Anthony’s List

Reading Recommendations: Works written by others


Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

By: Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser’s renowned short text ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’ radically transformed theconcept of the subject, the understanding of the stateand even the very frameworks of cultural, political andliterary theory. The text has influenced thinkers such as Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek.

TheMaterialist and structuralist account of ideology and capitalism’s conditions of social reproduction.

The Origins of Totalitarianism

By: Hannah Arendt

The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.

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Written during the war and completed after Arendt emigrated to the United States, Arendt’s history is beyond comparison. Her analyses of fascist mysticism and isolation/loneliness as necessary social conditions in which for totalitarianism to take hold are as haunting as they are relevant today.

The Sublime Object of Ideology

By: Slavoj Žižek

In this provocative book, Slavoj Zizek takes a look at the question of human agency in a postmodern world. From the sinking of the Titanic to Hitchcock’s Rear Window, from the operas of Wagner to science fiction, from Alien to the Jewish joke, Zizek’s acute analyses explore the ideological fantasies of wholeness and exclusion that make up human society.

Linking key psychoanalytical and philosophical concepts to social phenomena such as totalitarianism and racism, the book explores the political significance of these fantasies of control.

The Sublime Object of Ideology: Slavoj Zizek’s first book is a provocative and original work looking at the question of human agency in a postmodern world. In a thrilling tour de force that made his name, he explores the ideological fantasies of wholeness and exclusion which make up human society.

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The clearest articulation of Žižek’s thought on ideology – especially in the first chapter, “How did Marx invent the symptom?”.

Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition

By: Glen Sean Coulthard

Fundamentally questions prevailing ideas of settler colonialization and Indigenous resistance

Coulthard challenges recognition as a method of organizing difference and identity in liberal politics, questioning the assumption that contemporary difference and past histories of destructive colonialism between the state and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled through a process of acknowledgment. He examines an alternative politics, seeking to revalue, reconstruct, and redeploy Indigenous cultural practices based on self-recognition.

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The best combination of Marxism and anticolonial thought I’ve been able to find. Rather than rejecting the two as incommensurable alternatives, or reducing decolonization struggle to socialist struggle, Coulthard sources thought on land dispossession from Marx, combined Fanon’s anticolonial thought, to create an original narrative that is applicable to existing settler colonial societies and rejects the politics of reconciliation/recognition.

Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation

By: Sylvia Federici

Caliban and the Witch is a history of the body in the transition to capitalism. Moving from the peasant revolts of the late Middle Ages to the witch-hunts and the rise of mechanical philosophy, Federici investigates the capitalist rationalization of social reproduction. She shows how the battle against the rebel body and the conflict between body and mind are essential conditions for the development of labor power and self-ownership, two central principles of modern social organization.

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Federici argues that the witch hunts were not just misogynistic historical happenstance, but rather, part of capitalism’s primitive accumulation of bodies and the forces of social reproduction.

The Birth of Biopolitics

By: Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France in 1979, The Birth of Biopolitics, pursue and develop further the themes of his lectures from the previous year, Security, Territory, Population. Having shown how Eighteenth century political economy marks the birth of a new governmental rationality – seeking maximum effectiveness by governing less and in accordance with the naturalness of the phenomena to be governed – Michel Foucault undertakes the detailed analysis of this liberal governmentality. This involves describing the political rationality within which the specific problems of life and population were posed: “Studying liberalism as the general framework of biopolitics”.

Foucault’s analysis also highlights the paradoxical role played by “society” in relation to government. “Society” is both that in the name of which government strives to limit itself, but it is also the target for permanent governmental intervention to produce, multiply, and guarantee the freedoms required by economic liberalism. Far from being opposed to the State, civil society is thus shown to be the correlate of a liberal technology of government.

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The best economic history of the roots of neoliberalism, bar none (better than Harvey).

Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

By: Fredric Jameson

Now in paperback, Fredric Jameson’s most wide-ranging work seeks to crystalize a definition of ”postmodernism”. Jameson’s inquiry looks at the postmodern across a wide landscape, from “high” art to “low” from market ideology to architecture, from painting to “punk” film, from video art to literature.

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Jameson puts postmodernism on a materialist basis, and argues that the left must respond to the current cultural configuration of late capitalism by historicizing aesthetics. Read Jameson and don’t fall into the ‘everything that doesn’t make sense to me is postmodernism’ trap.

The Cyborg Manifesto

By: Donna Haraway

Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ is a key postmodern text and is widely taught in many disciplines as one of the first texts to embrace technology from a leftist and feminist perspective using the metaphor of the cyborg to champion socialist, postmodern, and anti-identitarian politics. Until Haraway’s work, few feminists had turned to theorizing science and technology and thus her work quite literally changed the terms of the debate. This article continues to be seen as hugely influential in the field of feminism, particularly postmodern, materialist, and scientific strands. It is also a precursor to cyberfeminism and posthumanism and perhaps anticipates the development of digital humanities.

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A short, socialist-feminist tract with innumerable riches. For Haraway, alienation due to technology is not something to be fought (as if we could return to an earlier historical period of luddite nostalgia), but a real historical configuration of late capitalism, to be worked through politically.

State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious

By: Isabell Lorey

Years of remodelling the welfare state, the rise of technology, and the growing power of neoliberal government apparatuses have established a society of the precarious. In this new reality, productivity is no longer just a matter of labour, but affects the formation of the self, blurring the division between personal and professional lives. Encouraged to believe ourselves flexible and autonomous, we experience a creeping isolation that has both social and political impacts, and serves the purposes of capital accumulation and social control.

In State of Insecurity, Isabell Lorey explores the possibilities for organization and resistance under the contemporary status quo, and anticipates the emergence of a new and disobedient self-government of the precarious.

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Lorey argues that precariousness is not accidental, but rather, a technique of governance (called “precarization”) that functions to re-entrench regimes of capitalist exploitation.

Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times

By: Alexis Shotwell

The world is in a terrible mess. It is toxic, irradiated, and full of injustice. Aiming to stand aside from the mess can produce a seemingly satisfying self-righteousness in the scant moments we achieve it, but since it is ultimately impossible, individual purity will always disappoint. Might it be better to understand complexity and, indeed, our own complicity in much of what we think of as bad, as fundamental to our lives? Against Purity argues that the only answer—if we are to have any hope of tackling the past, present, and future of colonialism, disease, pollution, and climate change—is a resounding yes. Proposing a powerful new conception of social movements as custodians for the past and incubators for liberated futures, Against Purity undertakes an analysis that draws on theories of race, disability, gender, and animal ethics as a foundation for an innovative approach to the politics and ethics of responding to systemic problems.

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Combining socialist, queer, and anticolonial praxis, Shotwell’s book is a momentous call for speculative futures that provide strategic exits from the violent excesses of capitalism.
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