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Loser Sons

Politics and Authority

Avital Ronell

Publication Year: 2012

There are sons who grow up unhappily believing that no matter what they do, they cannot please their fathers. These are the "loser sons," a group of historical men as varied as President George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, and Mohammed Atta. Their names quickly illustrate that not only are their problems serious, but they also make serious problems for others, expanding to whole nations. When God is conceived and inculcated as an angry and impossible-to-please father, the problems can last for generations._x000B__x000B_In Loser Sons, Avital Ronell draws on current philosophy, literary history, and political events to confront the grim fact that divested boys become terrifying men. Looking beyond our current moment, she interrogates the problems of authority, paternal fantasy, and childhood as they have been explored and exemplified by Franz Kafka, Goethe's Faust, Benjamin Franklin, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Hannah Arendt, Alexandre Kojeve, and Immanuel Kant. Shockingly honest, Ronell addresses the implications of her insights directly to her readers, challenging them to think through their own notions of authority and their responses to it.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface. Wrestling a Bad Object

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pp. ix-xx

This work was long in coming. During the time that I was preparing its elephantine birth—I have stopped counting the years— other works and responsibilities commanded my attention, averted my gaze, and gnawed at me like undeflectable energy vampires. It’s hard enough to set apart some sheltering space in order to write. ...

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Introduction. Tiers of Childhood and the Defeat of Politics

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pp. 1-18

History, no doubt, can bear me out on this: to the extent that the world can be gathered into relatable narratives, it exposes us to the unconscious contrivances of those who cannot beat back a more or less covert portfolio of psychically induced flops. ...

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Chapter 1. What Was Authority?

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pp. 19-34

Neither powered up by a solid sense of (or even desire for) legitimacy, nor a control freak with regard to the possibilities of comprehension, I abide with the weaker neighborhoods of thought, where things do not always work out or offer the narcissistic comfort of landing in the vicinity of secured sense. ...

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Chapter 2. The Household of Authority

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pp. 35-66

Before continuing the reflection on authority, it may be useful for me to reintroduce myself at this juncture, if only for the purpose of offering some contextual prompters and a much-needed roadmap. I would have preferred to relegate this portion of my unfolding commentary to a quiet zone. ...

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Chapter 3. Archeophilia, Panic, and Authority

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pp. 67-105

A tactically sidelined delegate from the Lutheran assembly or party line, she comes in from a slightly different texture of concerns and reading habits. Hannah Arendt shows up late in 1958. Prepared to set a refurbished agenda, she publishes the searching essay “What Is Authority?” ...

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Chapter 4. The Good Loser: Kafka Sends Off a Missive to Father

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pp. 106-130

Without fail, writing looped back to the submissiveness stipulated by childhood. The experience of surrender had its unstoppable velocities from day one and carried the day, every day, seeing the leveling effects of childhood into political majority. The thought of “becomings” was dashed from the start. ...

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Chapter 5. The Battle of Wills: On Being Cheap

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pp. 131-154

The brothers, as we said, were nonstarters, though their ghostly extinction prevails over much of the domestic front. They mark a kind of nonorigin, phantom predecessors that allow Franz to slip into the Löwy name. Only sister Elli manages a success story among the siblings. Ottla, the other sister, kept the fight going where Franz capitulated quickly. ...

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Chapter 6. On the Unrelenting Creepiness of Childhood: Lyotard, Kid-Tested

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pp. 155-174

From Socrates’ predatory urges to Locke’s invention of the “Ideot” or Hegel’s racist assignments—for the moment I shall take this no further—philosophy has demonstrated a need to impound those who could not speak for themselves, who had not reached a certain legislated majority. ...

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Chapter 7. Was war Aufklärung? / What Was Enlightenment?: The Turn of the Screwed

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pp. 175-180

Trained on the three monotheistic religions, Lyotard frequently reverts to Abraham on instant replay in order to score a number of crucial theoretical points. In his essay “Emma: Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis,” Emma, as the figure that deals out the wound of sexual difference, gets set up alongside Abraham as his improbable partner and counterpart. ...


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pp. 181-184

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About the Author, Publication Information

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Avital Ronell is University Professor of the Humanities and a professor of German, English, and comparative literature at New York University, where she codirects the Trauma and Violence Transdisciplinary Studies program. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093708
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036644

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 809032438
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Loser Sons

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Subject Headings

  • Authority in literature.
  • Authority.
  • Fathers and sons in literature.
  • Fathers and sons.
  • Kafka, Franz, 1883-1924 -- Family.
  • Lyotard, Jean-François, 1924-1998.
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