Radical Thinkers: 5 Videos Profile Max Horkheimer, Alain Badiou & Other Radical Theorists

If you’ve ever con­sid­ered draw­ing up a list of the most debased words, allow me to nom­i­nate rad­i­cal. If you call some­one a “rad­i­cal thinker,” for instance, a great many lis­ten­ers might assume you mean some­thing along the lines of “cool thinker.” While we do tend to find thinkers cool here at Open Cul­ture, more inter­est­ing usages exist. Some inter­pret the mean­ing of “rad­i­cal thinker” as clos­er to “thinker of very dif­fer­ent thoughts than every­one else,” and hit clos­er to the mark though they may, you can bet that some­one else near­by has read­ied them­selves to denounce the thinker in ques­tion as not near­ly rad­i­cal enough to qual­i­fy for the label. Like any com­plex word, phrase, or oth­er ele­ment of lan­guage, we may have to define rad­i­cal by look­ing at exam­ples. Luck­i­ly, the Guardian and Ver­so Books have put togeth­er Rad­i­cal Thinkers, a series of three-minute videos pro­fil­ing exact­ly those.

In each video, a mod­ern aca­d­e­m­ic deliv­ers a three-minute lec­ture on a rad­i­cal thinker of choice, draw­ing on a book in Ver­so’s Rad­i­cal Thinkers edi­tions. “Ordi­nar­i­ly, we are more or less resigned to the world as it is,” says Peter Hall­ward of Kingston Uni­ver­si­ty, stand­ing in Lon­don’s Hous­mans (“Rad­i­cal Book­sellers Since 1945”), sum­ma­riz­ing Alan Badiou’s Ethics. “We adapt as best we can to the exist­ing log­ic of the sys­tem, of the estab­lished order of things. We get a job, we go through life as best we can, we get by. What Badiou calls ethics is essen­tial­ly the dis­ci­pline and resources you need in order to resist those temp­ta­tions to aban­don or betray or give up on some­thing.” Stel­la Stan­ford, also of Kingston, takes on Wil­helm Reich’s Sex-Pol in the Freud Muse­um. This rad­i­cal thinker, she says, “argued against Freud’s view that sex­u­al repres­sion was the con­di­tion of pos­si­bil­i­ty for all civ­i­liza­tion. He used the same kind of anthro­po­log­i­cal work that Freud him­self used to argue that sex­u­al free­dom and civ­i­liza­tion were com­pat­i­ble.”

The Rad­i­cal Thinkers series has three more videos: Esther Leslie in Cam­den Mar­ket on Max Horkheimer’s Cri­tique of Instru­men­tal Rea­son (above), an indict­ment of the Enlight­en­men­t’s fail­ure to deliv­er a ratio­nal soci­ety.

Fed­eri­co Cam­pagna in his kitchen on Simon Critch­ley’s Infi­nite­ly Demand­ing, a look into the inevitably dis­ap­point­ed heart of mod­ern lib­er­al democ­ra­cy.

And Nina Pow­er on Lud­wig Feuer­bach’s Chris­tian­i­ty-crit­i­ciz­ing col­lec­tion of writ­ings The Fiery Brook.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Theodor Adorno’s Avant-Garde Musi­cal Com­po­si­tions

Down­load 90 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es and Start Liv­ing the Exam­ined Life

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Lec­tures Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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