Originally published in Italian in 2002, When the Word Becomes Flesh provides a compelling contribution to the understanding of language and its relation to human nature and social relationships. Adopting Aristotle’s definition of the human being as a linguistic and political animal, Paolo Virno frames the act of speech as a foundational philosophical issue—an act that in its purely performative essence ultimately determines our ability to pass from the state of possibility to one of actuality: that is, from the power to act to action itself.
The Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection was a phenomenon, celebrated in some quarters and inveighed against in others, publicized in media that ranged from campus bulletin boards to Fox News. Seven years later, The Invisible Committee follows up their premonitory manifesto with a new book, To Our Friends.
At the core of liberal theory is the idea—found in thinkers from Hobbes to Rawls—that the consent of the governed is key to establishing political legitimacy. But in a diverse liberal polity like the United States, disagreement runs deep, and a segment of the population will simply regard the regime as illegitimate. In Liberalism in Practice, Olivia Newman argues that if citizens were to approach politics in the spirit of public reason, couching arguments in terms that others can reasonably accept, institutional and political legitimacy would be enhanced.
Neoliberal rationality—ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture—remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo oeconomicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the constituent elements of democracy into an economic register? In Undoing the Demos, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled.
Experts, pundits, and politicians agree: public debt is hindering growth and increasing unemployment. Governments must reduce debt at all cost if they want to restore confidence and get back on a path to prosperity. Maurizio Lazzarato’s diagnosis, however, is completely different: under capitalism, debt is not primarily a question of budget and economic concerns but a political relation of subjection and enslavement. Debt has become infinite and unpayable.
Contemporary environmental political theory considers the implications of the environmental crisis for such political concepts as rights, citizenship, justice, democracy, the state, race, class, and gender. As the field has matured, scholars have begun to explore connections between Green Theory and such canonical political thinkers as Plato, Machiavelli, Locke, and Marx. The essays in this volume put important figures from the political theory canon in dialogue with current environmental political theory.
If Marx’s opus Capital provided the foundational account of the forces of production in all of their objective, machine formats, what happens when the concepts of political economy are applied not to dead labor, but to its living counterpart, the human subject? The result is Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt’s History and Obstinacy, a groundbreaking archaeology of the labor power that has been cultivated in the human body over the last two thousand years.
“Capital is a semiotic operator": this assertion by Félix Guattari is at the heart of Maurizio Lazzarato’s Signs and Machines, which asks us to leave behind the logocentrism that still informs so many critical theories. Lazzarato calls instead for a new theory capable of explaining how signs function in the economy, in power apparatuses, and in the production of subjectivity.
First published in French in 1985, The Divine Left is Jean Baudrillard’s chronicle of French political life from 1977 to 1984. It offers the closest thing to political analysis to be found from a thinker who has too often been regarded as apolitical. Gathering texts that originally appeared as newspaper commentary on François Mitterand’s rise to power as France’s first Socialist president and the Socialist Party’s fraught alliance with the French Communist Party, The Divine Left in essence presents Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacrum as it operates in the political sphere.
Why do walls marking national boundaries proliferate amid widespread proclamations of global connectedness and despite anticipation of a world without borders? Why are barricades built of concrete, steel, and barbed wire when threats to the nation today are so often miniaturized, vaporous, clandestine, dispersed, or networked?