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Democracy in What State?

by Alain Badiou Daniel Bensaid Wendy Brown Jean-Luc Nancy Kristin Ross William Mccuaig Giorgio Agamben

"Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?"In responding to this question, eight iconoclastic thinkers prove the rich potential of democracy, along with its critical weaknesses, and reconceive the practice to accommodate new political and cultural realities. Giorgio Agamben traces the tense history of constitutions and their coexistence with various governments. Alain Badiou contrasts current democratic practice with democratic communism. Daniel Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy, while Wendy Brown discusses the democratization of society under neoliberalism. Jean-Luc Nancy measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end, and Jacques Rancière highlights its egalitarian nature. Kristin Ross identifies hierarchical relationships within democratic practice, and Slavoj i ek complicates the distinction between those who desire to own the state and those who wish to do without it. Concentrating on the classical roots of democracy and its changing meaning over time and within different contexts, these essays uniquely defend what is left of the left-wing tradition after the fall of Soviet communism. They confront disincentives to active democratic participation that have caused voter turnout to decline in western countries, and they address electoral indifference by invoking and reviving the tradition of citizen involvement. Passionately written and theoretically rich, this collection speaks to all facets of modern political and democratic debate.

Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics

by Wendy Brown

Edgework brings together seven of Wendy Brown's most provocative recent essays in political and cultural theory. They range from explorations of politics post-9/11 to critical reflections on the academic norms governing feminist studies and political theory. Edgework is also concerned with the intellectual and political value of critique itself. It renders contemporary the ancient jurisprudential meaning of critique as crisis, in which a tear in the fabric of justice becomes the occasion of a public sifting or thoughtfulness, the development of criteria for judgment, and the inauguration of political renewal or restoration. Each essay probes a contemporary problem- the charge of being unpatriotic for dissenting from U.S. foreign policy, the erosion of liberal democracy by neoliberal political rationality, feminism's loss of a revolutionary horizon- and seeks to grasp the intellectual impasse the problem signals as well as the political incitement it may harbor.

Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury and Free Speech

by Judith Butler Talal Asad Wendy Brown Saba Mahmood

Four leading thinkers of our times confront the paradoxes and dilemmas attending the supposed stand-off between Islam and liberal democratic values. Authors inquire into the evaluative frameworks at stake in understanding the conflicts between blasphemy and free speech, between religious taboos and freedoms of thought and expression.

Left Legalism / Left Critique

by Wendy Brown Janet Halley

In recent decades, left political projects in the United States have taken a strong legalistic turn. From affirmative action to protection against sexual harassment, from indigenous peoples' rights to gay marriage, the struggle to eliminate subordination or exclusion and to achieve substantive equality has been waged through courts and legislation. At the same time, critiques of legalism have generally come to be regarded by liberal and left reformers as politically irrelevant at best, politically disunifying and disorienting at worst. This conjunction of a turn toward left legalism with a turn away from critique has hardened an intellectually defensive, brittle, and unreflective left sensibility at a moment when precisely the opposite is needed. Certainly, the left can engage strategically with the law, but if it does not also track the effects of this engagement--effects that often exceed or even redound against its explicit aims--it will unwittingly foster political institutions and doctrines strikingly at odds with its own values. Brown and Halley have assembled essays from diverse contributors--law professors, philosophers, political theorists, and literary critics--united chiefly by their willingness to think critically from the left about left legal projects. The essays themselves vary by topic, by theoretical approach, and by conclusion. While some contributors attempt to rework particular left legal projects, others insist upon abandoning or replacing those projects. Still others leave open the question of what is to be done as they devote their critical attention to understanding what we are doing. Above all, Left Legalism/Left Critique is a rare contemporary argument and model for the intellectually exhilarating and politically enriching dimensions of left critique--dimensions that persist even, and perhaps especially, when critique is unsure of the intellectual and political possibilities it may produce. Contributors: Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell, Richard T. Ford, Katherine M. Franke, Janet Halley, Mark Kelman, David Kennedy, Duncan Kennedy, Gillian Lester, Michael Warner

Regulating Aversion

by Wendy Brown

Tolerance is generally regarded as an unqualified achievement of the modern West. Emerging in early modern Europe to defuse violent religious conflict and reduce persecution, tolerance today is hailed as a key to decreasing conflict across a wide range of other dividing lines-- cultural, racial, ethnic, and sexual. But, as political theorist Wendy Brown argues in Regulating Aversion, tolerance also has dark and troubling undercurrents. Dislike, disapproval, and regulation lurk at the heart of tolerance. To tolerate is not to affirm but to conditionally allow what is unwanted or deviant. And, although presented as an alternative to violence, tolerance can play a part in justifying violence--dramatically so in the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. Wielded, especially since 9/11, as a way of distinguishing a civilized West from a barbaric Islam, tolerance is paradoxically underwriting Western imperialism. Brown's analysis of the history and contemporary life of tolerance reveals it in a startlingly unfamiliar guise. Heavy with norms and consolidating the dominance of the powerful, tolerance sustains the abjection of the tolerated and equates the intolerant with the barbaric. Examining the operation of tolerance in contexts as different as the War on Terror, campaigns for gay rights, and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, Brown traces the operation of tolerance in contemporary struggles over identity, citizenship, and civilization.

Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire

by Wendy Brown

Tolerance is generally regarded as an unqualified achievement of the modern West. Emerging in early modern Europe to defuse violent religious conflict and reduce persecution, tolerance today is hailed as a key to decreasing conflict across a wide range of other dividing lines-- cultural, racial, ethnic, and sexual. But, as political theorist Wendy Brown argues in Regulating Aversion, tolerance also has dark and troubling undercurrents. Dislike, disapproval, and regulation lurk at the heart of tolerance. To tolerate is not to affirm but to conditionally allow what is unwanted or deviant. And, although presented as an alternative to violence, tolerance can play a part in justifying violence--dramatically so in the war in Iraq and the War on Terror. Wielded, especially since 9/11, as a way of distinguishing a civilized West from a barbaric Islam, tolerance is paradoxically underwriting Western imperialism. Brown's analysis of the history and contemporary life of tolerance reveals it in a startlingly unfamiliar guise. Heavy with norms and consolidating the dominance of the powerful, tolerance sustains the abjection of the tolerated and equates the intolerant with the barbaric. Examining the operation of tolerance in contexts as different as the War on Terror, campaigns for gay rights, and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance, Brown traces the operation of tolerance in contemporary struggles over identity, citizenship, and civilization.

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