The best books on critical theory, anti-capitalist philosophy, fetishism and irrationality

Why am I passionate about this?

Ι have a passion for critical theory since I was intrigued by the idea, which originates in Marx’s Capital, that what limits our freedom and democracy is not the apparent personified power hold by the state and politicians. On the contrary, real power lies in capital, that's in abstract labour, which is the labour that must succumb to the standards of time is money, that runs through each one of us. Therefore, in my postdoctoral research in the last 13 years, I have attempted to follow this idea in the history of political philosophy. During my research, I realized that the mainstream reading of Marxism and critical theory is far from what it should be. 


I wrote...

Negativity and Democracy: Marxism and the Critical Theory Tradition

By Vasilis Grollios,

Book cover of Negativity and Democracy: Marxism and the Critical Theory Tradition

What is my book about?

Providing a rich philosophical analysis of democracy from a negative, non-identity, dialectical perspective, Vasilis Grollios encourages the reader not to think of democracy as a call for a more effective domination of the people or as a demand for the replacement of the elite that currently holds power. In doing so, he aspires to fill in a gap in the literature by offering an out-of-the-mainstream overview of the key concepts of totality, negativity, fetishization, contradiction, identity thinking, dialectics, and corporeal materialism as they have been employed by the major thinkers of the critical theory tradition: Marx, Engels, Horkheimer, Lukacs, Adorno, Marcuse, Bloch and Holloway.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Crack Capitalism

Vasilis Grollios Why did I love this book?

The book provides examples from everyday living regarding revolution in everyday life. It debunks the idea that since political power is exercised by the state we should focus our attention only on the state, during our effort to change the world. Its analysis puts ordinary people in the ‘game’ of democracy since it attempts to prove how they are complicit in the lack of democracy, bearing in mind that what really limits democracy is capital, the abstract labour we all produce while we only try to make a living. Consequently, ordinary people have more power than they think to change the world.

By John Holloway,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Crack Capitalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we rebel against the capitalist system? John Holloway argues that by creating, cracks, fractures and fissures that forge spaces of rebellion and disrupt the current economic order.

John Holloway, author of the groundbreaking Change the World Without Taking Power, sparked a world-wide debate among activists and scholars about the most effective methods of fighting capitalism from within. From campaigns against water privatisation, to simply not going to work and reading a book instead, Holloway demands we must resist the logic of capitalism in our everyday lives. Drawing on Marx's idea of 'abstract labour', Holloway develops 33 theses that…


Book cover of Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy: On Subversion and Negative Reason

Vasilis Grollios Why did I love this book?

For this book, the critique of political economy is a thoroughly subversive business. It rejects the appearance of economic reality as a natural thing, argues that the economy has no independent existence. Subversion focuses on human conditions. Its critical subject is society unaware of itself. This book develops Marx's critique of political economy as a negative theory of society. It does not conform to the patterns of the world and demands that society rids itself of all the muck of ages and founds itself anew.

By Werner Bonefeld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Subversive thought is none other than the cunning of reason when confronted with a social reality in which the poor and miserable are required to sustain the illusion of fictitious wealth. Yet, this subsidy is absolutely necessary in existing society, to prevent its implosion. The critique of political economy is a thoroughly subversive business. It rejects the appearance of economic reality as a natural thing, argues that economy has not independent existence, expounds economy as political economy, and rejects as conformist rebellion those anti-capitalist perspectives that derive their rationality from the existing conceptuality of society. Subversion focuses on human conditions.…


Book cover of Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today

Vasilis Grollios Why did I love this book?

The Zapatista movement and the series of demonstrations since Seattle are fighting for radical social change in terms that have nothing to do with the taking of state power. This is in clear opposition to the traditional Marxist theory of revolution which centres on taking state power. In this book, John Holloway asks how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against power, not for power. After a century of failed attempts by revolutionary and reformist movements to bring about radical social change, the concept of revolution itself is in crisis. John Holloway opens up the theoretical debate, reposing some of the basic concepts of Marxism and grounded in a rethinking of Marx's concept of 'fetishisation'—how doing is transformed into being. 

By John Holloway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Change the World Without Taking Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a profound search for a theory of social change. Through clearing away the cobwebs of revolutionary socialism, it renews the fight for the ending of capitalism and the construction of a new, fairer world.

After a century of failed attempts by radical projects, the concept of revolution itself is in crisis. By asking the deepest questions about the nature of humanity, work, capitalism, organisation and resistance, John Holloway looks sharply at modern protest movements and provides tools for creating new strategies.

First published in 2002, this book marked a shift in the understanding of Autonomism, Anarchism and…


Book cover of Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits

Vasilis Grollios Why did I love this book?

Nietzsche demystifies the idea that the state provides stability and certainty in our lives and, as a result, the concept that is necessary. He has a dialectic between phenomenon and essence, for which the state is the social form that corresponds to the alienation we experience in our everyday life in capitalism. Thus, as a corresponding social form to the mass culture, it reiterates our unfreedom. Nietzsche holds a concept of fetishization that brings him much closer to critical Marxism than previously thought. 

By Friedrich Nietzsche,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Human, All Too Human as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This remarkable collection of almost 1,400 aphorisms was originally published in three instalments. The first (now Volume I) appeared in 1878, just before Nietzsche abandoned academic life, with a first supplement entitled The Assorted Opinions and Maxims following in 1879, and a second entitled The Wanderer and his Shadow a year later. In 1886 Nietzsche republished them together in a two-volume edition, with new prefaces to each volume. Both volumes are presented here in R. J. Hollingdale's distinguished translation (originally published in the series Cambridge Texts in German Philosophy) with a new introduction by Richard Schacht. In this wide-ranging work…


Book cover of Society of the Spectacle

Vasilis Grollios Why did I love this book?

According to the Debord, concepts are fluid and open since they express alienation, class struggle, and the unavoidable contradictions inherent in capitalism. Therefore, his theory has a strong anarchic character and does not ignore the economy or the social conflicts confronted in everyday life, as some readers of his theory may believe. The spectacle, as used by the Situationists and Debord, does not take place on a different plane to that of commodity fetishism or alienation in everyday living, as sadly some scholars hold. His theory casts light on the idea of the inverted topsy-turvy world and the negativity that defetishises the apparent, closed, and reified forms, such as the bourgeois form of democracy and the state, that constitute a closed and fetishized social totality.

By Guy Debord,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Society of the Spectacle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Das Kapital of the 20th century. An essential text, and the main theoretical work of the situationists. Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960's up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism, and everyday life in the late 20th century. This is the original translation by Fredy Perlman, kept in print continuously for the last 30 years, keeping the flame alive when no-one else cared.


You might also like...

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

Book cover of Magical Disinformation

Lachlan Page Author Of Magical Disinformation

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Latin America for six years, working as a red cross volunteer, a volcano hiking guide, a teacher, and an extra in a Russian TV series (in Panama). Having travelled throughout the region and returning regularly, I’m endlessly fascinated by the culture, history, politics, languages, and geography. Parallel to this, I enjoy reading and writing about the world of international espionage. Combining the two, and based on my own experience, I wrote my novel, Magical Disinformation, a spy novel set in Colombia. While there is not a huge depth of spy novels set in Latin America, I’ve chosen five of my favourites spy books set in the region.

Lachlan's book list on spy books set in Latin America

What is my book about?

This book is a spy novel with a satirical edge which will take you on a heart-pumping journey through the streets, mountains, jungles, and beaches of Colombia. Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

What is this book about?

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth... Discover Lachlan Page’s Magical Disinformation: a spy novel with a satirical edge set amongst the Colombian peace process. Described by one reviewer as “Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.”

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco.

As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s Government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation.

In a desperate attempt…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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