The Excessive Subject: A New Theory of Social Change / Edition 1

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In The Excessive Subject: A New Theory of Social Change, Molly Anne Rothenberg uncovers an innovative theory of social change implicit in the writings of radical social theorists, such as Pierre Bourdieu, Michael de Certeau, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Zizek. Through case studies of these writers' work, Rothenberg illuminates how this new theory calls into question currently accepted views of social practices, subject formation, democratic interaction, hegemony, political solidarity, revolutionary acts, and the ethics of alterity.

Finding a common dissatisfaction with the dominant paradigms of social structures in the authors she discusses, Rothenberg goes on to show that each of these thinkers makes use of Lacan's investigations of the causality of subjectivity in an effort to find an alternative paradigm. Labeling this paradigm "extimate causality," Rothenberg demonstrates how it produces a nondeterminacy, so that every subject bears some excess; paradoxically, this excess is what structures the social field itself. Whilst other theories of social change, subject formation, and political alliance invariably conceive of the elimination of this excess as necessary to their projects, the theory of extimate causality makes clear that it is ineradicable. To imagine otherwise is to be held hostage to a politics of fantasy. As she examines the importance, as well as the limitations, of theories that put extimate causality to work, Rothenberg reveals how the excess of the subject promises a new theory of social change.

By bringing these prominent thinkers together for the first time in one volume, this landmark text will be sure to ignite debate among scholars in the field, as well as being an indispensable tool for students.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The dagger that begins it cuts through Rothenberg's book with a fine precision. It dissects in the works of several of the most influential theorists of our day a powerful and new concept of cause which often gets away from the authors who struggle to define it. Rothenberg's astute argument is richly woven, lucid, and highly compelling."
Joan Copjec, author of Imagine There's No Woman

"We still don't know what a subject can do. We still don't know how to think subjective agency together with social causality. Rothenberg's path-breaking and systematic study of 'extimate causality,' combining psychoanalysis and emancipatory social theory, goes a long way towards formulating decisive new answers to these perennial questions."
Peter Hallward, Middlesex University

"Rothenberg's insights into the structure of the subject and its relevance for social and political theory are peerless. For anyone beginning to study the themes and thinkers covered in this book, this is the place to start."
Ed Pluth, California State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745648231
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

List of Abbreviations viii

Foreword Slavoj Zizek ix

Introduction: The Excess of Everyday Life 1

1 What Does the "Social" in Social Change Mean? 15

2 Extimate Causality and the Social Subject of Excess 30

3 The Social Structures of Bourdieu and de Certeau 57

4 Butler's Embodied Agency 91

5 Laclau's Radical Democracy 116

6 Zizek's Political Act 153

7 Sinthomic Ethics and Revolutionary Groups 191

Notes 230

Bibliography 248

Index 256

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