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Recent philosophical debates have moved beyond proclamations of the “death of philosophy” and the “death of the subject” to consider more positively how philosophy can be practiced and the human self can be conceptualized today. Inspired by the writings of Nietzsche, Bergson, and Deleuze, rapid changes related to globalization, and advances in evolutionary biology and neuroscience, these debates have generated a renewed focus on time as an active force of change and novelty. Rejecting simple linear models of time, these strands of thought have provided creative alternatives to a traditional reliance on fixed boundaries and stable identities that has proven unable to grapple with the intense speeds and complexities of contemporary life. In this book, Nathan Widder contributes to these debates, but also goes significantly beyond them. Holding that current writings remain too focused on time’s movement, he examines more fundamentally time’s structure and its structural ungrounding, releasing time completely from its traditional subordination to movement and space. Doing this enables him to reformulate entirely the terms through which time and change are understood, leading to a radical alteration of our understandings of power, resistance, language, and the unconscious, and taking post-identity political philosophy and ethics in a new direction. Eighteen independent but interlinked reflections engage with ancient philosophy, mathematical theory, dialectics, psychoanalysis, archaeology, and genealogy. The book’s broad coverage and novel rereadings of key figures—including Aristotle, Bergson, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Deleuze—make this a unique rethinking of the nature of pluralism, multiplicity, and politics.
The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva's Polis
These original essays explore how the concept of revolution permeates and unifies Julia Kristeva’s body of work by tracing its trajectory from her early engagement with the Tel Quel group, through her preoccupation in the 1980s with abjection, melancholia, and love, to her latest work. Some of the leading voices in Kristeva scholarship examine her reevaluation of the concept of revolt in the context of the changing cultural and political conditions in the West; the questions of the stranger, race, and nation; her reflections on narrative, public spaces, and collectivity in the context of her engagement with Hannah Arendt’s work; her development and refinement of the notions of abjection, melancholia, and narcissism in her ongoing interrogation of aesthetics; as well as her contribution to film theory. Focused primarily on Kristeva’s newest work—much of it only recently translated into English—this book breaks new ground in Kristeva scholarship.
In Ricoeur’s Critical Theory, David M. Kaplan revisits the Habermas-Gadamer debates to show how Paul Ricoeur’s narrative-hermeneutics and moral-political philosophy provide a superior interpretive, normative, and critical framework. Arguing that Ricoeur’s unique version of critical theory surpasses the hermeneutic philosophy of Gadamer, Kaplan adds a theory of argumentation necessary to criticize false consciousness and distorted communication. He also argues that Ricoeur develops Habermas’s critical theory, adding an imaginative, creative dimension and a concern for community values and ideas of the Good Life. He then shows how Ricoeur’s political philosophy steers a delicate path between liberalism, communitarianism, and socialism. Ricoeur’s version of critical theory not only identifies and criticizes social pathologies, posits Kaplan, but also projects utopian alternatives for personal and social transformation that would counter and heal the effects of unjust societies. The author concludes by applying Ricoeur’s critical theory to three related problems—the politics of identity and recognition, technology, and globalization and democracy—to show how his works add depth, complexity, and practical solutions to these problems.
H. Richard Niebuhr and the Ethics of American Public Life
Concisely critiquing the internal contradictions and practical limitations of the social contract theory espoused by John Locke and John Rawls, Timothy Beach-Verhey presents a covenantal theory for political life based on H. Richard Niebuhr’s theology of radical monotheism. Beach-Verhey challenges sectarian interpretations of Niebuhr’s theology and cogently demonstrates that a properly understood, theocentric, covenantal social theory can unite a diverse people in a shared polity. In so doing, he shows how such an understanding of both liberal democratic practices and Christian norms can provoke both the moral vision and the virtues that are required for robust, open, and engaged public life. Robust Liberalism makes a powerful contribution to contemporary discussion of American public discourse.
A Republican Critique of the Philosophes
Arguing that the question of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s relationship to the Enlightenment has been eclipsed and seriously distorted by his association with the French Revolution, Graeme Garrard presents the first book-length case that shows Rousseau as the pivotal figure in the emergence of Counter-Enlightenment thought. Viewed in the context in which he actually lived and wrote—from the middle of the eighteenth century to his death in 1778—it is apparent that Rousseau categorically rejected the Enlightenment “republic of letters” in favor of his own “republic of virtue.” The philosophes, placing faith in reason and natural human sociability and subjecting religion to systematic criticism and doubt, naively minimized the deep tensions and complexities of collective life and the power disintegrative forces posed to social order. Rousseau believed that the ever precarious social order could only be achieved artificially, by manufacturing “sentiments of sociability,” reshaping individuals to identify with common interests instead of their own selfish interests.
On the Emergence of the Political
In a radical reconsideration of political theory and politics, Paul Eisenstein and Todd McGowan explore the notion of rupture or radical tearing apart in both history and theory through the sweep of Western philosophy from Plato to Kierkegaard and beyond. The authors use contemporary literature and film to elucidate political theory, examining works by such writers are Dave Eggers, John Irving, and Toni Morrison, as well as films by directors from Sergei Eisenstein to David Fincher.Paul Eisenstein and Todd McGowan find that a rupture or radical break is repeatedly invoked at the beginning of every philosophical system. In this rupture, many of our most cherished political values—equality, solidarity, and the idea of freedom—emerge. But the lack of a sustained commitment to this radical tearing apart has repeatedly foreshortened, distorted, or perverted those same values. Most political philosophy may have marginalized these radical breaks with the past. But Eisenstein and McGowan demonstrate that Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, and Slavoj Žižek have consistently brought rupture to the fore as an organizing principle for political thought. This insight holds great pertinence to our current world situation. Seeing the possibilities for an extended dialogue and sustained political change, Eisenstein and McGowan argue for a more systematic engagement with these theorists.
Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty
In Sacred Violence, the distinguished political and legal theorist Paul W. Kahn investigates the reasons for the resort to violence characteristic of premodern states. In a startling argument, he contends that law will never offer an adequate account of political violence. Instead, we must turn to political theology, which reveals that torture and terror are, essentially, forms of sacrifice. Kahn forces us to acknowledge what we don't want to see: that we remain deeply committed to a violent politics beyond law. Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities at Yale Law School and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights. Cover Illustration: "Abu Ghraib 67, 2005" by Fernando Botero. Courtesy of the artist and the American University Museum.
Emotion in Democratic Politics
This book challenges the conventional wisdom that improving democratic politics requires keeping emotion out of it. Marcus advances the provocative claim that the tradition in democratic theory of treating emotion and reason as hostile opposites is misguided and leads contemporary theorists to misdiagnose the current state of American democracy. Instead of viewing the presence of emotion in politics as a failure of rationality and therefore as a failure of citizenship, Marcus argues, democratic theorists need to understand that emotions are in fact a prerequisite for the exercise of reason and thus essential for rational democratic deliberation and political judgment. Attempts to purge emotion from public life not only are destined to fail, but ultimately would rob democracies of a key source of revitalization and change. Drawing on recent research in neuroscience, Marcus shows how emotion functions generally and what role it plays in politics. In contrast to the traditional view of emotion as a form of agitation associated with belief, neuroscience reveals it to be generated by brain systems that operate largely outside of awareness. Two of these systems, "disposition" and "surveillance," are especially important in enabling emotions to produce habits, which often serve a positive function in democratic societies. But anxiety, also a preconscious emotion, is crucial to democratic politics as well because it can inhibit or disable habits and thus clear a space for the conscious use of reason and deliberation. If we acknowledge how emotion facilitates reason and is "cooperatively entangled" with it. Marcus concludes, then we should recognize sentimental citizens as the only citizens really capable of exercising political judgment and of putting their decisions into action.
The Limits of Choice
Autonomy is fundamental to liberalism. But autonomous individuals often choose to do things that harm themselves or undermine their equality. In particular, women often choose to participate in practices of sexual inequality—cosmetic surgery, gendered patterns of work and childcare, makeup, restrictive clothing, or the sexual subordination required by membership in certain religious groups. In this book, Clare Chambers argues that this predicament poses a fundamental challenge to many existing liberal and multicultural theories that dominate contemporary political philosophy.Chambers argues that a theory of justice cannot ignore the influence of culture and the role it plays in shaping choices. If cultures shape choices, it is problematic to use those choices as the measure of the justice of the culture. Drawing upon feminist critiques of gender inequality and poststructuralist theories of social construction, she argues that we should accept some of the multicultural claims about the importance of culture in shaping our actions and identities, but that we should reach the opposite normative conclusion to that of multiculturalists and many liberals. Rather than using the idea of social construction to justify cultural respect or protection, we should use it to ground a critical stance toward cultural norms. The book presents radical proposals for state action to promote sexual and cultural justice.