The Birth Of Theory

Paperback | June 15, 2014

byAndrew Cole

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Modern theory needs a history lesson. Neither Marx nor Nietzsche first gave us theory—Hegel did. To support this contention, Andrew Cole’s The Birth of Theory presents a refreshingly clear and lively account of the origins and legacy of Hegel’s dialectic as theory. Cole explains how Hegel boldly broke from modern philosophy when he adopted medieval dialectical habits of thought to fashion his own dialectic. While his contemporaries rejected premodern dialectic as outdated dogma, Hegel embraced both its emphasis on language as thought and its fascination with the categories of identity and difference, creating what we now recognize as theory, distinct from systematic philosophy. Not content merely to change philosophy, Hegel also used this dialectic to expose the persistent archaism of modern life itself, Cole shows, establishing a method of social analysis that has influenced everyone from Marx and the nineteenth-century Hegelians, to Nietzsche and Bakhtin, all the way to Deleuze and Jameson.
           
By uncovering these theoretical filiations across time, The Birth of Theory will not only change the way we read Hegel, but also the way we think about the histories of theory. With chapters that powerfully reanimate the overly familiar topics of ideology, commodity fetishism, and political economy, along with a groundbreaking reinterpretation of Hegel’s famous master/slave dialectic, The Birth of Theory places the disciplines of philosophy, literature, and history in conversation with one another in an unprecedented way. Daring to reconcile the sworn enemies of Hegelianism and Deleuzianism, this timely book will revitalize dialectics for the twenty-first century.

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Modern theory needs a history lesson. Neither Marx nor Nietzsche first gave us theory—Hegel did. To support this contention, Andrew Cole’s The Birth of Theory presents a refreshingly clear and lively account of the origins and legacy of Hegel’s dialectic as theory. Cole explains how Hegel boldly broke from modern philosophy when he ado...

Andrew Cole teaches in the Department of English at Princeton University. He is the author of Literature and Heresy in the Age of Chaucer and coeditor of The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Athens, Georgia.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:June 15, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022613542X

ISBN - 13:9780226135427

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Table of Contents

Preface: Very Like a Whale

Acknowledgments

Part I: Theory
Chapter 1: The Untimely Dialectic
Chapter 2: The Medieval Dialectic

Part II: History
Chapter 3: The Lord and the Bondsman
Chapter 4: The Eucharist and the Commodity

Part III: Literature
Chapter 5: Fürstenspiegel, Political Economy, Critique
Chapter 6: On Dialectical Interpretation

Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Cole’s The Birth of Theory is a daring, ambitious, and fabulously capacious work. The readings of Plotinus, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Deleuze would themselves be enough to recommend this wildly important book, but together they set the record straight once and for all: contemporary theory is born under Hegel’s shadow. But Cole’s Hegel is not the dialectical scapegoat of a Nietzsche or a Deleuze; he is the Hegel who returns to the medieval period and, in particular, to the medieval dialectic in order to establish the play between identity and difference that has defined theory from its beginnings, even in its Nietzschean and Deleuzian versions. In truly Hegelian fashion, Cole mobilizes the force and joy of his philosophical intelligence—as only a theoretically inflected medievalist could—in the direction of the most persuasive account we now have of theory’s origins. Brilliantly argued and beautifully written, this book shows us not only how theory was born but also why it is still very much alive and, in Cole’s hands, why it has such a compelling future.”