Inscribing Inequality Beyond Colonialism

By Senayon Olaoluwa

Warwick Research Collective. Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature. Liverpool University Press, 205. 196 pp.

The book, Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature is yet another effort in seminal literary scholarship. It aims to assess the state of literature as a distinct discipline and make projections about its likely value in the future as that which consciously addresses itself to the predominant dynamics of the “world-system” anchored by the dictates of capital, especially in the past 200 years.
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Strategy and Experimentation in a Dangerous Present

By Gabriel Piser

McKenzie Wark, Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. Verso, 2015. 304 pp.

The concept of the Anthropocene asks us to examine the profound role of human activity in transforming the earth. Beyond recognizing and understanding these transformations, however, the Anthropocene demands intervention on the level of everyday human practices.
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Doktorvater

By Gerry Canavan

Robert T. Tally, Jr. Fredric Jameson: The Project of Dialectical Criticism. Pluto Press, 2014. 208 pp.

Phillip E. Wegner. Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative. Northwestern University Press, 2014. 328 pp.

When Fredric Jameson was selected as the winner of the Modern Language Association’s sixth Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement in 2011, his reply was (of course) dialectical; he told an interviewer that winning a lifetime achievement award was “a little alarming” while at the same time it was “very nice to have the recognition.” (This kind of double-edged honour was perhaps becoming a bit of a pattern for Jameson; he’d just won the prestigious Holberg International Memorial Prize in 2008.) One wonders then how Jameson might feel about the recent publication of two monograph-length retrospectives on his career, both written by former students: Wegner is a former graduate student of Jameson’s at the Program in Literature, while Tally took his classes as an undergraduate at Duke.
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Discovering the World

By Michael Mayne

Castellina, Luciana. Discovery of the World: A Political Awakening in the Shadow of Mussolini. Trans. Patrick Camiller. London: Verso, 2014. xiv + 194 pp.

Autobiographies by radicals are essential histories of political eras and of individual roles in collective struggle. As these portraits reveal the dialectics of growth and transformation, they prove that we can make our own history, even if not always as we please.
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Leftist Politics on the Couch

By Simon Orpana

Charles Wells. The Subject of Liberation. Bloomsbury, 2014. 245 pp.

When was the last time you left work early for an appointment with your Lacanian analyst? This is not the set-up to yet another Žižekian attempt at instructive humour, but rather one of the possible implications of Charles Wells’ argument for how Lacanian psychoanalysis can help us define and move towards a more liberated society.
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Realism After Postmodernism

By Sean Homer

Fredric Jameson. The Antinomies of Realism. Verso, 2013. 313 pp.

In his 1977 “Afterword” to the volume Aesthetics and Politics, Jameson observed that it was not only political history that was condemned to repeat the past but also literary history that experienced a certain “return of the repressed”:

Nowhere has this return of the repressed been more dramatic than in the aesthetic conflict between “Realism” and “Modernism”, whose navigation and renegotiation is still unavoidable for us today, even though we may feel that each position is in some sense right and yet neither is any longer wholly acceptable.
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Literature and Labor under Neoliberalism

By Walter Oliver Baker

Sarah Brouillette. Literature and the Creative Economy. Stanford University Press, 2014. 238 pp.

What is the difference between the worker and the artist under capitalism? Historically, the two can be distinguished by object of their labor: the artist works for the sake of work itself, a disinterested labor whose autonomy gives rise to creativity and self-expression, whereas the worker, compelled by the necessity, works for a wage whose function is merely to sustain and thus reproduce the worker’s life.
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Rethinking Political Practice as Continuous Insurrection

By Viren Murthy

Etienne Balibar. Equaliberty: Political Essays. Duke University Press, 2014. 365 pp.

The concepts of equality and liberty form the core of modern political culture. And yet, the definition of these terms changes depending on the qualifiers that are attached to them. For example, political theorists have long debated distinctions of positive or negative liberty, formal or real equality.
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Spinoza and the Politics of the Future

By Miriam Tola

Antonio Negri. Spinoza for Our Time. Columbia University Press, 2013. xix + 125 pp

Hasana Sharp. Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization. University of Chicago Press, 2011. xii + 241 pp.

Nowhere has the capacity of Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy to enable radical politics been asserted more forcefully than in Antonio Negri’s The Savage Anomaly. Published in 1981, the book marked a turning point in Spinoza scholarship by establishing Spinoza as a thinker of revolutionary immanence.
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Middle Games and Possible Communisms

By Ryan Culpepper

Lucio Magri. The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century. Trans. Patrick Camiller. Verso, 2011. 434 pp.

The trickiest and most demanding moment in chess is the one that separates the middle game—when many pieces are still on the board, forces still appear level in positions not codified in theory, and each player has a plan of action—from the approach to the endgame.
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The Art World’s Dark Matter

By Bruce Barber

Gregory Sholette.  Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. Pluto Press, 2011. 240 pp.

In Lana Jokel’s 1972 film monograph on Andy Warhol (Blackwood Films), the artist is asked to conjecture what he considers will become the next major international art movement. With his voice stammering a little under the weight of the question, Warhol responds in a familiar affected manner with “ah…it’ll be…ah…p ….
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Fantastic Materialism

By Sarah Hamblin

Andy Merrifield. Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination. London: Pluto, 2011. 220 pp.

Andy Merrifield’s Magical Marxism arises from what he describes as “a double dissatisfaction”: an obvious dissatisfaction with the state of contemporary society and a more delicate frustration with the revolutionary potential of actually existing Marxism (xii).
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Subject of Desire/Subject of Drive: The Emergence of Žižekian Media Studies

By Matthew Flisfeder

Jodi Dean. Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. Polity, 2010. 140 pp.

Paul A. Taylor. Žižek and the Media. Polity, 2011. 192 pp.

Fabio Vighi. Sexual Difference in European Cinema: The Curse of Enjoyment. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 256 pp.

Those familiar with Slavoj Žižek will know that a great deal of his work is bound up with later theories of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. While Lacan has long been an influential figure in media and cultural theory, the three books reviewed here demonstrate an emerging field of Žižekian media studies that is distinct from the earlier Lacanian media studies.
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The Meaning of Christ and the Meaning of Hegel: Slavoj Žižek and John Milbank’s (A)symmetrical Response to Capitalist Nihilism

By Mitchell M. Harris

Slavoj Žižek and John Milbank. The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? Ed. Creston Davis. MIT Press, 2009. 320 pp.

In The Monstrosity of Christ, Creston Davis, the book’s relatively unnoticed editor, brings together an unconventional pair of contemporary thinkers: the Hegelian, Lacanian, Marxist materialist philosopher Slavoj Žižek and his orthodox, Western Catholic theologian counterpart, John Milbank.
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Short-Circuiting the Virtuous Circle

By ERIC VÁZQUEZ

Fernando Ignacio Leiva. Latin American Neostructuralism: The Contradictions of Post-Neoliberal Development. University of Minnesota Press, 2008. 312pp.

Denouncing neoliberalism’s manifestations has become a boom industry for left-wing academics. It has become a practice so prevalent that even fusty establishmentarians like Stanley Fish have deigned to comment on the uses and abuses of “neoliberalism” as a moniker for the predominance of the market over politics, society, and culture in the present moment.
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America’s Primitive Turn: Capital and the “War on Terror” in Post-9/11 America

By Jaafar Aksikas

Paul Smith. Primitive America: The Ideology of Capitalist Democracy. University of Minnesota Press, 2007. 176 pp.

The field of contemporary cultural studies, especially with its importation into the American academy, often assumes a scepticism toward the uses of Marxist political economy and of Marxist approaches to culture, including more robust, non-reductive Marxist approaches and models, where cultural phenomena and cultural forms are understood within the context of their social totality—economic, political, and cultural.  Paul Smith is one of the very few cultural studies scholars writing today who does not share this scepticism in the least and the result, in the case of his latest book Primitive America, is a provocative, original, and unorthodox critique of contemporary American capital and culture.
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How to Save the World: A Politics of the People

By Mathias Nilges

Enrique Dussel. Twenty Theses on Politics. Duke University Press, 2008. 184 pp.

At the center of Enrique Dussel’s Twenty Theses on Politics stand a series of basic yet monumental questions. What is power? What is politics? Can power be held? Can it be taken?
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A Long Chinese Century?

By Peter Hitchcock

Giovanni Arrighi. Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century. Verso, 2007. 420 pp.

This is a brave and provocative book by a writer who gave us some of the most brilliant critiques of geopolitics and geoeconomics of recent years. Arrighi described his projects as comparative historical-sociology which in terms of the works themselves is another way of thinking the world system as such (in contradistinction to the methodologies and conclusions of Wallerstein and Brenner).
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From Virtuality to Actuality: The Power, Wealth and Ambivalence of Video Games

By Lisa Dusenberry

Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter’s Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games deftly merges a critique of Empire and its practices with the social and historical context of video games and the gaming industry.
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War, Modernity, Critical Theory

By Rich Daniels

Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity. Duke University Press, 2008. 360 pp. 

Initially this book seems very promising, for at least three reasons: 1) in our time of small, nasty imperial wars and other efforts by the West to police the global south and periphery, analysis of and argument against such war from a new or unusual perspective is most welcome; 2) to bring together the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, Frantz Fanon, and Enrique Dussel promises updating of serious ethical arguments and new application of aspects of critical theory and perhaps even of Marxist analysis of the present stage of global capitalism; 3) and from these three thinkers developing an emphasis on the role of the global south, especially indigenous, insurgent, and resistance movements in Latin America can help us see the directions of social change, not to mention helping it along.
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Rebuilding the Machine

By Matthew MacLellan

Gerald Raunig. A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as a Social Movement. Trans. Aileen Derieg. Semiotext(e), 2010.

A follow-up to his Art and Revolution (2007), Gerald Raunig’s A Thousand Machines uses a combination of Marxian theory and Deleuzian philosophy to examine today’s radical social movements as they negotiate the post-fordist landscape.
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Marxism as Science Fiction

By Gerry Canavan

Mark Bould and China Miéville, eds. Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction. Wesleyan UP, 2009.

In 1972, Darko Suvin published “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre”, where he announced science fiction’s importance as “the literature of cognitive estrangement” (372). “SF,” Suvin writes, “is then a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment” (375).
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Adorno’s Non-Waking Life

By Ian Balfour

Theodor W. Adorno. Dream Notes. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. Polity, 2007.

When was the last time you dreamt of showing up at a party that Trotsky was at? And have you ever dreamt about Fritz Lang after having lunched with him earlier in the day?
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Back to the Slaughterhouse

By Tristan Sipley

Nicole Shukin. Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

While it may seem redundant to assert the materiality of animal life, the emerging branch of cultural theory known as “animality studies” has in fact been riddled with philosophical idealism. On one hand, poststructuralist approaches have tended to reduce animals to linguistic and cultural signifiers, overlooking their historical role as actual bodies.
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The Trouble with Creativity

By Sarah Brouillette

Andrew Ross. Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. New York University Press, 2009.

In the first dozen or so pages of his new book, Andrew Ross suggests that high-end creative industries (CI) work and low-level service or manufacturing labour have something in common. Both manifest the spread throughout the workforce of conditions of “precarity,” defined by the absence of social welfare, by “intermittent employment” and by “radical uncertainty about the future” (4).
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