“After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing.” — The Guardian
Includes: Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, Betty Friedan, Edward Said, George Orwell, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Michael Herr, Naomi Klein, Oliver Sacks, Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf, and many more.
Robert Doran examines how critical theory has always been a form of ethical practice
What led you to write The Ethics of Theory?
The impetus for this project was a feeling that the tectonic shift of Theory–from a hermetic-textualist to a culturally-focused and politically-driven discourse–had not really been examined. This shift (circa 1987) was simply accepted, celebrated, or lamented without any real thinking about how we got from here to there or from there to here. Thus, I wanted to reflect on how this transformation happened and what it means for us now.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about critical theory?
That it is definable in terms of some general consensus, that there is some general agreement about what it is and what role it should play, when in fact it embodies many competing and at times mutually exclusive paradigms and assumptions. Nevertheless, I think that what binds everyone (or most everyone) together under the Theory banner is the sense that Nietzsche’s challenge to philosophy (continued and amplified by Heidegger) represented a fundamental break in the intellectual history of the West. On the one side, Nietzsche contested the hegemony of scientific inquiry, which, in the late nineteenth century, had attained great cultural prestige, displacing philosophy’s traditional role as the arbiter of knowledge. On the other side, Nietzsche held that human beings make their own truth–or decide what counts as truth–and that all knowledge is therefore contingent on human projects. The concept of objective, value-neutral knowledge is thereby torn asunder, giving way to the idea that seemingly “objective” knowledge is permeated with social, ethical, and political considerations that can never be completely expunged. The role of Theory or Critical Theory is to keep pointing this out. (more…)
Naomi Klein delivers this year’s lecture in memory of the great postcolonial theorist Edward Said
Klein is an award-winning journalist and author of the critically acclaimed international bestsellers The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, which was one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year 2014.
She follows in the footsteps of Marina Warner, Rashid Khalidi, Ahdaf Soueif, Noam Chomsky, Raja Shehadeh and Daniel Barenboim in an annual event that aims to emphasise the forward-looking nature of Said’s work. It provides his legacy with a public platform in the very heart of cultural and intellectual life in the UK.
The Edward W. Said London Lecture will take place Wednesday 4 May and is presented by A.M. Qattan Foundation/The Mosaic Rooms and the London Review of Books. [Find out more]