Thinking Politics is a series from Edinburgh University Press providing clear and accessible introductions to the major ideas in contemporary political thinking, through a focus on key political thinkers. Rather than a roll-call of the 'usual suspects' it focuses on new thinkers who offer provocative new directions and some neglected older thinkers whose relevance is becoming clear as a result of the changing situation.
Slavoj Zizek is probably the most important figure in contemporary theory since Michel Foucault. Politically urgent as well as intellectually engaging, Zizek’s writing has had an enormous impact on contemporary philosophy, social theory, cultural studies and communications departments. Zizek’s thought is driven by the need to find an alternative to the problems of globalisation and the supposed end of ideology in the advanced democracies. His insights into popular culture and political life internationally have made him a ‘must read’ for anybody serious about understanding the condition the world is in today. Yet his works have often seemed an intellectual roller-coaster, to be enjoyed and admired, but not emulated or critically engaged.
One of the most prominent theorists in the contemporary humanities and social sciences, Michel Foucault is known as a radical thinker who disturbs our understanding of society. Yet until now comparatively little attention has been given to his politics, not least because he presented a moving target, continually changing his concerns and his apparent position.
Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben is rapidly becoming one of the most celebrated and controversial contemporary thinkers, Agamben has not merely made an original contribution to ‘first-philosophical’ debates, but also deployed his ontological insights as a foundation for an innovative mode of political thought.
Charles Taylor explores why people can fail to follow rules, and what kind of knowledge it is that allows a person to successfully follow a rule, such as the arrow on a sign. The intellectualist tradition presupposes that to follow directions we must know a set of propositions and premises about how to follow directions; Taylor reminds us that rules do not contain the principles of their own application: application requires that we draw on an unarticulated understanding or "sense of things"—the background.