Taking on the Political

Book Series on Continental Thought from Edinburgh University Press

Benjamin Arditi, Andrew Schaap, Alex Thomson and Jeremy Valentine (Series Editors) 

Michael Shapiro and Michael Dillon (International Advisory Editors)

Taking on the Political is a series of monographs that offer new perspectives on contemporary political theory. Books in the series “take on” the political in accordance with the ambivalent colloquial sense of the phrase –as both an acceptance and a challenge. The series interrogates received accounts of the relation between political thought and political practice, criticizes and engages with the contemporary political imagination, and reflects on ongoing transformations of politics. The texts are concise and polemical. They are oriented towards critique, developments in Continental thought, and the crossing of disciplinary borders.

Instructions for authors: you can download EUP proposal guidelines from here

Current Titles

Polemicization. The Contingency of the Commonplace
,by Benjamin Arditi and Jeremy Valentine

1999, 176 pp., ISBN 0748610642 £12.99

The distinctive feature of this book is its ingenious argumentative strategy: it takes on the political by developing a practice and a thought the authors call ‘polemicization’. They draw from the work of Jacques Rancière, for whom a polemic or disagreement does not refer to the case when one interlocutor says white and another black. Instead, it designates the conflict arising when, for example, both parties say white, yet each understands something different by whiteness. This situation forces the interlocutors to construe the scene of the validity of their claims, which is just another way of saying that the given or commonplace is never settled once and for all. The authors generalise the logic of this encounter and claim that disagreement is the very process through which objectivity is instituted.

They develop the contours of polemicization and deepen its philosophical implications through a critical engagement with the work of leading contemporary theorists, such as Lefort, Schmitt, Laclau, Derrida and Žižek. In particular, the authors interrogate commonplace narratives of modernity, identity, difference, universality, antagonism and subjectivity. The result is a provocative text whose broad disciplinary appeal cuts across the boundaries between political thought, cultural studies and social theory.


“Timely and well conceived.”–Ernesto Laclau, University of Essex

Table of Contents


1. Polemic and Polemicization

1.1 Polemic and the Commonplace

1.2 The Commonplace of Political Modernity

1.3 Polemicizing the Commonplace

2. Polemicization and Political Philosophy
2.1 Polemicization and Attitude
2.2 Polemicization and the Political
2.3 Polemicization and Critique
2.4 Polemicization and Metaphysics
2.5 Polemicization and Plurality

3. Polemicizing Subjectivity
3.1 The Modern Subject
3.2 The Basic Antagonism
3.3 Outing the Subject
3.4 Who Wants to be Popular?

4. Polemicizing Universals
4.1 The Persistence of Universals
4.2 The Pragmatics of the Referent
4.3 Deliberation and Confrontation
4.4 Commonality Through Polemics


Cinematic Political Thought. Narrating Race, Nation and Gender
, by Michael J. Shapiro

1999, 192 pp., ISBN 0748612890  £16.99

This book has two aims: to offer a series of investigations into aspects ofcontemporary politics such as race, nation and gender; and to articulate a critical philosophical perspective with politically disposed treatments of contemporary cinema. What the author offers is a politics of critique, inspired by Kant, in which he attempts to show what it can mean to think the political. The interventions into aspects of contemporary political issues, as reflected in films including Hoop Dreams, Lonestar, Father of the Bride II , The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and To Live and Die in LA, are also influenced by Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard: theorists loosely regarded by the author as post-Kantian. This is a polemical work, aimed at encouraging critical, ethico-political thinking. Its breadth of theoretical scope and empirical reference, and the innovative style of presentation will make it vital reading for all those with an interest in the linking of culture and politics.


“Michael Shapiro writes in a relatively new genre of political thought, one that displays a ‘postmodern’ willingness to discuss literary and cinematic examples alongside canonical texts of political theory, and one that is ‘polemical’ in the best sense of the term: not seeking to censure or repudiate other views but to pursue an open-ended engagement with political dramas of our time… Within the terms of this new genre, the book is very successful.” Prof Paul Patton, University of Sydney.

Untimely Politics, by Samuel A Chambers

2003, 208 pp, ISBN 0748617663     £49.00

Challenging the linear view of history which confines or predetermines the outcome of politics, this book argues for an ‘untimely’ politics, rendering the past problematic and the future unpredictable. Untimely Politics offers close readings of key texts in political theory and enters into debates involving metaphysics, philosophy of language, and psychoanalysis versus discursive analysis – all designed to demonstrate that untimeliness expands the scope of the political.

The ideas are weaved together around the theme of the relevance of language analysis to political debate, answering those critics who insist discourse approaches to politics are irrelevant. Calling on key texts of Heidegger, Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida the book challenges the political burden which is placed on language analysis to prove its value in the real world. To demonstrate his arguments, Samuel Chambers uses the case study of same-sex marriage in the US to interrogate family values politics.

In seeking to explore the bearing of contemporary theory on practical political life, this book makes a timely plea for a more politically relevant form of intellectual work.

Key Features: Detailed case study of same-sex marriages in the US is used to interrogate family value politics. It shows the relevance of contemporary theory to practical political life. It makes a plea for a more politically relevant form of intellectual work. It is aimed at both a Politics and a Cultural Studies readership.


“This tough-minded book considers the politics of political theory… Admirably clear in dealing with difficult concepts, this book will interest theorists looking to deepen the critical project of ‘poststructuralism’… This is a lively book, a good addition to EUP’s admirably left-field series ‘Taking on the Political’, and Chambers is certainly ‘one to watch’.” Political Studies Review.

 “[A] splendid and, yes, timely book’. Perspectives (American Political Sciences Book Review Journal).

“This is an excitingly disruptive book. It offers a substantial thesis in philosophy and then employs it productively. It is lucid, argumentative and topical. It wastes no words.” Contemporary Political Theory.

“Packs a powerful intellectual punch that should at a minimum produce a thoughtful pause in an important debate about the status of contemporary theory and its relevance to political life.” Professor Sanford Schram, Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia.

Speaking Against Number. Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation, by Stuart Elden

2005, 208 pp., ISBN 074861981X £45.00

Numbers and politics are inter-related at almost every level – be it the abstract geometry of understandings of territory, the explosion of population statistics and measures of economic standards, the popularity of Utilitarianism, Rawlsian notions of justice, the notion of value, or simply the very idea of political science. Time and space are reduced to co-ordinates, illustrating a very real take on the political: a way of measuring and controlling it.

This book engages with the relation between politics and number through a reading, exegesis and critique of the work of Martin Heidegger. The importance of mathematics and the role played by the understandings of calculation is a recurrent concern in his writing and is regularly contrasted with understandings of speech and language. This book provides the most detailed analysis of the relation between language, politics and mathematics in Heidegger’s work. It insists that questions of language and calculation in Heidegger are inherently political, and that a far broader range of his work is concerned with politics than is usually admitted.

Key Features: A unique introduction to the political dimension of Heidegger’s work, opening it up to a wider audience. It offers an original exploration of the relationship between language, mathematics and politics in Heidegger’s thinking. It shows how questions of politics and calculation are inter-related in modern conceptions of the political.

Read review in Borderlands 7 (2), 2008

“Elden should be applauded for writing with such sharp focus, while simultaneously never reducing the genuine complexity of Heidegger’s thought.” Contemporary Political Theory.

“Elden is a careful scholar, who writes in a clear, accessible prose. He has identified all the important texts germane to his argument and provides a good rationale to the volume as proposed.” Dr Laurence Hemming, HeythropCollege, University of London.

 “I wholeheartedly recommend this book with its rich lode of expositions of Heidegger’s texts on the political in its ancient, modern and postmodern manifestations.” Professor Theodore Kisiel, Northern Illinois University.

“Stuart Elden’s Speaking Against Number takes full advantage of the most recent volumes of Heidegger’s previously unpublished lectures and manuscripts to develop a rich new approach to his political thought. The resulting book should be widely read, especially by everyone who thinks they already know all there is to know about this topic.” Professor Robert Bernasconi, University of Memphis.

Post-Marxism Versus Cultural Studies. Theory, Politics and Intervention
, by Paul Bowman

2007, 248 pp., ISBN 0748617620

The two academic disciplines of Cultural Studies and Post-Marxism tend to see themselves as distinct entities. Paul Bowman challenges this, pointing out their similarities – Cultural Studies claims to be both practical and political, while Post-Marxist theory attempts to construct a political strategy. He asks why the relationship between the two disciplines is so volatile and works through this contestation, showing how it impacts upon the institutional political terrain. He argues that the relationship, and the lessons to be learnt from its examination, is of great ethical and political relevance, shedding light on the conflicted character of political projects in general.

Cultural Studies and Post-Marxism are put to the test, being exposed to the forces of their own, and the other’s, founding declarations, methodologies, orientations, intentions, practices, protocols and procedures. It is argued that that Post-Marxism should become more central to Cultural Studies in order to strengthen both disciplines, while acknowledging that this is not without ethical and political dangers.

Key Features: an innovative take on the disciplines of Cultural Studies and Post-Marxism. It draws out the similarities between the two approaches. It uses the contestation between these two disciplines as an example of why political projects in general are conflict-ridden. It shows that by seeing the links between the approaches, both can be strengthened – this can have positive results in the political world.

Read review in Borderlands 6 (2) 2007

Read review in Political Studies 2009

Read review in Cultural Critique 75, 2010

“This is an exciting field which is beginning to open up a sustained “thinking about” politics from a post-structuralist perspective… This is an ambitious book which will make a significant impact in its field.” Dr Martin McQuillan, University of Leeds.

“In the first sustained scholarly assessment of the scandal of post-Marxism Bowman traces the struggle – both intellectual and political – of academic Marxism to keep its footing on the long march through the institution. As the “versus” that hinges his title suggests, neither post-Marxism nor cultural studies remain unscathed by Bowman’s staging of this face off. Post-Marxism versus Cultural Studies rewards the serious reader concerned to come to terms with the discursive politics of the contemporary university.” Professor John Mowitt, University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

Cultural Studies and Post-Marxism
Introduction: Of Deconstruction into Politics
The Text of Cultural Studies
The Problem with the Text
The Institutional Articulation and Dissemination of Texts and Discourses

Cultural Studies versus Post-Marxism
Two Texts of Cultural Studies
Stuart Hall’s Closure versus Post-Marxist Discourse
The Political Disciplinary Object
Textual versus Discourse Analysis
Cultural Studies versus Political Analysis
The Object of the Subject
Deconstruction versus Post-Marxism

Theory versus Practice
Practice versus Theory
Theory versus Practice
Post-Marxist Theory and Practice
Banal Pragmatism versus High Theory
The (Dis)Articulation of Theory and Practice
Knaves versus Fools
Investments and Institutions

Post-Marxist Cultural Studies’ Theory, Politics and Intervention
Relations and Effects
The Necessity of Articulation
The Necessity of Institution
The (Dis)Articulation of Post-Marxism and Politics
For a New Intervention
The Necessity of Deconstruction

Post-Foundational Political Thought. Political Difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou and Laclau, by Oliver Marchart

2007, 198 pp., ISBN 074862497X
£55.00 (hardcover)
£17.99 (paperback)

A wide-ranging overview of the emergence of post-foundationalism and a survey of the work of its key contemporary exponents.

This book presents the first systematic coverage of the conceptual difference between ‘politics’ (the practice of conventional politics: the political system or political forms of action) and ‘the political’ (a much more radical aspect which cannot be restricted to the realms of institutional politics). It is also the first introductory overview of post-foundationalism and the tradition of ‘left Heideggerianism’: the political thought of contemporary theorists who make frequent use of the idea of political difference: Jean-Luc Nancy, Claude Lefort, Alain Badiou, and Ernesto Laclau.

After an overview of current trends in social post-foundationalism and a genealogical chapter on the historical emergence fo the difference between the concepts of ‘politics’ and ‘the political’, the work of individual theorists is presented and discussed at length. Individual chapters are presented on the political thought of Jean-Luc Nancy (including Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe), Claude Lefort, Alain Badiou, and Ernesto Laclau (including Chantal Mouffe).


“There is a real need for a book like this. Marchart is a patient author. He explains things slowly and clearly to his reader. And what he explains is surely of interest to those of us who work in the interstices of political theory and Continental (especially post-Heideggerian) philosophy.” Professor Linda Zerilli, Northwestern University.

“This book will make a valuable contribution in engaging students and academics with important debates in contemporary political theory… it is a clear, well-written and sophisticated introduction, one that will be welcomed by students and university teachers alike.” Dr Majid Yar, University of Kent at Canterbury.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On the Absent Ground of the Social

1. The Contours of ‘Left Heideggerianism’: Post-Foundationalism and Contingency

2. Politics and the Political: Genealogy of a Conceptual Difference

3. Retracing the Political Difference: Jean-Luc Nancy

4. The Machiavellian Moment Retheorized: Claude Lefort

5. The State and the Politics of Truth: Alain Badiou

6. Political Difference and Ontological Difference: Ernesto Laclau

Conclusion: Founding Post-Foundational: A Political Ontology

Democratic Piety. Complexity, Conflict, Violence, by Adrian Little

2008, 208 pp. ISBN 978 0 7486 3365 4 £45 (hardcover)

Democracy is now promoted in religious terms to such an extent that it has become sacrosanct in Western political theory. Rather than accepting this situation, this book argues that such piety relies on unsophisticated political analysis that pays scant attention to the complex conditions of contemporary politics. Little contends that the importance of conflict is underplayed in much democratic theory and that it is more useful to think instead of democracy in terms of the centrality of political disagreement and its propensity to generate political violence. This argument is exemplified by the ways in which democracy and violence have been conceptualised in the war on terrorism.

Fighting against democratic piety, this book contends that it is vital to understand the inevitable failure of democratic politics and thus promotes a theory of democracy founded on the idea of ‘constitutive failure’.

Table of Contents

    Introduction: Pious Discourses of Democracy 

1. Complexity Theory and Democratic Politics

2. Complexity, Democratisation and Conflict

3. Democracy, Consensus and Dissent

4. Democracy and Violence

5. Terrorism, Violence and the Ethics of Democracy

    Conclusion: The Constitutive Failure of Democracy


Gillian Rose: a Good Enough Justice, by Kate Schick

2012, 208 pp., ISBN: 9780748639847

Makes the case for the rediscovery of British philosopher Gillian Rose’s unique but neglected voice

Kate Schick explains the core themes of Gillian Rose’s work. She engages with the work of Benjamin, Honig, Zizek and Butler and locates Rose’s ideas within central debates in contemporary social theory: trauma and memory, exclusion and difference, tragedy and messianic utopia. She shows how Rose’s speculative perspective brings a different gaze to bear on debates, avoiding well-worn liberal, critical theoretic and post-structural positions.

Gillian Rose draws on idiosyncratic readings of thinkers such as Hegel, Adorno and Kierkegaard to underpin her philosophy, refusing to privilege the particular over the universal. While of the left, she is sharply critical of much left-wing thought, insisting that it shirks the work of coming to know and taking political risk in the hope that we might find a ‘good enough justice’.


Faga.coverEthics and Politics after Poststructuralism: Levinas, Derrida and Nancy, by Madeleine Fagan

2013, ISBN: 9780748685134

This groundbreaking book offers a fresh and innovative perspective on ethics and politics after poststructuralism. Madeleine Fagan argues that the ‘ethical’ should not be understood as a label; it does not mean ‘good’ or ‘right’, and is not an evaluation or guide. Rather, both the ethical and the political are descriptions of the context in which we find ourselves. Fagan offers an account of the inseparability of ethics and politics that challenges existing accounts of poststructuralist ethics and shows the need for a practice-based rethinking of the ethico-political. Drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy, Ethics and Politics after Poststructuralism puts forward a radical and far-reaching critique of both foundational and non-foundational ethical theory.

History and Event: From Marxism to Contemporary French Thought, by Nathan Coombs, 2015. Buy

Explores the politics of modern and contemporary historical sciences, from Marxism to contemporary French theory

Are sciences of history relics of an abandoned modernism? Nathan Coombs demonstrates that the Marxist science of history has been reimagined by a strand of contemporary French theory after Louis Althusser. Taking a comparative approach, Coombs explores the technical details of both traditions’ historical sciences. He argues that their articulations of history and event affect how we approach political transformation and view the role of theoreticians in political practice.

History and Event sits at a productive juncture of critical theory, continental thought and social scientific philosophy. It is a vital resource for researchers who wish to sharpen their critical insight into Marxist philosophy and contemporary French theory.

Space, Politics & Aesthetics, by Mustafa Dikeç, 2016. Buy

Explores the force of aesthetic experience and the role of space in political thinking

Mustafa Dikeç reveals the aesthetic premises that underlie Hannah Arendt, Jean-Luc Nancy and Jacques Rancière’s political thinking, and demonstrates how their politics depend on the construction and apprehension of worlds through spatial forms and distributions. Exploring these dimensions of the political, he argues that politics is about how perceive and relate to the world. Space is a form of appearance and a mode of actuality, and the disruption of such forms and modes is the sublime element in politics.

Immanence and Micropolitics, by Christian Gilliam, 2017. Buy

Maps the context and development of immanence and micropolitics, from Sartre to Deleuze, via Merleau-Ponty and Foucault

Christian Gilliam argues that a philosophy of ‘pure’ immanence is integral to the development of an alternative understanding of ‘the political’; one that re-orients our understanding of the self toward the concept of an unconscious or ‘micropolitical’ life of desire. He argues that here, in this ‘life’, is where the power relations integral to the continuation of post-industrial capitalism are most present and most at stake.

Through proving its philosophical context, lineage and political import, Gilliam ultimately justifies the conceptual necessity of immanence in understanding politics and resistance, thereby challenging the claim that ontologies of ‘pure’ immanence are either apolitical or politically incoherent.

Shame. A Genealogy of Queer Practices in the 19th Century, by Bogdan Popa, 2017. Buy

A radical reframing of shame as a vital impetus of queer feminist activism

Shame has often been considered a threat to democratic politics, and was used to degrade and debase sex radicals and political marginals. But certain forms of shame were also embraced by 19th-century activists in an attempt to reverse entrenched power dynamics.

Bogdan Popa brings together Rancière’s techniques of disrupting inequality with a queer curiosity in the performativity of shame to show how 19th-century activists denaturalised conventional beliefs about sexuality and gender. This study fills a glaring absence in political theory by undertaking a genealogy of radical queer interventions that predate the 20th century.






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