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Rank #55 in Social Sciences category

Science
Social Sciences

New Books in Critical Theory

Updated 4 days ago

Rank #55 in Social Sciences category

Science
Social Sciences
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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

40 Ratings
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25
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‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
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Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
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Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.

iTunes Ratings

40 Ratings
Average Ratings
25
7
4
3
1

‘New...” Jewish/Indian/Gay “Books in Critical Theory”?

By JTR ROUND ROCK - May 22 2018
Read more
Not a fair title for these pods if you’re going to let one or two ethnic groups dominate. Just a fan of truth in advertising.

Summaries into Critical Texts

By thom bjork - May 17 2018
Read more
Each show is an interview into the scholar's/scholars' manuscript. By amplifying the author's voice, each text is given a larger footprint in an environment which at times seems at antipodes. Marxist, new left, on marginilization and the state. Support the network.

Listen to:

Cover image of New Books in Critical Theory

New Books in Critical Theory

Updated 4 days ago

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Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books

Steven Shaviro, “The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism” (University of Minnesota Press, 2014)

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Steven Shaviro‘s new book is a wonderfully engaging study of speculative realism, new materialism, and the ways in which those fields can speak to and be informed by the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. While The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) will satisfy even advanced scholars working on “object-oriented ontology” and related issues, it’s also a fantastic introduction for readers who have never heard of “correlationism” or panpsychism, don’t quite understand what all of the recent humanities-wide Whitehead-related fuss is all about, and aren’t sure where to begin. After a helpful introduction that lays out the major terms and stakes of the study, seven chapters each function as stand-alone units (and thus are very assignable in upper-level undergrad or graduate courses) while also progressively building on one another to collectively advance an argument for what Shaviro calls a “speculative aesthetics.”The Universe of Things emphasizes the importance of aesthetics and aesthetic theory to reading and engaging the work of Whitehead, Harman, Meillassoux, Kant, Levinas, Bryant, and others as an ongoing conversation about how we understand, inhabit, and exist as part of a material world. It’s a fabulous (and fabulously clearly written!) work that I will be recommending widely to colleagues and students.


During the course of the interview we talked a bit about the opportunities that electronic and web-based media have brought to life and work in academia. On that note, you can find Steve’s blog here: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/

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Jan 16 2015

1hr 3mins

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Eugene Thacker, “Horror of Philosophy” (Zero Book, 2011-2015)

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Eugene Thacker‘s wonderful Horror of Philosophy series includes three books – In the Dust of this Planet (Zero Books, 2011), Starry Speculative Corpse (Zero Books, 2015), and Tentacles Longer than Night (Zero Books, 2015) – that collectively explore the relationship between philosophy (especially as it overlaps with demonology, occultism, and mysticism) and horror (especially of the supernatural sort). Each book takes on a particular problematic using a particular form from the history of philosophy, from the quaestio, lectio, and disputatio of medieval scholarship, to shorter aphoristic prose, to productive “mis-readings” of works of horror as philosophical texts and vice versa. Taken together, the books thoughtfully model the possibilities born of a comparative scholarly approach that creates conversations among works that might not ordinarily be juxtaposed in the same work: like Nishitani, Kant, Yohji Yamamoto, and Fludd; or Argento, Dante, and Lautramont. Though they explore topics like darkness, pessimism, vampiric cephalopods, and “black tentacular voids,” these books vibrate with life and offer consistent and shining inspiration for the careful reader. Anyone interested in philosophy, theology, modern literature and cinema, literatures on life and death, the history of horror…or really, anyone at all who appreciates thoughtful writing in any form should grab them – grab all of them! – and sit somewhere comfy, and prepare to read, reflect, and enjoy.


For Thacker’s brand-new book Cosmic Pessimism (published by Univocal with a super-groovy black-on-black cover) go here. Thacker is co-teaching a course with Simon Critchley on “Mysticism” at the New School for Social Research this fall 2015. You can check out the description here.

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Sep 28 2015

1hr 8mins

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Colette Soler, “Lacanian Affects: The Function of Affect in Lacan’s Work”, trans. Bruce Fink (Routledge, 2016)

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Affect is a weighty and consequential problem in psychoanalysis. People enter treatment hoping for relief from symptoms and their attendant unbearable affects. While various theorists and schools offer differing approaches to “feeling states,” emotions, and affects, Lacan, despite devoting an entire seminar to anxiety, often is charged with completely ignoring affect. This misperception stems in part from a caricatured understanding of Lacanian technique – a suspicion that it consists mainly of punning and interminable wordplay. And there is another, more sound reason for the accusation: the tendency of relational, interpersonal, and Kleinian models to locate truth in affects and regard emotions as inherently revelatory – as the most direct communications by and about the subject. By contrast, the question, “How did that make you feel?” is heard infrequently in the Lacanian clinic. Following Freud, Lacan believed that affects are effects. He shared Freud’s skepticism toward manifest emotional states, doubting not their importance but rather their transparency. The royal road to the unconscious is the deciphering of dreams and not the affects they produce. Nevertheless, Lacan’s views on affect increasingly diverged from those of Freud, offering much that was new.


Colette Soler’s pioneering Lacanian Affects: The Function of Affect in Lacan’s Work, translated by Bruce Fink (Routledge, 2016) is the first book to examine Lacan’s theory of affect and its clinical significance. While Lacan focused more on the structural causes of affect in his earlier theoretical elaborations, an initial reversal came in his seminar Anxiety (1962-63), where he deemed anxiety the only affect that “does not lie” because it refers to and partakes of the real rather than the signifier. Another reversal, Soler explains, culminated in Encore (1972-73), where Lacan declared that certain “enigmatic affects,” though puzzling to the subject, are carriers of knowledge residing in the real unconscious – a knowledge that is not on the side of meaning but of jouissance. Soler’s book is wide-ranging, covering affects such as shame and sadness, as well as many others we did not have time to discuss in our interview: hatred, ignorance, the pain of existence, mourning, “joyful knowledge,” boredom, moroseness, anger, and enthusiasm. Perhaps most fascinating is Soler’s chapter on Lacan’s enigmatic affects: anxiety (translated in the book as “anguish”), love, and the satisfaction derived from the end of an analysis.


Annie Muir kindly translated during the interview.

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Mar 14 2016

57mins

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Todd McGowan, “Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets” (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Todd McGowan‘s Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets (Columbia University Press, 2016) elegantly employs psychoanalytic thinking to unpack the lure of capitalism. He argues that we are drawn to capitalism because, under an overt promise to bring us what we want, it gives us what we need: lack.


Every commodity disappoints. And that’s the point.


Satisfaction, that moment when all is well and good, flutters rapidly, blessedly away. What is so great, so crucial, about lack? Though we pine for relief, nothing kills desire like abundance. (Spoiler alert: should there be an equitable redistribution of wealth, we would still suffer a hunger for the lost object which, according to McGowan, not employing Kleinian thinking, was never attainable in the first place.) If we did not experience ourselves as missing something we might never get out of bed–and, as clinicians know, why it can be purely ruinous to gratify a depressive patient.


You buy those boots, the ones you had to have, and within moments of wearing them, your heart sinks. That car you finally got your hands on? Driving it out of the lot you wonder, “should I have just leased it?” Desire is an engine best run on less than half a tank.


The paradox of capitalism, the way it lets us down, gets a full treatment here. Capitalism reclines on McGowan’s couch and he offers it a few interpretations that shake loose its obsessional and hysterical tendencies. He works with capitalism effectively, not arousing its defenses, because he understands it as caught in a trap of its own making. Embracing Beyond The Pleasure Principle and Lacanian thinking, he asks capitalism how come the ends are more important than the means, and doesn’t it miss the sublime? He also treats the reader, reminding us that we need to not have what we want in order to get what we need.


The interview sails along, if I say so myself, and, given the political surround, offers a good conversation to get into. The author would love to hear from us and has asked that I post his email right here, todd.mcgowan@uvm.edu.

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Mar 19 2017

59mins

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Timothy Morton, “Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World” (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)

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So much of Science Studies, of STS as a field or a point of engagement, is deeply concerned with objects. We create sociologies and networks of and with objects, we study them as actors or agents or actants, we worry about our relationships to them and their relationships to each other. We wonder if humans and their objects are really so different, or whether we are all octopuses shrinking behind our own ink.


In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), Timothy Morton offers a way of thinking with and about hyperobjects, particular kinds of things of which we see only pieces at any given moment. (Though by the end of the book, Morton invites us to consider that perhaps every object is a hyperobject.) Hyperobjects have a number of qualities in common, and the first half of Morton’s book introduces and explores them: they stick to other beings, and they potentially transform our taken-for-granted notions of time, space, locality, causality, and the possibility of ever being “away.” How this all happens is explained in a wonderfully personal and engaging narrative voice that ranges from Heidegger to The Lord of the Rings to the Tardis to Op Art, and the second half of the book introduces some of the consequences of and opportunities created by thinking with hyperobjects. It is about global warming and intimacy and object-oriented ontology and modern art and the possibilities of a phenomenology after we get rid of any notion of “the world” as something out-there and beyond-us. For those who are interested in STS and its environs, it offers a very different and very thoughtful language for articulating narratives beyond a simple “object agency” frame or a human/object binary. It’s also a great pleasure to read.

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Feb 23 2014

1hr 11mins

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Carolina Alonso Bejarano, "Decolonizing Ethnography: Undocumented Immigrants and New Directions in Social Science" (Duke UP, 2019)

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Almost 30 years ago, following the lead of scholars and thinkers of color and from the global South, anthropologist Faye Harrison and some of her colleagues published Decolonizing Anthropology: Moving Further Toward an Anthropology of Liberation. Harrison asked her readers: "How can anthropological knowledge advance the interests of the world’s majority during this period of ongoing crisis and uncertainty?" The lives of many have become even more precarious in the ensuing decades, among them people who have emigrated to the United States in search of greater economic stability.

Decolonizing Ethnography: Undocumented Immigrants and New Directions in Social Science (Duke University Press, 2019) responds directly to Harrison's call. The book explores ways in which ethnography, as practiced by people who have historically been objects of ethnographic study, can yield transformative and liberatory results. During former President Obama's second term, immigrant activists Lucía López Juárez and Mirian A. Mijangos García conducted ethnographic research on the effects of the securitization of immigration on the undocumented people of a New Jersey community, in collaboration with Professors Carolina Alonso Bejarano and Daniel M. Goldstein of Rutgers University. The work of these four people on the project is captured in their coauthorship of the book.

During their work on the study, Lucía and Mirian frequently were able to educate and exhort those they interviewed to exercise their rights under state and federal law. And the four authors collaborated on and performed in a play based on Mirian's work injury and successful court case. The entire play is available to the reader in the book in both English and Spanish and it is the authors' hope that it will be performed for the education and inspiration of other undocumented people.

The book features illustrations by Peter Quach.

Amy E. Brown, who is a cohost of the Critical Theory channel, is a writer and liberal arts enthusiast. Her professional and academic background includes technical communication, law, and history. She tweets occasionally at @AmyEBrown3 and you can also find her on LinkedIn.

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Jul 01 2019

1hr

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Tommy J. Curry, “The Man-Not: Race, Class, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood” (Temple UP, 2017)

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The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood (Temple University Press, 2017) is a book-length justification for the burgeoning field of Black Male Studies. The author posits that we should conceptualize the black male as a victim, oppressed by his sex. The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, therefore, is a corrective of sorts, offering a concept of Black males that could challenge the existing accounts of black men and boys desiring the power of white men who oppress them that has been proliferated throughout academic research across disciplines.


The Man-Not argues that black men struggle with death and suicide, as well as abuse and rape, and their genred existence deserves study and theorization. This book offers intellectual, historical, sociological, and psychological evidence that the analysis of patriarchy offered by mainstream feminism (including black feminism) does not yet fully understand the role that homoeroticism, sexual violence, and vulnerability play in the deaths and lives of black males.


Author Tommy J. Curry‘s work spans across the various fields of philosophy, jurisprudence, Africana Studies, and Gender Studies. He received his BA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, his masters from DePaul, and he returned to SIUC to earn his Ph.D. Though trained in American and Continental philosophical traditions, Curry’s primary research interests are in Critical Race Theory and Africana Philosophy. In addition to his work as Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies at Texas A&M University, Dr. Curry is also the executive director of Philosophy Born of Struggle, a multimedia project billed as a community a conference, and a textbook. His next major research project will be a book-length follow up to The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, tentatively titled The Mismeasurement of Man: Phallicism and the Paradox of the Racially Subjugated Male.


James P. Stancil II is an educator, multimedia journalist, and writer. He is also the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area NGO dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people. He can be reached most easily through his LinkedIn page or at james.stancil@intellectuwell.org.

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Jul 25 2017

1hr 2mins

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Jason W. Moore, “Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital” (Verso, 2015)

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In Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (Verso, 2015), author Jason W. Moore seeks to undermine popular understandings of the relationship among society, environment, and capitalism. Rather, than seeing society and environment as acting on an external, nonhuman nature, Moore wants us to recognize capitalism-in-nature. For Moore, seeing society and environment as separate has hampered clear thinking on the problems we face, such as climate change or the end of cheap nature, as well as political solutions to these issues. His book is an analysis of the interrelationship of capitalism and nature over the past few centuries as well as a critique of important environmental concepts such as the Anthropocene.


Moore is assistant professor of sociology at SUNY-Binghamton and coordinator of the World Ecology Research Network. This book is a product of over a decade of research and writings on world ecology and evidence of his wide-ranging scholarship.

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Dec 03 2015

51mins

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Wendy Brown, "In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Neoliberalism is one of those fuzzy words that can mean something different to everyone. Wendy Brown is one of the world’s leading scholars on neoliberalism and argue that a generation of neoliberal worldview among political, business, and intellectual leaders led to the populism we’re seeing throughout the world today. But is it mutually exclusive to democracy? Not necessarily. Wendy joins us this week to help make sense of what neoliberalism is, and where things stand today. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of her book, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (Columbia UP, 2019), which will be released in July. It’s a follow up to her 2015 book, Undoing the Demos, and you’ll hear her talk about how her thinking has changed since then.

Wendy is the Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches political theory. You might also recognize her from Astra Taylor’s documentary, What Is Democracy?

Democracy Works is created by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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Oct 14 2019

42mins

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Julie L. Rose, "Free Time" (Princeton UP, 2018)

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Though early American labor organizers agitated for the eight-hour workday on the grounds that they were entitled to “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will,” free time as a political good has received little attention from politicians and political philosophers. In her book, Free Time (Princeton University Press, 2018), Julie L. Rose explains that this neglect arises from the mistaken characterization of free time as a matter of personal choice and preference. The book instead argues that not only should we understand free time as a resource that is required for the pursuit of one’s chosen ends and for the exercise of formal liberties and opportunities, but also that it is a resource to which citizens are entitled on the basis of the widely held liberal principles of individual freedom and equality. The claim that the fair distribution of free time is required for justice serves as grounds for the book to interrogate a whole host of policy choices—including maximum work hours provisions, restrictions on over time, universal basic income, income subsidies to caregivers, publicly provided caregiving services and facilities for the elderly, disabled, and children, and workplace accommodations, among others. Though Rose notes that the specific choices societies make about how much free time is required and how exactly to guarantee it will vary, she ultimately argues that the just society must ensure that all citizens have their fair share of free time—time not consumed by meeting the necessities of life, time to devote to their own projects and commitments, whatever those might be.

Emily K. Crandall is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics in the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.

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Nov 28 2018

57mins

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Shaun Scott, “Millennials and the Moments that Made Us: A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present” (Zero Books, 2018)

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In Millennials and the Moments that Made Us: A Cultural History of the U.S. from 1982-Present (Zero Books, 2018), Shaun Scott critiques the America millennials inherited and using a pop culture lens to explore how they navigate it. Starting in 1982 as the birth of millennials, Scott examines how millennials have been impacted by the economic and social changes of the 1980s and neoliberalism. Scott takes readers through defining moments and experiences such as latchkey parents, changing representations of masculinity, pop culture feminism, September 11th, and Hurricane Katrina. He uses popular culture examples to define these moments comparing September 11th to Jay-Z’s The Blueprint and using the career of LeBron James to critique corporate relocation and its effects on economic livelihoods. Scott’s well-research book presents readers with a challenge to rethink how millennials are defined and critiqued as he challenges millennials to learn from the mistakes of the past and work for lasting change.


Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative in peoples lives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Sep 18 2017

1hr

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Ivan Ascher, “Portfolio Society: A Capitalist Mode of Prediction” (Zone Books, 2016)

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Is Marx still relevant? Any social scientist will answer with a resounding yes! In what he refers to as a thought experiment, Ivan Ascher uses Marx to understand the financial market. In Portfolio Society: A Capitalist Mode of Prediction (Zone Books, 2016), Ascher focuses on the arc and narratives found in Capital, using them to analyze risk, credit, and the financial market downfall of 2008. Ascher encourages the reader to explore how we might be able to understand what is going on today by looking back at Marx’s understanding of capitalism. The reader will come across familiar characters, like moneybags and vampires, and familiar concepts from Marx, like fetishism and co-dependence within the market. The nice thing about this book is that you do not need prior knowledge of Marx or financial markets, though those who have knowledge of either or both will still find great pleasure in this thought experiment.


This book would be enjoyed by sociologists or political scientists in general, alongside those interested in financial markets. It would be especially useful in a theory course where students could make connections between Marx and Ascher’s narratives.


Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can follow and tweet her at @spattersearch.

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Aug 12 2017

29mins

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Martijn Konings, “Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason” (Stanford UP, 2018)

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Today I was joined by Martijn Konings from Australia where he is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. We had a conversation on his most recent book Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason (Stanford University Press, 2018).


Its main contribution is to offer an original point of view on the issue of speculation. Critics of capitalist finance tend to focus on its speculative character. Our financial markets, they lament, encourage irresponsible bets on the future that reflect no real underlying value. Why is it, then, that opportunities for speculative investment continue to proliferate in the wake of major economic crises? To make sense of this, Capital and Time offers an understanding of economy as a process whereby patterns of order emerge out of the interaction of speculative investments. Speculation, he argues, is an essential intrinsic feature of capitalism and not just a negative spillover or a collateral behavior.


The book also provides an original view on the role of the State. Progressive critics have assumed that the state occupies a neutral, external position from which it can step in to constrain speculative behaviors. On the contrary, Konings argues, the state has always been deeply implicated in the speculative dynamics of economic life. Through these insights, he offers a new interpretation of both the economic problems that emerged during the 1970s and the way that neoliberalism responded to them. Neoliberalism’s strength derives from its intuition that there is no position that transcends the secular logic of risk, and from its insistence that individuals actively engage that logic.


The book concludes that the current critique of speculation is misleading and incapable of recognizing how American capitalism has come to embrace speculation and has thus been able to generate new kinds of order and governance. This is a very interesting book, written in an accessible way despite the complexity of the topic.

Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.

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Mar 28 2018

41mins

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Ayten Gundogdu, “Rightlessness in an Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants” (Oxford UP, 2015)

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How does one “rethink and revise the key concepts of Hannah Arendt’s political theory in light of the struggles of asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants” (207)? In her new book Rightlessness in An Age of Rights: Hannah Arendt and the Contemporary Struggles of Migrants (Oxford University Press, 2015), Ayten Gundogdu (Political Science, Barnard College) engages this question to explore both a radical critique and radical rethinking of human rights in our age. The book challenges and reimagines central dimensions to Arendt’s thought – rightlessness, the political and the social, personhood, labor and work, and the ‘right to have rights’ – at the same time that it provides incisive analysis of the precarious conditions of and political action by migrants. The book works with Arendt to offer important critiques of a number of aspects of contemporary human rights theory and practice, and ultimately develops an approach to human rights as “political practices of founding.”


John McMahon has recently completed his PhD in Political Science at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and will be Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Beloit College starting in August 2016. He has been a Fellow at the Center for Global Ethics and Politics at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at The Graduate Center, which co-sponsors the podcast.

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Jun 26 2016

1hr 11mins

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Nicholas De Villiers, “Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol” (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

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In his book, Opacity and the Closet: Queer Tactics in Foucault, Barthes, and Warhol (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Nicholas de Villiers takes up an examination of the work of the three titular authors as a way of understanding their queerness and more specifically, how each man subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm. De Villiers devotes ample time to each man, however I found his thoughts on Foucault and Barthes of particular importance as both have come to be so deeply associated with postmodernism, poststructuralism, and queer theory. It is safe to say that Foucault is in large part responsible for the theoretical and philosophical foundations of what we know of today as queer theory and queer studies. This fact makes Foucault’s own relationship with his “out” sexuality all the more fascinating and de Villiers does a great service to Foucault, showing that Foucault himself subverted the “in-and-out of the closet” paradigm and society’s need to ferret out and make known our sexualities. While many scholars, academics, and cultural critics have criticized Foucault for his “silence,” de Villiers’s work suggests that Foucault’s life was a practice in complicating and disrupting the immense societal desire to see homosexuality expressed in one sanctioned way. De Villiers work here is deep, insightful, and refreshing in its attempt to offer an alternative to “suspicious reading.” I do hope you enjoy our conversation.


Photo Credit: Lauren M. Jones

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Jan 11 2013

57mins

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Yves Citton, “The Ecology of Attention” (Polity Press, 2017)

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We are arguably living in the midst of a form of economy where attention has become a key resource and value, labor, class, and currency are being reconfigured as a result. But how is this happening, what are the consequences, and is “economy” necessarily the most productive frame in which to understand these transformations in attention and distraction? Yves Citton’s new book explores these questions in a fascinating study of attention as economy, ecology, and “echology” (with the last taking on resonances of the notion of the echo). The Ecology of Attention (tr. Barnaby Norman) (Polity Press, 2017) looks carefully at attention-related phenomena emergent at a number of scales and argues throughout that there are high stakes for how we understand and work with these phenomena: for teaching, performance, the environment, and liberty itself. It’s a clear and compelling book about an important topic, and it will be of interest to a wide readership. Enjoy the conversation!


Carla Nappi is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh. You can learn more about her and her work here.

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Aug 13 2018

1hr 10mins

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John Pat Leary, "Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism" (Haymarket Books, 2019)

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John Pat Leary's Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism (Haymarket Books, 2019) chronicles the rise of a new vocabulary in the twenty-first century. From Silicon Valley to the White House, from kindergarten to college, and from the factory floor to the church pulpit, we are all called to be innovators and entrepreneurs, to be curators of an ever-expanding roster of competencies, and to become resilient and flexible in the face of the insults and injuries we confront at work. In the midst of increasing inequality, these keywords teach us to thrive by applying the lessons of a competitive marketplace to every sphere of life. What’s more, by celebrating the values of grit, creativity, and passion at school and at work, they assure us that economic success is nothing less than a moral virtue.

Organized alphabetically as a lexicon, Keywords explores the history and common usage of major terms in the everyday language of capitalism. Because the words in this book have successfully infiltrated everyday life in the English-speaking world, their meanings often seem self-evident, even benign. Who could be against empowerment, after all? Keywords uncovers the unexpected histories of words like innovation, which was once synonymous with “false prophecy” before it became the prevailing faith of Silicon Valley. Other words, like best practices and human capital, are relatively new coinages that promise us a kind of freedom within a marketplace extending its reach across the public sector and into our private lives. The new language of capitalism burnishes hierarchy, competition, and exploitation as leadership, collaboration, and sharing, modeling for us the habits of the economically successful person: be visionary, be self-reliant, and never, ever stop working.

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May 28 2019

45mins

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Annie McClanahan, "Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First Century Culture" (Stanford UP, 2016)

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When teaching a public course called “The Age of Debt” this winter break, I had the strange realization that one of the the most successful readings in that course, the one which most clearly explained the 2008 crisis and the financialized economy, was written by an English professor. It was Annie McClanahan’s Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and Twenty-First Century Culture (Stanford University Press, 2016). The book is a masterful exploration of the cultural politics of the financial crisis and a powerful mediation on how to make sense of an era of unrepayable debts. As a review in the LA Review of Books notes, McClanahan has resurrected and repurposed the rich tradition of Marxist literary criticism which brought us Raymond Williams, analyzing post-crisis literature, photography, and cinema as cultural texts registering “a new ‘crisis subjectivity’ in the wake of the mortgage meltdown’s shattering revelations.” Dead Pledges is a must read. For whom? Well, anyone living in the 21st century, concerned about insurmountable debts, thinking of how culture and the economy transect each other, and striving for a radical politics fit for the mortgaged times in which we live.

Aparna Gopalan is a Ph.D. student in Social Anthropology at Harvard University. Her research focuses on how managing surplus populations and tapping into fortunes at the “bottom-of-the-pyramid” are twin-logics that undergird poverty alleviation projects in rural Rajasthan.

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Jun 07 2019

58mins

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Grant Farred, "The Burden of Over-Representation: Race, Sport, and Philosophy" (Temple UP, 2018)

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Today we are joined by Grant Farred, Professor of Africana Studies and English at Cornell University.  Farred is the author of The Burden of Over-Representation: Race, Sport, and Philosophy(Temple University Press, 2018), which explores three sporting ‘events’: an uncharacteristic outburst from Jackie Robinson’s at a spring training game in New Orleans, Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela’s celebration after the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and the ethereal presence of Derrida in the stands of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa.  He concentrates on these three happenings in order to raise questions about (over)representation in sports, the event, reconciliation and conciliation, the curse of service, the interplay between love and suffering, and coloniality and post-coloniality.

In The Burden of Over-Representation, Farred re-interprets these moments using the work of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and most consistently Jacques Derrida.  He also interweaves his analysis with larger discussions of literary theory, Hamlet, Judith Butler, Marx, and the Bible.  His novel approach offers new avenues to approach physical culture – sport enables him to actualize Derridian critiques in new ways. “To think sport philosophically.”

Instead of a passive and suffering Robinson, Farred sees a man cursed by his call to service, in part complicit in his own objectification, and in one moment exposed through a split second of Fanoninan profanity.  Pienaar’s negation of Mandela’s congratulations (“No, thank you, Mr. President”), returned the divisive history of apartheid into a moment of national unity.  Pienaar’s power in the face of the powerless President, his self-immolation in his moment of greatest triumph, displayed the limits of Mandela’s policy of reconciliation in a nation still riven by economic, political, and social inequity.  Farred “sees” Derrida, or perhaps only his ghostly echo, at the World Cup in South Africa.  Thinking through the spectral allows Farred to not only reframe the pied-noir philosopher as African thinker, but also show the spectrality of the state, and explain the presence of seventeen Frenchmen of Algerian descent on the Algerian team.

The Burden of Over-Representation – as rich in philosophical insights as it is in humor – will be of interest to scholars fascinated by the connection between sports and philosophy, critical theory, race, and colonialism/post-colonialism.

Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  He researches twentieth century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France's Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime.  If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at keith.rathbone@mq.edu.au

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Nov 28 2018

1hr

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David Beer, “The Data Gaze: Capitalism, Power and Perception“ (Sage, 2019)

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What is the social role of data? In The Data Gaze: Capitalism, Power and Perception (Sage, 2019), David Beer, a professor of sociology at the University of York, considers this question by introducing the concept of the data gaze. The book is the third in Beer’s loose trilogy of work on data. It draws on Foucault’s work in The Birth of the Clinic to think through various theoretical and empirical examples of how the data gaze functions. The book considers theories of temporality and acceleration, along with the practices of analysts, engineers, and organisations in data capitalism, with the aim of questioning the objectivity assumed to be inherent in ‘data’. It will be essential reading to anyone seeking to understand contemporary, data, society.

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Jul 02 2019

36mins

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Lundy Braun, "Breathing Race into the Machine" (U Minnesota Press, 2014)

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“We cannot get answers to questions that cannot be asked.” Lundy Braun’s influential book, Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) documents the history and present-day use of an everyday medical instrument, the spirometer, which measures a person’s lung capacity. The instrument has a long history, but since the 1970s, this common medical device has been built with a switch that forces users to choose: are these the lungs of a person who is Black or a person who is White? In its materiality, the instrument forces racialized and individualized answers to the question: What explains human variation? In doing so, the people who have imagined, built, and refined the instrument have foreclosed structural, political explanations of human difference—and in doing so, foreclosed the possibility of holding governments and corporations accountable, including in recent workers’ compensation lawsuits.

Lundy Braun tells the long history of this instrument as it passed between “knowledge networks” in the United Kingdom, United States, and South Africa within the contexts of medicine, law, and education. Admirably, Braun documents how and in what terms experts (unsuccessfully) questioned the spirometer’s epistemic authority and its racialization, as well as how experts partnered with social justice groups to use the spirometer for liberatory ends. The book emphasizes the contexts of war and industrial labor, the importance of standardization, and, above all, the role of the spirometer in creating and maintaining the “white norm” in the body.

Lundy Braun is Professor of Medical Science in Pathology and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. The interview was conducted collaboratively by Laura Stark [insert www.laura-stark.com] and students in her Vanderbilt seminar, History of Global Health: Omar Amir, Maggie Cox, Bryce Bailey, Donald Fitzgerald, Ashley Hunter, Jillian Jackson, Rohit Kamath, Zoe Mulraine, Liu Lanxi, Madison Noall, Catie O’Reilly, Isabella Schaffer, Katie Swift, Charlotte Whitfield, and Allie Yan.

For ideas and resources to use NBN interviews in your classes, please email Laura Stark at laura.stark@vanderbilt.edu or see Stark’s essay “Can New Media Save the Book?” in Contexts (2015).

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Dec 04 2019

45mins

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Victoria Reyes, "Global Borderlands: Fantasy, Violence, and Empire in Subic Bay, Philippines" (Stanford UP, 2019)

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Increasing levels of globalization have led to the proliferation of spaces of international exchange. In her new book, Global Borderlands: Fantasy, Violence, and Empire in Subic Bay, Philippines (Stanford, 2019), sociologist Victoria Reyes looks at one such space, the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, in the Philippines, to understand how they are contested and imagined by different sets of actors in everyday life. She sees freeport zones, places intended to attract foreign investment through the relaxing of domestic economic laws, as examples of what she calls “global borderlands,” or “a place controlled by foreigners and one where the rules that govern socioeconomic life differ from those outside its walls” (2) (other examples include Acapulco, NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, and any embassy or consulate around the world). They are where two or more legal systems coexist, and where the very notion of state sovereignty gets negotiated on the ground. Through ethnographic and historical-comparative analysis, Reyes shows the origins of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and looks in-depth at the wide array of contexts—military agreements, family arrangements, intimate encounters, shopping, and workplaces—to reveal these meanings and their underlying mechanisms. The result is a conceptual framework that social science scholars can apply to any space where international political, economic, and cultural tensions emerge.

Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale men’s barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography, and the European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Urban Ethnography: Legacies and Challenges (Emerald, 2012) and Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012), a co-Book Editor at City & Community, and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Contemporary Sociology, Work and Occupations, Metropolitics, and the Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography. Finally, he is the director of the MA program in International Migration Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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Dec 04 2019

1hr 12mins

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Alberto Cairo, "How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information" (Norton, 2019)

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We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, and scatter plots (to name a few) can better inform us, revealing patterns and trends hidden behind the numbers we encounter in our lives. In short, good charts make us smarter―if we know how to read them.

However, they can also lead us astray. Charts lie in a variety of ways―displaying incomplete or inaccurate data, suggesting misleading patterns, and concealing uncertainty―or are frequently misunderstood, such as the confusing cone of uncertainty maps shown on TV every hurricane season. To make matters worse, many of us are ill-equipped to interpret the visuals that politicians, journalists, advertisers, and even our employers present each day, enabling bad actors to easily manipulate them to promote their own agendas.

In How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information (W. W. Norton, 2019), data visualization expert Alberto Cairo teaches us to not only spot the lies in deceptive visuals, but also to take advantage of good ones to understand complex stories. Public conversations are increasingly propelled by numbers, and to make sense of them we must be able to decode and use visual information. By examining contemporary examples ranging from election-result infographics to global GDP maps and box-office record charts, How Charts Lie demystifies an essential new literacy, one that will make us better equipped to navigate our data-driven world.

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Dec 03 2019

57mins

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Srdja Popovic, "Blueprint for Revolution" (Spiegel and Grau, 2015)

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20 years ago, Srdja Popovic was part of a revolution — literally. He was a founding member of the Otpor! movement that ousted Serbia Slobodan Milsovic from power in 1999. It’s easy to characterize social movements as a bunch of people rallying in the streets, but successful movements require a lot of planning and a unified vision around a singular goal — things that are often easier said than done.

Srdja joins us this week to discuss why Otpor! was successful and anyone can use the same principles of what we describes as “laughtivism” to fight for change. He is the director of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CAVNAS) and author of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World(Spiegel and Grau, 2015).

Democracy Works is created by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State and recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

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Dec 02 2019

43mins

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Sarah Marie Wiebe, "Everyday Exposure: Indigenous Mobilization and Environmental Justice in Canada’s Chemical Valley" (UBC Press, 2016)

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In a foreword to Everyday Exposure: Indigenous Mobilization and Environmental Justice in Canada’s Chemical Valley (University of British Columbia Press, 2016), the public philosopher James Tully writes that, “Every once in a while, an outstanding work of scholarship comes along that transforms the way a seemingly intractable injustice is seen and, in so doing, also transforms the way it should be approached and addressed by all concerned.” In this second episode in our new series, New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science, we hear from the book’s author, Sarah Marie Wiebe, about what that intractable injustice is, and why hers is one such work of scholarship, which won the 2017 Charles Taylor Book Award. Along the way she discusses environmental reproductive justice, political ethnography, her method of “sensing policy”, and her new book project, Life against a State of Emergency: Interrupting the Gendered Biopolitics of Settler-Colonialism, about which you can read and view more on the University of Minnesota manifold website.

Sarah also talks about the remarkable photographic essays in the book, which are the work of her friend and collaborator, Laurence Butet-Roch, who has kindly provided a number of them for New Books network listeners to view online, here, here and here.

Listeners interested in the series should also check out the first episode, with Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, on their Interpretive Research Design.

Nick Cheesman is a fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University, and currently a project researcher at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto. He co-hosts the New Books in Southeast Asian Studies channel.

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Nov 29 2019

44mins

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James Gordon Finlayson, "The Habermas-Rawls Debate" (Columbia UP, 2019)

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Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls are perhaps the two most renowned and influential figures in social and political philosophy of the second half of the twentieth century. In the 1990s, they had a famous exchange in the Journal of Philosophy. Quarreling over the merits of each other’s accounts of the shape and meaning of democracy and legitimacy in a contemporary society, they also revealed how great thinkers working in different traditions read—and misread—one another’s work.

James Gordon Finlayson, reader in philosophy and director of the Centre for Social and Political Thought at the University of Sussex, examines and contextualizes The Habermas-Rawls Debate (Columbia University Press, 2019). He traces their dispute from its inception in their earliest works to the 1995 exchange and its aftermath, as well as its legacy in contemporary debates. Finlayson discusses Rawls’s Political Liberalism and Habermas’s Between Facts and Norms, considering them as the essential background to the dispute and using them to lay out their different conceptions of justice, politics, democratic legitimacy, individual rights, and the normative authority of law. He gives a detailed analysis and assessment of their contributions, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their different approaches to political theory, conceptions of democracy, and accounts of religion and public reason, and he reflects on the ongoing significance of the debate. The Habermas-Rawls Debate is an authoritative account of the crucial intersection of two major political theorists and an explication of why their dispute continues to matter.

Ryan Tripp is part-time and full-time adjunct history faculty for Los Medanos Community College as well as the College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Nov 22 2019

2hr 4mins

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Jonathan Rothwell, "A Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society" (Princeton UP, 2019)

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Inequality in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the past decades -- on that there is agreement. There is less agreement on the causes of that inequality, the consequences of it, and, perhaps least of all, what to do about it. Join us to hear Jonathan Rothwell talk about his new book, A Republic of Equals: A Manifesto for a Just Society (Princeton University Press, 2019), which pushes back against some of the conventional wisdom about the sources of inequality to offer his own provocative diagnosis of the problem and proposed remedies for it.

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Nov 20 2019

38mins

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Richard J. Bernstein, "Why Read Hannah Arendt Now" (Polity, 2018)

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Nobody should feel excited about the renewed relevance of Hannah Arendt's work today. Her foresight about the fragility of democratic life is relevant for the worst possible reasons: populism, white supremacy, mass deception, the rise of fascism around the world, the coordinated assault on serious journalism, academia and any kind of responsible thought. Really, there's no reason to celebrate why the great analyst of totalitarianism, fascism, and anti-democratic forces and a thinker "in dark times" is so timely today.

But Arendt also insisted, in the preface to her 1968 collection of essays, “Men in Dark Times”: “Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination.”

The philosopher Richard J. Bernstein is the author of Why Read Hannah Arendt Now (Polity, 2018). He met Arendt first in 1972, when he was a young professor and three years before her death. He explained to me why Arendt’s work should be read today with renewed urgency, because it provides illumination into the forces that shape our present. Instead of a dry academic exposé, I got a moving anecdote about his first meeting with Arendt ("the most intellectually exciting and erotic meeting") and a lucid yet impassioned explanation of Arendt's analysis of politics and of the human condition.

Bernstein is an American Philosopher who teaches at The New School in New York City, and has written extensively on American pragmatism, political philosophy, the Frankfurt School thinkers, the question of evil, on Jewish identity, and other topics. He is a public intellectual in the best sense of that word by taking thoughtful and principled positions on a range of issues that concern us all. His Why Read Hannah Arendt Now? is a succinct introduction to key themes in Arendt's work.

Uli Baer is a professor at New York University. He is also the host of the excellent podcast "Think About It"

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Nov 20 2019

58mins

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Marcos González Hernando, "British Think Tanks After the 2008 Global Financial Crisis" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

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How did the financial crisis of 2018 change politics? In British Think Tanks After the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Marcos González Hernando, an Affiliated Researcher at the University of Cambridge and Senior Researcher at Think Tank for Action on Social Change (TASC), explores how think tanks were impacted by the 2008 crisis. Drawing on the sociology of intellectuals, as well as field theory, the book shows how four think tanks responded in complimentary and contrasting ways, some taking advantage of the crisis, some changing radically, some seeing continuity in their themes and practices. The book offers a theory of the think tank and its role in politics, alongside the rich and detailed case studies. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary politics!

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Nov 20 2019

39mins

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Penelope Plaza Azuaje, “Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate" (Routledge, 2018)

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How do states use cultural policy? In Culture as Renewable Oil: How Territory, Bureaucratic Power and Culture Coalesce in the Venezuelan Petrostate (Routledge, 2018), Penelope Plaza Azuaje, a lecturer in architecture at the University of Reading explores the case study of Venezuela to think through the relationship between states, territory, and culture. The book develops the idea of culture as a resource, showing the close relationship between oil and culture, and culture and oil, along with the history of the Venezuelan petrostate. Packed with detailed visual analysis, along with a rich theoretical framework covering urban development, bureaucracy, and power, the book will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the role of culture in the city.

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Nov 15 2019

35mins

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Ian Parker, "Psychoanalysis, Clinic, and Context: Subjectivity, History, and Autobiography" (Routledge, 2019)

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There are many pathways into the world of psychoanalysis. Some arrive from fields like psychiatry and psychology; some from literature, philosophy, and the humanities; and others from political organising. Our guest Ian Parker found his way into Lacanian psychoanalysis via dissatisfaction with his training in psychology, alongside strongly-held Marxist and feminist political commitments. In his autobiographical work, Psychoanalysis, Clinic, and Context: Subjectivity, History, and Autobiography (Routledge, 2019), Ian shares with us his encounter with British psychoanalysis’s “entangled world of personal-political relationships and rivalries,” including his exploration of Kleinian leftists, group analysts, and Lacanian institutes, while making the case for the emancipatory potential of psychoanalytic thinking and practice, as summarized in his provocative statement: “Psychoanalysis is not what you think.” Tune to hear Ian’s story and his views on the political, theoretical, and clinical potentials and pitfalls of psychoanalysis today.

Jordan Osserman grew up in South Florida and currently calls London home. He received his PhD in gender studies and psychoanalysis from University College London, his MA in psychosocial studies from Birkbeck College, and his BA in womens and gender studies from Dartmouth College. His published work can be found here.

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Nov 13 2019

1hr 1min

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Johanna Taylor, "The Art Museum Redefined: Power, Opportunity, and Community Engagement" (Palgrave, 2019)

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What is the future of the museum? In The Art Museum Redefined: Power, Opportunity, and Community Engagement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), Johanna Taylor, an assistant professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ Design School at Arizona State University, explores the relationship between art museums and the contemporary city. Using a case study of Corona Plaza and Queens’ Museum in New York, the book details how museums can co-operate, collaborate and organise with and for local communities. The case study thinks through questions of power in public space, the potential tension between social, economic, and cultural goals, as well as the relationship between government, art museum, and community. As cultural institutions face a changing world and associated questions of legitimacy, the book is essential reading for public, practitioner, and academic audiences.

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Nov 13 2019

34mins

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Serin D. Houston, "Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance" (U Nebraska Press, 2019)

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In Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), the geographer Serin Houston complicates Seattle’s liberal and progressive reputation through a close ethnographic study of its urban governance. She sheds light on the institutional classism and racism and market-orientated thinking that pervades the decisions and practices of environmentalism and economic growth in the city. Houston’s finds three major social values--social justice, sustainability, and creativity—pervade policy creation in the city and condition privileges and oppressions.

Ryan Driskell Tate is a Ph.D. candidate in American history at Rutgers University. He teaches courses on modern United States history, environmental history, and histories of labor and capitalism. He is completing a book on energy development in the American West. @rydriskelltate

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Nov 06 2019

44mins

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Stuart Schrader, "​Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing​" (U California Press, 2019)

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Following World War II, in the midst of global decolonization and intensifying freedom struggles within its borders, the United States developed a worldwide police assistance program that aimed to crush left radicalism and extend its racial imperium. Although policing had long been part of the US colonial project, this new roving cadre of advisors funded, supplied, and trained foreign counterinsurgency forces on an unprecedented scale, developing a global cop-consciousness that spanned from Los Angeles to Saigon. In ​Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing​ (University of California Press, 2019), Stuart Schrader makes the compelling case that the growth of carceral state is just one front of a “discretionary empire” that persists today.

Badges Without Borders​ traces the tangled routes of police bureaucrats as they brought their munitions, methods, and money to precincts at home and abroad, and obviates the divide between “foreign” and “domestic” policy. Ultimately, Schrader suggests that US global power has relied on police reform to endlessly reproduce an ideology of “security.”

Patrick Reilly​ is a PhD student in US History at Vanderbilt University. He studies police, community organizations, and urban development.

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Nov 05 2019

1hr 14mins

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Nina Sun Eidsheim, "The Race of Sound: Listening, Timbre and Vocality in African American Music" (Duke UP, 2019)

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In 2018, Nicolle R. Holliday and Daniel Villarreal published the results of a study they conducted asking people to rank how “black” President Obama sounded when given four different examples of his speech. Dr. Nina Sun Eidsheim’s latest book, The Race of Sound: Listening Timbre and Vocality in African American Music (Duke University Press, 2019) explores the values, stereotypes, and cultural norms that underline such a question. Through examples ranging from black opera singers in the nineteenth century to user’s responses to the vocal synthesis technology called Vocaloid, Eidsheim sheds light on the ways that listeners invest racial and gendered meanings in vocal timbre. Contending that vocal timbre is an even stronger marker for race and gender than physical appearance, Eidsheim explores the consequences of and reasons for the cognitive dissonance caused by of the seeming “mismatch” between the bodies and vocal timbres of African American jazz singer Jimmy Scott and Norwegian child singer and Billie Holiday impersonator, Angelina Jordan. She takes on the significant political and social results of essentialized understandings of race, gender, age, and ethnicity that support cultural constructions of identity and investigates the central role vocal timbre plays in creating and reinforcing those ideas.

Nina Sun Eidsheim is a Professor of Musicology in the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.

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Nov 04 2019

1hr 9mins

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Kathryn Conrad on University Press Publishing

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As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also bestsellers, and they are all well written (and, I should say, thoroughly vetted thanks to the peer review system), but the greatest contribution of UPs is to provide a base of fundamental research to the public. And they do a great job of it.

How do they do it? Today I talked to Kathryn Conrad, the president of the Association of University Presses, about the work of UPs, the challenges they face, and some terrific new directions they are going. We also talked about why, if you have a scholarly book in progress, you should talk to UP editors early and often. And she explains how! Listen in.

Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@gmail.com.

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Nov 03 2019

40mins

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Lynne Pettinger, "What’s Wrong with Work?" (Policy Press, 2019)

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How should we understand work? In What’s Wrong with Work? (Policy Press, 2019), Lynn Pettinger, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, explores how work is organised, interconnected, and what work does. The book offers a history of work, as well as challenging and destabilising taken for granted categories such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ work, foregrounding what is usually taken to be invisible and is deleted. The book covers a range of theoretical territory too, but is written in a clear and accessible style, serving as both a detailed and engaging overview of key issues such as technology and environmental sustainability. The book will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand work!

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Oct 31 2019

37mins

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Benjamin Fong, "Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism" (Columbia UP, 2016)

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Benjamin Fong’s Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism (Columbia UP, 2016) revitalizes two oft’ maligned psychoanalytic concepts, the death drive and the drive to mastery, and makes lively and thoroughgoing use of both to revisit arguments about the power of the culture industry and how we might resist its narcotizing allure. For instance, we know Facebook is the devil, offering us relief from real strife via impotent political engagement; like prisoners in solitary we write on its wall. We know Netflix is a platform for product placement that we pay for, meanwhile losing track of our myriad subscriptions. We know we ought to think twice before inhaling the contents of either yet we simply cannot seem to stop ourselves.  What gives?

This--our compliant involvement with what promises to decrease our power and increase our alienation—is an old Frankfurt School obsession and query. Fong attempts to explain our complicity by using Freud altogether differently than his forebears. (Fong has been a member of the Society for Psychoanalytic Inquiry which, having turned ghosts into ancestors, strikes me as the closest thing we have to a contemporary version of the Institut fur Sozialforschung going today, although I believe most of its members are American born.) He reminds us that the Frankfurt School ignored the death drive. In fact, the Freud engaged by the Frankfurt School appears to have stopped writing around 1919. (It is very odd to think that they did not absorb and make use of Beyond The Pleasure Principle, forget Civilization and Its Discontents.) I admit I found myself wondering if Freud’s conclusions about man as wolf to man, the impossibility of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and our desire to go out as we came in, were simply too bleak even for Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse?

Of course, the death drive is tough for politics: how to organize people to fight for what is just if, at the end of the day, they simply seek the cessation of tension, and furthermore, are compulsively drawn to repeat their worst experiences? Freud’s thinking after 1920 can be read as offering a devastating critique of neoliberal “just do it” life with its appeals to progress and perfectibility. And Fong puts this Freud to great use. Attempting to construct a way out of being subsumed by the culture industry, with its promise of ruin, Fong champions a reappraisal of the super-ego as a friendly presence. He borrows from Hans Loewald, who argued for the super-ego as being future oriented, and harboring a hopeful fantasy, like a kind parent, about the fate of the ego over time.

Fong also engages the thinking of Jacques Lacan, and with his help, tries to answer a question derived from a debate between Freud and Wilhelm Reich, about “where does the misery come from?” (Thanks to Jacqueline Rose for bringing this question to all of our attention). He develops a new theory (!) about aggressivity that locates it as arising neither solely from within nor from without. Interestingly, he does not rely on Laplanche to make his argument.

That said, mastery as a concept scares me. Can “the master’s tools,” to paraphrase Audre Lorde, “dismantle the master’s house?” Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development did come to mind as I read, and I was left at times feeling a bit like one of Carol Gilligan’s adolescent girls, putting my feet, talk about returning to the primordial ooze, into the shoes of another. Then there is Freud’s idea that women lack sufficient super-egos. Following this logic, it is not too strange to ask if women can exercise mastery? And finally, what about Kerry James Marshall’s evocative and resonant use of the word, albeit spelled differently (Mastry), to refer to both slavery, the slave master, and the lives of those who survived it and his aftermath? Mastery is not a neutral word.

Tracy D. Morgan is a psychoanalyst and the founding editor of NBiP. Write to her at tracedoris@gmail.com

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Oct 31 2019

1hr 7mins

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Christian Sorace, "Afterlives of Chinese Communism” (Verso-ANU Press, 2019)

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What to make of the fact that China is ruled by a Communist Party which detains and arrests people studying Maoism, organising workers, or campaigning for women’s liberation is a difficult task. All the more so when that same Party continues to speak in the language of socialist construction, mass organization and Leninist control of the ‘commanding heights’. This is one reason why the compendium Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi (Verso & Australian National University Press, 2019), edited by Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini and Nicholas Loubere, is such an invaluable project.

Through 53 pithy chapters which deal with key ideas from class struggle to thought reform, and trace rich thematic strands linked to affect, aesthetics, internationalism, tradition and the state, this book offers a vast lexicon of fresh approaches to the dizzying world of change and consistency which characterize today’s China. Furthermore, the collection is a highly readable account of recent Chinese history which should prove indispensable in working out where the country is going next and, in the spirit of the radicalism which is the book’s subject matter, it is also open access and free to download from the ANU Press website.

Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.

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Oct 29 2019

1hr 1min

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J. Neuhaus, "Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers" (West Virginia UP, 2019)

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The things that make people academics -- as deep fascination with some arcane subject, often bordering on obsession, and a comfort with the solitude that developing expertise requires -- do not necessarily make us good teachers. Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers (West Virginia University Press, 2019) helps us to identify and embrace that geekiness in us and then offers practical, step-by-step guidelines for how to turn it to effective pedagogy. It’s a sharp, slim, and entertaining volume that can make better teachers of us all.

Stephen Pimpare is Senior Lecturer in the Politics & Society Program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of The New Victorians (New Press, 2004), A Peoples History of Poverty in America (New Press, 2008), winner of the Michael Harrington Award, and Ghettos, Tramps and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford, 2017).

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Oct 24 2019

32mins

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