Adventures Adventures of the Symbolic: Post-marxism and Radical Democracy

Paperback | December 8, 2015

byWarren Breckman

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Marxism's collapse in the twentieth century profoundly altered the style and substance of Western European radical thought. To build a more robust form of democratic theory and action, prominent theorists moved to reject revolution, abandon class for more fragmented models of social action, and elevate the political over the social. Acknowledging the constructedness of society and politics, they chose the "symbolic" as a concept powerful enough to reinvent leftist thought outside a Marxist framework. Following Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Adventures of the Dialectic, which reassessed philosophical Marxism at mid century, Warren Breckman critically revisits these thrilling experiments in the aftermath of Marxism.

The post-Marxist idea of the symbolic is dynamic and complex, uncannily echoing the early German Romantics, who first advanced a modern conception of symbolism and the symbolic. Hegel and Marx denounced the Romantics for their otherworldly and nebulous posture, yet post-Marxist thinkers appreciated the rich potential of the ambiguities and paradoxes the Romantics first recognized. Mapping different ideas of the symbolic among contemporary thinkers, Breckman traces a fascinating reflection of Romantic themes and resonances, and he explores in depth the effort to reconcile a radical and democratic political agenda with a politics that does not privilege materialist understandings of the social. Engaging with the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, Marcel Gauchet, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and Slavoj ?i?ek, Breckman uniquely situates these important theorists within two hundred years of European thought and extends their profound relevance to today's political activism.

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Marxism's collapse in the twentieth century profoundly altered the style and substance of Western European radical thought. To build a more robust form of democratic theory and action, prominent theorists moved to reject revolution, abandon class for more fragmented models of social action, and elevate the political over the social. A...

Warren Breckman is the Rose Family Endowed Term Professor of modern European intellectual history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory: Dethroning the Self and European Romanticism: A Brief History with Documents. He is also executive coeditor of the...

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Kobo ebook|Dec 30 2008

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:376 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:December 8, 2015Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231143958

ISBN - 13:9780231143950

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Dick HowardAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Post-Marxism and the Symbolic Turn1. The Symbolic Dimension and the Politics of Young Hegelianism2. The Fate of the Symbolic from Romantic Socialism to a Marxism in extremis3. From the Symbolic Turn to the Social Imaginary: Castoriadis's Project of Autonomy4. Democracy Between Disenchantment and Political Theology: French Post-Marxism and the Return of Religion5. The Post-Marx of the Letter: Laclau and Mouffe Between Postmodern Melancholy and Post-Marxist Mourning6. Of Empty Places: ?i?ek and LaclauEpilogueNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

In addition to offering a valuable and significant account of the politics associated with what Breckman calls "the symbolic turn"? the book marks an exceptional effort to render intellectual history useful for the purposes of democratic theory.