‘Stories from Wagner’ by J. Walker McSpadden

Published circa 1905. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


“It would be a longer story than all the Stories from Wagner put together, to tell where these tales began and how they grew, Centuries before they were set to music in the soul of Richard Wagner, some of them had been chanted around rude camp-fires by savage-looking men clad in the skins of animals. They were repeated by word of mouth long before even the rudest art of writing was learned and in various lands they were known, though the stories often differed. Fox in those days men believed in spirits, good and bad, and in giants, dwarfs, gods and goddesses. They told these stories to their children, just as real history is taught to-day and later the legends were treasured not only for their deep interest but also because they showed how people lived arid thought, long ago while the world was in the making. When Wagner, the great music-dramatist of Germany, was writing his wonderful operas, he found much of this rich material lying ready at his hand. Other parts he adapted to suit his needs. And it is the form in which he used the tales that has been followed in the simple retelling in the present volume hence the justice of the title- Stories from Wagner. Let us pause a moment to see who this author was, and how he came to collect his themes.”

‘Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Greeks’ by Daniel H. Foster

Published by Cambridge University Press as part of Cambridge Studies in Opera in 2010. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


Through his reading of primary and secondary classical sources, as well as his theoretical writings, Richard Wagner developed a Hegelian-inspired theory linking the evolution of classical Greek politics and poetry. This book demonstrates how, by turning theory into practice, Wagner used this evolutionary paradigm to shape the music and the libretto of the Ring cycle. Foster describes how each of the Ring’s operas represents a particular phase of Greek poetic and political development: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre create epic national identity in its earlier and later stages respectively; Siegfried expresses lyric personal identity; and Götterdämmerung destructively culminates with a tragi-comedy about civic identity. This study sees the Greeks through the lens of those scholars whose work influenced Wagner most, focusing on epic, lyric, and comedy, as well as Greek tragedy. Most significantly, the book interrogates the ways in which Wagner uses Greek aesthetics to further his own ideological goals.

‘Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung’ by Burton D. Fisher

Published by Opera Classics Library Series in 2002. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


Opera Classics Library explores the inner soul of Wagner’s colossus of music theater. All of the Ring’s mysteries are unlocked, and its immensity and complexity are analyzed and made coherent for the newcomer as well as for the seasoned enthusiast.

‘Musica Ficta (Figures of Wagner)’ by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe

Published by Stanford University Press in 1995. Download link updated on 10th September 2021.


This is a pioneering attempt to rearticulate the relationship between music and the problems of mimesis, between presentation and re-presentaion. Four “scenes” comprise the book, all four of them responses to Wagner: two by French poets (Baudelaire and Mallarme), two by German philosophers (Heidegger and Adorno).

It is difficult to realize how profoundly Wagner affected the cultural and ideological sensibilities of the nineteenth century. Wagnerism rapidly spread throughout Europe, partly because of Wagner’s propagandizing talent and the zeal of his adherents. But the main reason for his ascendance was the sudden appearance of what the century had desperately tried to produce since the beginnings of Romanticism – a work of art on the scale of great Greek and Christian art. At last, here it was: the secret of what Hegel called the “religion of art” rediscovered.

The first two scenes of the book present a historical sequence that is punctuated by the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, in which the universal unbridling of nations and classes is prefigured. The second two register certain effects of Wagnerism that are not just ideological but make themselves felt in a new political configuration of the “national” and the “social.”

“This is a remarkable book. Not since Theodor Adorno has a theoretical work approached music in as broad, incisive and provocative a way as does Lacoue-Labarthe’s Musica Ficta. The book opens up an entirely new perspective for reinterpreting the relations between music, theater, literature, and the philosophical-aesthetical tradition that has largely governed our understanding of those media. For the first time, to my knowledge, recent analyses of representation are brought to bear on the function of music, revealing its particular affinities to theatricality. Musica Ficta breaks new ground.”

—Samuel Weber, University of California, Los Angeles

“Lacoue-Labarthe’s work is a thought-provoking book: the reader embarks on an intellectual journey that draws connections between music, theater, aesthetics, philosophy, and history from ancient Greece to the present. . . . Lacoue-Labarthe offers a point of departure for a new aesthetic of art, one appropriate to the philosophical problems of the 20th Century.”

Wagner Notes

‘Wagner and Philosophy’ by Bryan Magee

Published by Penguin in 2001. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


Wagner was one of the few major composers who studied philosophy seriously. Bryan Magee places the composer’s artistic development in the context of the philosophy of his age, and gives us the first detailed and comprehensive study of the close links between Wagner and the philosophers – from the pre-Marxist socialists to Feuerbach and Schopenhauer. Magee explores the relationship between words and music, between the conscious and the unconscious mind, between art and philosophy. It tackles soberly and judiciously the Wagner whose paranoia, egocentricity and anti-semitism are repugnant, as well as the Wagner of artistic genius. The resulting text illuminates Wagner and the music-dramas in altogether new ways.

‘Wagner Androgyne’ by Jean-Jacques Nattiez & Stewart Spencer

Published by Princeton University Press in 2016. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


That Wagner conceived of himself creatively as both man and woman is central to an understanding of his life and art. So argues Jean-Jacques Nattiez in this richly insightful work, where he draws from semiology, music criticism, and psychoanalysis to explore such topics as Wagner’s theories of music drama, his anti-Semitism, and his psyche.

Wagner, who wrote the libretti for the operas he composed, maintained that art is the union of the feminine principle, music, and the masculine principle, poetry. In light of this androgynous model, Nattiez reinterprets the Wagnerian canon, especially the Ring of the Nibelung, which is shown to contain a metaphorical transposition of Wagner’s conception of the history of music: Siegfried appears as the poet, Brunnhilde, as music, and their union is an androgynous one in which individual identity fades and the lovers revert to a preconflictual, presexual state.

Nattiez traces the androgynous symbol in Wagner’s theoretical writings throughout his career. Looking to explain how this idea, so closely bound up with sexuality, took root in Wagner’s mind, the author considers the possibility of Freudian and Jungian interpretations. In particular he explores the composer’s relationship with his mother, a distant woman who discouraged his interest in the theater, and his stepfather, a loving man whom Wagner suspected was not only his real father but also a Jew. Along with psychoanalysis, Nattiez critically applies various structuralist and feminist theories to Wagner’s creative enterprise to demonstrate how the nature of twentieth-century hermeneutics is itself androgynous.

Originally published in 1993.

‘The New Grove Guide to Wagner and His Operas’ by Barry Millington

Published by Oxford University Press in 2006. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


One of the most controversial figures in the history of ideas as well as music, Richard Wagner continues to stimulate debate whenever his works are performed. Drawing upon the scholarship of The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Barry Millington offers a concise, portable survey and guide, which will make a welcome addition to the shelf of anyone who loves opera.

Millington has completely updated the original pieces and contributed four new chapterson Wagner, including a summary of Wagner productions from 1876 to the present day, a suggested listening and viewing guide, complete chronology of Wagner’s operas, and a glossary of terms that will delight any opera-goer. In addition, there are detailed entries on each of Wagner’s operas, a main biographical section, and a group of separate articles on such topics as Leitmotif and Gesamtkunstwerk, as well as a newly revised updated article on Bayreuth.

Complete with a new preface, updated bibliography, glossary, and discography—including first release dates of each recording—The New Grove Guide to Wagner and his Operas furnishes goth seasoned Wagner-lovers and neophytes with all they require for an in-depth appreciation of this unique historical figure.

‘Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung: A Companion’ by Steward Spencer & Barry Millington

Published by Thames & Hudson (revised edition) in 2010. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

There had long been a need for a modern English translation of Wagner’s Ring—a version that would be reliable and readable yet at the same time be a true reflection of the literary quality of the German libretto. First published in 1993, this acclaimed translation, which follows the verse form of the original exactly, filled that niche. It reads smoothly and idiomatically, yet is the result of prolonged thought and deep background knowledge.

The translation is accompanied by Stewart Spencer’s introductory essay on the libretto and a series of specially commissioned texts by Barry Millington, Roger Hollinrake, Elizabeth Magee, and Warren Darcy that discuss the cycle’s musical structure, philosophical implications, medieval sources, and Wagner’s own changing attitude to its meaning. With a glossary of names, a review of audio and video recordings, and a select bibliography, this book is an essential complement to Wagner’s great epic.

‘Decoding Wagner: An Invitation to His World of Music Drama’ by Thomas May

Published by Amadeus Press in 2005. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

This guide aims to unlock the world of Richard Wagner and his works, his monumental achievements, and, ultimately, the great emotional power inherent in his art. Decoding Wagner presents a straightforward, fresh overview of what Wagner attempted to achieve with his “artwork of the future.”

In the voluminous Wagner bibliography, Thomas May’s book occupies a special place. Concise but remarkably information-packed, it is addressed to those who seek a deeper understanding of Wagner’s operas. The controversies–artistic, human and moral–generated by Wagner’s innovative ideas and reprehensible behavior frequently obscure the greatness of his achievements. May performs an extraordinary feat: although unflinchingly aware of Wagner’s arrogance, self-aggrandizement, duplicity, faithlessness, hedonism, greed, political opportunism, chauvinism, and anti-Semitism, he communicates boundless admiration for the composer and passionate love for his works.

Suggesting that the very schism between Wagner’s flawed character and idealistic aspirations inspired “monumentally stirring meditations on the contradictory range of human experience,” he correlates and reconciles his “monstrous ego” with his sublime genius. The evolution of Wagner’s operas, from his early and incomplete attempts to the late, often extensively revised masterpieces, culminated in a lofty artistic vision: the “total artwork” which, combining all the arts, would result in heightened experience and spiritual elevation. Wagner wrote his own texts, considering poetry and music inseparable and himself equally master of both, an assessment not universally shared. May takes the librettos very seriously, following them from their historical or mythological origin to their final form with formidable but unobtrusive erudition.

Among his references are the Buddha, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, and T.S. Eliot, and he must have read everything about Wagner as well as Wagner’s own often repellent autobiographical, theoretical, and political writings (which make one wish he had written nothing but music). May’s musical analyses are equally riveting and absorbing. He traces the operas’ ever-increasing depth, breadth, and grandeur, the growing importance and masterful use of the unifying leitmotif and the “Wagnerian” orchestra, and the often hidden strands that connect them despite their individual uniqueness. Opera lovers spurred by May’s book to hear these works performed could not wish for a more knowledgeable, illuminating, and inspiring guide.

‘My Life with Wagner: Fairies, Rings, and Redemption: Exploring Opera’s Most Enigmatic Composer’ by Christian Thielemann

Publsihed by Pegasus Books in 2016.


One of today’s most outstanding conductors, Christian Thielemann, composes a brilliant account of the great—and controversial—Richard Wagner.

Over the course of a distinguished career conducting some of the world’s finest orchestras, Christian Thielemann has emerged as the leading modern interpreter of Richard Wagner.

My Life with Wagner chronicles his ardent personal and professional engagement with the composer whose work has shaped his thinking and feeling from early childhood. Thielemann retraces his journey around the world—from Berlin to Bayreuth via Venice, Hamburg and Chicago—and combines analysis with revealing insights drawn from Thielemann’s many years of experience as a Wagner conductor.

Thielemann takes on each of Wagner’s opera in turn, and his appraisal is illuminated by a deep affinity for the music, an intimate knowledge of the scores, and the inside perspective of a world-class practitioner.

And yet for all the adulation Wagner’s art inspires, Thielemann does not shy away from unpalatable truths about the man himself, explaining why today Wagner is venerated and reviled in equal measure. A richly rewarding read for admirers of a composer who continues to fascinate long after his death.

Christian Thielemann has been the conductor of the Deutsche Oper, the Munich Philharmonic, and isthe current artistic director of the Salzburg Easter Festival. He is a regular guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, as well as the Metropolitan Opera and has received an honorary appointment to the Royal Academy of Music in London. He won the Richard Wagner Award in 2015 and lives in Germany, where he is currently the conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden.

‘Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner’ by Marcel Hébert

Published by Catholic University of America Press in 2015.


Enthusiasm for the operas of composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) flourished in fin-de-siècle France, fed by fascination for the medieval history and literature that inspired his work. By the 1890s, “pilgrimages” to Wagner’s burial city of Bayreuth, Germany, home of a regular festival of his work, were a rite of passage for musicians and the upper crust. French admirers promoted Wagner’s ideas in journals such as La Revue wagnérienne, launched in 1885. These writings fueled a mystique about Wagner, his music, and his beliefs.

Philosopher Marcel Hébert developed his Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner (1895) from this background of sustained popular interest in Wagner, an interest that had intensified with the return of his operas to the Paris stage. Newspaper debates about the impact of Wagner’s ideas on French society often stressed the links between Wagner and religion. These debates inspired works like Hébert’s, intended to explain the complex myth and allegory in Wagner’s work and to elucidate it for a new generation of French spectators. Hébert’s discussion of Wagner, written for a popular audience, might seem an anomaly in light of his better-known academic philosophical writings.

Yet Wagner’s use of myth and symbol, as well as his ability to write musical dramas that evoked emotional as well as cognitive response, resonated with Hébert’s symbolist approach to dogma, and the appeal to religious experience characteristic of Modernist thinkers in general. By writing about Wagner to discuss these themes, Hébert caught the interest of the educated readership who shared his concern about the clash of ancient faith and modern thinking, and who were receptive to his argument that both could be reconciled through his revisionist approach. Thus, Hébert turned Wagner and his work into a vehicle for popularizing the Modernist vision of framing religion through experience as well as knowledge.

‘Cosima Wagner: The Lady of Bayreuth’ by Oliver Hilmes

Published by Yale University Press in 2011. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.epub & .pdf)

In this meticulously researched book, Oliver Hilmes paints a fascinating and revealing picture of the extraordinary Cosima Wagner—illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt, wife of the conductor Hans von Bülow, then mistress and subsequently wife of Richard Wagner. After Wagner’s death in 1883 Cosima played a crucial role in the promulgation and politicization of his works, assuming control of the Bayreuth Festival and transforming it into a shrine to German nationalism. The High Priestess of the Wagnerian cult, Cosima lived on for almost fifty years, crafting the image of Richard Wagner through her organizational ability and ideological tenacity.

The first book to make use of the available documentation at Bayreuth, this biography explores the achievements of this remarkable and obsessive woman while illuminating a still-hidden chapter of European cultural history.

Oliver Hilmes is the author of Cosima’s Kinder, a study of the Wagner dynasty, and a best-selling biography of Alma Mahler.

Stewart Spencer is an acclaimed translator and editor (with Barry Millington) of Wagner in Performance.

‘The Quest for the Gesamtkunstwerk and Richard Wagner’ by Hilda Meldrum Brown

Published by Oxford University Press in 2016.


The Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total work of art’), once a key concept in Wagner studies, has become problematic. This book sheds light on this conundrum by first tracing the development of the concept in the 19th century through selected examples, some of which include combinations of different art forms. It then focuses on the culmination of the Gesamtkunstwerk in Wagner’s theories and in the practice of his late music dramas, of which Der Ring des Nibelungen is the most complete representation. Finally, the book contrasts the view of the Ring as a fusion of dramatic text and music with the 20th century trend towards Deconstruction in Wagnerian productions and the importance of Régie. Against this trend a case is made here for a fresh critical approach and a reconsideration of the nature and basis for the fundamental unity which has hitherto been widely perceived in Wagner’s Ring. Approaches through Leitmotiv alone are no longer acceptable. However, in conjunction with another principle, Moment, which Wagner insisted on combining with Motive, these can be ingeniously ‘staged’ and steered to dramatic ends by means of musical dynamics and expressive devices such as accumulation. Analysis of the two Erda scenes demonstrates how this complex combination of resources acts as a powerful means of fusion of the musical and dramatic elements in the Ring and confirms its status as a Gesamtkunstwerk.

‘Richard Wagner’s Music Dramas’ by Carl Dahlhaus

Published by Cambridge University Press in 1992. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.


Previous studies of Wagner’s operas have tended to approach the works as chunks of autobiography, philosophical speculations or historical-political comments on the age in which they were written. Dahlhaus dissociated himself from all such ventures. His aim is to reveal, by careful analysis of the works from Der fliegende Hollander to Parsifal, the dominant features of ‘music drama’ and how Wagner achieves such profound, unified effects. Dahlhaus cites music examples only when they are germane to his argument and requires from his readers no more than a limited amount of technical musical knowledge. This is not, therefore, an exclusively specialist study. Rather it will help the enthusiastic beginner to come to terms with these great works of art as well as offering many valuable insights to the experienced Wagnerian. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of music history, theory, opera and philosophy.

The Cambridge Companion to Wagner

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2008. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

Richard Wagner is remembered as one of the most influential figures in music and theatre, but his place in history has been marked by a considerable amount of controversy. His attitudes towards the Jews and the appropriation of his operas by the Nazis, for example, have helped to construct a historical persona that sits uncomfortably with modern sensibilities. Yet Wagner’s absolutely central position in the operatic canon continues. This volume serves as a timely reminder of his ongoing musical, cultural, and political impact. Contributions by specialists from such varied fields as musical history, German literature and cultural studies, opera production, and political science consider a range of topics, from trends and problems in the history of stage production to the representations of gender and sexuality. With the inclusion of invaluable and reliably up-to-date biographical data, this collection will be of great interest to scholars, students, and enthusiasts.

‘Wagner’s Musical Prose: Texts and Contexts’ by Thomas S. Grey

Published by Cambridge University Press in 1995.


This book is a study of the prose writings of Richard Wagner and their relevance to an understanding of his music and drama, as well as their relation to music criticism and aesthetics in the nineteenth century in general. It looks at central themes in his writings, such as philosophies of musical form and meaning, Wagner’s metaphors and terminology, and connects them with analysis of music from his own operas and works by other composers such as Beethoven and Berlioz about whom Wagner wrote.

‘Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt’ by Francis Hueffer | 2 Volumes

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.pdf, two volumes)

Francis Hueffer (1845–89) was born and studied music in Germany, but moved to London in 1869 to pursue a career as a critic and writer on music. He edited the series ‘The Great Musicians’ for Novello and Co., was music critic of The Times, wrote libretti for some now-forgotten operas, and was an early advocate and interpreter to the British of Wagner. As well as writing Wagner in his own ‘Great Musicians’ series (1881), and Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future (1874), he translated the correspondence of Wagner and Liszt. This fascinating two-volume selection, published in 1888, covers the period 1841–61. Hueffer signals in his preface the importance to Wagner of the encouragement of Liszt – an established performer when Wagner was barely known and widely ridiculed, a musical mentor, an enthusiastic critic and eventually a father-in-law.

The Family Letters of Richard Wagner

Published by University of Michigan Press in 1992.


This collection of letters from Wagner to his family spans the fifty years 1832-82. It was first compiled by Carl Friedrich Glasenapp in 1907 as the Familienbriefe. Translated into English and supplemented in 1911 by William Ashton Ellis, it became a standard source for students of Wagner’s biography.

This edition has been enlarged by John Deathridge who has added an introduction and more than sixty items, including several previously unpublished letters and passages suppressed by Glasenapp in the original edition. Extracts from letters written by some of Wagner’s relatives have also been added. Among the previously unpublished letters are those to his brother-in-law Oswald Marbach and nephew Clemens Brockhaus. Most of the other additional letters have not appeared in English before. They include another letter to Clemens Brockhaus about Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and the only two known to exist from Wagner to his brother Julius. Also included are letters from Wagner to his brother Albert and his niece, the soprano Johanna Jachmann-Wagner, who sang the role of Elisabeth in the first performance of Tannhäuser. Wagner writes that he conceived the part of Brünnhilde in the Ring for his niece, although she was never to perform it. Wagner’s correspondence with his nephew Albert Jachmann, who helped to organize his visit to London in 1877, and letters from Wagner to his step-daughter Daniela von Bülow (including an amusing one addressed to all his children) conclude the collection.

‘Wagner Beyond Good and Evil’ by John Deathridge

Published by University of California Press in 2008.


John Deathridge presents a different and critical view of Richard Wagner based on recent research that does not shy away from some unpalatable truths about this most controversial of composers in the canon of Western music. Deathridge writes authoritatively on what Wagner did, said, and wrote, drawing from abundant material already well known but also from less familiar sources, including hitherto seldom discussed letters and diaries and previously unpublished musical sketches. At the same time, Deathridge suggests that a true estimation of Wagner does not lie in an all too easy condemnation of his many provocative actions and ideas. Rather, it is to be found in the questions about the modern world and our place in it posed by the best of his stage works, among them Tristan und Isolde and Der Ring des Nibelungen. Controversy about Wagner is unlikely to go away, but rather than taking the line of least resistance by regarding him blandly as a “classic” in the Western art tradition, Deathridge suggests that we need to confront the debates that have raged about him and reach beyond them, toward a fresh and engaging assessment of what he ultimately achieved.

‘In Search of Wagner’ by Theodor W. Adorno

Published by Verso in 2005. Download link updated on 23. December 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

Richard Wagner’s works are among the most controversial in the history of European music because of their powerful aesthetic qualities and, in wider political terms, because of their eventual assimilation into the official culture of the Third Reich.

This concise synoptic account by the most brilliant exponent of Frankfurt School Marxism subtly interweaves these artistic and ideological qualities. It provides deft musicological analyses of Wagner’s scores and of his compositional techniques, orchestration and staging methods, quoting copiously from the music dramas themselves. At the same time it offers incisive reflections on Wagner’s social character and the ideological impulses of his artistic activity.

Written in exile from Germany, this potent study of Europe’s most controversial composer explodes the frontiers of musical and cultural analysis. Measuring key elements of Wagner’s oeuvre with patent musical dexterity, Adorno sheds light on a nineteenth-century bourgeois figure whose operas betray the social gestures and high-culture fantasies that helped plant the seeds of the modern Culture Industry. A foreword by Slavoj Žižek situates Adorno’s reflections within present debates over Wagner’s anti-Semitism and the moral status of his work, proving why this book remains one of the most important character studies of the twentieth century.

‘The Wagner Operas’ by Ernest Newman

Published by Princeton University Press in 1991.


In this classic guide, the foremost Wagner expert of our century discusses ten of Wagner’s most beloved operas, illuminates their key themes and the myths and literary sources behind the librettos, and demonstrates how the composer’s style changed from work to work. Acclaimed as the most complete and intellectually satisfying analysis of the Wagner operas, the book has met with unreserved enthusiasm from specialist and casual music lover alike.

Here is the perfect companion for listening to, or attending, The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde, Die Meistersinger, the four operas of the Ring Cycle, and Parsifal. Newman enriches his treatment of the stories, texts, and music of the operas with biographical and historical materials from the store of knowledge that he acquired while completing his numerous books on Wagner, including the magisterial Life of Richard Wagner. The text of The Wagner Operas is filled with hundreds of musical examples from the scores, and all the important leitmotifs and their interrelationships are made clear in Newman’s lucid prose.

‘The Life of Richard Wagner’ by Ernest Newman | 4 Volume Set

Download link updated on 20. December 2021.

(.epub, four volumes)

From renowned music critic and musicologist Ernest Newman comes the first of four volumes chronicling the life of legendary German composer Richard Wagner. This first volume takes us through the early years of Richard’s life: his birth in Leipzig; his childhood in Dresden and the sparks of his interest in music, opera, and theater; his musical education, including his studies at University of Leipzig; his early career, accompanied by his first compositions and first money troubles; and his six years spent in Dresden, including his involvement in left-wing politics.  
Originally published between 1933 and 1947, Newman’s The Life of Richard Wagner, Volumes I-IV remains a classic work of biography. The culmination of forty years’ research on the composer and his works, these books present a detailed portrait of perhaps the most influential, the most controversial and the most frequently reviled composer in the whole history of western music. Newman was aware that no biography can ever claim to be complete or completely accurate: “The biographer can at no stage hope to have reached the final truth. All he can do is to make sure that whatever statement he may make, whatever conclusion he may come to, shall be based on the whole of the evidence available at the time of writing.” In this aim he triumphantly succeeds.

‘Richard Wagner and His World’ by Thomas S. Grey

Published by Princeton University Press in 2009.


Richard Wagner (1813-1883) aimed to be more than just a composer. He set out to redefine opera as a “total work of art” combining the highest aspirations of drama, poetry, the symphony, the visual arts, even religion and philosophy. Equally celebrated and vilified in his own time, Wagner continues to provoke debate today regarding his political legacy as well as his music and aesthetic theories. Wagner and His World examines his works in their intellectual and cultural contexts.

Seven original essays investigate such topics as music drama in light of rituals of naming in the composer’s works and the politics of genre; the role of leitmotif in Wagner’s reception; the urge for extinction in Tristan und Isolde as psychology and symbol; Wagner as his own stage director; his conflicted relationship with pianist-composer Franz Liszt; the anti-French satire Eine Kapitulation in the context of the Franco-Prussian War; and responses of Jewish writers and musicians to Wagner’s anti-Semitism. In addition to the editor, the contributors are Karol Berger, Leon Botstein, Lydia Goehr, Kenneth Hamilton, Katherine Syer, and Christian Thorau.

This book also includes translations of essays, reviews, and memoirs by champions and detractors of Wagner; glimpses into his domestic sphere in Tribschen and Bayreuth; and all of Wagner’s program notes to his own works. Introductions and annotations are provided by the editor and David Breckbill, Mary A. Cicora, James Deaville, Annegret Fauser, Steven Huebner, David Trippett, and Nicholas Vazsonyi.

Thomas S. Grey is professor of music at Stanford University. His books include Wagner’s Musical Prose: Texts and Contexts and The Cambridge Companion to Wagner.

‘Five Lessons on Wagner’ by Alain Badiou

Published by Verso in 2010. Download link updated on 23. June 2021.


For over a century, Richard Wagner’s music has been the subject of intense debate among philosophers, many of whom have attacked its ideological—some say racist and reactionary—underpinnings. In this major new work, Alain Badiou, radical philosopher and keen Wagner enthusiast, offers a detailed reading of the critical responses to the composer’s work, which include Adorno’s writings on the composer and Wagner’s recuperation by Nazism as well as more recent readings by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and others. Slavoj Žižek provides an afterword, and both philosophers make a passionate case for re-examining the relevance of Wagner to the contemporary world.

‘Handbook of Inaesthetics’ by Alain Badiou

Published in the Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics series by Standford University Press in 2004.


Didacticism, romanticism, and classicism are the possible schemata for the knotting of art and philosophy, the third term in this knot being the education of subjects, youth in particular. What characterizes the century that has just come to a close is that, while it underwent the saturation of these three schemata, it failed to introduce a new one. Today, this predicament tends to produce a kind of unknotting of terms, a desperate dis-relation between art and philosophy, together with the pure and simple collapse of what circulated between them: the theme of education.

Whence the thesis of which this book is nothing but a series of variations: faced with such a situation of saturation and closure, we must attempt to propose a new schema, a fourth type of knot between philosophy and art.

Among these “inaesthetic” variations, the reader will encounter a sustained debate with contemporary philosophical uses of the poem, bold articulations of the specificity and prospects of theater, cinema, and dance, along with subtle and provocative readings of Fernando Pessoa, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Samuel Beckett.

Alain Badiou holds the Chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supériere in Paris. Many of his books have been translated into English, including Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (Stanford, 2003), Manifesto for Philosophy (1999), and Deleuze: The Clamor of Being (1999).

‘The Ring of the Nibelung / Der Ring des Nibelungen’ by Richard Wagner

Published by Penguin in 2020. Download link updated on 23. June 2021.


The scale and grandeur of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung has no precedent and no successor. It preoccupied Wagner for much of his adult life and revolutionized the nature of opera, the orchestra, the demands on singers and on the audience itself. The four operas—The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, and Twilight of the Gods—are complete worlds, conjuring up extraordinary mythological landscapes through sound as much as staging.

Wagner wrote the entire libretto before embarking on the music. Discarding the grand choruses and bravura duets central to most operas, he used the largest musical forces in the context often of only a handful of singers on stage. The words were essential: he was telling a story and making an argument in a way that required absolute attention to what was said. The libretto for The Ring lies at the heart of nineteenth century culture. It is in itself a work of power and grandeur, and it had an incalculable effect on European and specifically German culture. John Deathridge’s superb new translation, with notes and a fascinating introduction, is essential for anyone who wishes to fully engage with one of the great musical experiences.

Richard Wagner (1813–83) redefined opera and had an overwhelming impact on German and western culture. His major works include LohengrinTannhauserTristan and IsoldeParzival and the four parts of The Ring of the NibelungThe RhinegoldThe ValkyrieSiegfried, and Twilight of the Gods.

John Deathridge is one of the world’s most respected experts on the life and work of Richard Wagner. He is Emeritus King Edward Professor of Music at King’s College London. In a long career he has taught music both in the United States and United Kingdom and been active as a conductor, organist, and piano accompanist, as well as making innumerable radio and television appearances to discuss music. He is a specialist in 19th and 20th century German music and the work of Theodor Adorno.

‘Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future: History and Aesthetics’ by Francis Hueffer

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2009.


Francis Hueffer (1843–1889) was music critic for The Times from 1878 to 1889 and was also secretary of the Wagner Society founded in 1873. This 1874 book, much of it originally published in the Fortnightly Review, considers Wagner’s role in the musical developments of the nineteenth century that followed the watershed of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. It is one of the first works in English to explore the nature of Wagner’s genius, and builds on an essay published by the author in The Academy about Wagner’s own pamphlet on Beethoven. Hueffer’s analysis of the formation of Wagner’s artistic values and musical philosophy as embodied in his writings and music dramas is complemented by discussion of the songs of Schubert, Schumann and Liszt. The appendix provides an account of the performance of Beethoven’s ninth which Wagner conducted at Bayreuth in 1872, and the laying of the foundation stone of the Festspielhaus.

‘Richard Wagner’ by Francis Hueffer

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.


Francis Hueffer (1845–89) was born and studied music in Germany, but moved to London in 1869 to pursue a career as a critic and writer on music. He edited the series ‘The Great Musicians’ for Novello and Co., was music critic of The Times, wrote libretti for some now-forgotten operas, and was an early advocate and interpreter to the British of Wagner. Between his Richard Wagner and the Music of the Future (1874) and his translation of the correspondence of Wagner and Liszt (1888), he wrote Wagner in his own ‘Great Musicians’ series in 1881 (two years before the composer’s death). The book surveys Wagner’s life and his musical writings, and a separate chapter is devoted to each of the operas (except Parsifal, which was not performed until 1882). This is a fascinating contemporary assessment of the standard-bearer of the ‘music of the future’.

Routledge Handbook of Marxism and Post-Marxism

Published by Routledge in 2020.

(.pdf & .epub)

In the past two decades, Marxism has enjoyed a revitalization as a research program and a growth in its audience. This renaissance is connected to the revival of anti-capitalist contestation since the Seattle protests in 1999 and the impact of the global economic and financial crisis in 2007–8. It intersects with the emergence of Post-Marxism since the 1980s represented by thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas, Chantal Mouffe, Ranajit Guha and Alain Badiou.

This handbook explores the development of Marxism and Post-Marxism, setting them in dialogue against a truly global backdrop. Transcending the disciplinary boundaries between philosophy, economics, politics and history, an international range of expert contributors guide the reader through the main varieties and preoccupations of Marxism and Post-Marxism. Through a series of framing and illustrative essays, readers will explore these traditions, starting from Marx and Engels themselves, through the thinkers of the Second and Third Internationals (Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky, among others), the Tricontinental, and Subaltern and Post-Colonial Studies, to more contemporary figures such as Huey Newton, Fredric Jameson, Judith Butler, Immanuel Wallerstein and Samir Amin.

‘Richard Wagner for the New Millennium: Essays in Music and Culture’ by Matthew Bribitzer-Stull , Alex Lubet & Gottfried Wagner

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2007.


This is the first truly interdisciplinary collection devoted to the legacy of Richard Wagner to merge insights from Musicology and Music Theory with explorations of the composer’s vast socio-cultural impact from such fields as History, German, and Disability Studies. The wide ranging topics include Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions, the value of naming musical themes in the music dramas, the status of Wagner in Israel, and the assignment of “Jewish” characteristics in both Wagner’s music and polemics and, in recent years, to his descendant, musicologist Gottfried Wagner. Contributors include Robert Gauldin, Warren Darcy, Marc Weiner, and Paul Rose.

‘Richard Wagner: a Life in Music’ by Martin Geck

Published by University of Chicago Press in 2013.


Best known for the challenging four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner (1813–83) was a conductor, librettist, theater director, and essayist, in addition to being the composer of some of the most enduring operatic works in history, such as The Flying DutchmanTannhäuser, and Tristan and Isolde. Though his influence on the development of European music is indisputable, Wagner was also quite outspoken on the politics and culture of his time. His ideas traveled beyond musical circles into philosophy, literature, theater staging, and the visual arts. To befit such a dynamic figure, acclaimed biographer Martin Geck offers here a Wagner biography unlike any other, one that strikes a unique balance between the technical musical aspects of Wagner’s compositions and his overarching understanding of aesthetics.

Wagner has always inspired passionate admirers as well as numerous detractors, with the result that he has achieved a mythical stature nearly equal to that of the Valkyries and Viking heroes he popularized. There are few, if any, scholars today who know more about Wagner and his legacy than Geck, who builds upon his extensive research and considerable knowledge as one of the editors of the Complete Works to offer a distinctive appraisal of the composer and the operas. Using a wide range of sources, from contemporary scholars to the composer’s own words, Geck explores key ideas in Wagner’s life and works, while always keeping the music in the foreground. Geck discusses not only all the major operas, but also several unfinished operas and even the composer’s early attempts at quasi-Shakespearean drama.

Richard Wagner: A Life in Music is a landmark study of one of music’s most important figures, offering something new to opera enthusiasts, Wagnerians, and anti-Wagnerians alike.

‘Žižek on Race: Toward an Anti-Racist Future’ by Zahi Zalloua

Published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2020.


Slavoj Žižek’s prolific comments on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, scapegoating, popular nationalism, the refugee crisis, Eurocentrism, the War on Terror, neocolonialism, global justice, and rioting comprise a dizzying array of thinking. But what can we pull out of his various writings and commentaries on race in the contemporary world? Is there anything approaching a Žižekian philosophy of race?

Zahi Zalloua argues here that there is and that the often polemical style of Žižek’s pronouncements shouldn’t undermine the importance and urgency of his work in this area. Zalloua not only examines Žižek’s philosophy of race but addresses the misconceptions that have arisen and some of the perceived shortcomings in his work to date. Žižek on Race also puts Žižek in dialogue with critical race and anti-colonial studies, dwelling on the sparks struck up by this dialogue and the differences, gaps, and absences it points up. Engaging Žižek’s singular contribution to the analysis of race and racism, Žižek on Race both patiently interrogates and critically extends his direct comments on the topic, developing more fully the potential of his thought.

In a response to the book, Žižek boldly reaffirms his theoretical stance, clarifying further his often difficult-to-work-out positions on some of his more controversial pronouncements.

‘America’s First Women Philosophers: Transplanting Hegel, 1860-1925’ by Dorothy G. Rogers

Published by Continuum in 2009.


The American idealist movement started in St. Louis, Missouri in 1858, becoming more influential as women joined and influenced its development. Susan Elizabeth Blow was well known as an educator and pedagogical theorist who founded the first public kindergarten program in America (1873-1884). Anna C. Brackett was a feminist and pedagogical theorist and the first female principal of a secondary school (St. Louis Normal School, 1863-72). Grace C. Bibb was a feminist literary critic and the first female dean at the University of Missouri, Columbia (1878-84).

American idealism took on a new form in the 1880s with the founding of the Concord School of Philosophy in Massachusetts. Ellen M. Mitchell participated in the movement in both St. Louis and Concord. She was one of the first women to teach philosophy at a co-educational college (University of Denver, 1890-92). Lucia Ames Mead, Marietta Kies, and Eliza Sunderland joined the movement in Concord. Lucia Ames Mead became a chief pacifist theorist in the early twentieth century. Kies and Sunderland were among the first women to earn the Ph.D. in philosophy (University of Michigan, 1891, 1892). Kies wrote on political altruism and shared with Mitchell the distinction of teaching at a coeducational institution (Butler College, 1896-99).

These were the first American women as a group to plunge into philosophy proper, bridging those years between the amateur, paraprofessional and professional academic philosopher. Dorothy Rogers’s new book at last gives them the attention they deserve.

“The Value of Marx’s Capital” by Paul North | Franke Lectures in the Humanities | Fall 2020


The annual Franke Lectures in the Humanities provide up to four public lectures a year, organized in conjunction with an upper-level undergraduate humanities seminar. The lectures are intended to present important topics in the Humanities to a wide and general audience.

‘Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation Reconsidered’ edited by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by State University of New York Press / Suny Press in 2016.

(.epub & .pdf)

One of J. G. Fichte’s best-known works, Addresses to the German Nation is based on a series of speeches he gave in Berlin when the city was under French occupation. They feature Fichte’s diagnosis of his own era in European history as well as his call for a new sense of German national identity, based upon a common language and culture rather than “blood and soil.” These speeches, often interpreted as key documents in the rise of modern nationalism, also contain Fichte’s most sustained reflections on pedagogical issues, including his ideas for a new egalitarian system of Prussian national education. The contributors’ reconsideration of the speeches deal not only with technical philosophical issues such as the relationship between language and identity, and the tensions between universal and particular motifs in the text, but also with issues of broader concern, including education, nationalism, and the connection between morality and politics.

‘Thinking Through the Wissenschaftslehre: Themes from Fichte’s Early Philosophy’ by Daniel Breazeale

Published by Oxford University Press in 2013.


Daniel Breazeale presents a critical study of the early philosophy of J.G. Fichte, and the version of the Wissenschaftslehre or “doctrine of science” that Fichte developed in Jena between 1794 and 1799. The book is intended to assist serious readers in their efforts to understand Fichte’s philosophy within the context of its own era and to orient them in the ongoing scholarly debates concerning the character and significance of the Wissenschaftslehre.

Breazeale focuses on explaining what Fichte was (and was not) trying to accomplish and precisely how he proposed to accomplish this, as well as upon the difficulties implicit in his project and his often novel strategies for overcoming them. To this end, the volume addresses a variety of specific themes, issues, and problems that will be familiar to any student of Fichte’s early writings and which continue to be fiercely debated by his interpreters. These include: the relationship of the finite human self to the purely self-positing I, transcendental philosophy as a “pragmatic history of the mind,” Fichte’s “synthetic” method of philosophizing, the standpoint of life vs. the standpoint of speculation, the extra-philosophical presuppositions and implications of the Wissenschaftslehre, the different senses of “intellectual intuition” in Fichte’s early writings, the controversial doctrine of the “check” (Anstoss) upon the free actions of the I, the various theoretical and practical tasks of philosophy, the refutation of dogmatism and the “choice” of a philosophical standpoint, the relationship of transcendental idealism to skepticism, the interests of reason, and the problematic “primacy of the practical” in Fichte’s thought.

‘Fichte and Transcendental Philosophy’ edited by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by Palgrave Macmillan UK in 2014.


Johann Gottlieb Fichte is a widely known transcendental philosopher and obviously a thinker of the first rank. Yet contemporary interest in and evaluation of “transcendental philosophy” as well as the precise meaning of the terms and its relation to “transcendental method” remains unclear. With renewed attention to German idealism in general and to Fichte in particular, this timely collection of new papers will be of interest to anyone concerned with transcendental philosophy, German idealism, modern German philosophy, and transcendental arguments.

‘Fichte’s Vocation of Man: New Interpretive and Critical Essays’ edited by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by SUNY Press in 2013.

(.pdf & .epub)

Written for a general audience during a period of intense controversy in the German philosophical community, J. G. Fichte’s short book The Vocation of Man (1800) is both an introduction to and a defense of his philosophical system, and is one of the best-known contributions to German Idealism. This collection of new essays reflects a wide and instructive variety of philosophical and hermeneutic approaches, which combine to cast new light upon Fichte’s familiar text. The contributors highlight some of the overlooked complexities and implications of The Vocation of Man and situate it firmly within the intellectual context within which it was originally written, relating it to the positions of Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Schlegel, Jacobi, and others. In addition, the essays relate the text to issues of contemporary concern such as the limits of language, the character of rational agency, the problem of evil, the relation of theoretical knowledge to practical belief, and the dialectic of judgment.

‘Fichte, German Idealism, and Early Romanticism’ edited by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by Rodopi in 2010.


This volume of 23 previously unpublished essays explores the relationship between the philosophy of J.G. Fichte and that of other leading thinkers associated with German Idealism and the early Romantic movement. Several papers explore the broader question of Fichte’s relationship and contribution to “German idealism” and “German romanticism” in general, while others offer comparative studies of the relationship between Fichte’s writings and those of Leibniz, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Schleiermacher, and Wilhelm von Humboldt.

Taken collectively, this set of essays provides anglophone readers with a new and historically accurate understanding of the origin, development, and reception of Fichte’s philosophy in the context of its own era and in relationship to the most important intellectual movements of the time. The authors include both well established and internationally recognized experts in their fields as well as younger scholars with fresh and challenging perspectives to offer.

This volume proposes a new interpretation of the history of German idealism in general and of the place therein of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre. It emphasizes the intimate connection between “transcendental idealism” and “German romanticism” and shows how developments within each of these intellectual movements reflected and in turn influenced developments within the other. Finally, it sheds new light on Fichte’s own philosophical development and does so by relating the various stages of his writings to other contemporary movements and authors.

‘After Jena: New Essays on Fichte’s Later Philosophy’ edited by Tom Rockmore & Daniel Breazeale

Published by Northwestern University Press in the Topics In Historical Philosophy series in 2008.


The career of J. G. Fichte, a central figure in German idealism and in the history of philosophy, divides into two distinct phases: the first period, in which he occupied the chair of critical philosophy at the University of Jena (1794-1799); and the following period, after he left Jena for Berlin. Due in part to the inaccessibility of the German texts, Fichte scholarship in the English-speaking world has tended to focus on the Jena period, neglecting the development of this major thinker’s mature development. The essays collected in this book begin to correct this imbalance. Concerned in a variety of ways with Fichte’s post-Jena philosophy, these essays by distinguished and emerging scholars demonstrate the depth and breadth of Fichte scholarship being done in English.

With an introduction that locates the essays in philosophical and historical terms, the book divides into three related categories: Fichte’s development, his view of religion, and other aspects of his “popular” (or not-so-popular) philosophy. From a wide range of perspectives, the essays show how Fichte’s later development reflects the philosophical concerns of his time, the specific debates in which he engaged, and the complex events of his philosophical career.

‘Fichte: The System of Ethics’ edited by Daniel Breazeale & Guenter Zöller

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2005.


Fichte’s System of Ethics, originally published in 1798, is at once the most accessible presentation of its author’s comprehensive philosophical project, The Science of Knowledge or Wissenschaftslehre, and the most important work in moral philosophy written between Kant and Hegel. This study integrates the discussion of our moral duties into the systematic framework of a transcendental theory of the human subject. Ranging over numerous important philosophical themes, the volume offers a new translation of the work together with an introduction that sets it in its philosophical and historical contexts.

‘Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters’ by Nadya Tolokonnikova & Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2014. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.


In an extraordinary exchange of letters, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, imprisoned for taking part in Pussy Riot’s anti-Putin performance, and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek discuss artistic subversion, political activism, and the future of democracy via the ideas of Hegel, Deleuze, Nietzsche, and even Laurie Anderson. 

Two radicals, one in a Russian forced labor camp, the other writing to her from far outside its walls, show passionately – across linguistic and generational divides – that “there is still a common cause worth fighting for.” Touching, erudite, and worldly, their correspondence unfolds with poetic urgency.

In association with Philosophie Magazine.

“An extraordinary exchange of letters.” – Guardian

‘The Year of Dreaming Dangerously’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2012. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.


The renowned philosopher finds a utopian future in worldwide protests.

Call it the year of dreaming dangerously: 2011 caught the world off guard with a series of shattering events. While protesters in New York, Cairo, London, and Athens took to the streets in pursuit of emancipation, obscure destructive fantasies inspired the world’s racist populists in places as far apart as Hungary and Arizona, achieving a horrific consummation in the actions of mass murderer Anders Breivik.

The subterranean work of dissatisfaction continues. Rage is building, and a new wave of revolts and disturbances will follow. Why? Because the events of 2011 augur a new political reality. These are limited, distorted—sometimes even perverted—fragments of a utopian future lying dormant in the present.

‘New Essays on Fichte’s Later Jena “Wissenschaftslehre”’ by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by Northwestern University Press in 2002.


The philosophical thought of J. G. Fichte, particularly his later work, is at the very center of the paradigm shift under way in the field of German idealism. Crucial to this reassessment is Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo of 1796 to 1799, the manuscript at the heart of this essay collection and an articulation of the philosopher’s Wissenschaftslehre, or overall system of philosophy, which he discussed in lectures at the University of Jena. Coherent, comprehensive, and edited by two of the foremost Fichte scholars in the world, the essays provide a much needed introduction to the major themes of the most important period of Fichte’s philosophical thought–and thus to German idealism itself–and make a persuasive case for the originality and continuing significance of the later Jena Wissenschaftslehre. Beginning with the Foundations of Natural Right, several of these essays convey the breadth and striking originality of Fichte’s social thought during this period, and its profound influence on subsequent thinkers such as Hegel. Others offer the most sustained and maltifaceted discussion to date of the distinctive character of Fichte’s first revised presentation of the foundation of his philosophy.

‘New Essays in Fichte’s Foundation of the Entire Doctrine of Scientific Knowledge’ by Daniel Breazeale & Tom Rockmore

Published by Humanity Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books in 2001.


This collection of 13 essays on the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte is the first volume in English to focus upon Fichte’s most celebrated and influential philosophical text, his “Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre” (Foundation of the Entire Doctrine of Scientific Knowledge). Fichte’s “Grundlage” is an audaciously original effort to recast the Kantian philosophy into a full-blown system of ‘transcendental idealism’. Rejecting all reference to ‘things in themselves’, Fichte described his work as ‘the first philosophy of human freedom’ and as a faithful expression of the true ‘spirit’ of Kant’s critical philosophy. Collectively, these essays constitute an ideal introduction to the reading of Fichte’s notoriously difficult but deeply rewarding work.

‘Fichte: Historical Contexts / Contemporary Controversies’ by Daniel Breazeale

Published by Humanities Press International in 1994.


This collection marks a new era of Anglophone research into the philosophy of J. G. Fichte, both in its historical context and in its relationship to contemporary controversies. Several of the essays demonstrate the relevance of Fichte’s thought to current debates over philosophical ‘foundationalism’. Others address such topics as the relationship between morality and law, the role of the imagination, the connection between self-consciousness and intersubjectivity, the status of language, and the dialectical character of philosophy, and the relationship between philosophy and that of such thinkers as Leibniz, Schelling, Heidegger, and Tugenhat. This volume also includes the first complete bibliography of English translations of Fichte’s writings and of works in English dealing with every aspect of Fichte’s thought, which will prove and invaluable research tool for anyone working in this area.

‘Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings, 1797-1800’ by Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Published by Hackett Publishing Company in 1994.


These selections provide a brief but comprehensive introduction to Fichtes philosophical system and his place in the history of German Idealism. In addition to some of Fichtes most influential texts, such as the First and Second Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and The Basis of Our Belief in a Divine Governance of the World, Breazeale has translated, for the first time into English, several other writings from the same period, including Attempt at a New Presentation of the Wissenschaftslehre, Other short essays, including Fichtes replies to the charge of atheism, extend the discussions of the Introductions and respond to criticisms. Breazeales substantial Introduction supplies the context needed for a sound appreciation of Fichtes enterprise and achievement.

Fichte: Foundations of Transcendental Philosophy (Wissenschaftslehre) nova methodo (1796–99)

Published by Cornell University Press in 1992.


The publishing of this volume in English provides a wealth of material, not just about Fichte’s development, but about the essentially Cartesian project that first gave rise to phenomenology in the 20th century.

‘Early Philosophical Writings’ by Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Published by Cornell University Press in 1988.


Translation of Fichte’s texts written between 1794 and 1799, the period when Fichte was a professor at Jena.

This volume consists of translated selections from the works of Johann Gottlieb Fitche (1762-1814), one of the most important figures in the history of German idealism. Daniel Breazeale has translated technical treatises that expound and defend Fitche’s highly original philosophical system, the “Wissenschaftslehre” or “Theory of Scientific Knowledge,” as well as popular essays, lectures, and social correspondence. Breazeale supplements the translations with an introductory essay, in which he gives a detailed account of the historical, biographical, and philosophical background of the translated selections.

Daniel Breazeale is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky. He is the translator of Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings and the author of numerous articles on Fichte and German idealism.

‘Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Penguin in 2017. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

Today, hundreds of thousands of people, desperate to escape war, violence and poverty, are crossing the Mediterranean to seek refuge in Europe. Our response from our protected European standpoint, argues Slavoj Žižek, offers two versions of ideological blackmail: either we open our doors as widely as possible; or we try to pull up the drawbridge. Both solutions are bad, states Žižek. They merely prolong the problem, rather than tackling it…

…The refugee crisis also presents an opportunity, a unique chance for Europe to redefine itself: but, if we are to do so, we have to start raising unpleasant and difficult questions. We must also acknowledge that large migrations are our future: only then can we commit to a carefully prepared process of change, one founded not on a community that see the excluded as a threat, but one that takes as its basis the shared substance of our social being.

The only way, in other words, to get to the heart of one of the greatest issues confronting Europe today is to insist on the global solidarity of the exploited and oppressed. Maybe such solidarity is a utopia. But, warns Žižek, if we don’t engage in it, then we are really lost. And we will deserve to be lost.

‘Demanding the Impossible’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Polity in 2013. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

Where are we today and what is to be done? Slavoj Žižek ponders these questions in this unique and timely book.  Based on live interviews, the book captures Žižek at his irrepressible best, elucidating such topics as the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the global financial crisis, populism in Latin America, the rise of China and even the riddle of North Korea. Žižek dazzles readers with his analyses of Hollywood films, Venezuelan police reports, Swedish crime fiction and much else. Wherever the conversation turns, his energetic mind illuminates unexpected horizons.

While analyzing our present predicaments, Žižek also explores possibilities for change. What sort of society is worth striving for? Why is it difficult to imagine alternative social and political arrangements? What are the bases for hope? A key obligation in our troubled times, argues Žižek, is to dare to ask fundamental questions: we must reflect and theorize anew, and always be prepared to rethink and redefine the limits of the possible.

These original and compelling conversations offer an engaging and accessible introduction to one of the most important thinkers of our time.

‘What Does Europe Want? The Union and Its Discontents’ by Slavoj Žižek & Srećko Horvat

Published by Columbia University Press in 2014. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

Slavoj Žižek and Srećko Horvat combine their critical clout to emphasize the dangers of ignoring Europe’s growing wealth gap and the parallel rise in right-wing nationalism, which is directly tied to the fallout from the ongoing financial crisis and its prescription of imposed austerity. To general observers, the European Union’s economic woes appear to be its greatest problem, but the real peril is an ongoing ideological–political crisis that threatens an era of instability and reactionary brutality.

The fall of communism in 1989 seemed to end the leftist program of universal emancipation. However, nearly a quarter of a century later, the European Union has failed to produce any coherent vision that can mobilize people to action. Until recently, the only ideology receptive to European workers has been the nationalist call to “defend” against immigrant integration. Today, Europe is focused on regulating the development of capitalism and promoting a reactionary conception of its cultural heritage. Yet staying these courses, Žižek and Horvat show, only strips Europe of its power and stifles its political ingenuity. The best hope is for Europe to revive and defend its legacy of universal egalitarianism, which benefits all parties by preserving the promise of equal representation.

‘Time on the Move’ by Achille Mbembe

An ICI Berlin event, in cooperation with the BMBF/DAAD Thematic Network ‘Literary Cultures of the Global South’


Our world is going through a peculiar moment, one for which there doesn’t seem to be a proper name yet. Since naming our time is part of what is at stake, Achille Mbembe will suggest that in the midst of the current dread and confusion, one thing at least is clear: ours is a time of planetary entanglement. But entanglement is not all that characterizes the now. As it happens, times of planetary entanglement are propitious for all kinds of escalations, the renewed production of things, forms, and events both baroque and dystopian, if only because such events generally strive to generate their own actuality through sheer excess and stupefaction. The lecture focused on one such modality of the now, negative messianism, and its relation to the politics of pure violence.

‘Borders in the Age of Networks’ by Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe is Professor at the WISER Institute, University of Witwatersrand. He was born in Cameroon and obtained his Ph.D in History at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and a D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Paris). He was Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991, a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1992, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996, Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996 to 2000. Achille was also a visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and a visiting Professor at Yale University in 2003.

‘Necropolitics’ by Achille Mbembe

Published by Duke University Press in 2019.


In Necropolitics Achille Mbembe, a leader in the new wave of francophone critical theory, theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world, a world plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror as well as by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces determined to exclude and kill.

He outlines how democracy has begun to embrace its dark side—what he calls its “nocturnal body”—which is based on the desires, fears, affects, relations, and violence that drove colonialism. This shift has hollowed out democracy, thereby eroding the very values, rights, and freedoms liberal democracy routinely celebrates. As a result, war has become the sacrament of our times in a conception of sovereignty that operates by annihilating all those considered enemies of the state.

Despite his dire diagnosis, Mbembe draws on post-Foucauldian debates on biopolitics, war, and race as well as Fanon’s notion of care as a shared vulnerability to explore how new conceptions of the human that transcend humanism might come to pass. These new conceptions would allow us to encounter the Other not as a thing to exclude but as a person with whom to build a more just world.

Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economy Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is author of Critique of Black Reason and coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis, both also published by Duke University Press.

‘Critique of Black Reason’ by Achille Mbembe

Published by Duke University Press in 2017. Download link updated 20. June 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

In Critique of Black Reason philosopher Achille Mbembe offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness—from the Atlantic slave trade to the present—to critically reevaluate history, racism, and the future of humanity.

Mbembe teases out the intellectual consequences of the reality that Europe is no longer the world’s center of gravity while mapping the relations among colonialism, slavery, and contemporary financial and extractive capital. Tracing the conjunction of Blackness with the biological fiction of race, he theorizes Black reason as the collection of discourses and practices that equated Blackness with the nonhuman in order to uphold forms of oppression. Mbembe powerfully argues that this equation of Blackness with the nonhuman will serve as the template for all new forms of exclusion.

With Critique of Black Reason, Mbembe offers nothing less than a map of the world as it has been constituted through colonialism and racial thinking while providing the first glimpses of a more just future. 

‘First as Tragedy, Then as Farce’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2009. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

Billions of dollars have been hastily poured into the global banking system in a frantic attempt at financial stabilization. So why has it not been possible to bring the same forces to bear in addressing world poverty and environmental crisis?

In this take-no-prisoners analysis, Slavoj Žižek frames the moral failures of the modern world in terms of the epoch-making events of the first decade of this century. What he finds is the old one-two punch of history: the jab of tragedy, the right hook of farce. In the attacks of 9/11 and the global credit crunch, liberalism dies twice: as a political doctrine and as an economic theory.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce is a call for the Left to reinvent itself in the light of our desperate historical situation. The time for liberal, moralistic blackmail is over.

‘Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2004. Download link updated on 19th January 2022.


In order to render the strange logic of dreams, Freud quoted the old joke about the borrowed kettle: (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you, (2) I returned it to you unbroken, (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you. Such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments, of course, confirms exactly what it attempts to deny—that I returned a broken kettle to you.

That same inconsistency, Žižek argues, characterized the justification of the attack on Iraq: A link between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda was transformed into the threat posed by the regime to the region, which was then further transformed into the threat posed to everyone (but the US and Britain especially) by weapons of mass destruction. When no significant weapons were found, we were treated to the same bizarre logic: OK, the two labs we found don’t really prove anything, but even if there are no WMD in Iraq, there are other good reasons to topple a tyrant like Saddam …

Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle – which can be considered as a sequel to Žižek’s acclaimed post-9/11 Welcome to the Desert of the Real – analyzes the background that such inconsistent argumentation conceals and, simultaneously, cannot help but highlight: what were the actual ideological and political stakes of the attack on Iraq? In classic Žižekian style, it spares nothing and nobody, neither pathetically impotent pacifism nor hypocritical sympathy with the suffering of the Iraqi people.

‘On Freud’s “The Future of an Illusion“’ by Mary Kay O’Neil & Salman Akhtar

Published by Routledge in 2018.


The Future of an Illusion reveals Freud’s reflections about religion as well as his hope that in the future science will go beyond religion, and reason will replace faith in God. The discussion with an imaginary critic revealed his internal debate, mirroring the debate about this subject in the outside world. However, it also enlightens his way of thinking: deconstructing and constructing at the same time. This volume considers Freudian ideas and their implications today, while focusing on the contradictions and gaps in Freud’s proposals. The question of the coexistence between religion and psychoanalysis, as well as the place of ideals, belief, illusion, and imagination – and, no less important, the benevolent and destructive aspects of religion – also come into play.

‘The Future of an Illusion’ by Sigmund Freud

Includes two different editions and translations. Download link updated on 24. June 2021.

(2x .pdf & .epub)

In the manner of the eighteenth-century philosopher, Freud argued that religion and science were mortal enemies. Early in the century, he began to think about religion psychoanalytically and to discuss it in his writings. The Future of an Illusion (1927), Freud’s best known and most emphatic psychoanalytic exploration of religion, is the culmination of a lifelong pattern of thinking.

This work was begun in the spring of 1927, it was finished by September and published in November of the same year. In the “Postscript” which Freud added in 1935 to his “Autobiographical Study” he remarked on “a significant change” that had come about in his writings during the previous decade. “My interest,” he explained, “after making a long detour through the natural sciences, medicine and psychotherapy, returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated me long before, when I was a youth scarcely old enough for thinking.” He had, of course, touched several times on those problems in the intervening years – especially in Totem and Taboo (1912-1913); but it was with The Future of an Illusion that he entered on the series of studies which were to be his major concern for the remainder of his life.

Throughout the period when Freud wrote his major works, various translations and editions, differing widely in the accuracy of their texts and the quality of their content, made their appearance. Increasingly, as the body of Freud’s work achieved commanding stature, the need arose for a definitive and uniformly authentic English-language edition of all his writings. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud was undertaken to achieve this goal. The work is under the general editorship of James Strachey, and he himself made new translations of many of the writings, supervising the emendation of others and contributing valuable notes, both bibliographical and explanatory. The result is to place this edition in a position of unquestioned supremacy over all other existing versions – which are in fact rendered obsolete.

‘Event: Philosophy in Transit’ by Slavoj Žižek

Published by Penguin in 2014. Download link updated on 12. July 2021.


An event can be an occurrence that shatters ordinary life, a radical political rupture, a transformation of reality, a religious belief, the rise of a new art form, or an intense experience such as falling in love. Taking us on a trip that stops at different definitions of event, Žižek addresses fundamental questions such as: are all things connected? How much are we agents of our own fates? Which conditions must be met for us to perceive something as really existing? In a world that’s constantly changing, is anything new really happening? Drawing on references from Plato to arthouse cinema, the Big Bang to Buddhism, Event is a journey into philosophy at its most exciting and elementary.

‘God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse’ by Slavoj Žižek & Boris Gunjević

Published by Seven Stories Press in 2012. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

In God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse, iconoclastic Marxist theorist Slavoj Žižek and radical theologian Boris Gunjević offer us not a religious text but a critical inquiry, a work of faith not in God but in the human intellect.

With his contagious zeal and his genius for unlikely connections, Žižek calls the bluff on the West’s alleged atheism and contemplates the bewildering idea of an Almighty that both suffers and prays. Taking on Žižek’s gambits and proposing his own, Gunjević issues a revolutionary clarion call for theology that can break the back of capitalism’s cunning “enslavement of desire.” With gripping examples and razor-sharp logic, Žižek and Gunjević invoke thinkers from Augustine to Lacan and topics ranging from Christian versus “pagan” ethics to the “class struggle” implied in reading the Qur’an and the role of gender in Islam.

Together, they confirm and dissect faith in the twenty-first century, shaking the foundations of the Abrahamic traditions.

‘The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?’ by Slavoj Žižek & John Milbank

Published by The MIT Press in 2009. Download link updated on 20th January 2022.

(.pdf & .epub)

A militant Marxist atheist and a “Radical Orthodox” Christian theologian square off on everything from the meaning of theology and Christ to the war machine of corporate mafia.

“What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief.”

—John Milbank

“To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank.”

—Slavoj Žižek

In this corner, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a militant atheist who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion’s illusions; in the other corner, “Radical Orthodox” theologian John Milbank, an influential and provocative thinker who argues that theology is the only foundation upon which knowledge, politics, and ethics can stand.

In The Monstrosity of Christ, Žižek and Milbank go head to head for three rounds, employing an impressive arsenal of moves to advance their positions and press their respective advantages. By the closing bell, they have not only proven themselves worthy adversaries, they have shown that faith and reason are not simply and intractably opposed. Žižek has long been interested in the emancipatory potential offered by Christian theology. And Milbank, seeing global capitalism as the new century’s greatest ethical challenge, has pushed his own ontology in more political and materialist directions.

Their debate in The Monstrosity of Christ concerns the future of religion, secularity, and political hope in light of a monsterful event—God becoming human. For the first time since Žižek’s turn toward theology, we have a true debate between an atheist and a theologian about the very meaning of theology, Christ, the Church, the Holy Ghost, Universality, and the foundations of logic. The result goes far beyond the popularized atheist/theist point/counterpoint of recent books by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others. Žižek begins, and Milbank answers, countering dialectics with “paradox.” The debate centers on the nature of and relation between paradox and parallax, between analogy and dialectics, between transcendent glory and liberation.

Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He has published over thirty books, including Looking AwryThe Puppet and the Dwarf, and The Parallax View (these three published by the MIT Press).

John Milbank is an influential Christian theologian and the author of Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason and other books. Creston Davis, who conceived of this encounter, studied under both Žižek and Milbank.

‘Hegel’s Ladder: A Commentary on Phenomenology of Spirit’ by H. S. Harris | Two Volume Set

Published by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. in 1997. Download link and description updated on 25. June 2021.


Awarded the Nicholas Hoare/Renaud-Bray Canadian Philosophical Association Book Prize in 2001.

This commentary by Henry Silton Harris is a landmark study on Georg W. F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit from 1807, a work of philosophy which is by itself often regarded as the most difficult and misunderstood book to ever have been written in the entire history of Western philosophy, even published under the most intense circumstances of war between France and Prussia.

This extraordinary and awe-inspiring contribution to Hegel scholarship is a lucid presentation and rich orchestration of significant structure and detail, still bearing the prestigious title of the most thorough, well-researched and thoughtful study of the Phenomenology to have appeared in English language up to this date.

The prevailing habit of commentators on Phenomenology has been founded on the general consensus of opinion that, whatever else it may be, it cannot possibly be the logical ‘Science’ which Hegel himself presented it as. This is the deeply ingrained established view that Hegel’s Ladder intends to overthrow and by reconstructing the elaborate structure of Hegel’s treatise, it clearly proves it to be a unified work.

A magnificent fruit of a long thirty-year struggle of study of strenuous analysis and detailed paragraph by paragraph continuous chain of argument, Hegel’s Ladder is a literal commentary on Hegel’s Die Phänomenologie des Geistes. And if this were not enough, Harris emphatically wrote in the preface that “with the books completion I regard my own ‘working’ career as concluded.”

Henry Silton Harris (April 26, 1926 – March 13, 2007) was a British-Canadian philosopher, having been a Distinguished Research Professor at York University starting in 1984. He was Glendon College’s Academic Dean from 1967 to 1969, a Fellow in Royal Society of Canada and was also given an Honorary Doctor of Letters from York in 2001.

‘Trump’ by Alain Badiou

Published by Polity in 2019.


The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shockwaves across the globe. How was such an outcome even possible? In two lectures given at American universities in the immediate aftermath of the election, the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou helps us to make sense of this extraordinary occurrence.

He argues that Trump’s victory was the symptom of a global crisis made up of four characteristics: the triumph of a brutal form of global capitalism, the decomposition of the established political elite, the growing frustration and disorientation that many people feel today, and the absence of a compelling alternative vision. It was in this context that Trump could emerge as a new kind of political figure that was both inside and outside the political order, a member of the Republican Party who, at the same time, represents something outside the system. The progressive political challenge now is to create something new that offers people a real choice, a radical alternative based on principles of universality and equality.

This concise account of the meaning of Trump should be read by everyone who wants to understand what is happening in our world today.

‘The Conflict of the Faculties / Der Streit der Fakultäten’ by Immanuel Kant

This bilingual edition published by Abaris Books, Inc. in 1979.
Originally published in autumn 1798.


Kant’s short essay is a reflection on the contemporary structure of academic studies, where he examines this structure in terms of the functions of the State and of the Universities which form part of it. His analysis links the empirical facts with conceptual distinctions, in ways that are familiar from his more general and abstract philosophy. The main aim is to ground a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate ways in which different Faculties of the University may approach intellectual issues that are of common interest to them.

‘The Immanence of Truths’ by Alain Badiou


In order to celebrate the publication of Alain Badiou’s major work The Immanence of Truths (L’Immanence des vérités, Paris: Fayard, 2018), the final part in the ‘trilogy’ of the philosophical works Being and Event and Logics of Worlds, a graduate student workshops was organized at Columbia University in December 2019. The workshop included short introductory talks discussing different aspects of The Immanence of Truths (which is due to be published in English translation by Bloomsbury) followed by a discussion with students. The book Sometimes, We Are Eternal is available from Suture Press.

‘Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II’ by Alain Badiou

First published in 2013, this edition by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019.

(.pdf & .epub)

Logics of Worlds is the sequel to Alain Badiou’s Being and Event. Tackling the questions that had been left open by Being and Event, and answering many of his critics in the process, Badiou supplements his pioneering treatment of multiple being with a daring and complex theory of the worlds in which truths and subjects make their mark – what he calls a materialist dialectic. The radical recasting of ontology in Being and Event is followed and complemented here by a thoroughgoing transformation in our very understanding of logic, conceived as a theory not of being but of appearing.

Unafraid to resurrect and reinvent the classical themes of philosophy, Badiou gives new meaning to concepts such as object, body and relation, mobilising them in arresting studies that range from the architectural planning of Brasilia to contemporary astronomy, and confronting himself with towering philosophical counterparts (Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Lacan, Deleuze). The book culminates in an impassioned call to ‘live for an Idea’.

Russell Sbriglia, Cornel West & Slavoj Žižek: ‘The Future of the Left’

Video recording of a discussion between philosophers Sbriglia, West & Žižek titled The Future of the Left made available online on 2nd December 2020 in tribute to the american political commentator Michael Brooks, who has passed away in July 2021.

Cornel West is an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, and public intellectual and is author of over 20 books, including the classic bestseller Race Matters, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism, Democracy Matters, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, Black Prophetic Fire, and editor of more than a dozen others. He is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Paris. West frequently makes headlines for his political action, including his participation in protests against police violence following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson at which West was twice arrested. He is well known for his staunch critique of Barack Obama’s economic and foreign policy in public media during Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2017, and last year was a prominent endorser of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and later Green Party candidate Jill Stein, during the presidential election. He is also a familiar figure in popular culture, with cameo appearances in The Matrix films, Examined Life documentary by Astra Taylor and as a frequent guest on The Bill Maher Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, CNN, and C-Span.

Slavoj Žižek is a Philosopher and Psychoanalytic social theorist. He is Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana; Professor at the School of Law and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London; Distinguished Scholar at the Kyung Hee University, Seoul; and Visiting Professor at the German Department, New York University. His field of work comprises Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, dialectical-materialist metaphysical interpretations of German Idealism and Marxian critique of ideology. His more than sixty books in English have been widely translated. His latest publications include Pandemic! & Pandemic! 2, Hegel in a Wired Brain, Sex and the Failed Absolute, Like A Thief In Broad DaylightReading MarxIncontinence of the Void, and The Day After the Revolution.

Russell Sbriglia is Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Literature Studies, Department of English at Seton Hall University, United States. His teaching and research focus is on American literature of the long 19th century (1776-1914) as well as literary and critical theory. He is editor of Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek, Subject Lessons: Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism, and is currently completing a monograph titled A Gainful Loss: Melville avec Lacan.

‘Race Matters’ by Cornel West

This edition published by Beacon Press in 2001. Download link updated on 29th July 2021.

(first edition & 25th anniversary edition .epub)

First published in 1993, on the one-year anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, Race Matters became a national best seller that has gone on to sell more than half a million copies. This classic treatise on race contains Dr. West’s most incisive essays on the issues relevant to black Americans, including the crisis in leadership in the Black community, Black conservatism, Black-Jewish relations, myths about Black sexuality, and the legacy of Malcolm X. The insights Dr. West brings to these complex problems remain relevant, provocative, creative, and compassionate.

Cornel West is an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, and public intellectual and is author of over 20 books, including the classic bestseller Race Matters, The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism, Democracy Matters, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, Black Prophetic Fire, and editor of more than a dozen others. He is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Paris. West frequently makes headlines for his political action, including his participation in protests against police violence following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson at which West was twice arrested. He is well known for his staunch critique of Barack Obama’s economic and foreign policy in public media during Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2017, and last year was a prominent endorser of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and later Green Party candidate Jill Stein, during the presidential election. He is also a familiar figure in popular culture, with cameo appearances in The Matrix films, Examined Life documentary by Astra Taylor and as a frequent guest on The Bill Maher Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, CNN, and C-Span.

‘The Trouble with Pleasure: Deleuze and Psychoanalysis’ by Aaron Shuster

(.pdf & .epub)

Is pleasure a rotten idea, mired in negativity and lack, which should be abandoned in favor of a new concept of desire? Or is desire itself fundamentally a matter of lack, absence, and loss? This is one of the crucial issues dividing the work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan, two of the most formidable figures of postwar French thought. Though the encounter with psychoanalysis deeply marked Deleuze’s work, we are yet to have a critical account of the very different postures he adopted toward psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian theory, throughout his career. In The Trouble with Pleasure, Aaron Schuster tackles this tangled relationship head on. The result is neither a Lacanian reading of Deleuze nor a Deleuzian reading of Lacan but rather a systematic and comparative analysis that identifies concerns common to both thinkers and their ultimately incompatible ways of addressing them. Schuster focuses on drive and desire—the strange, convoluted relationship of human beings to the forces that move them from within—“the trouble with pleasure.”

Along the way, Schuster offers his own engaging and surprising conceptual analyses and inventive examples. In the “Critique of Pure Complaint” he provides a philosophy of complaining, ranging from Freud’s theory of neurosis to Spinoza’s intellectual complaint of God and the Deleuzian great complaint. Schuster goes on to elaborate, among other things, a theory of love as “mutually compatible symptoms”; an original philosophical history of pleasure, including a hypothetical Heideggerian treatise and a Platonic theory of true pleasure; and an exploration of the 1920s “literature of the death drive,” including Thomas Mann, Italo Svevo, and Blaise Cendrars.

‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self’ by Michel Foucault

Published by Vintage in 1988.

(.pdf & .epub)

Michel Foucault takes us into the first two centuries of our own era, into the Golden Age of Rome, to reveal a subtle but decisive break from the classical Greek vision of sexual pleasure. He skillfully explores the whole corpus of moral reflection among philosophers (Plutarch, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca) and physicians of the era, and uncovers an increasing mistrust of pleasure and growing anxiety over sexual activity and its consequences.

‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure’ by Michel Foucault

Published by Vintage in 1990.

(.pdf & .epub)

In this sequel to The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction, the brilliantly original French thinker who died in 1984 gives an analysis of how the ancient Greeks perceived sexuality.

Throughout The Uses of Pleasure Foucault analyzes an irresistible array of ancient Greek texts on eroticism as he tries to answer basic questions: How in the West did sexual experience become a moral issue? And why were other appetites of the body, such as hunger, and collective concerns, such as civic duty, not subjected to the numberless rules and regulations and judgments that have defined, if not confined, sexual behavior?

‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction’ by Michel Foucault

Published by Vintage in 2012 (Reissue edition).

(.pdf & .epub)

Michel Foucult offers an iconoclastic exploration of why we feel compelled to continually analyze and discuss sex, and of the social and mental mechanisms of power that cause us to direct the questions of what we are to what our sexuality is.

‘The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences’ by Michel Foucault

Published by Routledge in 2001. Download link updated on 17. December 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

When one defines “order” as a sorting of priorities, it becomes beautifully clear as to what Foucault is doing here. With virtuoso showmanship, he weaves an intensely complex history of thought. He dips into literature, art, economics and even biology in The Order of Things, possibly one of the most significant, yet most overlooked, works of the twentieth century. Eclipsed by his later work on power and discourse, nonetheless it was The Order of Things that established Foucault’s reputation as an intellectual giant. Pirouetting around the outer edge of language, Foucault unsettles the surface of literary writing. In describing the limitations of our usual taxonomies, he opens the door onto a whole new system of thought, one ripe with what he calls “exotic charm”.

‘Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason’ by Michel Foucault

Published by Vintage in 2013.

(.epub & .pdf)

Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 – from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, and walls were erected between the “insane” and the rest of humanity.

‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison’ by Michel Foucault

This edition published by Penguin in 2019.

(.pdf & .epub)

The grisly spectacle of public executions and torture of centuries ago has been replaced by the penal system in western society – but has anything really changed?

In his revolutionary work on control and power relations in our public institutions, Michel Foucault argues that the development of prisons, police organizations and legal hierarchies has merely changed the focus of domination from our bodies to our souls. Even schools, factories, barracks and hospitals, in which an individual’s time is controlled hour by hour, are part of a disciplinary society.

Lacan contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Universalism, Politics

The American University of Beirut, Faculty of Arts and Sciences held the seminar “Lacan contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Universalism, Politics” in 2016.


While Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault are both enormously influential theorists within the humanities, their work has inspired divergent and often explicitly antagonistic theoretical agendas. What is at stake in each thinker’s work pertains to the core questions and critiques of Enlightenment and Modernity. Both Lacan and Foucault challenge the Kantian compact between reason, autonomy, and freedom, but they do so in very different ways and with very different consequences for our understanding of universalism, law, reason, habits, and the passions. The aim of this conference is to try to clarify the nature of this divergence as well as the stakes of this antagonism. It will do so by focusing on three fundamental topics of disagreement that divide Lacan from Foucault: the nature of the subject; the status of the universal; and the function of politics.

Papers based on the conference appeared in ‘Lacan Contra Foucault: Subjectivity, Sex, and Politics’


The Absence of the Sexual Relationship: Invariant of the Species or Historical Phase?
Lorenzo Chiesa, Genoa School of Humanities

Is what Lacanian psychoanalysis calls the ‘absence of the sexual relationship’ the basic – transcendental and biological – invariant of the speaking animal? Or should it be understood as a historical product strictly linked with the advent of modern science? Also, assuming that language is structurally incomplete, and therefore that homo sapienscannot avoid the dialectic of semblance and truth, does this necessarily entail that the absence of any meta-language always correspond to the absence of the sexual relationship? In this paper I will show how, in his Seminars of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lacan develops two different, if not incompatible, narratives. The paper should pave the way for a broader discussion of how the ‘historicist temptation’ Lacan finally does not succumb to intersects with Foucault’s considerations on human nature (especially in his 1971 conversation with Chomsky). Could we maintain, as has recently been suggested, that Foucault himself belongs to a ‘Freudian paradigm’ for which history is made of ‘true fictions’? Does such an understanding of the ‘Freudian paradigm’ not run the risk of turning Foucault into a Freudian only at the price of labelling Lacan as anti-Freudian?

No: Foucault
Joan Copjec, Brown University

Despite the telegraphed “no” of the title, this paper is not a full-scale rejection of Foucault, but a firm dismissal of his rejection of Freud and psychoanalysis. The latter rejection is based primarily on Foucault’s claim that in psychoanalysis every negation amounts to the same one. The simple claim of the paper is not only “not so!” but also an attempt to recover what is radical in Freud and lost on Foucault.

The Other Space of the Communist Party
Jodi Dean, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

This paper puts Lacan’s account of the Other Space to work in a theory of the communist party. Lacan associates the Freudian unconscious with a gap, a gap where something happens but remains unrealized. It’s not that this something is or is not there, that it exists or doesn’t exist. Rather, the unrealized makes itself felt. It exerts a pressure. The function of the transference in analysis is forcing the gap. Through the transference different unconscious agencies in the subject become manifest. The transference registers the effects of an Other beyond analyst and analysand: the analytic relation is not reducible to the interaction between them; it is the site of the appearance of an Other. The transference is important for a theory of the party because of its function “as a mode of access to what is hidden in the unconscious.” Insofar as the party is a form that accesses the discharge that has ended, the crowd that has gone home, the people who are not there but exert a force nonetheless, it is a site of transferential relations. Rather than rejecting these relations in a fantasy of politics without power, I emphasize the importance of the psychic effects of sociality in building collective strength. Institutions are symbolic arrangements that organize and concentrate the social space. They “fix” an Other, not in the sense of immobilizing it but in the sense of putting in relation the emergent effects of sociality. This “putting in relation” substantializes the link, giving it its force, enabling it to exert its pressure. A party is an organization and concentration of sociality in behalf of a certain politics. For communists this is a politics of and for the working class, the producers, the oppressed, the people as the rest of us. “Party” knots together effects of ideal ego, ego ideal, superego, subject supposed to know, and subject supposed to believe. The particular content of any of these component effects changes over time and place even as the operations they designate remain as features of the party form. I illustrate my argument with examples from The Party Organizer, a third period publication of the CPUSA. I put my argument to work in a critique of John Holloway’s Foucauldian anarchism.

Cutting Off the King’s Head
Mladen Dolar, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

In a famous pronouncement Foucault said: “It is necessary to cut off the king’s head: in political theory this hasn’t happened yet.” Political theory kept being stuck, in one way or another, with the framework of sovereignty, law, repression, instead of envisaging the new dispositives of power in their heterogeneous multiplicity, proliferation and productivity, the emergence of biopolitics etc. This goes also for psychoanalysis which was prey to the ‘monarchy of sex’ (as he famously put it on the last page of the first volume of the History of sexuality), unable to abandon the framework of prohibition, the father, the law and repression, instead of espousing bodies and pleasures, and was thus itself, unwittingly, a major mechanism of power it allegedly opposed. The paper will try to scrutinize some assumptions of this way of seeing the opposition and framing the question. There is something missing in the massive alternative between the monarchy of the sovereign, father, law, sex, truth on the one hand, and multiplicity, heterogeneity, proliferation, bodies, pleasure on the other, the alternative on which Foucault’s work, in its vast elaborate ramifications, seems to be premised.

Exchanging Memory: Reflections on Postwar Enjoyment
Rohit Goel, University of Chicago

My paper uses the example of Lebanon to show how memory of past atrocity is a fetish object of useless enjoyment that overshoots the very need it at once constructs and aims to satisfy: avoiding the repetition of past violence. Putting Lacan’s theory of discourse into conversation with Marx’s analysis of value in capital, I argue that postwar “transitional” justice mechanisms, hegemonic after 1989, steer toward the perpetual accumulation of knowledge about the past — what Lacan calls surplus-enjoyment or jouissance or a and Marx calls surplus-value — at the expense of working through history to overcome the recurrence of social antagonism. Along the way, I argue that reading Lacan with Marx to analyze “late capitalism” or postwar liberal society offers a high stakes corrective to structuralist and poststructuralist pronouncements of “the death of the subject.” For instance, Michel Foucault’s diagnosis of the nexus of knowledge and power as absolute tends to a politics of silence in the face of necessarily alienating discourses (on madness, criminalization, sexuality…), either retreating to a “care of the self” or self-consciously refusing to engage the constitutive contradictions of discourse for fear of reproducing the latter’s terms/potency. I conclude by suggesting alternatives to liberal transitional justice programs as well as structuralist/poststructuralist subject annihilation in the aftermath of catastrophe.

Valuation and Enjoyment: Lacan and Foucault through Marx and Bataille
Robert Meister, University of California, Santa Cruz

I begin with the questions of politics implied by a schematic reading of Foucault through Lacan: Is Foucault’s account of knowledge/power reducible to a technique for translating University Discourse into a Discourse of the Master? How can this be done except through the Discourse of the Hysteric? What else could be desired here except for a true Master? And didn’t Foucault himself become that Master in the post-modern University Discourse created by my generation of left-academics who came of age in the aftermath of 1968?

This is of course a caricature, but rather than qualify it through a more comprehensive reading of Foucault’s Lectures and Lacan’s Seminars, I want to draw out the political project of moving beyond these three quarter-turns of Lacan’s discursive dial, especially in an era of financialized capitalism. Instead of debunking Foucault in favor of Lacan, my central claim is that Foucault provides an academically assimilable version of Georges Bataille, whose Accursed Share exhibits the micro-foundations of Foucault’s early project I thus argue that Foucault carried forward Bataille’s critique of dominant strands of French Hegelianism into the realm of historical studies in much the way that Marx did for his own critique of Hegel and left-Hegelianism. Because Lacan, also had a lifelong engagement with the same critique of conscious mind (via the death instinct) that obsessed Bataille, Lacan’s late turn to Marx and materialism in response to 1968 is a good site on which to raise the question of thinking Marx with Bataille, or asking what it means for capitalism to have an unconscious.

My main argument in the paper is about why the unconscious of capitalism is especially important in the era of its subsumption by finance that Lacan and Foucault did not live to see. In financialized capitalism the creation units of capital preservation–quite literally hedges and options–has equal importance to the production of commodities and the employment of labor power in earlier version of capitalism that have been well-analyzed from a Lacanian perspective by Zupančič, Žižek and others. I argue that financialized capitalism in important ways confesses the post-modern critique of its prehistory, denaturalizing the “real economy” and making its continuation expressly contingent on the liquidity of markets, which is itself ultimately a political/financial project involving the commensurability of public and private debt.

An effect of this transformation is that fully financialized subjects would no longer think of themselves as owners of skills, but rather as managers of a portfolio of attributes the contents of which must be continuously rebalanced and rehedged in order to provide resiliency, which is now expressly considered as a measure of downside protection against risks that are no longer worth taking now that we know what dangers we have been lucky enough to survive. What, then, can be said of our collective enjoyment of the gains accumulated by those who harvest the upside generated by this heightened volatility? My paper will analyze the relationship between security and insecurity, life and death in the unconscious of a financialized subject who no longer thinks merely as a commoditized individual. Are there political potentialities here that have been missed by more productionist versions of historical materialism that dismiss the important changes represented by finance in the Real of capitalist desire?

Desire & Pleasure: Deleuze and Foucault’s Readings of Wilhelm Reich
Nicolae Morar, University of Oregon

In this paper, I defend the thesis that in order to understand Foucault and Deleuze’s diametrically opposed views regarding desire and pleasure, one has to analyze the ways in which those thinkers have been influenced by Wilhelm Reich’s works.

Reich’s 1946 The Mass Psychology of Fascism has played a central role in framing the political questions surrounding the repression of sexuality. Deleuze’s political writings have been influenced by this Freudo-Marxist perspective, up to the point that in Anti-Oedipus (1972), he and Guattari claim that Reich, after Spinoza, has rediscovered the fundamental problem of political philosophy: “Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?” Deleuze & Guattari continue, “after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves?” In this case, an appeal to ignorance would be an epistemic failure. Following Reich, Deleuze & Guattari provide us with a different explanation – one that revives the notion of desire. Our desires are positive insofar as “what we desire, what we invest our desire in, is a social formation.” Instead of extracting an object that is presumed to be the object of desire (negative explanation), we are always in the process of constructing a positive social assemblage. Deleuze & Guattari reinforce Reich’s sex-economic hypothesis since they recognize that libidinal economy and political economy are one and the same. And if our desires are social from the beginning, in a way, they are not our own. This is the only way we can understand our investment in social formations that repress us. Our desires are not just a part of one’s psychic reality. They are always already part of the very social formation one finds oneself in.

As early as 1973, Foucault distances himself from Reich’s Freudo-Marxist approach, and also from Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus. In his Rio lecture, Foucault notes, “I admit that a problem such as this (Anti-Oedipus) is very appealing to me, and that I am also tempted to look behind what is claimed to be the Oedipus story – for something unrelated to the indeterminate, endlessly repeated story of our desire and our unconscious, but related to the history of a power, a political power.” In his 1975 talk at Columbia University (at the Schizo-Culture Conference), Foucault reiterates this point in an even bolder manner: “I now see the Reichian schema as an obstacle rather than an instrument.”(154) The Reichian schema is fully revealed as an obstacle only in 1976 in La Volonté de Savoir. Foucault’s argument assumes that any explanation of sexuality that focuses primarily on sexual repression (as Reich does) cannot escape analyzing the underlying power mechanism otherwise than in a reduced, schematic, and negative form. “Which is to say [..], these analyses assume that power exerts itself basically in the form of an interdiction and exclusion.” Against Reich, Foucault argues that rather than being deductive, the power mechanisms produce, invent, create, and ultimately normalize sexual subjects. Reich’s failure, and to a certain extent Deleuze & Guattari’s as well, is to confound and to merge the strategies of power with the interdictions of the law and with the mechanisms of domination and exploitation. Hence, “the rallying point for the counterattack against the deployment of sexuality ought not to be sex-desire, but bodies and pleasures.”

Capitalist Forms of Subjectivity: Foucault between Psychoanalysis and Marxism
Johanna Oksala, University of Helsinki

The paper argues that Foucault makes an important contribution to our understanding of capitalist forms of subjectivity – a problem that Marxism, psychoanalysis and the combinations of the two have struggled with. Moreover, I will show that Foucault’s break-through in this field of questioning, namely his account of productive power, can be understood as a critical response to the problems that both psychoanalysis and Marxism had in theorizing the relationship between power and subjectivity.

The argument proceeds in three parts. In the first section I will consider how Foucault’s critique of psychoanalysis in The History of Sexuality is modified in a lecture delivered in Brazil in 1976 titled ‘The Mesh of Power’. In this lecture Foucault notably develops his account of productive power in dialogue with Lacan and Marx. In the second section I will turn to Foucault’s lectures on governmentality and argue that in these lectures we find his most developed view of the homo economicus as the capitalist form of subjectivity. I will conclude by briefly considering the consequences of Foucault’s account for our current understanding of ourselves.

What Comes After “The Death of Man”: Foucault and Lacan, Sexuality and Freedom
Aaron Schuster, Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam

Foucault’s relationship to psychoanalysis, and especially Lacanian psychoanalysis, is a highly complex one. From his early enthusiasm in The Order of Things, in which psychoanalysis is assigned a privileged place in the account of the birth of the human sciences and their possible “beyond,” Foucault ends up, in the first volume of The History of Sexuality, becoming one of its most powerful critics, denouncing the “repressive hypothesis” as one of the prevalent myths of modern power. Yet some years later, in his lecture course The Hermeneutics of the Subject (1981-82), Foucault praises Lacan as the one of the few thinkers to thematize the relation between the subject and truth. In this talk, I will disentangle this relationship by focusing on one key moment: Foucault’s and Lacan’s interpretations of Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas, and how they reflect different understandings of subjectivity and modernity. I will show how Foucault and Lacan draw two contrasting conclusions from the “death of Man,” i.e. the crisis of the human sciences and the eclipse of their vision of a central constituting subject or transcendental ego. I will then look back on Foucault’s “history of sexuality” project, and examine how these competing conceptions of subjectivity impact on the understanding of sexuality and the possibility of emancipation.

Biopolitics, Sexuality, and the Unconscious
Alenka Zupančič, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

The lecture deals with the way in which Michel Foucault first introduced the notion of ‘biopolitics’ through the referential frame of sexuality and psychoanalysis. It focuses on the concept that is utterly and conspicuously missing from Foucault’s account, in The History of Sexuality, of the psychoanalytic take on sexuality – namely the unconscious. It argues that this omission amounts to a conceptual decision which has important and far-reaching consequences for the (Foucauldian) concept of biopolitics as such.

The Three Impossible Professions: Philosophy, Politics and Psychoanalysis

According to Freud’s well known text ’Analysis Terminable and Interminable’ published in 1937, there are the three key impossible professions:

  1. government (mastery, authority, leadership… politics)
  2. education (upbringing, raising children, teaching… philosophy)
  3. analysis or specifically psychoanalysis

There is an inherent impossibility of turning those into the form of a profession, since to have a profession signals towards obtaining a technique, a method of conduct which is then applied within that field, an acquisition of precise habits, automatically repeated forms of behavior which turn into that person’s second nature, something whose application points always towards an inner impossibility within the logic of the mode of functioning.

In the three areas of politics, philosophy and psychoanalysis, the absence of an universally applicable approach is often marked by a very profound sense of contingency attached to their functioning, since they always concern a particular case of conduct relative to a given situation.

There is also the striking fact of these three areas of human thought and practice themselves being inherently mutually exclusive: a certain reading, writing, practice or engagement is always either philosophical, political, or analytical. Their relation always being that of a profound parallax (to reference Karatani & Žižek), where one kind of a subjective stance towards something automatically means that the same object of inquiry cannot be seen from the other two subjective stances at the very same time, following the dichotomy of either/or.

On Freud’s “Analysis terminable and interminable” by Joseph Sandler

Published by Routledge in 2013.

(.pdf & .epub)

Analysis Terminable and Interminable” is considered Freud’s clinical legacy, summing up his sense of the potential and the limitations of psychoanalysis as a therapeutic technique. Though many have regarded this essay as pessimistic in tone, it has also been lauded for its realism and for its hard-headed look at why therapy’s actual outcome must always fall short of the ideal. The contributors to this volume discuss Freud’s essay from many viewpoints. They place it in historical perspective (written in 1937, it reflects Freud’s exposure to the savagery of Nazism), situate it in terms of Freud’s personal suffering (the death of loved ones, the chronic pain of cancer), and relate his insights and observations to the major theoretical issues of the period. Most important, this volume relates Freud’s essay to current issues in technique and to controversies arising from different theoretical perspectives.

How to Freely Access Academic Books and Other Theoretical Writing Online?

A lot of books can very often be freely accessed online with the use of a currently functioning website mirror of the Russian libgen project. For example, the domain name libgen.is works for me right now, but this can depend on the country from which you’re trying to access the website from, as it may be blocked in many countries. Try searching with Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo or some other search engine of your choice to find a mirror of the project which works for you.

Another great way of accessing books and many articles online is to have access to the website of the arg project, which is currently located at the domain name aaaaarg.fail. But you will need to register a personal account there to get to the works themselves, and the creation of an account requires an invitation from an already existing member of the project. If you don’t have an account there yet and need one, you can try to contact me and give me your personal email address, and I can send you one there.

A lot of articles can often be freely accessed online with the use of a currently functioning sci-hub project website mirror (for example the domain name sci-hub.do works for me at this moment), by first, if you’re using the Google Chrome browser or a derivative of it, installing the extension required for the functioning of sci-hub, finding the correct DOI number of the text in question and inserting it into the main ‘search field’ of the sci-hub website. Try searching with a search engine to find the exact DOI number of your desired text, and the mirror of sci-hub which works for you, as some portals may be blocked in certain countries.

Also don’t forget to check the archive.org project if a copy of the work you need is by any chance uploaded there, if you don’t have the luck and don’t find your desired copy of the book in any of the previous solutions. There are also ways to obtain a book from this particular project by borrowing the book in question with an account on the website and then removing the DRM protection via some software, like using the anti-DRM plugin for Calibre, but I won’t go into so much detail about that here.

There is also the option of becoming a member of the Facebook group that is currently called Ask for PDFs from People with Institutional Access, where you can put up personal requests for a certain book which may not be available anywhere else and if you’re lucky someone will respond to provide you with the text in question.

Finally there are various so-called torrent trackers dedicated to sharing books, which are specific websites sharing torrent files and so-called magnet links, but I personally don’t know much of those dedicated to books, except for maybe bibliotik, but unfortunately I don’t even have personal access to that one, simply due to the fact that I haven’t been using the torrent network to download anything for a very long time.

There are also probably other some torrent sites dedicated to books in existence which I personally might not know about. But when using the torrent network to download anything these days you also have to be quite careful about which specific client you actually use for downloading itself, for example if you’re using the Windows operating system, you should probably find a copy of the very old 2.2.1 release version of the uTorrent client from a trusted source, since the newer versions of this particular client apparently have various nasty things written into the code of the client software, or perhaps try an alternative like qBittorrent.

Of course, don’t forget that if you personally have a digital copy of some specific book or article which you think others might make use of, you’ve always got the option of uploading and thus sharing that work in any of the mentioned sites above. I’ve even noticed some authors upload their own writing to these kinds of websites in order to promote their own work in this way and thus have it distributed more widely.

There may be a lot of other online databases, peer-to-peer networks, or ways of obtaining various texts online for free which I may personally not be aware of. In that case you can contact me and I can add that particular solution to this list.

Kant Was Not a Bourgeois Philosopher!

This text was written in 2019 and is appearing here again in a revised form.

In my reading I have chosen this very strange claim located inside and almost at the very beginning of the Preface of Karatani’s book Transcritique as the basic interpretative method of reading that entire work, by positing it as a necessary presupposition held by the author in order for him to even be able to launch the very project of Transcritique as a form of reading Kant via Marx and vice versa.

So what specifically can and does this precise negative claim even mean in its concrete sense?

Here we can find Karatani using the specifically Marxian term which, when understood inside the field of philosophy without a doubt relates to the name of Marx and the technical lexicon as it is specifically employed in Marx’s writing and later also by Marxist followers, following the entire logic of either someone determined as a bourgeois, or as proletarian, a simple application of the two terms which are by the very function of their use very directly, without any sort of mediation, employed in a relation to one of the most crucial and central concepts ever developed by Marx in his writing, the idea of class struggle as it appears in every society, a very specific concept the understanding of which is in a meta-reflexive way itself a matter of a profound interpretative struggle.

Let us just briefly remember via a detour at this point and point out the recent vulgarity of a very reductionist reading on the entire meaning of the concept of class struggle by the alt-right ideologist Jordan Peterson in the so-called “debate of the century” he had staged with Slavoj Žižek in Toronto, together with the curious fact that Žižek chose to not in any way respond to that precise provocation and attack made by Peterson against him, occurring already at the very beginning of the debate, although Žižek’s readership knows beyond any doubt that he not only has an understanding of class struggle within his theoretical work, but that his own very specific interpretation of the term is by itself quite radical, a variation and elabpration of it that has a lot of many different important consequences in philosophy already in its own right.

But don’t we risk the entire concept of class struggle in some way becoming completely nonsensical in itself through this very direct literal application to of it onto Kant as a person through the very procedure of Karatani’s very specific claim that “Kant was not a bourgeois philosopher!”?

This is what this text attempts to question. So what exactly does happen when we apply the logic of class struggle on an object of inquiry I hereby designate as “Kant as a name?

“Kant as a name”: Two Variations on the Concept

A proper singular name designating “Kant the individual”.

A very specific person named Immanuel Kant undeniably did live in a certain social context in a defined historical moment, where there were of course also precise class differences at work in that society. So his own social position, thought and action, was surely in some way correlated to and determined by all of those specific class differences, something which can actually be found out through a concrete historical analysis of him as a concrete individual — and here we can quite easily see the Marxist term historical materialism somehow suddenly appearing in the middle of discussion, as if purposefully crashing a party uninvited — an analysis of him as a specific case of a singular personality which thus bears a certain character, a unique persona, a particular psychological profile of a man, the entire attempt to pinpoint the specificity of his personal identity and it’s specific features…

The very sole factional accuracy of the description of him being a white European male being put forward bstween the lines, the underlying echo of the claim that this designation is then the ultimate proof of the false nature of the entire conception of universal validity of his work, a way in which this procedure supposedly undermines universality from within, supposedly proving that every form of this notion of universality is thus a form of false universality, especially when applied to the ultimate figure of Enlightenment thinking himself.

By taking some biographical developments during the course of his life as an interpretative procedure and the main guideline of analysis, which should without a doubt include all of his own specific idiosyncrasies which can be discerned from historical writing, like the description of him of forever living in that backward, uninteresting place called Königsberg, not bothering to travel much around, as if someone has glued him in place.

We shouldn’t forget to mention the myth of his unique specific way of walking, of him literally calculating the length of his individual steps while taking a stroll, supposedly in the effort of maximising daily efficiency, with the additional detail that he was always taking these walks precisely attuned to the clock, so that locals actually set their own watches when seeing him pass by, this pointing to the belief of those local folk that these walks must always have been so precisely calculated that he can’t possibly ever have been early or late.

The idea here is to make him somehow more interesting as an individual character with his specific quirks, thus to present him as far more human, familiar, to which an average person can in some way in a sense relate, that this very apparent absurdities of the details provided mainly function to point towards the perception of him also being a mere mortal who also quite often held various obviously unreasonable beliefs. The primary underlying motive here being the procedure of humanising him as an individual, of thus providing a kind of a point of identification with the reader, although perhaps in a negative way.

The point of very personal and intimate details of his life should then also be justified in this procedure by pointing out the specific function of those details for an analytic tool when trying to determine in what precise way these and other specific biographical details of the thinker may be related to the society within which he lived as a whole, the norms and customs of that society, in a sense one would do a precise contextual analysis of that specific period of history in that designated geographical area and thus figure things out via conducting a retroactive reading of the social situation and what was the place of the specific individual within it.

Considering biographical and contextual analysis focusing on Kant of course automatically reminds me of seeing the 1992 French film directed by Philippe Collin titled Les derniers jours d’Emmanuel Kant (The Last Days of Immanuel Kant). It is available for viewing if you care to search for it online. The way in which we see Kant biographically portrayed in the film itself is as a very grey, old, boring, I’d even dare to call it an especially aristocratic image of the philosopher.

All of what I’ve managed to describe so far thus falls in under the umbrella notion of Kant the individual, which in its essence points towards a specific portrayal and procedure of analysis whose final end result and outcome are that which I here designate as the Kant of nominalist reason, a form of thinking leading to the logic of finitude set up against the very form of universal reason.

The quite abstract and particular name designating “Kant the philosopher”

We can presume without much risk, through purely being familiar with the description of Kant as the most prominent philosopher of Europe in the Enlightenment era, without the actual need so far of being actually directly familiar with the concrete textual details of his work beforehand, that in various times through the course of his life he must have held very specific and carefully developed philosophical concepts along with certain general convictions by which he guided his behaviour and actions, and in the same way also necessarily held at least a few political opinions and reflections regarding the more prominent events that took place in the course of his life, and some specific sense of what he took to be the proper way of acting as an active member in a society, at least when considering his very own person if not always also that of others in general.

At this point the task of considering the contents of the philosophers very own writings themselves, the specific procedure of engaging in a direct textual analysis of the source material, the primary literature and the specific concepts that form the essence of his entire work, the political stances taken, together with any possible form of an ethical theory possibly developed should be done. This entire task described thus at this very point becomes an absolute necessity as the primary form of conducting the very course of the work of interpretation itself, especially if the reader has a sincere interest to form a correct and proper understanding of the philosopher through his work of interpretation.

The various beliefs, convictions, concepts, political stances, ethics, etc. which form the entire corpus of the various aspects of the philosopher’s thinking can be then carefully analysed through the specific philosophical way of interpretation. One common example of a contemporary procedure of conducting an interpretation is taking the entire author’s theoretical framework, then to throw it into, mulch it through, the theoretical machine of another theorist to whom he is compared, and by doing this mutual cross-reading and thus making a precise comparison and in this way conducting the engagement of the thought of one philosopher with the other and vice versa. So as an example let’s say that in our current specific situation we decide to read our primary author, Kant, through the second one, Marx, or maybe choosing a conceptual apparatus of a third author instead, a common conceptual pair to Kant himself very often being Hegel himself, and also doing the same work of interpretation in the reverse, that of reading the second author back through the first one. This of course is not the only possible way of interpretation within philosophy, but it is without doubt one which is very often employed by contemporary authors of philosophical texts.

In this way it can be philosophically demonstrated that the thinking of Kant, some precise ideas that he personally held to be correct and true, when isolated from their overall system, taken by themselves on their own ground, and read through Marx’s specific concepts of our choice, the example in our case being Marx’s understanding of class struggle, would then be the entire logical goal of our current philosophical project and its procedure, the specific way the work of interpretation is done. To achieve this we must thus be able to fully understand the chosen ideas of both Kant and Marx in precise detail as they were conceived by their own authors.

In our case therefore we should ideally be able, through the use of Marx’s own method of interpretation, more specifically the precise procedure of his specific way of doing a concrete form of class analysis, to perfectly discern if a certain idea developed by Kant is therefore either of a bourgeois, or perhaps on the contrary that of a proletarian character by analysing the precise way in which the concepts follow their inner logic of functioning.

This can itself be achieved in far less abstract and more specific terms by doing a an analysis of the given abstract philosophical systems of ethics, which would in our situation specifically referring to the one developed by Kant in his own philosophical texts, and how that abstraction or an entire system consisting of abstractions then applies, manifests, actualises, materialises itself in directly concrete ways in some specific social engagement within and through class struggling itself, situations in which these abstractions themselves are applied and concretized, for example in the exemplary act of conducting an explicitly personal form of political engagement within one’s society.

There is also the interpretative procedure in which an analysis points towards the final outcome of the application of what was formerly perceived as a purely abstract system of notions by primarily logically following the inherent conceptual logic of those notions up to the very end point and the culmination of its logic, achieving its inherent conclusion, in this way thus being able to discern the end result as seen in practice of following the given logic of a formerly wholly abstract system, by going through the procedure of the application, actualisation, manifestation, materialisation… of the ideas that at first glance seemed abstract, thus becoming concretely aware of the logical structure of necessity at work within that specific theory of former pure abstraction.

In our specific case the actualisation of the ideas of Kant’s ethics into concrete social situations is then at the very same time also to be seen through the specific lenses of Marx’s own theory of performing the interpretative work of class analysis, which means that when Kant’s ethics are applied and actualised in a situation of engaged class struggle, then the ethical situation can then also be read as always already being a specific situation of class difference itself, discerned by using and applying as our own the specific procedure of conducting the work of class analysis in the same way as originally done by Marx himself.

The end result of this work of interpretation through the inner necessity of its entire internal logic of applying these very ideas of the interpretative procedures in a specifically systematically correct and precise manner into the given concrete situation of “struggling” engagement in principle becomes the ability to provide concrete answers the following two seemingly completely abstract questions:

1) When Kant’s ethics is applied and those who are performing its application are themselves directly engaged in the process of a struggle waged within the heated political arena of a given society, which class does Kant’s system of ethics in the end result actually favour and serve in its concrete form?

2) If its true that concepts themselves can be, and are always used as “weapons in of struggle waged within a given society”, whom among the specific and concrete classes which are discerned by the interpretive work really benefit the most in the concrete actuality of their realisation through their application?

We should thus in principle be able as an end result of our practical engagement and of the interpretative work being done through struggle thus be able to provide a very precise and concrete answer to these questions which might at the beginning to us appear to as purely abstract and purely theoretical questions.

So was Kant in any form a “bourgeois philosopher” or wasn’t he?

Call for Papers: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Politics

After some brief consideration TheoryReader is opening up to publishing theoretical contributions by its followers and readers.

Anyone interested in sharing their own work here is kindly invited to publish a piece of their own writing on the platform. It doesn’t matter who or where you are, if you’ve never published anything anywhere before or if you’re a prolific professional writer, as long as the content fits the following criteria:

1) The content should vaguely fit under either of the three theoretical umbrella terms of philosophy, psychoanalysis or politics.

If for example you wish to share a piece of theological or some other writing instead, that is also permitted, as each of these criteria are flexible and can be discussed for every single contribution.

2) The text is your own work and will be published under your real name.

Translations of theoretical pieces that haven’t yet appeared in English are also permitted, and under certain circumstances work written in any language can be published.

3) Contributions should be between one and five pages in length, which is just a couple of longer paragraphs.

Pieces which are deemed too short might require further elaboration and those of excessive length might be truncated.

4) Contributions are in principle voluntary but will in certain cases be subsidized.

Keep in mind that this is a website funded by a sole individual with very limited resources. Those of you who can financially contribute can donate in order to help the project.

In the case where a monetary compensation for the piece of writing will be rewarded the sum should be between 10€ and 50€ in total. PayPal is preffered, but other forms of transaction can be arranged.

5) As an addition to the written text an appropriate graphic image should be provided to accompany the post, together with a few lines describing the author.

In the case of translations an additional description of the originatory text or its author should be provided.

6) Keep in mind that any request can be refused, that each contribution should be discussed on individual basis and might require additional work.

All contributions should be sent to my personal e-mail address simon.gros.1990@gmail.com

Thank you in advance

‘Interview with Mladen Dolar: Dialectic at a Standstill? Hegel at the Times of COVID’ by Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda


“Defending philosophy, for its own sake, as a space of thought beyond any immediate utility and practical use, feels a bit, in these times, like a belief in magic. The magic that pure thought can have consequences, that persevering with it, as such and for its own sake, will make a difference – if thought is on the level of its task. There is, yet again, the peril of a delusion of grandeur that philosophy has been prone to throughout its history. We have such great ideas, if only people would heed them. But this idea, the idea of the idea, as it were, goes back to the origins of philosophy, to its basic stance stated first by Parmenides, of co-belonging of thought and being…”

Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Researcher at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana since 1982 and has served as the Advising Researcher in Theory at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His principal areas of research are Psychoanalysis, Modern French Philosophy (Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Badiou, et. al.), German Idealism, and Art Theory, especially Musicology. With Žižek and others, Dolar was the co-founder of the Ljubljana Society of Theoretical Psychoanalysis, whose main aim is to read late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. German Classical Philosophy through the frame of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. His main field of expertise is the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel, on whom he has written several papers, including a two-volume interpretation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit first published in Slovene between 1990 and 1991. Dolar has lectured extensively across many different Universities in Europe and the United States and is author of hundreds of papers in different scholarly journals and in various collected volumes. Apart from over twelve monograph publications in Slovene, his books published in English most notably include A Voice and Nothing More and Opera’s Second Death, both of which were translated into several languages. His new book The Riskiest Moment is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

‘Get Used to the Virus (and Forest Fires, and…)? No, Thanks!’ by Slavoj Žižek


This short text is a critical intervention and discussion of the on-going perception and understanding of the pandemic Covid-19, forest fires and other crisis. It criticizes the ideological moralisms and “false exits”, while at the same time, it attempts to propose an way out of the present situation.

‘The Unconscious’ by Sigmund Freud | AudioBook

3 hours and 52 minutes in total. Published by Penguin Audio in 2019. Download link updated 20. June 2021.


This Penguin Classic is performed by Michael Pennington, one of the founders of the English Shakespeare Company, known for his stage work with the RSC, and who played Carl Jung in the BBC drama, Freud. This definitive recording includes an introduction by Mark Cousins.  

One of Freud’s central achievements was to demonstrate how unacceptable thoughts and feelings are repressed into the unconscious, from where they continue to exert a decisive influence over our lives. This volume contains a key statement about evidence for the unconscious, and how it works, as well as major essays on all the fundamentals of mental functioning. Freud explores how we are torn between the pleasure principle and the reality principle, how we often find ways both to express and to deny what we most fear, and why certain men need fetishes for their sexual satisfaction. His study of our most basic drives, and how they are transformed, brilliantly illuminates the nature of sadism, masochism, exhibitionism and voyeurism.

‘Slavoj Žižek: Live Theory’ by Rex Butler

Published by Continuum in 2005.


Slavoj Žižek is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading cultural critics. His witty, psychoanalytically-inspired analyses of contemporary society have almost single-handedly revived the notion of ideology. His brilliant commentaries on the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and the 19th century German Idealists have brought alive their often difficult ideas for a new generation of readers. But does Žižek have anything to say in his own right? Is there a system of thought that we can properly call ” Žižekian”? This book argues that there is, through a reading of two terms in his work-the master-signifier and the act. Featuring an interview with Žižek himself, Slavoj Žižek: Live Theory presents a snapshot of the Žižek system ideal for undergraduates in social and cultural theory and philosophy.

‘Slavoj Žižek: A Little Piece of the Real’ By Matthew Sharpe

Published by Routledge in 2004.


Slavoj Žižek has emerged as the pre-eminent European cultural theorist of the last decade and has been described as the ultimate Marxist/Lacanian cultural studies scholar. His large and growing body of work has generated considerable controversy, yet his texts are not structured as standard academic tomes.

In Slavoj Žižek: A Little Piece of the Real, Matthew Sharpe undertakes the difficult task of drawing out an evolving argument from all of Žižek’s texts from 1989 to 2001, and reads them as the bearers of a single theoretical project, providing an authoritative, reliable, clearly written and well-structured account of Žižek’s demanding body of work. From an exposition of Žižek’s social and philosophical critical theory the book moves to a critical analysis of Žižek’s theoretical project and its political implications. Sharpe concludes by suggesting that Žižek’s work, however, raises as many questions as it answers; questions both about Žižek’s theoretical system and to the wider new Left in today’s world.

‘The Universal Exception’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published by Continuum in 2006. Download link updated on 26. June 2021.


The Universal Exception is the second volume of the selected writings of Slavoj Žižek—one of the most provocative and inspiring writers on culture at work today.

Slavoj Žižek is one of the world’s foremost cultural commentators: a prolific writer and thinker, whose adventurous, unorthodox and wide-ranging writings have won him a unique place as one of the most high profile thinkers of our time. The Universal Exception brings together some of Žižek’s most vivid writings on politics. Bringing together high theory, popular culture and passionate engagement with politics, Žižek here brings us startlingly new perspectives on such topics as multiculturalism, capitalism and Bill Gates, the revolutionary potential of Stalinism, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

Together with Interrogating the Real, the first volume of Žižek’s selected writings, this collection offers a superb introduction to the work of this prolific, controversial and vastly entertaining cultural commentator.

‘Interrogating the Real’ by Slavoj Žižek

First published by Continuum in 2005. Download link updated on 26. June 2021.

(.pdf & .epub)

Interrogating the Real is the first volume of the collected writings of Slavoj Žižek – undoubtedly one of the world’s leading contemporary cultural commentators, and one of the most inspiring, provocative and entertaining cultural critics at work today. Drawing upon the full range of his prolific output, the articles here cover psychoanalysis, philosophy and popular culture, reflecting the remarkable breadth and depth of Žižek’s interest in politics, culture and philosophy, and also showcasing his entertaining style. A full and clear sense of Žižekian philosophy emerges, derived from Hegelian dialectics, Marxist politics and Lacanian psychoanalysis. At the same time, Žižek’s witty and accessible approach to his subject and his choice of exemplars from pop culture ensure that this is a consistently fresh and surprising body of work.

The book includes a new preface by Žižek himself, as well as an introduction by the editors and a helpful glossary for those coming to Žižek’s work for the first time.

‘Slavoj Žižek and Dialectical Materialism’ edited by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda

Published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. Download link updated in 2021.


Bringing together the most prominent scholars who work on Slavoj Žižek’s philosophy, this volume examines and interrogates his understanding of dialectical materialism. Since he explicitly proposes a new foundation for this philosophical science as a whole, it surely deserves to be thoroughly and systematically elaborated in a closer look.

The book traces the concept of dialectical materialism in his more recent works and takes as its concrete starting point the systematic elaborations from the two main books explicitly dealing with the topic, Absolute Recoil and his magnum opus Less Than Nothing.

The book also features an afterword by Žižek himself, in which he critically examines the work of Levi Bryant as well as the tradition of object-oriented-ontology on the whole.


1. Introduction: The Absolute Revisited—Slavoj Žižek and Dialectical Materialism by Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda
2. Materialism without Materialism: Slavoj Žižek and the Disappearance of Matter by Adrian Johnston
3. The Althusserian Battlegrounds by Robert Pfaller
4. The Necessity of an Absolute Misunderstanding: Why Hegel Has So Many Misreaders by Todd McGowan
5. From Hegel to Kant: The Thing-of-Itself German Idealism by Jan Voelker
6. Politics of Negativity in Slavoj Žižek: Actualizing Some Hegelian Themes by Vladimir Safatle
7. Dialectic at Its Impurest: Žižek’s Materialism of Less Than Nothing by Simon Hajdini
8. Natural Worlds, Historical Worlds, and Dialectical Materialism by Ed Pluth
9. Positing the Presuppositions—Dialectical Biology and the Minimal Structure of Life by Victor Marques
10. Transferential Materialism: Toward a Theory of Formal Otherness by Gabriel Tupinambá
11. Dialectical Materialism and the Dangers of Aristotelianism by Frank Ruda
12. Going to One’s Ground: Žižek’s Dialectical Materialism by Agon Hamza
13. Afterword: Objects, Objects Everywhere by Slavoj Žižek

‘Janez Janša and Beyond’

Published by Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana in 2018.


Janez Janša® is a trademark owned by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša, registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on February 17, 2017 under the trademark number 016384364.

In the summer of 2007 three artists from Slovenia legally changed their names to “Janez Janša,” the name of the right-wing Prime Minister at that time. Since then, the artists have presented their works as performances, exhibitions and a film documentary, and have continued with their investigation of “What’s in a name?”

Starting from this famous Shakespearian question, four eminent European philosophers – Austrian Robert Pfaller and Slovenians Mladen Dolar, Jela Krečič and Slavoj Žižek – confront the implications of the Janšas’ name change and its consequences in four essays. Ten years of artistic and real life activity, here illustrated by a photographic insert, presents an opportunity for them to discuss the symbolic power of the name, the ways it affects the subject and subjectivity, and how playing with names can lead to a radical critique of our late capitalist civilization.

‘A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis’ by Sigmund Freud


This series of 28 lectures was given by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the founder of psychoanalysis, during the First World War and first published in English in 1920.

The purpose of this general introduction was to present his work and ideas – as they had matured at that point – to a general public; and even though there was to be considerable development and change over the ensuing years, these talks still offer a valuable and remarkably approachable entry point to his revolutionary concepts.

The talks are divided into three parts: ‘The Psychology of Errors’ (which later became known as ‘Freudian Slips’), ‘The Dream’ (his broad views on interpretation) and ‘General Theory of Neuroses’. Within these sections appear many of his concepts which have found their way into the wider consciousness of modern man – the key role of sex in forming our thoughts and behavior, the Oedipus complex, the libido, sublimation, fixation, regression and suppression and the unconscious. He was determined to show how psychoanalysis could help reveal the causes of neuroses and lead to clarity for the patient – as opposed to the approach taken by psychiatrists.

Freud refers to his early use of hypnotism, which he later discarded, and many more steps which led him to his conclusions that the powerful part played by sexual impulses, often dating back to childhood, pursued individuals into adulthood.

Translation by G. Stanley Hall.

‘A Theology of Failure: Žižek against Christian Innocence’ by Marika Rose

Published by Fordham University Press in 2019.

(.pdf & .epub)

Everyone agrees that theology has failed; but the question of how to understand and respond to this failure is complex and contested. Against both the radical orthodox attempt to return to a time before the theology’s failure and the deconstructive theological attempt to open theology up to the hope of a future beyond failure, Rose proposes an account of Christian identity as constituted by, not despite, failure. Understanding failure as central to theology opens up new possibilities for confronting Christianity’s violent and kyriarchal history and abandoning the attempt to discover a pure Christ outside of the grotesque materiality of the church.

The Christian mystical tradition begins with Dionysius the Areopagite’s uncomfortable but productive conjunction of Christian theology and Neoplatonism. The tensions generated by this are central to Dionysius’s legacy, visible not only in subsequent theological thought but also in much twentieth century continental philosophy as it seeks to disentangle itself from its Christian ancestry. A Theology of Failure shows how the work of Slavoj Žižek represents an attempt to repeat the original move of Christian mystical theology, bringing together the themes of language, desire, and transcendence not with Neoplatonism but with a materialist account of the world. Tracing these themes through the work of Dionysius and Derrida and through contemporary debates about the gift, violence, and revolution, this book offers a critical theological engagement with Žižek’s account of social and political transformation, showing how Žižek’s work makes possible a materialist reading of apophatic theology and Christian identity.

Marika Rose is Lecturer in Philosophical Theology at the University of Winchester.

Slavoj Žižek @ Oxford Political Review

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher, based at the University of Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, and the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London. A self-described ‘radical leftist’, he is amongst the most renowned contemporary philosophers in the world today.

Brian Wong, OPR Editor-in-Chief, conducted the interview.