‘The Shock of the Same: An Anti-Philosophy of Clichés’ by Tom Grimwood

Published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2021.

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Since the birth of modernity, Western thought has been at war with clichés. The association of philosophical and cultural integrity with originality, and the corresponding need for invention and novelty, has been a distinct concern of a whole spectrum of ideas and movements, from Nietzsche’s polemics against the ‘herd’, the ‘shock of the new’ of the artistic avant-garde, the Frankfurt School’s critique of mass culture, to Orwell’s defence of political dialogue from ‘dying metaphors’.

This book is the first examination of the cliché as a philosophical concept. Challenging the idea that clichés are lazy or spurious opposites to genuine thinking, it instead locates them as a dynamic and contestable boundary between ‘thought’ and ‘non-thought’. The book unpacks the constituent phenomena of clichés – repetition, circulation, the readymade, same-ness – through readings of ‘anti-philosophical’ thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Paulhan, de Certeau, Derrida, Sloterdijk, Badiou and Groys. In doing so, the book critically articulates the techniques and technologies through which the boundary between ‘thought’ and ‘non-thought’ is formed in modern Western philosophy.

Rejecting the idea that clichés should be dismissed out of hand on normative frameworks of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ thinking, or ‘new’ and ‘old’ ideas, it instead interrogates the material, cultural and archival ground on which these frameworks are built.


Tom Grimwood is senior research fellow at the University of Cumbria. He has published on a broad range of topics within the field of cultural hermeneutics, from Nietzschean misogyny to medieval anorexia, and his research has a particular focus on representations of ambiguity within the act of interpretation. He is the author of two books: Irony, Misogyny and Interpretation, and Key Debates in Social Work and Philosophy.

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