Category Archives: Books

Two Articles on Critical and Revolutionary Theory

I’m pleased to announce that an article I’ve been working on for over a decade, “Critical and Revolutionary Theory,” is now available in an excellent new book edited by Daniel Benson. The book also includes a dialogue between me and Philippe Corcuff on “Domination and Emancipation in the Current Conjuncture,” along with an introduction by Benson and pieces by Luc Boltanski, Nancy Fraser, Rosaura Sánchez, Asad Haider, Françoise Vergès, Ajay Singh Chaudhary and Yves Citton. Click here for more details.

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Excerpt from “Critical and Revolutionary Theory”: “This article elucidates the reasons behind the retreat from Marxism in contemporary critical theory, and it offers an account of the revolutionary theory that is born of emancipatory struggles as an antidote to this retreat. It begins by briefly elucidating the explanatory power and transformative force of revolutionary theory, as it has been developed in the Marxist tradition, in order to shake it lose from the straw-person depictions, gormless mantras, anti-communist dogmas, historical tommyrot, and vulgarly reductive accounts that petty-bourgeois intellectuals and many others have used to try and discredit it. After clarifying how historical materialism is a collectively produced, transdisciplinary, systemic, radical and fallibilistic science of history rooted in collective struggle, it deploys this framework of analysis to develop a counter-history of critical theory. In this sense, the critique of the Frankfurt School that it advances is not simply an internal or immanent critique but is rather a materialist analysis of its social and historical function in the international political economy of ideas. As we shall see, the type of research promoted under the label ‘critical’ by the global theory industry—which is driven by capitalist interests and policed by their hegemonic enforcers—is work whose critical appearance belies a conformist core.”

Interviewed by J. Ponce de León for “Philosophy Today”

I was interviewed by Jennifer Ponce de León about my book Counter-History of the Present, and how it relates to genealogy, deconstruction and anticolonial theory. Click here for a link to the interview, and here for a pdf. The title of the interview is “Materialist Deconstruction, Anticolonial Geographies, and the Limits of Genealogy: An Interview on Counter-History of the Present.”

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Abstract
In this wide-ranging interview, Gabriel Rockhill discusses his most recent book, Counter-History of the Present, in the broader context of his research to date on aesthetics, politics and history, as well as its relationship to important interlocutors like Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Jacques Derrida, Frantz Fanon and Simone de Beauvoir. He explains the similarities and important differences between genealogy and counter-history, and he elucidates how his work performs a materialist deconstruction that contests the idealist logocentrism operative in purely textualist modes of interpretation. The interview also develops an account of “radical geography” that calls into question culturalist spatial imaginaries, which plague certain forms of decolonial theory that diminish or efface social stratification and class conflict. The discussion thereby contributes to the development of a new model for critical social theory with an internationalist perspective, which seeks to weave these conceptual innovations into a rigorous and radical materialism.

Intervention à l’EHESS

Le 21 juin, 2018, j’ai eu l’occasion de présenter mes recherches pour mon prochain livre, La CIA et les intellectuels, dans le cadre du séminaire que je co-dirige à l’EHESS avec Pierre-Antoine Chardel et Valérie Charolles : “Socio-philosophie du temps présent. Enjeux épistémologiques, méthodologiques et critiques“.

Recension de “Contre-histoire du temps présent”

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« Le propos de l’ouvrage est ambitieux. Au vu de l’ampleur des sujets et des références qu’il brasse, ce livre apporte une contribution remarquable à la pensée critique contemporaine […la suite] ».

– Giovanni Camarilla dans sa recension de Contre-histoire du temps présent: interrogations intempestives sur la mondialisation, la technologie, la démocratie dans la Revue française de science politique.

Re-Airing of Democracy Interview

KPFA’s “Against the Grain” re-aired C.S. Soong’s interview with me regarding my most recent book, and in particular the final chapter on the value-concept of democracy. Click here to either listen to the interview online or download it.  Here is the description of the discussion:

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“Is ‘Democracy’ a Distraction?”
In the face of the contemporary infatuation with democracy in the West, what should the left do with a term and a concept often used to mask injustices and inequities? Gabriel Rockhill discusses some of the key conjunctures in the history of democracy; he also asserts that a focus on democracy may actually distract us from the task of building a just society.

Gabriel Rockhill, Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy Duke University Press, 2017.

Review of “Counter-History of the Present”

Jason Edwards published a detailed review of Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy. It appeared in Contemporary Political Theory and can be read here.

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Excerpt: “Rockhill has written a provocative and highly readable book (indeed, it is even something of a page-turner). […] What is arresting about the book is the aplomb with which Rockhill goes about this task of disclosing the contingency of the present political imaginary. A review of this length cannot do justice to the political force of this critique. But that force, in general terms, lies in the relentless exposure of neoliberalism’s flattening out of ‘time, space, and society.’ If the force of political critique is not to be found in the revelation of a single reality marked out by being ‘now’ – which would be simply to recapitulate the homogenizing and destructive disposition of neoliberal practices of government – it may be located in the recognition of the multiple and contingently related realities of time, space, and social relations. A political theory that is sensitive to the way in which political imaginaries are constituted in and can be challenged through the practices connected across these realities, is likely to have a greater impact on those practices than one that busies itself with the fruitless search for a universal ideal of a democracy whose time can never come, precisely because its place lies outside of time, space, and society. […read more]”

Recension de “Contre-histoire du temps présent”

Une recension de Contre-histoire du temps présent a été publiée dans Actu Philosophia. Cliquez ici pour la lire.

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Extrait : « Rockhill nous propose un pari très alléchant : déconstruire l’idée même du présent au singulier, afin de mettre au jour les grands schèmes prétendant cerner le sens de l’histoire. Il insiste pour cela sur la pluralité des dimensions de l’histoire (temps, espace, société). Le but de ses analyses, qu’il qualifie d’ « intempestives », est, en rendant manifeste la contingence d’une définition épocale du présent, de dégager un espace pour des ordres historiques nouveaux, n’appartenant pas à une vision consensuelle du monde […la suite] ». — Juliette Monvoisin, Actu Philosophia

Interview on “Against the Grain”

I was interviewed on KPFA’s “Against the Grain” regarding my most recent book, and in particular the final chapter on the value-concept of democracy. Click here to either listen to the interview online or download it.  Here is the description of the discussion:

51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In the face of the contemporary infatuation with democracy in the West, what should the left do with a term and a concept often used to mask injustices and inequities? Gabriel Rockhill discusses some of the key conjunctures in the history of democracy; he also asserts that a focus on democracy may actually distract us from the task of building a just society.

Gabriel Rockhill, Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy Duke University Press, 2017.

Book Event at the Slought Foundation

An author-meets-critics session that will take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 from 6-8 p.m. at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. Entitled “Radical Imaginaires,” the discussion will be based on my two most recent books: Counter-History of the Present and Interventions in Contemporary Thought.

Event Description
This symposium brings together leading scholars in the fields of political theory, intellectual history, comparative literature and aesthetics to discuss two recent books by philosopher Gabriel Rockhill: Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (Duke UP, 2017) and Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (Edinburgh UP, 2017 for the paperback edition). These works, whose contents are outlined below, perform a tectonic shift in the theoretical coordinates that frame our understanding of the contemporary. Cutting across multiple fields and debates, they intervene to propose both a novel form of theoretical practice and alternative conceptual models for understanding the multidimensionality of the current conjuncture as a force field of social struggle.

Counter-History of the Present dismantles the widespread belief that we are living in a
democratized and globalized era intimately connected by a single, overarching economic and technological network. Arguing that it fails to account for the experiences of billions 51GyEIiJWHL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_of people around the world, Rockhill interrogates the ways this political narratology has emerged in connection with the neocolonial expansion of neoliberalism, which often seeks to mask the oppressive dynamics of global capital behind the value-concept of democracy. He thereby puts into relief the development of a technico-democratic mission that historically mirrors the role played by the civilizing mission during the grand era of colonialism. Proposing a counter-history that simultaneously counters the narratives of this imperial mission and develops a new grammar for historical and political imaginaries, the book creates space for the articulation of futures no longer engulfed in the prison of the colonial present.

Interventions in Contemporary Thought is a collection of essays that rethink the state and stakes of contemporary theory. By resituating theoretical work in a broader force field of culture and power, Rockhill develops an alternative historical model for understanding intellectual developments and proposes incisive, iconoclastic interventions into a broad rockhill_1-2array of current debates. These include a detailed dismantling of the sequential historical narrative leading from the structuralism of Foucault to Derrida’s post-structuralism; a radical critique of the political implications of the philosophy of difference; a meticulous reassessment of the force and limitations of the work of Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, and Cornelius Castoriadis; and a retrieval of architecture and public art, which have been largely excluded from certain contemporary theoretical debates on art and politics. Drawing on and developing his earlier work in Radical History & the Politics of Art, the book as a whole thereby proposes to modify the very framework for thinking the historical relation between aesthetics and politics.  Continue reading

Recension de “Contre-histoire du temps présent”

Une recension de mon dernier livre, Contre-histoire du temps présent: interrogations intempestives sur la mondialisation, la technologie, la démocratie (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2017), a été publié sur le site Lectures/Liens socio. Cliquez ici pour la lire.

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Extrait:
« Le livre de Gabriel Rockhill apporte une contribution très éclairante, et stimulante, à la réflexion sur le temps et l’histoire à partir d’une démarche originale. La notion de contre-histoire remet en question l’idée d’un seul et unique présent, qui se définirait par un concept unique ou des caractéristiques communes. D’emblée, l’auteur insiste sur le fait que sa “contre-histoire” ne vise pas à la singularité. Outre la réflexion qu’il propose autour de l’histoire et de l’actualité, l’ouvrage invite à reconsidérer la méthodologie historique de façon à en faire un “phénomène multidimensionnel”, c’est-à-dire bien loin d’une conception de l’histoire temporelle […la suite] ». – Suzanne Dumouchel