The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shockwaves across the globe. How was such an outcome even possible? In two lectures given at American universities in the immediate aftermath of the election, the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou helps us to make sense of this extraordinary occurrence. He argues that Trump's victory was the symptom of a global crisis made up of four characteristics: the triumph of a brutal form of global capitalism, the decomposition of the established political elite, the growing frustration and disorientation that many people feel today, and the absence of a compelling alternative vision. It was in this context that Trump could emerge as a new kind of political figure that was both inside and outside the political order, a member of the Republican Party who, at the same time, represents something outside the system. The progressive political challenge now is to create something new that offers people a real choice, a radical alternative based on principles of universality and equality. This concise account of the meaning of Trump should be read by everyone who wants to understand what is happening in our world today.
We have long since lost our faith in the idea that human beings could achieve human happiness in some future ideal state-a state that Thomas More, writing five centuries ago, tied to a topos, a fixed place, a land, an island, a sovereign state under a wise and benevolent ruler. But while we have lost our faith in utopias of all hues, the human aspiration that made this vision so compelling has not died. Instead it is re-emerging today as a vision focused not on the future but on the past, not on a future-to-be-created but on an abandoned and undead past that we could call retrotopia.
The emergence of retrotopia is interwoven with the deepening gulf between power and politics that is a defining feature of our contemporary liquid-modern world-the gulf between the ability to get things done and the capability of deciding what things need to be done, a capability once vested with the territorially sovereign state. This deepening gulf has rendered nation-states unable to deliver on their promises, giving rise to a widespread disenchantment with the idea that the future will improve the human condition and a mistrust in the ability of nation-states to make this happen. True to the utopian spirit, retrotopia derives its stimulus from the urge to rectify the failings of the present human condition-though now by resurrecting the failed and forgotten potentials of the past. Imagined aspects of the past, genuine or putative, serve as the main landmarks today in drawing the road-map to a better world. Having lost all faith in the idea of building an alternative society of the future, many turn instead to the grand ideas of the past, buried but not yet dead. Such is retrotopia, the contours of which are examined by Zygmunt Bauman in this sharp dissection of our contemporary romance with the past.
Academic, writer, figure of melancholy, aesthete - Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) not only transformed his academic discipline, he also profoundly changed the way that we view ourselves and the world around us.
In this award-winning biography, historian Emmanuelle Loyer recounts Lévi-Strauss's childhood in an assimilated Jewish household, his promising student years as well as his first forays into political and intellectual movements. As a young professor, Lévi-Strauss left Paris in 1935 for São Paulo to teach sociology. His rugged expeditions into the Brazilian hinterland, where he discovered the Amerindian Other, made him into an anthropologist. The racial laws of the Vichy regime would force him to leave France yet again, this time for the USA in 1941, where he became Professor Claude L. Strauss - to avoid confusion with the jeans manufacturer.
Lévi-Strauss's return to France, after the war, ushered in the period during which he produced his greatest works: several decades of intense labour in which he reinvented anthropology, establishing it as a discipline that offered a new view on the world. In 1955, Tristes Tropiques offered indisputable proof of this the world over. During those years, Lévi-Strauss became something of a French national monument, as well as a celebrity intellectual of global renown. But he always claimed his perspective was a `view from afar', enabling him to deliver incisive and subversive diagnoses of our waning modernity.
Loyer's outstanding biography tells the story of a true intellectual adventurer whose unforgettable voice invites us to rethink questions of the human and the meaning of progress. She portrays Lévi-Strauss less as a modern than as our own great and disquieted contemporary.
We are living in an open sea, caught up in a continuous wave, with no fixed point and no instrument to measure distance and the direction of travel. Nothing appears to be in its place any more, and a great deal appears to have no place at all. The principles that have given substance to the democratic ethos, the system of rules that has guided the relationships of authority and the ways in which they are legitimized, the shared values and their hierarchy, our behaviour and our life styles, must be radically revised because they no longer seem suited to our experience and understanding of a world in flux, a world that has become both increasingly interconnected and prone to severe and persistent crises.
We are living in the interregnum between what is no longer and what is not yet. None of the political movements that helped undermine the old world are ready to inherit it, and there is no new ideology, no consistent vision, promising to give shape to new institutions for the new world. It is like the Babylon referred to by Borges, the country of randomness and uncertainty in which `no decision is final; all branch into others'. Out of the world that had promised us modernity, what Jean Paul Sartre had summarized with sublime formula `le choix que je suis' (`the choice that I am'), we inhabit that flattened, mobile and dematerialized space, where as never before the principle of the heterogenesis of purposes is sovereign.
This is Babel.
This biography of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) tells the story of a Jewish boy from Algiers, excluded from school at the age of twelve, who went on to become the most widely translated French philosopher in the world - a vulnerable, tormented man who, throughout his life, continued to see himself as unwelcome in the French university system. We are plunged into the different worlds in which Derrida lived and worked: pre-independence Algeria, the microcosm of the École Normale Supérieure, the cluster of structuralist thinkers, and the turbulent events of 1968 and after. We meet the remarkable series of leading writers and philosophers with whom Derrida struck up a friendship: Louis Althusser, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean Genet, and Hélène Cixous, among others. We also witness an equally long series of often brutal polemics fought over crucial issues with thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, John R. Searle, and Jürgen Habermas, as well as several controversies that went far beyond academia, the best known of which concerned Heidegger and Paul de Man. We follow a series of courageous political commitments in support of Nelson Mandela, illegal immigrants, and gay marriage. And we watch as a concept - deconstruction - takes wing and exerts an extraordinary influence way beyond the philosophical world, on literary studies, architecture, law, theology, feminism, queer theory, and postcolonial studies. In writing this compelling and authoritative biography, Benoît Peeters talked to over a hundred individuals who knew and worked with Derrida. He is also the first person to make use of the huge personal archive built up by Derrida throughout his life and of his extensive correspondence. Peeters' book gives us a new and deeper understanding of the man who will perhaps be seen as the major philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century.
Contrary to the common view that globalization undermines social agency, `alter-globalization activists', that is, those who contest globalization in its neo-liberal form, have developed new ways to become actors in the global age. They propose alternatives to Washington Consensus policies, implement horizontal and participatory organization models and promote a nascent global public space. Rather than being anti-globalization, these activists have built a truly global movement that has gathered citizens, committed intellectuals, indigenous, farmers, dalits and NGOs against neoliberal policies in street demonstrations and Social Forums all over the world, from Bangalore to Seattle and from Porto Alegre to Nairobi. This book analyses this worldwide movement on the bases of extensive field research conducted since 1999. Alter-Globalization provides a comprehensive account of these critical global forces and their attempts to answer one of the major challenges of our time: How can citizens and civil society contribute to the building of a fairer, sustainable and more democratic co-existence of human beings in a global world?
'Even the biographical individual is a social category', wrote Adorno. `It can only be defined in a living context together with others.' In this major new biography, Stefan Müller-Doohm turns this maxim back on Adorno himself and provides a rich and comprehensive account of the life and work of one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. This authoritative biography ranges across the whole of Adorno's life and career, from his childhood and student years to his years in emigration in the United States and his return to postwar Germany. At the same time, Muller-Doohm examines the full range of Adorno's writings on philosophy, sociology, literary theory, music theory and cultural criticism. Drawing on an array of sources from Adorno's personal correspondence with Horkheimer, Benjamin, Berg, Marcuse, Kracauer and Mann to interviews, notes and both published and unpublished writings, Muller-Doohm situates Adorno's contributions in the context of his times and provides a rich and balanced appraisal of his significance in the 20th Century as a whole. Müller-Doohm's clear prose succeeds in making accessible some of the most complex areas of Adorno's thought. This outstanding biography will be the standard work on Adorno for years to come.
What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? Most people recognize that we face huge challenges today, from climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences to a plethora of socio-political problems, but we find it hard to face up to the very real possibility that these crises could produce a collapse of our entire civilization. Yet we now have a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the capacity of human populations to maintain themselves in a sustainable environment.
In this important book, Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens confront these issues head-on. They examine the scientific evidence and show how its findings, often presented in a detached and abstract way, are connected to people's ordinary experiences - joining the dots, as it were, between the Anthropocene and our everyday lives. In so doing they provide a valuable guide that will help everyone make sense of the new and potentially catastrophic situation in which we now find ourselves. Today, utopia has changed sides: it is the utopians who believe that everything can continue as before, while realists put their energy into making a transition and building local resilience. Collapse is the horizon of our generation. But collapse is not the end - it's the beginning of our future. We will reinvent new ways of living in the world and being attentive to ourselves, to other human beings and to all our fellow creatures.
Wall Street and Silicon Valley - the two worlds this book examines - promote the illusion that scarcity can and should be eliminated in the age of seamless "flow." Instead, Appadurai and Alexander propose a theory of habitual and strategic failure by exploring debt, crisis, digital divides, and (dis)connectivity. Moving between the planned obsolescence and deliberate precariousness of digital technologies and the "too big to fail" logic of the Great Recession, they argue that the sense of failure is real in that it produces disappointment and pain. Yet, failure is not a self-evident quality of projects, institutions, technologies, or lives. It requires a new and urgent understanding of the conditions under which repeated breakdowns and collapses are quickly forgotten. By looking at such moments of forgetfulness, this highly original book offers a multilayered account of failure and a general theory of denial, memory, and nascent systems of control.
Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a central figure in the thought of his time, but he was also something of an outsider. His father died in the First World War, he enjoyed his mother's unfailing love, he spent long years in the sanatorium, and he was aware of his homosexuality from an early age: all this soon gave him a sense of his own difference. He experienced the great events of contemporary history from a distance. However, his life was caught up in the violent, intense sweep of the twentieth century, a century that he helped to make intelligible. This major new biography of Barthes, based on unpublished material never before explored (archives, journals and notebooks), sheds new light on his intellectual positions, his political commitments and his ideas, beliefs and desires. It details the many themes he discussed, the authors he defended, the myths he castigated, the polemics that made him famous and his acute ear for the languages of his day. It also underscores his remarkable ability to see which way the wind was blowing Ð and he is still a compelling author to read in part because his path-breaking explorations uncovered themes that continue to preoccupy us today. Barthes's life story gives substance and cohesion to his career, which was guided by desire, perspicacity and an extreme sensitivity to the material from which the world is shaped Ð as well as a powerful refusal to accept any authoritarian discourse. By allowing thought to be based on imagination, he turned thinking into both an art and an adventure. This remarkable biography enables the reader to enter into Barthes's life and grasp the shape of his existence, and thus understand the kind of writer he became and how he turned literature into life itself.
Humans have become so powerful that we have disrupted the functioning of the Earth System as a whole, bringing on a new geological epoch - the Anthropocene - one in which the serene and clement conditions that allowed civilisation to flourish are disappearing and we quail before 'the wakened giant'. The emergence of a conscious creature capable of using technology to bring about a rupture in the Earth's geochronology is an event of monumental significance, on a par with the arrival of civilisation itself. What does it mean to have arrived at this point, where human history and Earth history collide? Some interpret the Anthropocene as no more than a development of what they already know, obscuring and deflating its profound significance. But the Anthropocene demands that we rethink everything. The modern belief in the free, reflexive being making its own future by taking control of its environment - even to the point of geoengineering - is now impossible because we have rendered the Earth more unpredictable and less controllable, a disobedient planet. At the same time, all attempts by progressives to cut humans down to size by attacking anthropocentrism come up against the insurmountable fact that human beings now possess enough power to change the Earth's course. It's too late to turn back the geological clock, and there is no going back to premodern ways of thinking. We must face the fact that humans are at the centre of the world, even if we must give the idea that we can control the planet. These truths call for a new kind of anthropocentrism, a philosophy by which we might use our power responsibly and find a way to live on a defiant Earth.
The election of an unabashedly patriarchal man as US President was a shock for many-despite decades of activism on gender inequalities and equal rights, how could it come to this? What is it about patriarchy that seems to make it so resilient and resistant to change? Undoubtedly it endures in part because some people benefit from the unequal advantages it confers. But is that enough to explain its stubborn persistence?
In this highly original and persuasively argued book, Carol Gilligan and Naomi Snider put forward a different view: they argue that patriarchy persists because it serves a psychological function. By requiring us to sacrifice love for the sake of hierarchy, patriarchy protects us from the vulnerability of loving and becomes a defense against loss. Uncovering the powerful psychological mechanisms that underpin patriarchy, the authors show how forces beyond our awareness may be driving a politics that otherwise seems inexplicable.
`Governments should spend no more than their tax income.' Most people in Europe and North America accept this statement as simple common sense. It resonates with the deeply engrained economic metaphors that dominate public discourse, from `living within your means' to `balancing the budget' - all necessary, or so conventional wisdom holds, to avoid the dangers of debt, taxation and financial ruin.
This book shows how these homely metaphors constitute the `debt delusion': a set of plausible-sounding yet false ideas that have been used to justify damaging austerity policies. John Weeks debunks these myths, explaining the true story behind public spending, taxation, and debt, and their real function in the management of our economies. He demonstrates that disputes about public finances are not primarily technical matters best left to specialists and experts, as many politicians would have us believe, but rather fundamentally questions about our true political priorities.
Requiring no prior economic knowledge, this is an ideal primer for anyone wishing to cut through the rhetoric and misinformation that dominate political debates on economics and become an informed citizen.
Between Germany and Russia is a region strewn with monuments to the horrors of war, genocide and disaster - the bloodlands where the murderous regimes of Hitler and Stalin unleashed the violence that scarred the twentieth century and shaped so much of the world we know today. In September 2016 the German-Iranian writer Navid Kermani set out to discover this land and to travel along the trenches that are now re-emerging in Europe, from his home in Cologne through eastern Germany to the Baltics, and from there south to the Caucasus and to Isfahan in Iran, the home of his parents. This beautifully written travel diary, enlivened by conversations with the people Kermani meets along the way, brings to life the tragic history of these troubled lands and shows how this history leaves its traces in the present. It will be of great interest to anyone concerned with current affairs and with the events that have shaped, and continue to shape, the world in which we live today.
We are witnessing a crisis of liberal democracy. A widespread fear of social decline, rapid globalization and uncontrolled immigration have culminated in a prevailing mood of hostility towards the established order. Confidence in democratic institutions and mainstream political parties is fast eroding, with people increasingly drawn towards the rhetoric of populist demagogues and authoritarian leaders. What are the roots of this revolt against liberalism and how can it be countered?
In this new book, the leading Green politician and thinker Ralf Fücks argues that the threat to liberal democracy lies within democracy itself. Democracy is the fundamental guarantor of freedom and it is our own failure to defend it that has led to the encroachment of an illiberal and divisive politics. In a powerful counter, Fücks outlines the foundations for an ambitious democratic renewal: greater investment in the public institutions to create a sense of belonging and political community; a focus on education as the key instrument for social advancement; the promotion of a democratic patriotism based on common political values; a better understanding of how to increase participation in the emerging digital economy; and sustainable innovation that will unleash the creative potential of liberal societies.
This robust defense of liberal democracy will be essential reading for anyone concerned about the very real threat faced by our democratic freedoms today and wondering what we can do about it.
In this book the influential philosopher Jacques Rancière, in discussion with Peter Engelmann, explores the enduring connection between politics and aesthetics, arguing that aesthetics forms the fundamental basis for social and political upheaval. Beginning from his rejection of structuralist Marxism, Rancière outlines the development of his thought from his early studies on workers' emancipation to his recent work on literature, film and visual art. Rather than discussing aesthetics within narrow terms of how we contemplate art or beauty, Rancière argues that aesthetics underpins our entire `regime of experience'. He shows how political relations develop from sensual experience, as individual feelings and perceptions become the concern of the community as a whole. Since politics emerges from the `division of the sensual', aesthetic experience becomes a radically emancipatory and egalitarian means to disrupt this order and transform political reality. Investigating new forms of emancipatory politics arising from current art practices and social movements, this short book will appeal to anyone interested in contemporary art, aesthetics, philosophy and political theory.
This is a short book about the most prominent sign of our times. The simple # sign is now used so widely that it is easy to overlook the fundamental effects it has had in the structuring of public debate. With its help, statements are bundled together and discourse is organized and amplified around common buzzwords. This method enables us to navigate more easily the huge volume of online utterances, but it also increases the risk of leveling statements and extinguishing difference, as exemplified by the #MeToo debate. Andreas Bernard traces the young and spectacular career of the humble hashtag. He follows the history of the # sign, documenting its use by Twitter and Instagram, and then examines the most prominent contemporary domains of the sign in socio-political activism and in marketing - two apparently very different fields which are united in their passion for the hashtag. Theory of the Hashtag shines a bright light on a small but pervasive feature of our contemporary digital culture and shows how it is surreptitiously shaping the public sphere.
What is life like for workers in the gig economy? Is it a paradise of flexibility and individual freedom? Or is it a world of exploitation and conflict? Callum Cant took a job with one of the most prominent platforms, Deliveroo, to find out.
His vivid account of the reality is grim. Workers are being tyrannised by algorithms and exploited for the profit of the few - but they are not taking it lying down. Cant reveals a transnational network of encrypted chats and informal groups which have given birth to a wave of strikes and protests. Far from being atomised individuals helpless in the face of massive tech companies, workers are tearing up the rulebook and taking back control. New developments in the workplace are combining to produce an explosive subterranean class struggle - where the stakes are high, and the risks are higher.
Riding for Deliveroo is the first portrait of a new generation of working class militants. Its mixture of compelling first-hand testimony and engaging analysis is essential for anyone wishing to understand class struggle in platform capitalism.
Man's best friend, domesticated since prehistoric times, a travelling companion for explorers and artists, thinkers and walkers, equally happy curled up by the fire and bounding through the great outdoors-dogs matter to us because we love them. But is that all there is to the canine's good-natured voracity and affectionate dependency?
Mark Alizart dispenses with the well-worn clichés concerning dogs and their masters, seeing them not as submissive pets but rather as unexpected life coaches, ready to teach us the elusive recipes for contentment and joy. Dogs have faced their fate in life with a certain detachment that is not easy to understand. Unlike other animals in a similar situation, they have not become hardened, nor have they let themselves die a little inside. On the contrary, they seem to have softened. This book is devoted to understanding this miracle, the miracle of the joy of dogs - to understanding it and, if at all possible, to learning how it's done.
Weaving elegantly and eruditely between historical myth and pop-culture anecdote, between the peculiar views of philosophers and the even more bizarre findings of science, Alizart offers us a surprising new portrait of the dog as thinker-a thinker who may perhaps know the true secret of our humanity.
Developments in AI, robotics and big data are changing the nature of education. Yet the implications of these technologies for the teaching profession are uncertain. While most educators remain convinced of the need for human teachers, outside the profession there is growing anticipation of a technological reinvention of the ways in which teaching and learning take place.
Through an examination of technological developments such as autonomous classroom robots, intelligent tutoring systems, learning analytics and automated decision-making, Neil Selwyn highlights the need for nuanced discussions around the capacity of AI to replicate the social, emotional and cognitive qualities of human teachers. He pushes conversations about AI and education into the realm of values, judgements and politics, ultimately arguing that the integration of any technology into society must be presented as a choice. Should Robots Replace Teachers? is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of education and work in our increasingly automated times.
There has been much concern over the impact of partisan echo chambers and filter bubbles on public debate. Is this concern justified, or is it distracting us from more serious issues? Axel Bruns argues that the influence of echo chambers and filter bubbles has been severely overstated, and results from a broader moral panic about the role of online and social media in society. Our focus on these concepts, and the widespread tendency to blame platforms and their algorithms for political disruptions, obscure far more serious issues pertaining to the rise of populism and hyperpolarisation in democracies. Evaluating the evidence for and against echo chambers and filter bubbles, Bruns offers a persuasive argument for why we should shift our focus to more important problems. This timely book is essential reading for students and scholars, as well as anyone concerned about challenges to public debate and the democratic process.
The far right is back with a vengeance. After several decades at the political margins, far-right politics has again taken center stage. Three of the world's largest democracies - Brazil, India, and the United States - now have a radical right leader, while far-right parties continue to increase their profile and support within Europe. In this timely book, leading global expert on political extremism Cas Mudde provides a concise overview of the fourth wave of postwar far-right politics, exploring its history, ideology, organization, causes, and consequences, as well as the responses available to civil society, party, and state actors to challenge its ideas and influence. What defines this current far-right renaissance, Mudde argues, is its mainstreaming and normalization within the contemporary political landscape. Challenging orthodox thinking on the relationship between conventional and far-right politics, Mudde offers a complex and insightful picture of one of the key political challenges of our time.
Siegfried Kracauer was one of the most important German thinkers of the twentieth century. His writings on Weimar culture, mass society, photography and film were groundbreaking and they anticipated many of the themes later developed members of the Frankfurt School and other cultural theorists.
No less remarkable were the circumstances under which he made these contributions. After his early years as a journalist in Germany, the rise of the Nazis forced Kracauer into exile first in Paris and then, after a protracted flight via Marseilles and Lisbon, to the United States. The existential challenges, personal losses and unrelenting hardship Kracauer faced during these years of exile formed the backdrop against which he offered his acute observations of modern life.
Jrg Später provides the first comprehensive biography of this extraordinary man. Based on extensive archival research, Später's biography expertly traces the key influences on Kracauer's intellectual development and presents his most important works and ideas with great clarity. At the same time, Später ably documents the intensity of Kracauer's personal relationships, the trauma of his flight and exile, and his embrace of his new homeland, where, finally, the groundlessness' of refugee existence gave way to a more stable life and, with it, some of the intellectually most fruitful years of Kracauer's career.
The result is a vivid portrait of a man driven both by an urge to capture reality to attend to the things that are overlooked or misjudged', that still lack a name', as he put it and by a need to find his place in a hostile, threatening world.
Relationships fall apart, marriages fail, couples break up - it happens to us all. Time corrodes passion and the routines of daily life kill the excitement that surrounds the emotion of the first encounter. The difficulty of uniting sexual pleasure with love, which Freud considered to be the most common neurosis in any love life, has become emblematic of a truth that seems undeniable: desire is destined to die if its object is not constantly renewed, if we do not change partner, if it is closed for too long in the restrictive chamber of the same bond.
And yet what happens to these bonds when one of the two partners betrays the other, when the promise fails, when there is another emotional experience cloaked in secrecy and deceit? What happens if the traitor then begs forgiveness? Are they asking to be loved again and, having declared that it is not like it used to be, now want everything to go back to how it was? Should we make fun of lovers in their attempts to make love last? Or should we try to face up to the experience of betrayal, with the offence caused by the person we love most? Should we not perhaps attempt to praise forgiveness in love?