Category Archives: General

Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction (2017)

by Stephen Eric Bronner

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Critical theory emerged in the 1920s from the work of the Frankfurt School, the circle of German-Jewish academics who sought to diagnose — and, if at all possible, cure — the ills of society, particularly fascism and capitalism. In this book, Stephen Eric Bronner provides sketches of leading representatives of the critical tradition (such as George Lukács and Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen Habermas) as well as many of its seminal texts and empirical investigations. 

This Very Short Introduction sheds light on the cluster of concepts and themes that set critical theory apart from its more traditional philosophical competitors. Bronner explains and discusses concepts such as method and agency, alienation and reification, the culture industry and repressive tolerance, non-identity and utopia. He argues for the introduction of new categories and perspectives for illuminating the obstacles to progressive change and focusing upon hidden transformative possibilities. In this newly updated second edition, Bronner targets new academic interests, broadens his argument, and adapts it to a global society amid the resurgence of right-wing politics and neo-fascist movements.

Is Political Philosophy Impossible?: Thoughts and Behaviour in Normative Political Theory (2017)

Is Political Philosophy Impossible?: Thoughts and Behaviour in Normative Political Theoryby Jonathan Floyd

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Political philosophy seems both impossible to do and impossible to avoid. Impossible to do, because we cannot agree on a single set of political principles. Impossible to avoid, because we’re always living with some kind of political system, and thus some set of principles. So, if we can’t do the philosophy, but can’t escape the politics, what are we to do? Jonathan Floyd argues that the answer lies in political philosophy’s deepest methodological commitments. First, he shows how political philosophy is practiced as a kind of ‘thinking about thinking’. Second, he unpicks the different types of thought we think about, such as considered judgements, or intuitive responses to moral dilemmas, and assesses whether any are fit for purpose. Third, he offers an alternative approach – ‘normative behaviourism’ – which holds that rather than studying our thinking, we should study our behaviour. Perhaps, just sometimes, actions speak louder than thoughts.

Colonial exchanges: Political theory and the agency of the colonized (2017)

Burke A. Hendrix & Deborah Baumgold (Editors)

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Scholars of political thought have given a great deal of attention to the relationship between European political ideas and colonialism, especially to whether prominent thinkers supported or opposed colonialism. But little attention has so far been given to the reactions of those in the colonies to European ideas, where intellectuals actively sought to transform those ideas, deploying them strategically or adopting them as their own. A full reckoning of colonialism’s effects requires attention to their intellectual choices and the political efforts that accompanied them, which sometimes produced surprising political successes. The contributors to this volume include a mix of political theorists and intellectual historians who seek to grapple with specific thinkers or contexts. Contributors focus on colonised societies including India, Haiti, the Philippines, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and the settler countries of North America and Oceana, in times ranging from the French Revolution to the modern day.

Thinking with Rousseau: From Machiavelli to Schmitt (2017)

Helena Rosenblatt & Paul Schweigert (Editors)

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Although indisputably one of the most important thinkers in the Western intellectual tradition, Rousseau’s actual place within that tradition, and the legacy of his thought, remains hotly disputed. Thinking with Rousseau reconsiders his contribution to this tradition through a series of essays exploring the relationship between Rousseau and other ‘great thinkers’. Ranging from ‘Rousseau and Machiavelli’ to ‘Rousseau and Schmitt’, this volume focuses on the kind of intricate work that intellectuals do when they read each other and grapple with one another’s ideas. This approach is very helpful in explaining how old ideas are transformed and/or transmitted and new ones are generated. Rousseau himself was a master at appropriating the ideas of others, while simultaneously subverting them, and as the essays in this volume vividly demonstrate, the resulting ambivalences and paradoxes in his thought were creatively mined by others.