Polity

  • Metamorphoses Nouv.

    Metamorphoses

    Emanuele Coccia

    • Polity
    • 9 June 2021

    We are all fascinated by the mystery of metamorphosis - of the caterpillar that transforms itself into a butterfly. Their bodies have almost nothing in common. They don't share the same world: one crawls on the ground and the other flutters its wings in the air. And yet they are one and the same life. Emanuele Coccia argues that metamorphosis - the phenomenon that allows the same life to subsist in disparate bodies - is the relationship that binds all species together and unites the living with the non-living. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, plants, animals: they are all one and the same life. Each species, including the human species, is the metamorphosis of all those that preceded it - the same life, cobbling together a new body and a new form in order to exist differently. And there is no opposition between the living and the non-living: life is always the reincarnation of the non-living, a carnival of the telluric substance of a planet - the Earth - that continually draws new faces and new ways of being out of even the smallest particle of its disparate body. By highlighting what joins humans together with other forms of life, Coccia's brilliant reflection on metamorphosis encourages us to abandon our view of the human species as static and independent and to recognize instead that we are part of a much larger and interconnected form of life.

  • Retrotopia

    Zygmunt Bauman

    • Polity
    • 23 May 2017

    We have long since lost our faith in the idea that human beings could achieve human happiness in some future ideal state-a state that Thomas More, writing five centuries ago, tied to a topos, a fixed place, a land, an island, a sovereign state under a wise and benevolent ruler. But while we have lost our faith in utopias of all hues, the human aspiration that made this vision so compelling has not died. Instead it is re-emerging today as a vision focused not on the future but on the past, not on a future-to-be-created but on an abandoned and undead past that we could call retrotopia.
    The emergence of retrotopia is interwoven with the deepening gulf between power and politics that is a defining feature of our contemporary liquid-modern world-the gulf between the ability to get things done and the capability of deciding what things need to be done, a capability once vested with the territorially sovereign state. This deepening gulf has rendered nation-states unable to deliver on their promises, giving rise to a widespread disenchantment with the idea that the future will improve the human condition and a mistrust in the ability of nation-states to make this happen. True to the utopian spirit, retrotopia derives its stimulus from the urge to rectify the failings of the present human condition-though now by resurrecting the failed and forgotten potentials of the past. Imagined aspects of the past, genuine or putative, serve as the main landmarks today in drawing the road-map to a better world. Having lost all faith in the idea of building an alternative society of the future, many turn instead to the grand ideas of the past, buried but not yet dead. Such is retrotopia, the contours of which are examined by Zygmunt Bauman in this sharp dissection of our contemporary romance with the past.

  • Trump

    Alain Badiou

    • Polity
    • 25 April 2019

    The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shockwaves across the globe. How was such an outcome even possible? In two lectures given at American universities in the immediate aftermath of the election, the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou helps us to make sense of this extraordinary occurrence. He argues that Trump's victory was the symptom of a global crisis made up of four characteristics: the triumph of a brutal form of global capitalism, the decomposition of the established political elite, the growing frustration and disorientation that many people feel today, and the absence of a compelling alternative vision. It was in this context that Trump could emerge as a new kind of political figure that was both inside and outside the political order, a member of the Republican Party who, at the same time, represents something outside the system. The progressive political challenge now is to create something new that offers people a real choice, a radical alternative based on principles of universality and equality.    This concise account of the meaning of Trump should be read by everyone who wants to understand what is happening in our world today.

  • Lévi-Strauss

    Emmanuelle Loyer

    • Polity
    • 18 January 2019

    Academic, writer, figure of melancholy, aesthete - Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) not only transformed his academic discipline, he also profoundly changed the way that we view ourselves and the world around us. 
    In this award-winning biography, historian Emmanuelle Loyer recounts Lévi-Strauss's childhood in an assimilated Jewish household, his promising student years as well as his first forays into political and intellectual movements. As a young professor, Lévi-Strauss left Paris in 1935 for São Paulo to teach sociology. His rugged expeditions into the Brazilian hinterland, where he discovered the Amerindian Other, made him into an anthropologist. The racial laws of the Vichy regime would force him to leave France yet again, this time for the USA in 1941, where he became Professor Claude L. Strauss - to avoid confusion with the jeans manufacturer.
    Lévi-Strauss's return to France, after the war, ushered in the period during which he produced his greatest works: several decades of intense labour in which he reinvented anthropology, establishing it as a discipline that offered a new view on the world. In 1955, Tristes Tropiques offered indisputable proof of this the world over. During those years, Lévi-Strauss became something of a French national monument, as well as a celebrity intellectual of global renown. But he always claimed his perspective was a `view from afar', enabling him to deliver incisive and subversive diagnoses of our waning modernity.
    Loyer's outstanding biography tells the story of a true intellectual adventurer whose unforgettable voice invites us to rethink questions of the human and the meaning of progress. She portrays Lévi-Strauss less as a modern than as our own great and disquieted contemporary.

  • Derrida

    Benoit Peeters

    • Polity
    • 29 April 2013

    This biography of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) tells the story of a Jewish boy from Algiers, excluded from school at the age of twelve, who went on to become the most widely translated French philosopher in the world - a vulnerable, tormented man who, throughout his life, continued to see himself as unwelcome in the French university system. We are plunged into the different worlds in which Derrida lived and worked: pre-independence Algeria, the microcosm of the École Normale Supérieure, the cluster of structuralist thinkers, and the turbulent events of 1968 and after. We meet the remarkable series of leading writers and philosophers with whom Derrida struck up a friendship: Louis Althusser, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean Genet, and Hélène Cixous, among others. We also witness an equally long series of often brutal polemics fought over crucial issues with thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, John R. Searle, and Jürgen Habermas, as well as several controversies that went far beyond academia, the best known of which concerned Heidegger and Paul de Man. We follow a series of courageous political commitments in support of Nelson Mandela, illegal immigrants, and gay marriage. And we watch as a concept - deconstruction - takes wing and exerts an extraordinary influence way beyond the philosophical world, on literary studies, architecture, law, theology, feminism, queer theory, and postcolonial studies. In writing this compelling and authoritative biography, Benoît Peeters talked to over a hundred individuals who knew and worked with Derrida.  He is also the first person to make use of the huge personal archive built up by Derrida throughout his life and of his extensive correspondence.  Peeters' book gives us a new and deeper understanding of the man who will perhaps be seen as the major philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century.

  • Babel

    ,

    • Polity
    • 15 March 2018

    We are living in an open sea, caught up in a continuous wave, with no fixed point and no instrument to measure distance and the direction of travel. Nothing appears to be in its place any more, and a great deal appears to have no place at all. The principles that have given substance to the democratic ethos, the system of rules that has guided the relationships of authority and the ways in which they are legitimized, the shared values and their hierarchy, our behaviour and our life styles, must be radically revised because they no longer seem suited to our experience and understanding of a world in flux, a world that has become both increasingly interconnected and prone to severe and persistent crises.
    We are living in the interregnum between what is no longer and what is not yet. None of the political movements that helped undermine the old world are ready to inherit it, and there is no new ideology, no consistent vision, promising to give shape to new institutions for the new world. It is like the Babylon referred to by Borges, the country of randomness and uncertainty in which `no decision is final; all branch into others'. Out of the world that had promised us modernity, what Jean Paul Sartre had summarized with sublime formula `le choix que je suis' (`the choice that I am'), we inhabit that flattened, mobile and dematerialized space, where as never before the principle of the heterogenesis of purposes is sovereign.
    This is Babel.

  • Alter-Globalization

    Geoffrey Pleyers

    • Polity
    • 29 April 2013

    Contrary to the common view that globalization undermines social agency, `alter-globalization activists', that is, those who contest globalization in its neo-liberal form, have developed new ways to become actors in the global age. They propose alternatives to Washington Consensus policies, implement horizontal and participatory organization models and promote a nascent global public space. Rather than being anti-globalization, these activists have built a truly global movement that has gathered citizens, committed intellectuals, indigenous, farmers, dalits and NGOs against neoliberal policies in street demonstrations and Social Forums all over the world, from Bangalore to Seattle and from Porto Alegre to Nairobi. This book analyses this worldwide movement on the bases of extensive field research conducted since 1999. Alter-Globalization provides a comprehensive account of these critical global forces and their attempts to answer one of the major challenges of our time: How can citizens and civil society contribute to the building of a fairer, sustainable and more democratic co-existence of human beings in a global world?

  • Pandemic!

    Slavoj Zizek

    • Polity
    • 20 May 2020

    As an unprecedented global pandemic sweeps the planet, who better than the supercharged Slovenian philosopher Slavoj ?i?ek to uncover its deeper meanings, marvel at its mind-boggling paradoxes and speculate on the profundity of its consequences?
     
    We live in a moment when the greatest act of love is to stay distant from the object of your affection. When governments renowned for ruthless cuts in public spending can suddenly conjure up trillions. When toilet paper becomes a commodity as precious as diamonds. And when, according to ?i?ek, a new form of communism - the outlines of which can already be seen in the very heartlands of neoliberalism - may be the only way of averting a descent into global barbarism.
     
    /> Written with his customary brio and love of analogies in popular culture (Quentin Tarantino and H. G. Wells sit next to Hegel and Marx), ?i?ek provides a concise and provocative snapshot of the crisis as it widens, engulfing us all.

  • Post Growth

    Tim Jackson

    • Polity
    • 9 March 2021

    `Empowering and elegiac'
    Yanis Varoufakis, author of Another Now
    `Utterly inspiring'
    Caroline Lucas, MP, Green Party
    `A masterpiece of measured rage and love'
    Jonathan Porritt, author of Hope in Hell Capitalism is broken. The relentless pursuit of more has delivered climate catastrophe, social inequality and financial instability - and left us ill-prepared for life in a global pandemic. Tim Jackson's passionate and provocative book dares us to imagine a world beyond capitalism - a place where relationship and meaning take precedence over profits and power. Post Growth is both a manifesto for system change and an invitation to rekindle a deeper conversation about the nature of the human condition.

  • Adorno

    Stefan Muller-Doohm

    • Polity
    • 7 November 2014

    'Even the biographical individual is a social category', wrote Adorno. `It can only be defined in a living context together with others.' In this major new biography, Stefan Müller-Doohm turns this maxim back on Adorno himself and provides a rich and comprehensive account of the life and work of one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. This authoritative biography ranges across the whole of Adorno's life and career, from his childhood and student years to his years in emigration in the United States and his return to postwar Germany. At the same time, Muller-Doohm examines the full range of Adorno's writings on philosophy, sociology, literary theory, music theory and cultural criticism. Drawing on an array of sources from Adorno's personal correspondence with Horkheimer, Benjamin, Berg, Marcuse, Kracauer and Mann to interviews, notes and both published and unpublished writings, Muller-Doohm situates Adorno's contributions in the context of his times and provides a rich and balanced appraisal of his significance in the 20th Century as a whole. Müller-Doohm's clear prose succeeds in making accessible some of the most complex areas of Adorno's thought. This outstanding biography will be the standard work on Adorno for years to come.

  • Anglais Is Globalization Over?

    Jeremy Green

    • Polity
    • 8 November 2019

    Looming trade wars and rising nationalism have stirred troubling memories of the 1930s. Will history repeat itself? Do we face the chaotic breakdown of the global economic system in the face of stagnation, protectionism and political tumult?
    Jeremy Green argues that, although we face grave problems, globalization is not about to end. Setting today's challenges within a longer historical context, he demonstrates that the global economy is more interconnected than ever before and the costs of undoing it high enough to make a complete breakdown unlikely. Popular analogies between the 1930s and today are misleading. But the governing liberal ideology of globalisation is changing. It is mutating into a hard-edged nationalism that defends free markets while reasserting sovereignty and strengthening borders. This `national liberalism' threatens a much more dangerous disintegration, fuelled by inequality and ecological crisis, unless we radically rethink the international status quo.
    This brilliantly original account of the discontents of globalization is a must-read both for concerned citizens and students of global political economy.

  • How to Fight Inequality

    Ben Phillips

    • Polity
    • 29 September 2020

    Inequality is the crisis of our time. The growing gap between a few at the top and the rest of society damages us all. No longer able to deny the crisis, every government in the world is now pledged to fix it - and yet it keeps on getting worse. 
    In this book, international anti-inequality campaigner Ben Phillips shows why winning the debate is not enough: we have to win the fight. Drawing on his insider experience, and his personal exchanges with the real-life heroes of successful movements, he shows how the battle against inequality has been won before, and he shares a practical plan for defeating inequality again. He sets a route map for us to overcome deference, build our collective power, and create a new story. 
    Most books on inequality are about what other people ought to do about it - this book is about why winning the fight needs you. Tired of feeling helpless in the face of spiralling inequality? Want to know what you can do about it? This is the book for you.

  • In the last two decades, both the conception and the practice of participatory culture have been transformed by the new affordances enabled by digital, networked, and mobile technologies. This exciting new book explores that transformation by bringing together three leading figures in conversation. Jenkins, Ito and boyd examine the ways in which our personal and professional lives are shaped by experiences interacting with and around emerging media.
    Stressing the social and cultural contexts of participation, the authors describe the process of diversification and mainstreaming that has transformed participatory culture. They advocate a move beyond individualized personal expression and argue for an ethos of "doing it together" in addition to "doing it yourself."
    Participatory Culture in a Networked Era will interest students and scholars of digital media and their impact on society and will engage readers in a broader dialogue and conversation about their own participatory practices in this digital age.

  • Russia

    Dmitri Trenin

    • Polity
    • 26 July 2019

    Over the past century alone, Russia has lived through great achievements and deepest misery; mass heroism and mass crime; over-blown ambition and near-hopeless despair - always emerging with its sovereignty and its fiercely independent spirit intact. In this book, leading Russia scholar Dmitri Trenin accompanies readers on Russia's rollercoaster journey from revolution to post-war devastation, perestroika to Putin's stabilization of post-Communist Russia.  Explaining the causes and the meaning of the numerous twists and turns in contemporary Russian history, he offers a vivid insider's view of a country through one of its most trying and often tragic periods.  Today, he cautions, Russia stands at a turning point - politically, economically and socially - its situation strikingly reminiscent of the Russian Empire in its final years. For the Russian Federation to avoid a similar demise, it must learn the lessons of its own history.

  • The Far Right Today

    Cas Mudde

    • Polity
    • 25 October 2019

    The far right is back with a vengeance. After several decades at the political margins, far-right politics has again taken center stage. Three of the world's largest democracies - Brazil, India, and the United States - now have a radical right leader, while far-right parties continue to increase their profile and support within Europe. In this timely book, leading global expert on political extremism Cas Mudde provides a concise overview of the fourth wave of postwar far-right politics, exploring its history, ideology, organization, causes, and consequences, as well as the responses available to civil society, party, and state actors to challenge its ideas and influence. What defines this current far-right renaissance, Mudde argues, is its mainstreaming and normalization within the contemporary political landscape. Challenging orthodox thinking on the relationship between conventional and far-right politics, Mudde offers a complex and insightful picture of one of the key political challenges of our time.

  • What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? Most people recognize that we face huge challenges today, from climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences to a plethora of socio-political problems, but we find it hard to face up to the very real possibility that these crises could produce a collapse of our entire civilization.  Yet we now have a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the capacity of human populations to maintain themselves in a sustainable environment.
    In this important book, Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens confront these issues head-on. They examine the scientific evidence and show how its findings, often presented in a detached and abstract way, are connected to people's ordinary experiences - joining the dots, as it were, between the Anthropocene and our everyday lives.  In so doing they provide a valuable guide that will help everyone make sense of the new and potentially catastrophic situation in which we now find ourselves. Today, utopia has changed sides: it is the utopians who believe that everything can continue as before, while realists put their energy into making a transition and building local resilience. Collapse is the horizon of our generation. But collapse is not the end - it's the beginning of our future. We will reinvent new ways of living in the world and being attentive to ourselves, to other human beings and to all our fellow creatures.

  • Modern Epidemics

    Salvador Macip

    • Polity
    • 11 March 2021

    COVID-19 has made us all aware of the fact that we live in a world full of invisible enemies. Normally, we don't even realize they're there, but from time to time one of these microscopic creatures becomes powerful enough to turn everything upside down. What are these invisible enemies, and how can we prepare ourselves for the pandemics of the future? A specialist in the cellular biology of diseases, Salvador Macip explains, in a language everyone can understand, what it means to share the planet with millions of microbes - some wonderful allies, others terrible foes. He provides a concise account of epidemics that changed history, and focuses on the great modern plagues that are still causing millions of deaths every year, from influenza, TB and malaria to COVID-19. Macip also examines the methods we have used - from vaccines to improved sanitation and social distancing - to try to control these invisible enemies. This authoritative overview of modern epidemics and the pathogens that cause them will be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand our world today, a world in which some of the greatest threats to the human species come from the invisible microbes with which we share this planet.

  • Freedom of the Border

    Paul Scheffer

    • Polity
    • 14 January 2021

    There are few issues more contentious today than the nature and purpose of borders. Migration flows and the refugee crisis have propelled the issue of borders into the centre of political debate and revealed our moral unease more clearly than ever. Who are we to deny others access to our territory? Is not freedom of movement a basic human right, one that should be defended above all others? In this book Paul Scheffer takes a different view. Rather than thinking of borders as obstacles to freedom, he argues that borders make freedom possible. Democracy and redistributive justice are only possible with the regulation of access to territories and rights. When liberals ignore an open society's need for borders, people with authoritarian inclinations will begin to erect them. In the context of Europe, the project of removing internal borders can therefore only be successful if Europe accepts responsibility for its external border. This timely and important book challenges conventional ways of thinking and will be of interest to everyone concerned with the great social and political issues of our time.

  • The Scent of Empires

    Karl Schlogel

    • Polity
    • 27 April 2021

    Can a drop of perfume tell the story of the twentieth century? Can a smell bear the traces of history? What can we learn about the history of the twentieth century by examining the fate of perfumes? In this remarkable book, Karl Schlgel unravels the interconnected histories of two of the world's most celebrated perfumes.  In tsarist Russia, two French perfumers Ernest Beaux and Auguste Michel developed related fragrances honouring Catherine the Great for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. During the Russian Revolution and Civil War, Beaux fled Russia and took the formula for his perfume with him to France, where he sought to adapt it to his new French circumstances. He presented Coco Chanel with a series of ten fragrance samples in his laboratory and, after smelling each, she chose number five the scent that would later go by the name Chanel No. 5.  Meanwhile, as the perfume industry was being revived in Soviet Russia, Auguste Michel used his original fragrance to create Red Moscow for the tenth anniversary of the Revolution.  Piecing together the intertwined histories of these two famous perfumes, which shared a common origin, Schlgel tells a surprising story of power, intrigue and betrayal that offers an altogether unique perspective on the turbulent events and high politics of the twentieth century. This brilliant account of perfume and politics in twentieth-century Europe will be of interest to a wide general readership.

  • Defiant Earth

    Clive Hamilton

    • Polity
    • 5 June 2017

    Humans have become so powerful that we have disrupted the functioning of the Earth System as a whole, bringing on a new geological epoch - the Anthropocene - one in which the serene and clement conditions that allowed civilisation to flourish are disappearing and we quail before 'the wakened giant'. The emergence of a conscious creature capable of using technology to bring about a rupture in the Earth's geochronology is an event of monumental significance, on a par with the arrival of civilisation itself. What does it mean to have arrived at this point, where human history and Earth history collide? Some interpret the Anthropocene as no more than a development of what they already know, obscuring and deflating its profound significance. But the Anthropocene demands that we rethink everything. The modern belief in the free, reflexive being making its own future by taking control of its environment - even to the point of geoengineering - is now impossible because we have rendered the Earth more unpredictable and less controllable, a disobedient planet. At the same time, all attempts by progressives to cut humans down to size by attacking anthropocentrism come up against the insurmountable fact that human beings now possess enough power to change the Earth's course. It's too late to turn back the geological clock, and there is no going back to premodern ways of thinking. We must face the fact that humans are at the centre of the world, even if we must give the idea that we can control the planet. These truths call for a new kind of anthropocentrism, a philosophy by which we might use our power responsibly and find a way to live on a defiant Earth.

  • The election of an unabashedly patriarchal man as US President was a shock for many-despite decades of activism on gender inequalities and equal rights, how could it come to this? What is it about patriarchy that seems to make it so resilient and resistant to change? Undoubtedly it endures in part because some people benefit from the unequal advantages it confers. But is that enough to explain its stubborn persistence?
    In this highly original and persuasively argued book, Carol Gilligan and Naomi Snider put forward a different view: they argue that patriarchy persists because it serves a psychological function. By requiring us to sacrifice love for the sake of hierarchy, patriarchy protects us from the vulnerability of loving and becomes a defense against loss. Uncovering the powerful psychological mechanisms that underpin patriarchy, the authors show how forces beyond our awareness may be driving a politics that otherwise seems inexplicable.

  • Along the Trenches

    Navid Kermani

    • Polity
    • 11 November 2019

    Between Germany and Russia is a region strewn with monuments to the horrors of war, genocide and disaster - the bloodlands where the murderous regimes of Hitler and Stalin unleashed the violence that scarred the twentieth century and shaped so much of the world we know today. In September 2016 the German-Iranian writer Navid Kermani set out to discover this land and to travel along the trenches that are now re-emerging in Europe, from his home in Cologne through eastern Germany to the Baltics, and from there south to the Caucasus and to Isfahan in Iran, the home of his parents.   This beautifully written travel diary, enlivened by conversations with the people Kermani meets along the way, brings to life the tragic history of these troubled lands and shows how this history leaves its traces in the present. It will be of great interest to anyone concerned with current affairs and with the events that have shaped, and continue to shape, the world in which we live today.

  • Defending Freedom

    Ralf Fucks

    • Polity
    • 1 November 2019

    We are witnessing a crisis of liberal democracy. A widespread fear of social decline, rapid globalization and uncontrolled immigration have culminated in a prevailing mood of hostility towards the established order. Confidence in democratic institutions and mainstream political parties is fast eroding, with people increasingly drawn towards the rhetoric of populist demagogues and authoritarian leaders. What are the roots of this revolt against liberalism and how can it be countered?
    In this new book, the leading Green politician and thinker Ralf Fücks argues that the threat to liberal democracy lies within democracy itself. Democracy is the fundamental guarantor of freedom and it is our own failure to defend it that has led to the encroachment of an illiberal and divisive politics. In a powerful counter, Fücks outlines the foundations for an ambitious democratic renewal: greater investment in the public institutions to create a sense of belonging and political community; a focus on education as the key instrument for social advancement; the promotion of a democratic patriotism based on common political values; a better understanding of how to increase participation in the emerging digital economy; and sustainable innovation that will unleash the creative potential of liberal societies.
    This robust defense of liberal democracy will be essential reading for anyone concerned about the very real threat faced by our democratic freedoms today and wondering what we can do about it.

  • Failure

    ,

    • Polity
    • 8 November 2019

    Wall Street and Silicon Valley - the two worlds this book examines - promote the illusion that scarcity can and should be eliminated in the age of seamless "flow." Instead, Appadurai and Alexander propose a theory of habitual and strategic failure by exploring debt, crisis, digital divides, and (dis)connectivity. Moving between the planned obsolescence and deliberate precariousness of digital technologies and the "too big to fail" logic of the Great Recession, they argue that the sense of failure is real in that it produces disappointment and pain. Yet, failure is not a self-evident quality of projects, institutions, technologies, or lives. It requires a new and urgent understanding of the conditions under which repeated breakdowns and collapses are quickly forgotten.  By looking at such moments of forgetfulness, this highly original book offers a multilayered account of failure and a general theory of denial, memory, and nascent systems of control.

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