Radical political thought is a moving target. What seems radical in one setting or era may seem conservative in another. This course sets out from the hypothesis that what has marked radical politics, at least for some time, has been the effort to revolutionize culture, or to create and sustain a revolutionary culture (where ‘culture’ encompasses ideology, common sense, and everyday habits and practices, as well as art, literature, and popular entertainment). Culture has been the field of battle either because it is the weakest link in the chain of oppression, or, contrariwise, because it is the condition of the reproduction of the whole structure of society and the state. Culture war and cultural revolution are both the preparation for revolution and the means of securing and extending an accomplished revolution.
Our investigation will be divided into three sections. In the first, we will be concerned with the nature and strategy of revolutionary political thought and action, as these were articulated by the explicitly Marxist revolutionary movements of the first half of the 20th century. What makes a position or tactic revolutionary? What is the difference between revolution and reform? What is revolutionary theory, and what role does it play in political and social revolutions? In the second, we will turn to the neo- and post-Marxisms of the latter half of the 20th century, and will be especially concerned with the criticisms of humanism that emerged from the decolonizing movements, the feminist movements, and the movements surrounding the events of May ’68. In the third, we will come up to the present, in the guise of four figures of radical politics that are very much at play in the world of today: Chomsky, Foucault, Virno, and Tiqqun/The Invisible Committee.