Demanding the Impossible


Slavoj Žižek - 2004
    Based on live interviews, the book captures Zizek at his irrepressible best, elucidating such topics as the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the global financial crisis, populism in Latin America, the rise of China and even the riddle of North Korea. Zizek dazzles readers with his analyses of Hollywood films, Venezuelan police reports, Swedish crime fiction and much else. Wherever the conversation turns, his energetic mind illuminates unexpected horizons.While analyzing our present predicaments, Zizek also explores possibilities for change. What sort of society is worth striving for? Why is it difficult to imagine alternative social and political arrangements? What are the bases for hope? A key obligation in our troubled times, argues Zizek, is to dare to ask fundamental questions: we must reflect and theorize anew, and always be prepared to rethink and redefine the limits of the possible. These original and compelling conversations, many appearing here for the first time in English, offer an engaging and accessible introduction to one of the most important thinkers of our time.

Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams


David Graeber - 2001
    David Graeber reexamines a century of anthropological thought about value and exchange, in large measure to find a way out of quandaries in current social theory, which have become critical at the present moment of ideological collapse in the face of Neoliberalism. Rooted in an engaged, dynamic realism, Graeber argues that projects of cultural comparison are in a sense necessarily revolutionary projects: He attempts to synthesize the best insights of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss, arguing that these figures represent two extreme, but ultimately complementary, possibilities in the shape such a project might take. Graeber breathes new life into the classic anthropological texts on exchange, value, and economy. He rethinks the cases of Iroquois wampum, Pacific kula exchanges, and the Kwakiutl potlatch within the flow of world historical processes, and recasts value as a model of human meaning-making, which far exceeds rationalist/reductive economist paradigms.

People without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy


Harold Barclay - 1996
    In fact it is a very common form of political organisation and one which has characterised much of the human past. People Without Government describes briefly the anarchic political structures of a number of these societies. True they are mainly small-scale hunting, gathering and horticultural groups. However, the social organisation of certain large populations with complex relations is also sometimes anarchic. Thus anarchy applies to a broad spectrum of different kinds of societies. This book seeks to show what anarchy has been like in practice. Special attention is paid to the techniques of leadership, maintaining order and decision-making. The dynamic interplay between freedom and authority is considered, particularly the apparent tendency of anarchic polities to degenerate into states with government and for organisations to become oligarchies, and it is concluded that liberty and individuality are at best very tenuous and fleeting entities. There can be no relenting in the struggle for freedom.

What is Anthropology?


Thomas Hylland Eriksen - 2003
    A rethinking of popular political movements, this book looks at new, emerging, mass visions and analyses their impact and potential in new ways.

What Was the Hipster? A Sociological Investigation


Mark GreifJennifer Baumgardner - 2010
    Their debate took place at the New School University in New York City. In addition to the panel transcript, the book includes responses from critics Jennifer Baumgardner, Patrice Evans aka The Assimilated Negro, and Margo Jefferson, as well as essays on douchebags, Hasidism versus hipsters, the Hipster Feminine, and the sneaker shop Alife Rivington.

The Western Illusion of Human Nature: With Reflections on the Long History of Hierarchy, Equality and the Sublimation of Anarchy in the West, and Comparative Notes on Other Conceptions of the Human Condition


Marshall Sahlins - 2008
    He cites Nietzsche to the effect that deep issues are like cold baths; one should get into and out of them as quickly as possible. The deep issue here is the ancient Western specter of a presocial and antisocial human nature: a supposedly innate self-interest that is represented in our native folklore as the basis or nemesis of cultural order. Yet these Western notions of nature and culture ignore the one truly universal character of human sociality: namely, symbolically constructed kinship relations. Kinsmen are members of one another: they live each other's lives and die each other's deaths. But where the existence of the other is thus incorporated in the being of the self, neither interest, nor agency or even experience is an individual fact, let alone an egoistic disposition. "Sorry, beg your pardon," Sahlins concludes, Western society has been built on a perverse and mistaken idea of human nature.

The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982–1983


Michel Foucault - 2008
    Through the study of this notion of truth-telling, of speaking out freely, Foucault re-examines Greek citizenship, showing how the courage of the truth forms the forgotten ethical basis of Athenian democracy. The figure of the philosopher king, the condemnation of writing, and Socrates' rejection of political involvement are some of the many topics of ancient philosophy revisited here.

The Anatomy of Disgust


William Ian Miller - 1997
    Our notion of the self, intimately dependent as it is on our response to the excretions and secretions of our bodies, depends on it. Cultural identities have frequent recourse to its boundary-policing powers. Love depends on overcoming it, while the pleasure of sex comes in large measure from the titillating violation of disgust prohibitions. Imagine aesthetics without disgust for tastelessness and vulgarity; imagine morality without disgust for evil, hypocrisy, stupidity, and cruelty.Miller details our anxious relation to basic life processes: eating, excreting, fornicating, decaying, and dying. But disgust pushes beyond the flesh to vivify the larger social order with the idiom it commandeers from the sights, smells, tastes, feels, and sounds of fleshly physicality. Disgust and contempt, Miller argues, play crucial political roles in creating and maintaining social hierarchy. Democracy depends less on respect for persons than on an equal distribution of contempt. Disgust, however, signals dangerous division. The high's belief that the low actually smell bad, or are sources of pollution, seriously threatens democracy.Miller argues that disgust is deeply grounded in our ambivalence to life: it distresses us that the fair is so fragile, so easily reduced to foulness, and that the foul may seem more than passing fair in certain slants of light. When we are disgusted, we are attempting to set bounds, to keep chaos at bay. Of course we fail. But, as Miller points out, our failure is hardly an occasion for despair, for disgust also helps to animate the world, and to make it a dangerous, magical, and exciting place.

Noise: The Political Economy of Music


Jacques Attali - 1977
    . . . In its general theoretical argument on the relations of culture to economy, but also in its specialized concentration, Noise has much that is of importance to critical theory today.” SubStance“For Attali, music is not simply a reflection of culture, but a harbinger of change, an anticipatory abstraction of the shape of things to come. The book’s title refers specifically to the reception of musics that sonically rival normative social orders. Noise is Attali’s metaphor for a broad, historical vanguardism, for the radical soundscapes of the western continuum that express structurally the course of social development.” EthnomusicologyJacques Attali is the author of numerous books, including Millennium: Winners and Losers in the Coming World Order and Labyrinth in Culture and Society.

Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market


Pierre Bourdieu - 1998
    A devastating critique of free-market politics from distinguished sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.

Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age


Anthony Giddens - 1991
    It also radicallly alters the general nature of daily life and the most personal aspects of human activity. In fact, one of the most distinctive features of modernity is the increasing interconnection between globalizing influences and personal dispositions. The author analyzes the nature of this interconnection and provides a conceptual vocabulary for it, in the process providing a major rethinking of the nature of modernity and a reworking of basic premises of sociological analysis.Building on the ideas set out in the authors The Consequences of Modernity, this book focuses on the self and the emergence of new mechanisms of self-identity that are shaped by—yet also shape—the institutions of modernity. The author argues that the self is not a passive entity, determined by external influences. Rather, in forging their self-identities, no matter how local their contexts of action, individuals contribute to and directly promote social influences that are global in their consequences and implications.The author sketches the contours of the he calls "high modernity"—the world of our day—and considers its ramifications for the self and self-identity. In this context, he analyzes the meaning to the self of such concepts as trust, fate, risk, and security and goes on the examine the "sequestration of experience," the process by which high modernity separates day-to-day social life from a variety of experiences and broad issues of morality. The author demonstrates how personal meaninglessness—the feeling that life has nothing worthwhile to offer—becomes a fundamental psychic problem in circumstances of high modernity. The book concludes with a discussion of "life politics," a politics of selfactualization operating on both the individual and collective levels.

European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power


Immanuel Wallerstein - 2006
    The assumption has been that such ideas are universal, encrusted in natural law. But, as Immanuel Wallerstein argues in this short and elegant philippic, these concepts are, in fact, not global. Rather, their genesis is firmly rooted in European thought and their primary function has been to provide justification for powerful states to impose their will against the weak under the smoke screen of what is supposed to be both beneficial to humankind and historically inevitable.With great acuity Wallerstein draws together discussions of the idea of orientalism, the right to intervene, and the triumph of science over the humanities to explain how strategies designed to promote particular Western interests have acquired an all-inclusive patina.Wallerstein concludes by advocating a true universalism that will allow critical appraisal of all justifications for intervention by the powerful against the weak. At a time when such intervention—in the name of democracy and human rights—has returned to the center stage of world politics, his treatise is both relevant and compelling.

Left Hemisphere: Mapping Contemporary Theory


Razmig Keucheyan - 2010
    The struggle between radical movements and the forces of reaction will be merciless. A crucial battlefield, where the outcome of the crisis will in part be decided, is that of theory. Over the last twenty-five years, radical intellectuals across the world have produced important and innovative ideas.The endeavour to transform the world without falling into the catastrophic traps of the past has been a common element uniting these new approaches. This book – aimed at both the general reader and the specialist – offers the first global cartography of the expanding intellectual field of critical contemporary thought. More than thirty authors and intellectual currents of every continent are presented in a clear and succinct manner. A history of critical thought in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is also provided, helping situate current thinkers in a broader historical and sociological perspective.

Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class


Dean MacCannell - 1976
    It brings the concerns of social science to an analysis of travel and sightseeing in the postindustrial age, during which the middle class acquired leisure time for international travel. This edition includes a new foreword by Lucy R. Lippard and a new afterword by the author.

Archeology of Violence


Pierre Clastres - 1977
    For him, tribal societies are not Rousseauist in essence; to the contrary, they practice systematic violence in order to prevent the rise in their midst of this "cold monster" the state. Only by waging war with other tribes can they maintain the dispersion and autonomy of each group. In the same way, tribal chiefs are not all-powerful; to the contrary, they are rendered weak in order to remain dependent on the community. In a series of groundbreaking essays, Clastres turns around the analysis of power among South American Indians and rehabilitates violence as an affirmative act meant to protect the integrity of their societies. These "savages" are shrewd political minds who resist in advance any attempt at "globalization."