emancipation, have been deeply affected by the changes of recent history: the end of the Cold War, the explosion of new ethnic and national identities, the social fragmentation under late capitalism, and the collapse of universal certainties in philosophy and social and historical thought. Laclau here begins to explore precisely how our visions of emancipation have been recast under these new conditions.
Laclau examines the internal contradictions of the notion of “emancipation” as it emerged from the mainstream of modernity, as well as the relation between universalism and particularism which is inherent in it. He explores the making of political identities and the status of central notions in political theory such as “representation” and “power,” focusing particularly on the work of Derrida and Rorty. Emancipation(s) is a significant contribution to the reshaping of radical political thought.
Out of the chaos following Lenin’s death and the mounting fury against Lukács and his freshly penned History and Class Consciousness (1923), this book bears an assessment of Lenin as “the only theoretical equal to Marx.” Lukács shows, with unprecedented clarity, how Lenin’s historical interventions — from his vanguard politics and repurposing of the state to his detection of a new, imperialist stage of capitalism — advanced the conjunction of theory and practice, class consciousness and class struggle. A postscript from 1967 reflects on how this picture of Lenin, which both shattered failed Marxism and preserved certain prejudices of its day, became even more inspirational after the oppressions of Stalin. Lukács’s study remains indispensable to an understanding of the contemporary significance of Lenin’s life and work.
Shakespearean tragedy and Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Ulysses, Frankenstein and The Waste Land—all are celebrated “wonders” of modern literature, whether in its mandarin or popular form. However, it is the fact that these texts are so central to our contemporary notion of literature that sometimes hinders our ability to understand them. Franco Moretti applies himself to this problem by drawing skillfully on structuralist, sociological and psycho-analytic modes of enquity in order to read these texts as literary systems which are tokens of wider cultural and political realities. In the process, Moretti offers us compelling accounts of various literary genres, explores the relationships between high and mass culture in this century, and considers the relevance of tragic, Romantic and Darwinian views of the world.
Chantal Mouffe is one of the most influential political theorists at work today. Her work has influenced political parties across Europe and continues to inform the direction of left politics. In this work, Mouffe argues that liberal democracy misunderstands the problems of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts because of its inadequate conception of politics.
From the theory of “deliberative democracy” to the politics of the “third way”, the present Zeitgeist is characterized by attempts to deny what Chantal Mouffe contends is the inherently conflictual nature of democratic politics. Far from being signs of progress, such ideas constitute a serious threat to democratic institutions. Taking issue with John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas on one side, and the political tenets of Blair, Clinton and Schröder on the other, Mouffe brings to the fore the paradoxical nature of modern liberal democracy in which the category of the “adversary” plays a central role. She draws on the work of Wittgenstein, Derrida, and the provocative theses of Carl Schmitt, to propose a new understanding of democracy which acknowledges the ineradicability of antagonism in its workings.
A classic study of modern philosophy’s founder, translated into English for the first time.
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 Rancière, are always several steps behind reality, and the only thing which may come to an end with their dominance is democracy. “We could”, he suggests, “merely smile at the duplicity of the conclusion/suppression of politics which is simultaneously a suppression/conclusion of philosophy.”
This is precisely the task which Rancière undertakes in these subtle and perceptive essays. He argues persuasively that since Plato and Aristotle politics has always constructed itself as the art of ending politics, that realism is itself utopian, and that what has succeeded the polemical forms of class struggle is not the wisdom of a new millennium but the return of old fears, criminality and chaos. Whether he is discussing the confrontation between Mitterrand and Chirac, French working-class discourse after the 1830 revolution, or the ideology of recent student mobilizations, his aim is to restore philosophy to politics and give politics back its original and necessary meaning: the organization of dissent.
The Melancholy Science is Gillian Rose’s investigation into Theodor Adorno’s work and legacy. Rose uncovers the unity discernable among the many fragments of Adorno’s oeuvre, and argues that his influence has been to turn Marxism into a search for style. The attempts of Adorno, Lukács and Benjamin to develop a Marxist theory of culture centred on the concept of reification are contrasted, and the ways in which the concept of reification has come to be misused are exposed. Adorno’s continuation for his own time of the Marxist critique of philosophy is traced through his writings on Hegel, Kierkegaard, Husserl and Heidegger. His opposition to the separation of philosophy and sociology is shown by examination of his critique of Durkheim and Weber, and of his contributions to the dispute over positivism, his critique of empirical social research and his own empirical sociology.
Gillian Rose shows Adorno’s most important contribution to be his founding of a Marxist aesthetic that offers a sociology of culture, as demonstrated in his essays on Kafka, Mann, Beckett, Brecht and Schönberg. Finally, Adorno’s “Melancholy Science” is revealed to offer a “sociology of illusion” that rivals both structural Marxism and phenomenological sociology as well as the subsequent work of the Frankfurt School.
The 1870s in France – Rimbaud’s moment, and the subject of this book – is a decade virtually ignored in most standard histories in France. Yet it was the moment of two significant spatial events: France’s expansion on a global scale, and, in the spring of 1871, the brief existence on the Paris Commune – the construction of the revolutionary urban space. Arguing that space, as a social fact, is always political and strategic, Kristin Ross has written a book that is at once a history and geography of the Commune’s anarchist culture – its political language and social relations, its values, strategies, and stances.
Central to her analysis of the Commune as a social space and oppositional culture is a close textual reading of Arthur Rimabaud’s poetry. His poems – a common thread running through the book – are one set of documents among many in Ross’s recreation of the Communard experience. Rimbaud, Paul Lafargue, and the social geographer Élisée Reclus serve as emblematic figures moving within and on the periphery of the Commune; in their resistance to the logic and economy of the capitalist conception of work, in their challenge to work itself as a term of identity, all three posed a threat to the existing order. Ross looks at these and other emancipatory notions as aspects of Communard life, each with an analogous strategy in Rimbaud’s poetry. Applying contemporary theory, to a wealth of little-known archival material, she has written a fresh, persuasive, and original book.
This classic book provides a historical overview of feminist strands among the modern revolutionary movements of Russia, China and the Third World. Sheila Rowbotham shows how women rose against the dual challenges of an unjust state system and social-sexual prejudice. Women, Resistance and Revolution is an invaluable historical study, as well as a trove of anecdote and example fit to inspire today’s generation of feminist thinkers and activists.
This book presents a full decade of Sartre’s work, from the publication of the Critique of Dialectical Reason in 1960, the basic philosophical turning-point in his postwar development, to the inception of his major study on Flaubert, the first volumes of which appeared in 1971. The essays and interviews collected here form a vivid panorama of the range and unity of Sartre’s interests, since his deliberate attempt to wed his original existentialism to a rethought Marxism.
A long and brilliant autobiographical interview, given to New Left Review in 1969, constitutes the best single overview of Sartre’s whole intellectual evolution. Three analytic texts on the US war in Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the lessons of the May Revolt in France, define his political positions as a revolutionary socialist. Questions of philosophy and aesthetics are explored in essays on Kierkegaard, Mallarmé and Tintoretto. Another section of the collection explores Sartre’s critical attitude to orthodox psychoanalysis as a therapy, and is accompanied by rejoinders from colleagues on his journal Les Temps Modernes. The volume concludes with a prolonged reflection on the nature and role of intellectuals and writers in advanced capitalism, and their relationship to the struggles of the exploited and oppressed classes. Between Existentialism and Marxism is an impressive demonstration of the breadth and vitality of Sartre’s thought, and its capacity to respond to political and cultural changes in the contemporary world.
Postmodern Geographies stands as the cardinal broadcast and defence of theory’s “spatial turn.” From the suppression of space in modern social science and the disciplinary aloofness of geography to the spatial returns of Foucault and Lefebvre and the construction of Marxist geographies alert to urbanization and global development, renowned geographer Edward W. Soja details the trajectory of this turn and lays out its key debates. An expanded critique of historicism and a refined grasp of materialist dialectics bolster Soja’s attempt to introduce geography to postmodernity, animating a series of engagements with Heidegger, Giddens, Castells, and others. Two exploratory essays on the postfordist landscapes of Los Angeles complete the book, offering a glimpse of Soja’s new geography carried into its highest register.
With the publication of Specters of Marx in 1993, Jacques Derrida redeemed a longstanding pledge to confront Marx’s texts directly and in detail. His characteristically bravura presentation provided a provocative re-reading of the classics in the Western tradition and posed a series of challenges to Marxism.
In a timely intervention in one of today’s most vital theoretical debates, the contributors to Ghostly Demarcations respond to the distinctive program projected by Specters of Marx. The volume features sympathetic meditations on the relationship between Marxism and deconstruction by Fredric Jameson, Werner Hamacher, Antonio Negri, Warren Montag, and Rastko Möcnik, brief polemical reviews by Terry Eagleton and Pierre Macherey, and sustained political critiques by Tom Lewis and Aijaz Ahmad. The volume concludes with Derrida’s reply to his critics in which he sharpens his views about the vexed relationship between Marxism and deconstruction.
The Ego and His Own, the seminal defence of individualism, coloured the thinking of Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Ernst, Henrik Ibsen and Victor Serge, among many others, some of whom would vigorously deny any such influence in later years. Less reticent was Marcel Duchamp, who described Max Stirner as the philosopher most important to his work.
Challenging the religious, philosophical and political constraints on personal freedom, Stirner criticizes all doctrines and beliefs that place the interests of God, the state, humanity or society over those of the individual. Anticipating the later work of nihilists, existentialists, and anarchists, The Ego and His Own upholds personal autonomy against all that might oppose it.
In his new book, Göran Therborn – author of the now standard comparative work on classical sociology and historical materialism, Science, Class and Society – looks at successive state structures in an arrestingly fresh perspective. Therborn uses the formal categories of modern system analysis – input mechanisms, processes of transformation, output flows – to advance a substantive Marxist analysis of state power and state apparatuses. His account of these is comparative in the most far-reaching historical sense: its object is nothing less than the construction of systematic typology of the differences between the feudal state, the capitalist state and the socialist state. Therborn ranges from the monarchies of mediaeval Europe through the bourgeois democracies of the west in the 20th century to the contemporary regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe and China. The book ends with a major analytic survey of the strategies of working class parties for socialism, from the Second International to the Comintern to Eurocommunism, that applies the structural findings of Therborn’s enquiry in the “Future as History” .
Written with lucidity and economy, What Does the Ruling Class Do when it Rules?represents a remarkable sociological and political synthesis.
Reveals the convergence of perception and destruction in the parallel technologies of warfare and cinema.
“One day the day will come when the day will not come.” Bleak, but passionately political in its analysis of the social destruction wrought by modern technologies of communication and surveillance, Open Sky is Paul Virilio’s most far-reaching and radical book. Deepening and extending his earlier work, he explores the growing danger of what he calls a “generalized accident,” provoked by the breakdown of our collective and individual relation to time, space and movement in the context of global electronic media. But this is not merely a lucid and disturbing lament for the loss of real geographical spaces, distance, intimacy or democracy. Open Sky is also a call for revolt—against the insidious and accelerating manipulation of perception by the electronic media and repressive political power, against the tyranny of “real time,” and against the infantilism of cyberhype. Virilio makes a powerful case for a new ethics of perception, and a new ecology, one which will not only strive to protect the natural world from pollution and destruction, but will also combat the devastation of urban communities by proliferating technologies of control and virtuality.
Written with his characteristic flair, Virilio’s latest book is a trenchant denunciation of the Kosovo war in which he successfully unites theory with a riveting study of the conflict. Tearing aside the veil of hypocrisy in which the USA and its allies wrapped the war, Virilio demonstrates that the nature of the bombing was set by strategic rather than ethical considerations.
Beneath the humanitarian rhetoric, Virilio sees a sinister innovation in the methods of waging war: territorial space is being replaced by orbital space in which a system of global telesurveillance is linked to the destructive power of bombers and missiles. Governments, the military and the media are becoming part of a seamless and self-justifying process linked by new information and arms technologies.
Passionate and political, Strategy of Deception is a vital examination not only of the war in Yugoslavia but also what Virilio calls our “fin-de-siécle infantilization” in which the reality of battle is reduced to flickering images on a screen.
“Civilization or the militarization of science?”
With this typically hyperbolic and provocative question as a starting point, Paul Virilio explores the dominion of techno-science, cyberwar and the new information technologies over our lives . . . and deaths. After the era of the atomic bomb, Virilio posits an era of genetic and information bombs which replace the apocalyptic bang of nuclear death with the whimper of a subliminally reinforced eugenics. We are entering the age of euthanasia.
These exhilarating bulletins from the information war extend the range of Virilio’s work. The Information Bomb spans everything from Fukuyama to Larry Flynt, the Sensation exhibition of New British Art to space travel, all seen through the optic of Virilio’s trenchant and committed theoretical position.
Raymond Williams is a towering presence in cultural studies, most importantly as the founder of the approach that has come to be known as “cultural materialism.” Yet Williams’s method was always open-ended and fluid, and this volume collects together his most significant work from over a twenty-year period in which he wrestled with the concepts of materialism and culture and their interrelationship. Aside from his more directly theoretical texts, however, case-studies of theatrical naturalism, the Bloomsbury group, advertising, science fiction, and the Welsh novel are also included as illustrations of the method at work. Finally, Williams’s identity as an active socialist, rather than simply an academic, is captured by two unambiguously political pieces on the past, present and future of Marxism.
Considered to be the founding father of British cultural theory, Williams was concerned throughout his life to apply a materialist and socialist analysis to all forms of culture, defined generously and inclusively as “structures of feeling.” In this major work, Williams applies himself to the problem of modernism. Rejecting stereotypes and simplifications, he is especially preoccupied with the ambivalent relationship between revolutionary socialist politics and the artistic avant-garde. Judiciously assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the modernist project, Williams shifts the framework of discussion from merely formal analysis of artistic techniques to one which grounds these cultural expressions in particular social formations. Animating the whole book is the question which Williams poses and brings us significantly closer to answering: namely, what does it mean to develop a cultural analysis that goes ”beyond the modern” and yet avoids the trap of postmodernism’s “new conformism”?
The experience of the Yugoslav war and the rise of “irrational” violence in contemporary societies provides the theoretical and political context of this book, which uses Lacanian psychoanalysis as the basis for a renewal of the Marxist theory of ideology. The author’s analysis leads into a study of the figure of woman in modern art and ideology, including studies of The Crying Game and the films of David Lynch, and the links between violence and power/gender relations.
Psychoanalysis is less merciful than Christianity. Where God the Father forgives our ignorance, psychoanalysis holds out no such hope. Ignorance is not a sufficient ground for forgiveness since it masks enjoyment; an enjoyment which erupts in those black holes in our symbolic universe that escape the Father’s prohibition.
Today, with the disintegration of state socialism, we are witnessing this eruption of enjoymnet in the re-emergence of aggressive nationalism and racism. With the lid of repression lifted, the desires that have emerged are far from democratic. To explain this apparent paradox, says Slavoj Žižek, socialist critical thought must turn to psychoanalysis.
For They Know Not What They Do seeks to understand the status of enjoyment within ideological discourse, from Hegel through Lacan to these political and ideological deadlocks. The author’s own enjoyment of “popular culture” makes this an engaging and lucid exposition, in which Hegel joins hands with Rossellini, Marx with Hitchcock, Lacan with Frankenstein, high theory with Hollywood melodrama.
The feature which distinguishes the great works of materialist thought, from Lucretius’ De rerum natura through Capital to the writings of Lacan, is their unfinished character: again and again they tackle their chosen problem. Schelling’s Weltalter drafts belong to this same series, with their repeated attempt at the formulation of the “beginning of the world,” of the passage from the pre-symbolic pulsation of the Real to the universe of logos.
F.W.J. Schelling, the German idealist who for too long dwelled in the shadow of Kant and Hegel, was the first to formulate the post-idealist motifs of finitude, contingency and temporality. His unique work announces Marx’s critique of speculative idealism, as well as the properly Freudian notion of drive, of a blind compulsion to repeat which can never be sublated in the ideal medium of language.
The Indivisible Remainder begins with a detailed examination of the two works in which Schelling’s speculative audacity reached its peak: his essay on human freedom and his drafts on the “Ages of the World.” After reconstituting their line of argumentation, Slavoj Žižek confronts Schelling with Hegel, and concludes by throwing a Schellingian light on some “related matters”: the consequences of the computerization of daily life for sexual experience; cynicism as today’s predominant form of ideology; the epistemological deadlocks of quantum physics.
Although the book is packed with examples from politics and popular culture — the unmistakable token of Žižek’s style — from Speed and Groundhog Day to Forrest Gump, it signals a major shift towards a systematic concern with the basic questions of philosophy and the roots of the crisis of our late-capitalist universe, centred around the enigma of modern subjectivity.