Polity

  • Anglais Metamorphoses

    Emanuele Coccia

    • Polity
    • 9 Juin 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.

  • Anglais Retrotopia

    Zygmunt Bauman

    • Polity
    • 6 Mars 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.

  • Anglais Trump

    Alain Badiou

    • Polity
    • 25 Avril 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.

  • Anglais Lévi-Strauss

    Emmanuelle Loyer

    • Polity
    • 18 Janvier 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.

  • Anglais Babel

    ,

    • Polity
    • 17 Mai 2016

    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.

  • Derrida

    Benoit Peeters

    • Polity
    • 29 Avril 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.

  • Anglais Adorno

    Stefan Muller-Doohm

    • Polity
    • 7 Novembre 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.

  • Russia

    Dmitri Trenin

    • Polity
    • 26 Juillet 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.

  • Anglais The Scent of Empires

    Karl Schlogel

    • Polity
    • 27 Avril 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.

  • Some analysts have called distrust the biggest governmental crisis of our time. It is unquestionably a huge problem, undermining confidence in our elected institutions, shrinking social capital, slowing innovation, and raising existential questions for democratic government itself.  What's behind the rising distrust in democracies around the world and can we do anything about it? In this lively and thought-provoking essay, Donald F. Kettl, a leading scholar of public policy and management, investigates the deep historical roots of distrust in government, exploring its effects on the social contract between citizens and their elected representatives. Most importantly, the book examines the strategies that present-day governments can follow to earn back our trust, so that the officials we elect can govern more effectively on our behalf.

  • Anglais Is Globalization Over?

    Jeremy Green

    • Polity
    • 8 Novembre 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.

  • The planet is sick. Human beings are guilty of damaging it. We have to pay. Today, that is the orthodoxy throughout the Western world. Distrust of progress and science, calls for individual and collective self-sacrifice to `save the planet' and cultivation of fear: behind the carbon commissars, a dangerous and counterproductive ecological catastrophism is gaining ground.
    Modern society's susceptibility to this kind of thinking derives from what Bruckner calls "the seductive attraction of disaster," as exemplified by the popular appeal of disaster movies. But ecological catastrophism is harmful in that it draws attention away from other, more solvable problems and injustices in the world in order to focus on something that is portrayed as an Apocalypse.
    Rather than preaching catastrophe and pessimism, we need to develop a democratic and generous ecology that addresses specific problems in a practical way.

  • Anglais Dogs

    Mark Alizart

    • Polity
    • 1 Novembre 2019

    Man's best friend, domesticated since prehistoric times, a travelling companion for explorers and artists, thinkers and walkers, equally happy curled up by the fire and bounding through the great outdoors-dogs matter to us because we love them.  But is that all there is to the canine's good-natured voracity and affectionate dependency?
    Mark Alizart dispenses with the well-worn clichés concerning dogs and their masters, seeing them not as submissive pets but rather as unexpected life coaches, ready to teach us the elusive recipes for contentment and joy.  Dogs have faced their fate in life with a certain detachment that is not easy to understand.  Unlike other animals in a similar situation, they have not become hardened, nor have they let themselves die a little inside. On the contrary, they seem to have softened. This book is devoted to understanding this miracle, the miracle of the joy of dogs - to understanding it and, if at all possible, to learning how it's done.
    Weaving elegantly and eruditely between historical myth and pop-culture anecdote, between the peculiar views of philosophers and the even more bizarre findings of science, Alizart offers us a surprising new portrait of the dog as thinker-a thinker who may perhaps know the true secret of our humanity.

  • This short book by one of France's leading historians deals with a big question: how was it that Christianity, that masterpiece of religious invention, managed, between 300 and 400 AD, to impose itself upon the whole of the Western world? In his erudite and inimitable way, Paul Veyne suggests three possible explanations.
    Was it because a Roman emperor, Constantine, who was master of the Western world at the time, became a sincere convert to Christianity and set out to Christianize the whole world in order to save it?
    Or was it because, as a great emperor, Constantine needed a great religion, and in comparison to the pagan gods, Christianity, despite being a minority sect, was an avant-garde religion unlike anything seen before?
    Or was it because Constantine limited himself to helping the Christians set up their Church, a network of bishoprics that covered the vast Roman Empire, and that gradually and with little overt resistance the pagan masses embraced Christianity as their own religion?
    In the course of deciding between these explanations Paul Veyne sheds fresh light on one of the most profound transformations that shaped the modern world - the Christianization of the West. A bestseller in France, this book will appeal to a wide readership interested in history, religion and the rise of the modern world.

  • In what ways are cities central to the evolution of contemporary global capitalism? And in what ways is global capitalism forged by the urban experience? This book provides a response to these questions, exploring the multifaceted dimensions of the city-capitalism nexus.
    Drawing on a wide range of conceptual approaches, including political economy, neo-institutionalism and radical political theory, this insightful book examines the complex relationships between contemporary capitalist cities and key forces of our times, such as globalization and neoliberalism. Taking a truly global perspective, Ugo Rossi offers a comparative analysis of the ways in which urban economies and societies reflect and at the same time act as engines of global capitalism.
    Ultimately, this book shows how over the past three decades capitalism has shifted a gear - no longer merely incorporating key aspects of society into its system, but encompassing everything, including life itself - and illustrates how cities play a central role within this life-oriented construction of global capitalism.

  • Anglais Wood

    Joachim Radkau

    • Polity
    • 21 Octobre 2013

    Ötzi the iceman could not do without wood when he was climbing his Alpine glacier, nor could medieval cathedral-builders or today's construction companies. From time immemorial, the skill of the human hand has developed by working wood, so much so that we might say that the handling of wood is a basic element in the history of the human body. The fear of a future wood famine became a panic in the 18th century and sparked the beginnings of modern environmentalism. This book traces the cultural history of wood and offers a highly original account of the connection between the raw material and the human beings who benefit from it. Even more, it shows that wood can provide a key for a better understanding of history, of the pecularities as well as the varieties of cultures, of a co-evolution of nature and culture, and even of the rise and fall of great powers. Beginning with Stone Age hunters, it follows the twists and turns of the story through the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution to the global society of the twenty-first century, in which wood is undergoing a varied and unexpected renaissance. Radkau is sceptical of claims that wood is about to disappear, arguing that such claims are self-serving arguments promoted by interest groups to secure cheaper access to, and control over, wood resources. The whole forest and timber industry often strikes the outsider as a world unto itself, a hermetically sealed black box, but when we lift the lid on this box, as Radkau does here, we will be surprised by what we find within. Wide-ranging and accessible, this rich historical analysis of one of our most cherished natural resources will find a wide readership.

  • Relationships fall apart, marriages fail, couples break up - it happens to us all. Time corrodes passion and the routines of daily life kill the excitement that surrounds the emotion of the first encounter. The difficulty of uniting sexual pleasure with love, which Freud considered to be the most common neurosis in any love life, has become emblematic of a truth that seems undeniable: desire is destined to die if its object is not constantly renewed, if we do not change partner, if it is closed for too long in the restrictive chamber of the same bond.  
    And yet what happens to these bonds when one of the two partners betrays the other, when the promise fails, when there is another emotional experience cloaked in secrecy and deceit? What happens if the traitor then begs forgiveness? Are they asking to be loved again and, having declared that it is not like it used to be, now want everything to go back to how it was? Should we make fun of lovers in their attempts to make love last? Or should we try to face up to the experience of betrayal, with the offence caused by the person we love most? Should we not perhaps attempt to praise forgiveness in love?

  • Anglais FAILURE

    APPADURAI ARJUN

    • Polity
    • 8 Novembre 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.

  • This is a short book about the most prominent sign of our times.  The simple # sign is now used so widely that it is easy to overlook the fundamental effects it has had in the structuring of public debate.  With its help, statements are bundled together and discourse is organized and amplified around common buzzwords.  This method enables us to navigate more easily the huge volume of online utterances, but it also increases the risk of leveling statements and extinguishing difference, as exemplified by the #MeToo debate. Andreas Bernard traces the young and spectacular career of the humble hashtag.  He follows the history of the # sign, documenting its use by Twitter and Instagram, and then examines the most prominent contemporary domains of the sign in socio-political activism and in marketing - two apparently very different fields which are united in their passion for the hashtag. Theory of the Hashtag shines a bright light on a small but pervasive feature of our contemporary digital culture and shows how it is surreptitiously shaping the public sphere. 

  • Written in a readable, accessible style, with plenty of up-to-date examples Psychoanalysis and Culture provides a brilliant introduction to key issues in the area of application of psychoanalytic theories to culture. The author argues that we cannot grasp the complexity of contemporary global issues without understanding some of the unconscious processes which underlie them. After introducing some major modern and postmodern psychoanalytic approaches, Minsky offers a broad-ranging critique of Lacan's theory of culture and the unconscious. She explores a range of crucial and topical questions: how should we explain women's historical subordination and what is now often seen as a crisis in male identity? What constitutes 'masculinity' apart from power and control? How important is the father, actually and symbolically in children's development in the context of lone-parent families? Why is contemporary culture often still so violent and destructive? Why is consumer culture so attractive to so many and why is it so difficult to put limits on economic growth in the interests of preventing environmental disaster?
    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars in sociology, women's studies, cultural studies, psychology and history as well as psychoanalytic studies. It will also appeal to the general reader interested in the psychology of cultural change.

  • This important intervention interrogates keystone features of the dominant European theoretical landscape in the field of populism studies, advancing existing debates and introducing new avenues of thought, in conjunction with insights from the contemporary Latin American political experience and perspectives. In each essay - the title a nod to the influential socialist thinker José Carlos Mariátegui, from whom the authors draw inspiration - leading Argentine scholars Paula Biglieri and Luciana Cadahia pair key dimensions of populism with diverse themes such as modern-day feminism, militancy, and neoliberalism, in order to stimulate discussion surrounding the constitutive nature, goals, and potential of populist social movements. Biglieri and Cadahia are unafraid to court provocation in their frank assessment of populism as a force which could bring about essential emancipatory social change to confront emerging right-wing trends in policy and leadership. At the same time, this fresh interpretation of a much-maligned political articulation is balanced by their denunciation of right-aligned populisms and their failure to bring to bear a sustainable alternative to contemporary neo-authoritarian forms of neoliberalism. In their place, they articulate a populism which offers a viable means of mobilizing a response to hegemonic forms of neoliberal discourse and government.

  • 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.

  • Anglais Japan

    Jeff Kingston

    • Polity
    • 18 Janvier 2019

    Japan, anchored by its traditions, transformed by American post-war Occupation, and globally recognized for its technological innovations, manufacturing prowess, and pop culture, faces powerful challenges from within and without. How Japan chooses to handle these problems and opportunities will determine its future for decades to come.
               In this book, Jeff Kingston - one of the most lucid analysts of Japan today - takes readers on a fascinating journey through this country's contemporary history, exploring the key developments and forces, both at home and abroad, that are shaping Japan in the twenty-first century. Whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's transformative agenda of "Abenomics" and "proactive pacifism" toward a rising China and a belligerent North Korea can set Japan on the path to greater prosperity and security remains to be seen. But having won a third term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2018, Japan's ongoing transformation is very much in Abe's hands.

  • Anglais Kracauer

    Jorg Spater

    • Polity
    • 11 Juin 2020

    Siegfried Kracauer was one of the most important German thinkers of the twentieth century. His writings on Weimar culture, mass society, photography and film were groundbreaking and they anticipated many of the themes later developed members of the Frankfurt School and other cultural theorists.  
    No less remarkable were the circumstances under which he made these contributions. After his early years as a journalist in Germany, the rise of the Nazis forced Kracauer into exile first in Paris and then, after a protracted flight via Marseilles and Lisbon, to the United States. The existential challenges, personal losses and unrelenting hardship Kracauer faced during these years of exile formed the backdrop against which he offered his acute observations of modern life.
    Jrg Später provides the first comprehensive biography of this extraordinary man. Based on extensive archival research, Später's biography expertly traces the key influences on Kracauer's intellectual development and presents his most important works and ideas with great clarity.  At the same time, Später ably documents the intensity of Kracauer's personal relationships, the trauma of his flight and exile, and his embrace of his new homeland, where, finally, the groundlessness' of refugee existence gave way to a more stable life and, with it, some of the intellectually most fruitful years of Kracauer's career.
    The result is a vivid portrait of a man driven both by an urge to capture reality to attend to the things that are overlooked or misjudged', that still lack a name', as he put it and by a need to find his place in a hostile, threatening world.

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