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Political Theory

Marshall Berman




Marshall Berman, Adventures in Marxism (New York: Verso, 1999).

At the heart of Berman's commitment to Marxism is an understanding that, if the philosophy is to enjoy a continuing relevance in the coming century, it will have to move beyond its current casting as a critical tool or an occasional literary pleasure. The emancipatory potential of Marxism, its capacity to configure a world beyond the daily grind of selling one's labor to stay alive, needs to be renewed. In these chapters are discussions of work on Marx and Marxism by Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Meyer Schapiro, Edmund Wilson, Jerrold Siegel, James Billington, Irving Howe and Isaac Babel, commentary on writers such as Perry Anderson and Studs Terkel, and an appreciation of the inestimable contributions of Frederick Engels and Marx himself. All are brought together in a single embrace by Berman's spirited appreciation of Marxism as expressive, playful, sometimes even a little vulgar, but always an adventure.
 

Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982).

The political and social revolutions of the nineteenth century, the pivotal writings of Goethe, Marx, Dostoevsky, and others, and the creation of new environments to replace the old - all have thrust us into a modern world of contradictions and ambiguities. In this fascinating book, Marshall Berman examines the clash of classes, histories, and cultures, and ponders our prospects for coming to terms with the relationship between a liberating social and philosophical idealism and a complex, bureaucratic materialism.

From a reinterpretation of Karl Marx to an incisive consideration of the impact of Robert Moses on modern urban living. Berman charts the progress of the twentieth-century experience. He concludes that adaptation to continual flux is possible and that therein lies our hope for achieving a truly modern society.
 

Marshall Berman and Brian Berger (eds.), New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (U. of Chicago Press, 2007).

New York City in the 1970s was the setting for Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, and Saturday Night Fever, the nightmare playground for Son of Sam and The Warriors, the proving grounds for graffiti, punk, hip-hop, and all manner of other public spectacle. Musicians, artists, and writers could subsist even in Manhattan, while immigrants from the world over were reinventing the city in their own image. Others, fed up with crime, filth and frustration, simply split.

Fast-forward three decades and today New York can appear a glamorous metropolis, with real estate prices soaring higher than its skyscrapers. But is this fresh-scrubbed, affluent city really an improvement on its grittier––and more affordable––predecessor? Taking us back to the streets where eccentricity and anomie were pervasive, New York Calling unlocks life in the unpolished Apple, where, it seemed, anything could happen. All five boroughs­­––the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island––comprising hundreds of neighborhoods and the interlaced worlds of politics, crime, drugs, sex, and mischief, are explored with a love of the city unclouded by romance yet undimmed by cynicism.

Acclaimed historian Marshall Berman and journalist Brian Berger gather here a stellar group of writers and photographers who combine their energies to weave a rich tale of struggle, excitement, and wonder. John Strausbaugh explains how Uptown has taken over Downtown, as Tom Robbins examines the mayors and would-be mayors who have presided over the transformation. Margaret Morton chronicles the homeless, while Robert Atkins offers a personal view of the city’s gay culture and the devastating impact of aids. Anthony Haden-Guest and John Yau offer insiders’ views of the New York art world, while Brandon Stosuy and Allen Lowe recount their discoveries of the local rock and jazz scenes. Armond White and Leonard Greene approach African-American culture and civil rights from perspectives often marginalized in so-called polite conversation.

Daily life in New York has its dramatic moments too. Luc Sante gives us glimpses of a city perpetually on the grift, Jean Thilmany and Philip Dray share secrets of Gotham’s ethnic enclaves, Richard Meltzer walks, Jim Knipfel rides the subways, and Robert Sietsema criss-crosses the city, indefatigably tasting everything from giant Nigerian tree snails to Fujianese turtles.

It’s a long way from old Brooklyn to the new Times Square. But New York Calling reminds us of what has changed––and what’s been lost ––along the way.

Mark Blasius




Mark Blasius, We are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics (New York: Routledge, 1997).

We Are Everywhere brings together the key primary sources relating to the politics of homosexuality. Tracing the evolution of the lesbian and gay movement, We Are Everywhere includes writings from the beginnings of the gay and lesbian movement in the 19th century; legal and government studies concerning rights of gay and lesbian citizens; articles from the early US liberation movement publications; documents from the first days of the AIDS epidemic to current activism; statements and writings from the movements within "the movement;" and finally, a look at the future of lesbian and gay politics.

Mitchell Cohen





Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon eds., Princeton Readings in Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1996).

Princeton Readings in Political Thought is one of the most engaging and up-to-date samplers of the standard works of Western political thinking from antiquity through modern times. Organized chronologically, from Thucydides to Foucault, the book brings together forty-four selections of enduring intellectual value - key articles, book excerpts, essays, and speeches - that have shaped our understanding of Western society and politics. Readers will find this work to be an invaluable reference, and they will enjoy not only the varied selections but also the lucid introductions to each historical era and the brief sketches of each thinker.



Mitchell Cohen, The Wager of Lucien Goldmann (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994).

In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Mitchell Cohen provides the first full-length study of this major figure of postwar French intellectual life and champion of socialist humanism. While many Parisian leftists staunchly upheld Marxism's "scientificity" in the 1950s and 1960s, Lucien Goldmann insisted that Marxism was by then in severe crisis and had to reinvent itself radically if it were to survive. He rejected the traditional Marxist view of the proletariat and contested the structuralist and antihumanist theorizing that infected French left-wing circles in the tumultuous 1960s. In fact, the popularity of such trends in the Left Bank was one reason why Goldmann's own name and work were eclipsed - this despite the acclaim of thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and Alasdair MacIntyre, who called him "the finest and most intelligent Marxist of the age." As Cohen shows in this brilliant reconstruction of Goldmann's life and thought, he was a socialist who, unlike many others of his time, refused to portray his aspirations for humanity's future as an inexorable unfolding of history's laws, but saw them rather as a wager akin to Pascal's in the existence of God. "Risk," Goldmann wrote in his classic study of Pascal and Racine, The Hidden God, "possibility of failure, hope of success, and the synthesis of the three in a faith which is a wager are the essential constituent elements of the human condition." In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Cohen retrieves Goldmann's achievement - his "genetic structuralist" method, his sociology of literature, his libertarian socialist politics.

Alyson Cole

Cole, Alyson. The Cult of True Victimhood: From the War on Welfare to the War on Terror (Stanford Univ. Press, 2006).

Condemnations of “victim politics” are a familiar feature of American public life. Politicians and journalists across the ideological spectrum eagerly denounce “victimism.” Accusations of “playing the victim” have become a convenient way to ridicule or condemn. President George W. Bush even blamed an Islamic “culture of victimization” for 9/11. The Cult of True Victimhood shows how the panic about domestic and foreign victims has transformed American politics, warping the language we use to talk about suffering and collective responsibility.

With forceful and lively prose, Alyson Cole investigates the ideological underpinnings, cultural manifestations, and political consequences of anti-victimism in an array of contexts, including race relations, the feminist movement, conservative punditry, and the U.S. legal system. Being a victim, she contends, is no longer a matter of injuries or injustices endured, but a stigmatizing judgment of individual character. Those who claim victim status are cast as shamefully passive or cynically manipulative. Even the brutalized Central Park jogger came forth to insist that she is not a victim, but a survivor.

Offering a fresh perspective on major themes in American politics, Cole demonstrates how this new use of “victim” to derogate underlies seemingly disparate social and political debates from the welfare state, criminal justice, and abortion to the war on terror.

Jack Jacobs

Rosalind Petchesky





Rosalind Petchesky and Karen Judd eds., Negotiating Reproductive Rights (New York: Zed Books, 1998).

Negotiating Reproductive Rights grows out of IRRRAG's four years of collaborative research and analysis in seven countries: Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, and the United States. Based on in-depth group and individual interviews with hundreds of women in diverse settings, the book asks when, whether and how grassroots women express a sense of entitlement or self-determination in everyday decisions about childbearing, work, marriage, fertility control and sexual relations. What strategies do women employ in their negotiations with parents, husbands or partners, health providers, and the larger community over reproductive and sexual matters? What role do economic constraints, religion, tradition, motherhood, and group participation play in shaping their decisions?

Corey Robin

Corey Robin , Fear: The History of a Political Idea (Oxford University Press, 2004).

For many commentators, September 11 inaugurated a new era of fear. But as Corey Robin shows in his unsettling tour of the Western imagination—the first intellectual history of its kind—fear has shaped our politics and culture since time immemorial. From the Garden of Eden to the Gulag Archipelago to today's headlines, Robin traces our growing fascination with political danger and disaster. As our faith in positive political principles recedes, he argues, we turn to fear as the justifying language of public life. We may not know the good, but we do know the bad. So we cling to fear, abandoning the quest for justice, equality, and freedom. But as fear becomes our intimate, we understand it less. In a startling reexamination of fear's greatest modern interpreters—Hobbes, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Arendt—Robin finds that writers since the eighteenth century have systematically obscured fear's political dimensions, diverting attention from the public and private authorities who sponsor and benefit from it. For fear, Robin insists, is an exemplary instrument of repression—in the public and private sector. Nowhere is this politically repressive fear—and its evasion—more evident than in contemporary America. In his final chapters, Robin accuses our leading scholars and critics of ignoring "Fear, American Style," which, as he shows, is the fruit of our most prized inheritances—the Constitution and the free market. With danger playing an increasing role in our daily lives and justifying a growing number of government policies, Robin's Fear offers a bracing, and necessary, antidote to our contemporary culture of fear.

Joan Tronto




Joan Tronto, Cathy Cohen and Kathleen Jones ed., Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (New York: NYU Press, 1997).

This collection of 33 articles contains pieces by activists as well as work by scholars in economics, political science, history, sociology, and African American, Asian American, American, and women's studies. The essays, focusing on U.S. women, attempt to look beyond simplistic "gender gap" analysis by taking an expansive view of political activity and by emphasizing the experiences of marginalized groups. We find papers on Mexican migrant workers, Chinese women garment workers, Chicana/Latina elected officials in California, black women in state legislatures, disabled women, gay women, rural women, Native American women, and the black urban underclass. The editors who teach at Yale University, San Diego State University, and Hunter College have arranged the papers in five sections, although the organization is not completely clear.


Joan Tronto, Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (New York: Routledge, 1993).

In Moral Boundaries Joan C. Tronto provides one of the most original responses to the controversial questions surrounding women and caring. Tronto demonstrates that feminist thinkers have failed to realize the political context which has shaped their debates about care. It is her belief that care cannot be a useful moral and political concept until its traditional and ideological associations as a "women's morality" are challenged.

Moral Boundaries contests the association of care with women as empirically and historically inaccurate, as well as politically unwise. In our society, members of unprivileged groups such as the working classes and people of color also do disproportionate amounts of caring. Tronto presents care as one of the central activities of human life and illustrates the ways in which society degrades the importance of caring in order to maintain the power of those who are privileged.

Richard Wolin








Richard Wolin, The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzche to Postmodernism (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2004).

Fifteen years ago, revelations about the political misdeeds of Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man sent shock waves throughout European and North American intellectual circles. Ever since, postmodernism has been haunted by the specter of a compromised past. In this intellectual genealogy of the postmodern spirit, Richard Wolin shows that postmodernism's infatuation with fascism has been widespread and not incidental. He calls into question postmodernism's claim to have inherited the mantle of the left--and suggests that postmodern thought has long been smitten with the opposite end of the political spectrum.

In probing chapters on C. G. Jung, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot, Wolin discovers an unsettling commonality: during the 1930s, these thinkers leaned to the right and were tainted by a proverbial "fascination with fascism." Frustrated by democracy's shortcomings, they were seduced by fascism's grandiose promises of political regeneration. The dictatorships in Italy and Germany promised redemption from the uncertainties of political liberalism. But, from the beginning, there could be no doubting their brutal methods of racism, violence, and imperial conquest.

Postmodernism's origins among the profascist literati of the 1930s reveal a dark political patrimony. The unspoken affinities between Counter-Enlightenment and postmodernism constitute the guiding thread of Wolin's suggestive narrative. In their mutual hostility toward reason and democracy, postmodernists and the advocates of Counter-Enlightenment betray a telltale strategic alliance--they cohabit the fraught terrain where far left and far right intersect.

Those who take Wolin's conclusions to heart will never view the history of modern thought in quite the same way.


Richard Wolin, Heidegger's Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Lowith, Hans Jonas and Herbert Marcuse (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001).

Martin Heidegger is perhaps the twentieth century's greatest philosopher, and his work stimulated much that is original and compelling in modern thought. A seductive classroom presence, he attracted Germany's brightest young intellects during the 1920s. Many were Jews, who ultimately would have to reconcile their philosophical and, often, personal commitments to Heidegger with his nefarious political views.

In 1933, Heidegger cast his lot with National Socialism. He squelched the careers of Jewish students and denounced fellow professors whom he considered insufficiently radical. For years, he signed letters and opened lectures with ''Heil Hitler!'' He paid dues to the Nazi party until the bitter end. Equally problematic for his former students were his sordid efforts to make existential thought serviceable to Nazi ends and his failure to ever renounce these actions.

This book explores how four of Heidegger's most influential Jewish students came to grips with his Nazi association and how it affected their thinking. Hannah Arendt, who was Heidegger's lover as well as his student, went on to become one of the century's greatest political thinkers. Karl Löwith returned to Germany in 1953 and quickly became one of its leading philosophers. Hans Jonas grew famous as Germany's premier philosopher of environmentalism. Herbert Marcuse gained celebrity as a Frankfurt School intellectual and mentor to the New Left.

Why did these brilliant minds fail to see what was in Heidegger's heart and Germany's future? How would they, after the war, reappraise Germany's intellectual traditions? Could they salvage aspects of Heidegger's thought? Would their philosophy reflect or completely reject their early studies? Could these Heideggerians forgive, or even try to understand, the betrayal of the man they so admired? Heidegger's Children locates these paradoxes in the wider cruel irony that European Jews experienced their greatest calamity immediately following their fullest assimilation. And it finds in their responses answers to questions about the nature of existential disillusionment and the juncture between politics and ideas.


Richard Wolin and Gary Steiner eds., Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism makes available in English Lowith's major writings concerning the origins of cultural breakdown in Europe that paved the way for the Third Reich. Including incisive discussions of Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, a noted legal theorist of the same period who also supported the Third Reich, Heidegger and European Nihilism helps to illuminate the allure of Nazism for scholars committed to revolutionary nihilism. Lowith's landmark essay on European nihilism is also included in its entirety here, along with two never-before-published letters from Heidegger to Lowith. In a work of impressive historical depth, Lowith traces the abandonment of higher European ideals in favor of a fatal flirtation with nihilism. These essays explore the enthronement of man above God, a trend that had begun to appear in European thought by the mid-nineteenth century in the works of Nietzsche and Marx and one that informed the nihilist philosophies of Heidegger and other theorists of the early twentieth century. An introduction by editor Richard Wolin provides lucid commentary, placing the three essays gathered here in a broad historical context, along with suggestions for further reading. This seminal work of intellectual history sheds light on the fascist impulses of nihilism in the first half of the twentieth century, but also offers unique perspective on the intellectual malaise of today.


Richard Wolin, Labyrinths: Explorations in the Critical History of Ideas. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).

This book offers a series of probing reflections on issues at the heart of recent debates in philosophy, literary, theory, and intellectual history.










Richard Wolin, The Politics of Being: The Political Thought of Martin Heidegger (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).

In what may be the best available study of Heidegger's relation to Nazism, Wolin demonstrates that Heidegger's thought was inextricably combined with his decision to support the Nazis. (Dissent)









Richard Wolin, Terms of Cultural Criticism: The Frankfurt School, Existentialism, Poststructuralism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992).

Though seldom examined together, the Frankfurt School, existentialism, and poststructuralism have clear commonalities as well as considerable differences. All three address the apparent collapse of European tradition, and they have all posed formidable challenges to such legacies of the Enlightenment as political liberalism, instrumental reason, and self-positing subjectivity. The Terms of Cultural Criticism enters into lively debate with these highly influential schools of thought, reflecting on ways in which Enlightenment precepts, rather than being fundamentally mistaken, have historically miscarried. Each intellectual current is surveyed with a view to its historical adequacy, since each emerged, writes Wolin, "from the ruins of twentieth-century historical experience in order to offer intellectual guidance for a Western cultural context that has seemingly lost its raison d'etre." The contributions in Part I address the efforts of the Frankfurt School theorists to define the relation of Critical Theory to the Western philosophical tradition, their turn toward a philosophy of history, and the utopianism of Adorno's aesthetics.

In Part II, Wolin explores connections between the thought of Carl Schmitt and political existentialism, examines the political insights of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and contrasts Sartre's and Heidegger's understandings of history. The concluding section of The Terms of Cultural Criticism critically surveys the works of three important recent figures--Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. The Terms of Cultural Criticism is written in a spirit of "enlightenment about Enlightenment." In his provocative introductory essay, Wolin shows that when the critique of "reason" is at issue, only the hand that inflicted the wound can cure the disease. He believes not that our Enlightenment heritage should be jettisoned, but that a contemporary critique of that heritage must pave the way for a new, positive conception of the meaning of enlightenment. In this way, Wolin rejects many currently fashionable renunciations of reason and seeks to rehabilitate the methods of immanent criticism


Richard Wolin ed., The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993).

This anthology is a significant contribution to the debate over the relevance of Martin Heidegger's Nazi ties to the interpretation and evaluation of his philosophical work.









Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).

Few twentieth-century thinkers have proven as influential as Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish philosopher and cultural and literary critic. Richard Wolin's book remains among the clearest and most insightful introductions to Benjamin's writings, offering a philosophically rich exposition of his complex relationship to Adorno, Brecht, Jewish Messianism, and Western Marxism. Wolin provides nuanced interpretations of Benjamin's widely studied writings on Baudelaire, historiography, and art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In a new Introduction written especially for this edition, Wolin discusses the unfinished Arcades Project, as well as recent tendencies in the reception of Benjamin's work and the relevance of his ideas to contemporary debates about modernity and postmodernity.