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Radical Future Pasts

Untimely Political Theory

edited by Romand Coles, Mark Reinhardt, and George Shulman

Publication Year: 2014

Written by both well-established and rising scholars, Radical Future Pasts seeks to open up new possibilities for theoretical inquiries and engagements with practical political struggles. Unlike conventional "state of the discipline" collections, this volume does not summarize the history of political theory. Rather than accept traditional ideas about the political past, the contributors reinterpret canonical and current texts to demonstrate fresh interpretations and narratives.

Led by editors Romand Coles, Mark Reinhardt, and George Shulman, and inspired by the work of Peter Euben, the contributors both explore and exemplify the range and importance of political theory's different genres while concentrating on such themes as time and temporality, the politics of tragedy, and political movements and subjectivities. A groundbreaking volume featuring the best new scholarship in the field, this provocative book will be useful to scholars and students interested in political theory and its relationship to political practice.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-x

Like Thucydides and his fellow Athenians, Peter Euben was “born into the world to take no rest and give none to others.”1 Among those to whom he has given no rest are his students, and Peter’s life of extraordinary pedagogical performances has ensured that all the contributors to this volume of essays...

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Radical Future Pasts?

Romand Coles, Mark Reinhardt, and George Shulman

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pp. 1-36

“Political theory” names not a unified object or protagonist, but a practice of thinking and writing about politics that has been given different forms and purposes as practitioners redefine “theory,” “politics,” and “the political.” In introducing this book, we place a special emphasis on theory’s relationship...

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Part I Theorizing Temporalities

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pp. 37-40

Time is not politically neutral or innocent. Temporal understandings, in other words, are implicit in all political language and constitutive of political life. But they are also typically naturalized, except in moments of crisis or significant political struggle. As tropes of before and after and presumptions about...

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1. Untimeliness and Punctuality

Wendy Brown

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pp. 41-58

This essay reflects on timeliness and untimeliness in critical political theory. It works outside the intellectual circuits through which both problems are conventionally routed—those offered by Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School—in order to feature aspects of the relationship between...

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2. "When the Corn Was Ripe . . ."

Arlene W. Saxonhouse

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pp. 59-80

In 2006, J. Peter Euben wrote an essay sharply criticizing the tendency— captured most particularly by the writings and work of Victor Hansen—to make Thucydides “policy ready.” Instead, Euben finds in Thucydides’ text “a kind of textual agora” with its debates and speeches.1 Here I try to capture...

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3. Black Noise in White Time

P. J. Brendese

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pp. 81-112

In the epigraph for this essay, Simone Weil implies that loss is endemic to the nature of time. The tragedy of time’s passage is part of the finality of a mortal life: life is something we are literally “born to lose.” In times when we are awake to this fundamental feature of temporality, questions of what...

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4. The Moment Has Passed

Patchen Markell

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pp. 113-144

“America’s Tahrir Moment”: that’s the title of an Adbusters blog entry from early September 2011. Nobody Can Predict the Moment of Revolution: the title of a short documentary video about Occupy Wall Street produced by some of its participants. “Transforming Occupy Wall Street from a Moment to a...

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Part II Theorizing Political Subjectivities

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pp. 145-148

As our introduction argues, political subjectivity has been one of the crucial elements in theorizing radical democracy since the 1960s. The conception of community advanced by Sheldon Wolin and John Schaar in the late 1960s was undone and enlarged by the emergence of social movements exposing...

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5. The Virtual Patriot Syndrome

Stephen K. White

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pp. 149-178

How should we understand the recent appearance on the American landscape of political movements of the white middle class, such as the Tea Party and the Minutemen? Some on the left have taken them to be simply examples of “Astroturf” democracy as opposed to real grassroots democracy—that...

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6. Populism and the Rebellious Cultures of Democracy

Laura Grattan

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pp. 179-216

A quick snapshot of populist politics in twenty-first-century America reveals an off-beat cast: Christian fundamentalists, vigilante border patrollers, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, broad-based community organizers, May Day immigration reform ralliers, grassroots ecopopulists...

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7. Distinguishing Racial Presence from Racial Justice

Cristina Beltrán

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pp. 217-248

Making sense of race in America today requires a tolerance for paradox. Yes, advocates of racial justice and equality can point to visible, tangible progress, with enhanced opportunities in many areas of life for historically marginalized and underrepresented populations. Today’s public realm exhibits...

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8. Race and the Democratic Aesthetic

Melvin L. Rogers

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pp. 249-282

America’s history is marked by a striking image—“black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.” Abel Meeropol—a Jewish American—first articulated this line in his 1937 published poem “Bitter Fruit” after viewing Lawrence Beitler’s graphic and horrific photo depicting the lynching of Thomas Shipp...

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9. In Praise of Disorder

Roxanne L. Euben

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pp. 283-316

In January 2011, an uprising in Tunisia forced President Zine al-Abidine Ben ῾Ali from office, inaugurating a wave of challenges to authoritarian rule from Morocco to Yemen. Deeply entrenched patterns of power and powerlessness were disrupted by a groundswell of demands for dignity, work...

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Part III Theorizing and Genre

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pp. 317-320

The idea of “epic” political theory was, among other things, an attempt to identify how political theorists did and could engage the ways that human beings conceive and claim authority. That engagement necessarily involved an effort to authorize the theorists’ own words, to gain authority over a field...

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10. The Politics of Literature

J. Peter Euben

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pp. 321-332

Every so often some political theorists sponsor roundtables on the relations between literature and politics.1 That they do so indicates a curiosity about such a relationship. That they do so cautiously or even defensively anticipates a professional hostility or indifference toward connecting the two subjects...

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11. Circulating Authority

Jill Frank

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pp. 333-350

In her essay “What Is Authority?” Hannah Arendt offers a quasi-historical and not unambivalent account of the disappearance of religion, tradition, and authority in modernity. As her title suggests, of particular interest to her is the question of authority and its relation to politics. Arendt says that...

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12. Staging Reception

Elizabeth Wingrove

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pp. 351-374

Aristophanes didn’t fare very well in the “quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns,” the late-seventeenth-century French literary controversy over poetic style and form that encompassed alternative (if often inchoate) visions of progress and enlightenment. Perhaps it was his penchant for “biting...

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13. Holding Up Mirrors in (and to) Political Theory

Susan McWilliams

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pp. 375-394

In 1909, Mark Twain published a short story titled simply “A Fable.” In the story, an artist paints a beautiful picture. He then installs a mirror opposite the picture, finding the painting’s reflection more enchanting than the original. After the picture is so arranged, the artist’s cat goes into the woods to...

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Part IV Theorizing Tragedy

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pp. 395-398

It is fitting that this volume concludes with essays that at once exemplify, enlarge, and complicate the idea of the tragic in their efforts to conceive the radical pasts and futures of political theory. For Euben demonstrated the intimate and vexed bonds between tragedy and theory as emergent genres...

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14. Antigone’s Laments, Creon’s Grief

Bonnie Honig

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pp. 399-434

Approaching Sophocles’ Antigone in the context of fifth-century burial politics in Athens, I argue here that Antigone’s burial of her brother, Polynices, is a performance of elite objections to the classical city’s emergent democracy. Creon, on this reading, represents not sovereignty or the rule of law run...

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15. Pathologies of Freedom in Melville’s America

Jason Frank

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pp. 435-458

Herman Melville has not received as much attention from political theorists as some other major writers of the American Renaissance—Hawthorne, Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. His work is left out of anthologies of American political thought, overlooked on syllabi, and very rarely engaged...

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16. Tragic Realism and Credible Democratic Hopes

Melissa A. Orlie

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pp. 459-488

Let me begin by stating what seems to me to be true. We are not effectively facing up to the ecological catastrophe unfolding before us. I take ecological catastrophe, properly understood, to include economic, social, and political ruin as well as so-called environmental destruction. It seems to me that too...

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17. Steps toward an Ecology of Late Capitalism

William E. Connolly

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pp. 489-512

Neoliberalism, let us say, is a socioeconomic philosophy embedded to varying degrees in Euro-American life. In its media presentations, it expresses inordinate confidence in the unique, self-regulating power of markets as it links the freedom of the individual to markets. At a lower-decibel level...


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pp. 513-516


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pp. 517-531

E-ISBN-13: 9780813145549
E-ISBN-10: 0813145546
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813145297

Page Count: 536
Publication Year: 2014