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Archive for the 'Critical Theory' Category

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Culture Industry 2.0, or the End of Digital Utopias in the Era of Participation Culture

Sociophobia

“With the next distraction only a click away, patience for things that require effort evaporates. Anyone who doesn’t have quick responses to complex questions is promptly and publicly punished by a withdrawal of Likes. But is the medium responsible? Is it the human condition as such? Is the anthropological and technological constellation an overlay over background political and economic interests?” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. Today, we are happy to present Simanowski’s foreword, in which he discusses the radio and Bertolt Brecht’s reaction to it, the timing of the coming of the internet, and Rendueles’s criticism of “Internet-centrists” and “cyberutopians.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sociophobia!

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Postnuclear Capitalism

Sociophobia

“We disparage consumerism, populism, and the finance economy but see them as the last bastion against today’s version of the barbarians at the gates. We live in constant fear of anthropological density because the only alternatives to liberal individualism we know are fundamentalism and the squalor of the megaslums. As though there were nothing between the headquarters of Goldman Sachs and the Buenos Aires shantytown known as Villa 31.” — César Rendueles

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. To start the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt on what Rendueles terms “postnuclear capitalism” from the book’s first chapter.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Sociophobia!

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles

Sociophobia

“Rendueles’s book transcends the national context in which it was written, and, without exaggeration, goes to the heart of the contemporary problem of political organization, as it concerns radical protest and resistance movements. The refreshing aspect of Sociophobia is its sober approach to the role of new media in fomenting alternative political structures.” — Michael Marder

This week, our featured book is Sociophobia: Political Change in the Digital Utopia, by César Rendueles, translated by Heather Cleary, with a foreword by Roberto Simanowski. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Intelligence Agency Logic

Data Love

“Intelligence agencies want to secure and enhance their effectiveness just as much as any other functional social system; whatever is technologically possible will be used. For this reason, ever since 9/11 intelligence agencies had been dreaming of the “full take” of all data from all citizens. What had failed to materialize until then, because of financial and technological shortcomings, became a real option with the increasing digitization of society. The consensus was that those who did not use the new possibilities for data collection and evaluation were refusing to work properly, which in this realm of work might almost be regarded as treason.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. Today, for the final post of the feature, we have a short excerpt from the book’s first chapter, Intelligence Agency Logic, in which Simanowski uses the case of Edward Snowden to examine popular and political reactions to government surveillance.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!

Intelligence Agency Logic
By Roberto Simanowski

In the summer of 2013 the twenty-nine-year-old IT specialist Edward Snowden flew into a foreign country carrying with him secret documents produced by his employer, the National Security Agency of the United States (NSA). From the transit zone of the Moscow airport and with the help of the Guardian and the Washington Post, he informed the world about the extent of the surveillance of telephone and Internet communications undertaken by American intelligence agencies. In doing this, the whistleblower Snowden became much more successful than Thomas Drake, a former department head at the NSA who, with the same motives, had criticized the excessive surveillance practices of the NSA first through official channels and then in 2010 by divulging information to a journalist from the Baltimore Sun, for which he was later accused of espionage. Snowden’s disclosures triggered an international sensation lasting many months, creating what historians at the time characterized as the last great epiphany to be experienced by media society.

This is how a report on the events of the NSA scandal of 2013 might begin in some distant future. The report would evaluate the event from a respectful historical distance and without the excitement or disappointment of earlier historians. From the distant future, this moment of revelation would prove to have been the last outcry before the realization that there were no alternatives to certain unstoppable technological, political, and social developments. The report from the future would reconstruct the case with historical objectivity, beginning by explaining how world leaders reacted.

The United States declares Snowden’s passport invalid and issues a warrant of arrest for the breach of secrecy and theft. The Brazilian president protests at the United Nations over spying on Brazilian citizens (including herself ). She cancels her planned meeting with the president of the United States and by creating an investigative committee again proves her capacity to act after the traumatic experience of the “#vemprarua” upheavals in her own country. Ecuador— its embassy in London housing the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange—offers asylum to Snowden, thereby forgoing U.S. customs benefits. Germany denies Snowden’s request for asylum on the technicality that one cannot file an application from a foreign country. Russia grants asylum to Snowden for one year, provoking a further cooling of its relations with the United States and immediately causing the cancellation of a planned summit meeting between Obama and Putin. (more…)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies

Data Love

“[Data Love] does not reduce arguments over big data mining to the enemy-logic of ‘citizen vs. state’ but discusses data love as an expression of an undoubtedly fundamental but — bizarrely —insufficiently noted reorganization of society—a ‘quiet’ revolution initiated by software developers and implemented by way of algorithms; a revolution that, on the one hand, is subject to the drives of technological potential while, on the other, is reacting to the end of social utopias within a model of society dominated by consumerism.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. Today, we are happy to present a Q&A with Simanowski, in which he outlines his book project and the importance of questions about our love affair with data.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!

Why is data love the most troubling love affair of our time?

The love of big data has affected us all and is, without a doubt, the most entrancing and troubling love story of the twenty-first century. For better or worse and for many reasons, we happily choose to participate in the big data universe. We don’t worry much about data protection if we get something for less or even for free; we easily trade privacy for the narcissistic thrill of Facebook’s sharing culture. We can hardly wait for our fridge to talk to the supermarket and our calendar to converse with our car or house. That the conversation among “smart things”—that GPS, check-ins, or whatever sort of self-tracking device we use —are a data miner’s dream doesn’t deter us, we want it anyway and are convinced we can no longer live without it. (more…)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Introducing “Data Love”

Data Love

“[D]ata love must be discussed as something that is more than just fuel for the economy of the information age. It is a complex subject with farreaching moral, political, and philosophical consequences—without doubt the most delicate and troubling love story of the twenty-first century.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Data Love that includes the preface, the epilogue, and the postface.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Data Love, by Roberto Simanowski

Data Love

“Digital interactive space is not only a technical condition: it mobilizes larger ecologies of meaning that cannot be captured by an exclusive focus on those technical features. Roberto Simanowski gives us a brilliant exploration of one such ecology, an ironic and critical take on contemporary society’s ambivalent relationship with data.” — Saskia Sassen

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Brawn in Civilization — A History of Virility

A History of Virility

“For muscle is everywhere. It jumped over the walls of the stadium and the ropes of the ring a long time ago. It reigns absolute on screens large and small…. The claim on muscles has been democra­tized, the practice of bodybuilding now tends to be widespread, and anatomical power is displayed as a continuous, obsessive, universal spectacle.”—Jean-Jacques Courtine

In his chapter “Brawn in Civilization” (see below), in A History of Virility, Jean-Jacques Courtine examines the phenomenon of body building and hyper-masculinity. Beginning with the creation of Muscle Beach in Venice, California, to today’s ubiquitous GNC, Courtine examines the social, political, and economic contexts that shape our understanding of muscle and what it means for our understanding of masculinity:

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Marx after Marx — An Interview with Harry Harootunian

Marx After Marx, Harry Harootunian

“The role Marxism plays today is the same critical vocation and practice Marx imagined at the start. It is still the best critical strategy we have available to understanding … and grasping what must be done.”—Harry Harootunian

The following is an interview with Harry Harootunian, author of Marx After Marx: History and Time in the Expansion of Capitalism:

Question: How does Marxism look different once it is taken out of the Western framework? What does it mean to “Deprovincialize Marx”?

Harry Harootunian: The question of how Marxism looked different once it was taken out of the Western framework, once it was deprovincialized and resituated in a context constituted of a different lived historico-cultural experience is, in many ways, the central problem of my book.

At one level it was obvious that the migration of Marxism acquired a different appearance when it landed in regions outside of Western Europe. In fact, its migration showed the multiple routes to the development of capitalism. Uno Kozo, the great Japanese political economist notedthat the development of capitalism in Japan was a local inflection of a global process similar to other late developing societies since it followed the same economic laws despite the mediating contaminations exercised by specific historical and cultural circumstances. However, it should be pointed out that this observation was made by a number of previous thinkers in Eastern Europe, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky and even Georg Lukacs, the putative founder of ‘Western Marxism.”

All of these thinkers recognized that the penetration of capital in Eastern Europe dramatically contrasted with economic practices derived from previous modes of production and in some cases were metabolized to serve capital’s quest for surplus value. Marx put it simply in Grundrisse when he remarked that capital takes what it finds useful at hand from prior forms of economic activity and subordinates it to capitalism’s production process. Lukacs sought to show how the visible disparity between co-existing different forms of practice, the then and the now, could be overcome through the agency of ideology. The bourgeois mind was made to see in these residual appropriations not practices derived from pre-capitalist presuppositions but rather from capital’s own presuppositions. With thinkers from the margins of industrial capital and the colonies, the determining factor was the moment of encounter, time and circumstances in which capital appeared in a society. What I’m suggesting is that the reason why capital looked different derived from the convergence of two different forms of historical intervention: the conditions accounting for the timing of capital’s entry and the reasons prompting its adoption and the subsequent collision with a received, lived history and cultural experience.

The movement of Marxism could only result in a deprovincialization that took on the appearance of local historical and cultural color. When Marx announced in his famous Preface of the first edition of Capital I that “the country that is more developed industrially shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future,” he was not proposing that it would look like England or even France. What he was offering was the promise of development, knowing, at the same time, that the operation of formal subsumption, as the rule and logic of capitalist development, would inevitably involve a process of appropriation of what was at hand. Imitation of a “classic” example would have been simply impossible to maintain under the rule of formal subsumption. So I propose that in terms of theory, Marxism and its general laws, will always be mediated by local historical and cultural circumstances.

Q: Building upon that how does the history of Marxism and Marxist movements look different when you begin to look beyond the Euro-American context?

This question might be answered by suggesting that much of the concerns of Marxism outside of Europe-America, beginning with Lenin, was an effort to return to some of the more fundamental considerations of the founders, namely wage labor and the production process. In Western Marxism, The Frankfurt school was preoccupied with the role played by culture, consumption and the culture industry in the domination of everyday life. This program reflected the privilege accorded to the commodity form and ultimately value was released from its relationship to labor, whose importance was diminished. In a sense, this move to the structuring force of the commodity—value theory—exemplified thinkers like H-G Backhaus and Antonio Negri and to some extent Moishe Postone. The trouble with this orientation is that it was premised on the presumption that value had invaded every pore of the social formation. In this regard, the efforts of thinkers to return to some of the principal perspectives of the founders were an attempt to return to history and politics rather than philosophy. The move to philosophy signified a withdrawal from historical considerations related to labor and production, as suchand its importance for forms of contemporary political intervention. The preoccupation with philosophy separated lived culture from politics and history by subsuming their identities instead of reuniting value and history. In this regard, one should recall Marx’s own repudiation of philosophy and rejection of the “concept” for the sensuousness of the concrete commodity. If value trumped history, culture and consumption replaced history to signal in the West capital’s completion, that is, the accomplishment of real subsumption.

In contrast, the world beyond Europe remains at an earlier stage, still dominated by the bricolage of formal subsumption, incomplete, undeveloped, a history in the making aimed at “catching up.” Hence, the stage theory of an earlier Marxism was stretched to distinguish the West from the world beyond it, even though they shared the same contemporary moment. What I’m suggesting is that the presumed stagist movement from formal to real subsumption (absolute surplus value to relative surplus value) was another way of representing the difference between the advanced West and the backwardness of underdevelopment, maintaining the trajectory of an earlier and vulgate version of Marxism evolved from the Second and Third Internationals that would explain where societies were located in the historical route to socialism. Yet, on closer examination, it is possible to discern in this evolutionary scheme how the underdeveloped society is cast into another temporal register to reveal the distance it must travel to reach the true contemporaneity of modern capitalism. It is precisely this stagism that mandates the reproduction or replication of a singular model of development that excludes other, plural possibilities.

(more…)

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Happiness and Its Discontents, Part III

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have the third part of an excerpt from Mari Ruti’s recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Happiness and Its Discontents.”

Enter our book giveaway to win a free copy of The Call of Character!

Happiness and Its Discontents
Mari Ruti

I recently attended a presentation given by the daughter of a prominent man who, during his life, wrote several books that have had a tremendous impact on how we understand human psychology. During her talk, the daughter faulted her father for not having been a stable “family man,” for having let his passion for his work overshadow the rest of his life, and for having never been completely at ease with everyday social interactions. She made it sound as if her father had been a failure as a person because he had not been able to appreciate the rewards of a well-adjusted life.

As I listened to her, I kept thinking that she was judging her father by a very conventional standard. As far as I’m concerned, there are situations in which the ability to show up at the dinner table is less important than the capacity to produce works of great genius that enrich the rest of society.
(more…)

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Happiness and Its Discontents, Part II

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have the second part of an excerpt from Mari Ruti’s recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Happiness and Its Discontents.”

Enter our book giveaway to win a free copy of The Call of Character!

Happiness and Its Discontents
Mari Ruti

Needless to say, our fixation on the ideal of happiness diverts our attention from collective social ills, such as socioeconomic disparities. As Barbara Ehrenreich has shown, when we believe that our happiness is a matter of thinking the right kinds of (positive) thoughts, we become blind to the ways in which some of our unhappiness might be generated by collective forces, such as racism or sexism. Worst of all, we become callous to the lot of others, assuming that if they aren’t doing well, if they aren’t perfectly happy, it’s not because they’re poor, oppressed, or unemployed but because they’re not trying hard enough.

If all of that isn’t enough to make you suspicious of the cultural injunction to be happy, consider this basic psychoanalytic insight: Human beings may not be designed for happy, balanced lives. The irony of happiness is that it’s precisely when we manage to feel happy that we are also most keenly aware that the feeling might not last. Insofar as each passing moment of happiness brings us closer to its imminent collapse, happiness is merely a way of anticipating unhappiness; it’s a deviously roundabout means of producing anxiety.

Take the notion that happiness entails a healthy lifestyle. Our society is hugely enthusiastic about the idea that we can keep illness at bay through a meticulous management of our bodies. The avoidance of risk factors such as smoking, drinking, and sexual promiscuity, along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, is supposed to guarantee our longevity. To a degree, that is obviously true. But the insistence on healthy habits is also a way to moralize illness, to cast judgment on those who fail to adhere to the right regimen. Ultimately, as the queer theorist Tim Dean has illustrated, we are dealing with a regulation of pleasure—a process of medicalization that tells us which kinds of pleasures are acceptable and which are not.
(more…)

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Happiness and Its Discontents, Part I

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have the first part of an excerpt from Mari Ruti’s recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Happiness and Its Discontents.”

Enter our book giveaway to win a free copy of The Call of Character!

Happiness and Its Discontents
Mari Ruti

As a critical theorist working at the intersection of Continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist and queer theory, I make observations about human life that are speculative rather than empirical. That may explain why my definition of character pertains to what is least tangible, least intelligible about our being, including the inchoate frequencies of desire that sometimes cause us to behave in ways that work against our rational understanding of how our lives are supposed to turn out.

If identity captures something about the relatively polished social persona we present to the world, then character—in my view—captures something about the wholly idiosyncratic and potentially rebellious energies that, every so often, break the facade of that persona. From this perspective, our character leaps forth whenever we do something “crazy,” such as suddenly dissolving a committed relationship or leaving a promising career path. At such moments, what is fierce and unapologetic about us undermines our attempts to lead a “reasonable” life, causing us to follow an inner directive that may be as enigmatic as it is compelling. We may not know why we feel called to a new destiny, but we sense that not heeding that call will stifle what is most alive within us.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that finds such insurrections threatening, not least because they make us less predictable and therefore harder to control. This is one reason we’re constantly reminded of the importance of leading a happy, balanced life—the kind of life that “makes sense” from the viewpoint of the dominant social order. Many of us have, in fact, internalized the ideal of a happy, balanced life to such an extent that we find it hard to imagine alternatives. As Freud has already claimed, there is little doubt about what most people want out of life: “They want to become happy and to remain so.”

A quick survey of our culture—particularly our self-help culture—confirms Freud’s observation. One could even say that, in our era, the idea that we should lead happy, balanced lives carries the force of an obligation: We are supposed to push aside our anxieties in order to enjoy our lives, attain peace of mind, and maximize our productivity. The cult of “positive thinking” even assures us that we can bring good things into our lives just by thinking about them.
(more…)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Read the first chapter of The Call of Character, by Mari Ruti!

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Enter our book giveaway to win a free copy of The Call of Character!

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living, by Mari Ruti

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Call of Character. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, January 31th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Philosophical Temperaments, by Peter Sloterdijk

Philosophical Temperaments

This week our featured book is Philosophical Temperaments: From Plato to Foucault, by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Thomas Dunlap with a foreword by Creston Davis. Throughout the week, we will be featuring the book and its author here on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Philosophical Temperaments. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on May 24th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Katerina Kolozova on The Real in Contemporary Philosophy

The Philosopher in Meditation by Rembrandt

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a guest post from Professor Katerina Kolozova, in which she discusses what she sees as the state of The Real today and outlines some ideas in her forthcoming book Cut of the Real, to be published by Columbia University Press in the Fall:

What Baudrillard called the perfect crime has become the malaise of the global(ized) intellectual of the beginning of the 21’st century. The “perfect crime” in question is the murder of the real, carried out in such way as to create the conviction it never existed and that the traces of its erased existence were mere symptom of its implacable originary absence. The era of postmodernism has been one of oversaturation with signification as a reality in its own right and also as the only possible reality. In 1995, with the publication of The Perfect Crime, Baudrillard declared full realization of the danger he warned against as early as in 1976 in his book The Symbolic Exchange and Death. The latter book centered on the plea to affirm reality in its form of negativity, i.e., as death and the trauma of interrupted life. And he did not write of some static idea of the “Negative,” of “the constitutive lack” or “absence” as conceived by postmodernism and epistemological poststructuralism. The fact that, within the poststructuralist theoretical tradition, the real has been treated as the “inaccessible” and “the unthinkable” has caused “freezing” of the category (of the real) as immutable, univocal and bracketed out of discursiveness as an unspoken axiom.

(more…)

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

A Q&A with Insurrections Series Editor Jeffrey Robbins

Radical Democracy and Political Theology

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a Q & A with Professor Jeffrey Robbins, in which he discusses some of the essential components of the Insurrections series and their importance today.

Question: Clayton Crockett wrote that insurrectionist theology is not politically neutral and is critical of corporate capitalism. Can you elaborate on the insurrectionist critique of contemporary corporatism?
 
Jeffrey Robbins: Perhaps it is important to distinguish between insurrectionist theology as named and employed by Crockett (together with myself, Creston Davis, and Ward Blanton), and the Insurrections series.  An insurrectionist theology, as we conceive it, is a materialist political theology that takes seriously the emancipatory potential of religion.  Instead of relying on the concept of transcendence or the notion of a transcendent God, it accepts Wittgenstein’s maxim that “the world is all that is the case,” and thus expresses itself in the form of an immanent critique. 
 
Beginning from this point, we can say of the insurrectionist critique that contemporary corporatism is today’s undeniable hegemon.  Consider the story from today’s New York Times:  After protests erupted in Cyprus over the European Union’s planned austerity measures that would seize funds from individual Cypriot savings accounts, Gazprom, the Russian energy behemoth, offered its own private bailout to rescue the Cyprus economy.  As the story puts it, “The fate of this proposal is uncertain. . . But it illustrates how a sprawling, wealthy company so deeply entwined with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that it is often called a state within a state is willing to seize an opportunity and exploit weaknesses and divisions within Europe to cement its position and power.”
 
While certain corporations operate as a state within a state (consider here, as well, an entity such as the company formerly known as Blackwater whose CEO admitted it worked as a “virtual extension of the CIA”), marshaling the mechanisms of the state for its own private gain, there are others operating as transnational corporations without respect to national boundaries.  At a minimum, this suggests a new, alternative form of political sovereignty.  Further, when the flow of capital is not only global, but instantaneous, this demands new forms of political organization and new means of political resistance.  And finally, contemporary corporatism’s reign can be considered complete when it becomes the logic—or better, the rubric—by which we determine even educational and philanthropic success.

(more…)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

An Editorial and Ontological Insurrection, by Santiago Zabala

Hermeneutic Communism

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a guest post from Professor Santiago Zabala, in which he discusses the unique nature and success of the Insurrections series, and its significance in critical studies today.

In order for any scholarly series to work there are three indispensable components: a distinguished academic press, a long-term philosophical project, and, most of all, passionate editors. CUP’s Insurrections series not only has all of these, but also has become a model for series from other presses. A few weeks ago I was at a conference in New Delhi called On World Religions: Diversity, Not Dissension (which took place at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and was organized by the distinguished Indian philosopher Anindita Balslev and attended by intellectuals from all over the world, including the His Holiness the Dalai Lama). I was asked by a group of students whether I knew what would be the next titles in Insurrections. I must confess I was not completely surprised to be asked because these researchers, in keeping with the intellectual environment of the event, were already interested in the intersection of religion, politics, and culture. However, the series is known not only within the intellectual circle of political theology as I have discovered elsewhere in Asia and South America over the past years. I’m not interested in writing a report on the series’ editorial success, even though it’s clear the editors (Slavoj Žižek, Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, and Jeffrey W. Robbins) have managed to create a true editorial insurrection, but rather in pointing out the ontological nature of the series. In order to do this, it is first important to understand who these editors are.

The four editors of Insurrections are truly postmetaphysical philosophers, that is, concerned with what Michel Foucault called the “ontology of actuality,” where existence is not given beforehand but rather disclosed through its own historical disruptions. This is evident not only in the work of Slavoj Žižek but also in that of the other three editors, who merit as much attention as the Slovenian philosopher. While Creston Davis, a long-time disciple and collaborator of Žižek, has been articulating a refreshing materialist-immanent theology for years now, Clayton Crockett and Jeffrey W. Robbins have contributed in a unique way to political theology’s democratic effort to overcome conservative theological articulations (unfortunately expressed by the newly elected Pope Francis in Rome). What unites these editors and what they bring to the intersection between politics and theology is the vision that the truth of political theology in the twenty-first century can no longer be imagined through liberal reforms or anarchic events but only by reconsidering democracy as a form of religious practice and political thought. This new democracy is not simply unconstrained by modern liberal capitalism but actually its greatest enemy, that is, a true insurrection. The fact these editors have so much in common is perhaps the reason why the series, only seven years after its inception, is so successful. Certainly, the books in the series have sold, which is important, but much more significant are its consequences, that is, the issues it has given form to.

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Monday, March 25th, 2013

Insurrections on Pinterest

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala.Throughout this week, we will be hosting a number of posts and interviews from the editors and authors of the Insurrections series, and we will also feature the series on Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page.

The Insurrection Series is on Pinterest! Take a minute to browse through the titles and covers, and maybe even our page devoted to the life and works of Alain Badiou, a prominent author in the series.


Monday, March 25th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Insurrections series

Rage and Time

One of our most exciting and active book series is Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture, edited by Slavoj Zizek, Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, and Jeffrey W. Robbins. Books in the series offer a close look at the intersection of religion, politics, and culture in the modern world by bringing the tools of philosophy and critical theory to the political implications of the religious turn.

Throughout this week, we will be hosting a number of posts and interviews from the editors and authors of the Insurrections series, and we will also feature the series on Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of THREE of the exciting books in the Insurrections series to the winner of our Book Giveaway: The Incident at Antioch/L’Incident D’Antioch, by Alain Badiou; Hermeneutic Communism, by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala; and Rage and Time, by Peter Sloterdijk.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail lf2413@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, March 29, at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word! The book giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to the winner!