100 books like The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity

By Jurgen Habermas, Frederick G. Lawrence (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity fans have personally recommended if you like The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich

Richard Wolin Author Of Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology

From my list on intellectuals and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graduate student during the late 1970s, my mentor, Martin Jay, generously introduced me to two members of the Frankfurt School: Herbert Marcuse and Leo Lowenthal. These memorable personal encounters inspired me to write a dissertation on Walter Benjamin, who was closely allied with the Frankfurt School. The completed dissertation, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption, became the first book on Benjamin in English and is still in print. The Frankfurt School thinkers published a series of pioneering socio-psychological treatises on political authoritarianism: The Authoritarian Personality, Prophets of Deceit, and One-Dimensional Man. These studies continue to provide an indispensable conceptual framework for understanding the contemporary reemergence of fascist political forms.

Richard's book list on intellectuals and fascism

Richard Wolin Why did Richard love this book?

When I first read Herf’s book during the 1990s, it totally transformed my understanding of National Socialism’s attitude toward technology and modernity.

Prior to its publication, Nazism was commonly perceived as anti-modern and anti-technological: as aspiring toward a vaguely defined pre-modern, martial-communitarian dystopia. Conversely, Herf shows that Nazism concertedly sought to integrate technological modernity within the movement’s militaristic, pan-German ideological framework. Here, the effusive expression employed by Goebbels to describe Nazism’s hypertrophic pro-technological enthusiasms, “steely romanticism,” says it all!

In this respect, Ernst Jünger’s allegorical glorification of totalitarian militarism in The Worker (Der Arbeiter) was paradigmatic. 

By Jeffrey Herf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a unique application of critical theory to the study of the role of ideology in politics, Jeffrey Herf explores the paradox inherent in the German fascists' rejection of the rationalism of the Enlightenment while fully embracing modern technology. He documents evidence of a cultural tradition he calls 'reactionary modernism' found in the writings of German engineers and of the major intellectuals of the. Weimar right: Ernst Juenger, Oswald Spengler, Werner Sombart, Hans Freyer, Carl Schmitt, and Martin Heidegger. The book shows how German nationalism and later National Socialism created what Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, called the 'steel-like romanticism…


Book cover of Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France

Richard Wolin Author Of Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology

From my list on intellectuals and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graduate student during the late 1970s, my mentor, Martin Jay, generously introduced me to two members of the Frankfurt School: Herbert Marcuse and Leo Lowenthal. These memorable personal encounters inspired me to write a dissertation on Walter Benjamin, who was closely allied with the Frankfurt School. The completed dissertation, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption, became the first book on Benjamin in English and is still in print. The Frankfurt School thinkers published a series of pioneering socio-psychological treatises on political authoritarianism: The Authoritarian Personality, Prophets of Deceit, and One-Dimensional Man. These studies continue to provide an indispensable conceptual framework for understanding the contemporary reemergence of fascist political forms.

Richard's book list on intellectuals and fascism

Richard Wolin Why did Richard love this book?

Zeev Sternhell, who died in 2020, was a scholar of matchless integrity and a personal friend.

His groundbreaking study, Neither Right Nor Left, transformed our understanding of the history of fascism. It also upended the received wisdom that indigenous fascism had been nonexistent in France: the myth that fascist ideology had been brutally imposed on the French in 1940 by the Nazi conquerors. Sternhell’s book intervened in timely fashion to remind us that France was the birthplace not only of republican humanism, but also of the European counterrevolution, as represented by intellectuals such as Joseph de Maistre, Edouard Drumont, and Maurice Barrès.

He demonstrates that, at the time of the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1905), counterrevolutionary ideology metastasized into a series of diabolically antisemitic pro-fascist movements. Perhaps the best-known exemplar was the Integral Nationalism of Charles Maurras and the Action Française.

Sternhell’s stunning conclusion, which continues to be hotly debated today, is…

By Zeev Sternhell, David Maisel (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Neither Right nor Left as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Few books on European history in recent memory have caused such controversy and commotion," wrote Robert Wohl in 1991 in a major review of Neither Right nor Left. Listed by Le Monde as one of the forty most important books published in France during the 1980s, this explosive work asserts that fascism was an important part of the mainstream of European history, not just a temporary development in Germany and Italy but a significant aspect of French culture as well. Neither right nor left, fascism united antibourgeois, antiliberal nationalism, and revolutionary syndicalist thought, each of which joined in reflecting the…


Book cover of The Jargon of Authenticity

Richard Wolin Author Of Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology

From my list on intellectuals and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graduate student during the late 1970s, my mentor, Martin Jay, generously introduced me to two members of the Frankfurt School: Herbert Marcuse and Leo Lowenthal. These memorable personal encounters inspired me to write a dissertation on Walter Benjamin, who was closely allied with the Frankfurt School. The completed dissertation, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption, became the first book on Benjamin in English and is still in print. The Frankfurt School thinkers published a series of pioneering socio-psychological treatises on political authoritarianism: The Authoritarian Personality, Prophets of Deceit, and One-Dimensional Man. These studies continue to provide an indispensable conceptual framework for understanding the contemporary reemergence of fascist political forms.

Richard's book list on intellectuals and fascism

Richard Wolin Why did Richard love this book?

To this day, Adorno’s pathbreaking Heidegger-critique, The Jargon of Authenticity, remains one of the most insightful and lucid exposés of fascist ideology ever written.

To begin with, Adorno wrote as an insider: as a scholar who had witnessed the implantation and criminality of German fascism firsthand. In Jargon, he used the Heideggerian's notion of “authenticity” as the point of departure for a brilliant semantic and rhetorical unmasking of the way that fascist linguistic habitudes suffuse the discourse of everyday life. After reading Adorno’s critique, it is impossible read Heidegger naïvely: that is, without careful attention to the ideological distortions of his Denkhabitus.

As Adorno deftly shows, Heidegger’s idiolect of “authentic” being-in-the-world masks a deep-seated longing for German geopolitical supremacy.

By Theodor Adorno,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Jargon of Authenticity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Theodor Adorno was no stranger to controversy. In The Jargon of Authenticity he gives full expression to his hostility to the language employed by certain existentialist thinkers such as Martin Heidegger. With his customary alertness to the uses and abuses of language, he calls into question the jargon, or 'aura', as his colleague Walter Benjamin described it, which clouded existentialists' thought. He argued that its use undermined the very message for meaning and liberation that it sought to make authentic. Moreover, such language - claiming to address the issue of freedom - signally failed to reveal the lack of freedom…


Book cover of The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader

Richard Wolin Author Of Heidegger in Ruins: Between Philosophy and Ideology

From my list on intellectuals and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a graduate student during the late 1970s, my mentor, Martin Jay, generously introduced me to two members of the Frankfurt School: Herbert Marcuse and Leo Lowenthal. These memorable personal encounters inspired me to write a dissertation on Walter Benjamin, who was closely allied with the Frankfurt School. The completed dissertation, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption, became the first book on Benjamin in English and is still in print. The Frankfurt School thinkers published a series of pioneering socio-psychological treatises on political authoritarianism: The Authoritarian Personality, Prophets of Deceit, and One-Dimensional Man. These studies continue to provide an indispensable conceptual framework for understanding the contemporary reemergence of fascist political forms.

Richard's book list on intellectuals and fascism

Richard Wolin Why did Richard love this book?

The ever-contentious debate about Heidegger’s filiations with Nazism was re-enlivened with the appearance of the so-called “Black Notebooks” in 2014.

However, unless one closely heeds the existential verbiage of Heidegger’s commitment to Nazism, one risks tilting at windmills; hence, succumbing to a plethora of misconceptions and misunderstandings.

This invaluable collection of original texts – which, in addition to Heidegger political speeches of 1933-34, contains the indispensable Der Spiegel interview, “Only a God Can Save Us!” – has taken on an entirely new meaning and importance in light of the “Black Notebooks’” publication. 

By Richard Wolin (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heidegger Controversy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This anthology is a significant contribution to the debate over the relevance of Martin Heidegger's Nazi ties to the interpretation and evaluation of his philosophical work. Included are a selection of basic documents by Heidegger, essays and letters by Heidegger's colleagues that offer contemporary context and testimony, and interpretive evaluations by Heidegger's heirs and critics in France and Germany.In his new introduction, "Note on a Missing Text," Richard Wolin uses the absence from this edition of an interview with Jacques Derrida as a springboard for examining questions about the nature of authorship and personal responsibility that are at the heart…


Book cover of Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought

Peter J. Verovšek Author Of Memory and the Future of Europe: Rupture and Integration in the Wake of Total War

From my list on memory and postwar Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an international political and critical theorist interested in the way that key events and experiences from the past continue to affect politics in the present. I was born in the US but moved back to Slovenia when I was in high school, before returning to the states to attend Dartmouth College as an undergraduate, and Yale University for my doctoral studies in political science. This international, bi-continental background – as well as my own family’s history of migration following World War II – has fueled my interest in twentieth-century European history, collective memory and European integration. 

Peter's book list on memory and postwar Europe

Peter J. Verovšek Why did Peter love this book?

Hannah Arendt is the most important political thinker of the post-totalitarian moment. While her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism is more well-known and became a bestseller again after the election of President Donald Trump, in this collection of essays she lays out her ideas about the way that the past helps us to locate ourselves in the present by imagining and reimagining our futures. This book was hugely influential for me during my graduate studies at Yale. Unlike so many political theorists, Arendt is also a wonderfully accessible and engaging writer.

By Hannah Arendt, Jerome Kohn,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Between Past and Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Origins of Totalitarianism, “a book to think with through the political impasses and cultural confusions of our day” (Harper’s Magazine)
 
Hannah Arendt’s insightful observations of the modern world, based on a profound knowledge of the past, constitute an impassioned contribution to political philosophy. In Between Past and Future Arendt describes the perplexing crises modern society faces as a result of the loss of meaning of the traditional key words of politics: justice, reason, responsibility, virtue, and glory. Through a series of eight exercises, she shows how we can redistill the vital…


Book cover of The Climate of History in a Planetary Age

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Author Of Involving Anthroponomy in the Anthropocene: On Decoloniality

From my list on how we got to climate change and mass extinction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the grandson of a coal miner from a multi-generational, Ohio family. What matters most to me is having some integrity and being morally okay with folks. I never thought of myself as an environmentalist, just as someone trying to figure out what we should be learning to be decent people in this sometimes messed-up world. From there, I was taken into our environmental situation, its planetary injustice, and then onto studying the history of colonialism. This adventure cracked open my midwestern common sense and made me rethink things. Happily, it has only reinforced my commitment to, and faith in, moral relations, giving our word, being accountable, and caring.

Jeremy's book list on how we got to climate change and mass extinction

Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Why did Jeremy love this book?

I love how Dipesh’s book shows a historian at the height of his powers explaining how history has become geological. Decades ago, Chakrabarty began as someone arguing for a history that made Europe “provincial”. Now he argues that all human history is relative to planetary time. His writing is infused with humanism and is up to date on Earth System Science.

By Dipesh Chakrabarty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Climate of History in a Planetary Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the past decade, historian Dipesh Chakrabarty has been one of the most influential scholars addressing the meaning of climate change. Climate change, he argues, upends long-standing ideas of history, modernity, and globalization. The burden of The Climate of History in a Planetary Age is to grapple with what this means and to confront humanities scholars with ideas they have been reluctant to reconsider-from the changed nature of human agency to a new acceptance of universals.

Chakrabarty argues that we must see ourselves from two perspectives at once: the planetary and the global. This distinction is central to Chakrabarty's work-the…


Book cover of Liquid Modernity

Richard R. Weiner Author Of Sustainable Community Movement Organizations: Solidarity Economies and Rhizomatic Practices

From my list on understanding regimes of law and political economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Rich Weiner co-edited this featured volume with Francesca Forno. He is a political sociologist with a strong foundation in the history of political and social thought. He has served for twenty-two years as dean of the faculty of arts and sciences. His focus has been on non-statist political organizations and social movements with a perspective of middle-range theorizing enriched by three generations of Frankfurt School critical theory of society.

Richard's book list on understanding regimes of law and political economy

Richard R. Weiner Why did Richard love this book?

Describes in depth a brave new world of uncertain constant acceleration and continued change in institutions and social relations.

I like the way Bauman depicts a condensing resonance, a new way of “being in the world.” Specifically, this is an increasing fluidity and fragmentation of social solidarities, where nothing is secure and where everything can be made redundant.

A world that Ulrich Beck, even before the new century, referred to as “the Second Modernity.”

By Zygmunt Bauman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Liquid Modernity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this new book, Bauman examines how we have moved away from a a heavya and a solida , hardware--focused modernity to a a lighta and a liquida , software--based modernity. This passage, he argues, has brought profound change to all aspects of the human condition. The new remoteness and un--reachability of global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under--defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life--politics and human togetherness, call for the rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history. This book is dedicated to this task. Bauman…


Book cover of Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

Viren Murthy Author Of The Politics of Time in China and Japan: Back to the Future

From my list on profoundly understanding modern East Asian thought.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in East Asia through studying Kung Fu when I was in high school. Through this I began reading translation of Chinese and Japanese philosophical texts. I initially majored in philosophy but eventually also became interested in situating ideas in broader historical contexts. For this reason, I shifted to intellectual history. However, my passion for philosophy and arguments for the validity of ideas remains. For this reason, my work combines both intellectual history and the history of philosophy. 

Viren's book list on profoundly understanding modern East Asian thought

Viren Murthy Why did Viren love this book?

This book has helped me think through the relationship between capitalism, modernity, and romantic anti-capitalist movements both in East Asia and beyond. The book deals with intellectual currents in interwar Japan, (the 1920s to 1945) and shows how conservative philosophers developed a theory to “overcome modernity.” These authors, many from the so-called Kyoto School, targeted the rampant consumer culture, the overturning of ethical relations, and other structural changes. However, Harootunian contends that such critiques did not grasp the fundamental dynamic of capitalism and its relation to such cultural shifts and consequently, such philosophers were “overcome by modernity.”  This means that such critics of modernity were incorporated into the Japanese fascist military complex, which itself claimed to confront capitalist modernity. At a time, when we see right-wing attempts to confront modernity around the world (Trump, Le Pen, Modi) this book remains extremely relevant.  

By Harry D. Harootunian,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Overcome by Modernity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the decades between the two World Wars, Japan made a dramatic entry into the modern age, expanding its capital industries and urbanizing so quickly as to rival many long-standing Western industrial societies. How the Japanese made sense of the sudden transformation and the subsequent rise of mass culture is the focus of Harry Harootunian's fascinating inquiry into the problems of modernity. Here he examines the work of a generation of Japanese intellectuals who, like their European counterparts, saw modernity as a spectacle of ceaseless change that uprooted the dominant historical culture from its fixed values and substituted a culture…


Book cover of The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism, Second Edition

Ronald Beiner Author Of Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

From my list on the intellectuals of the contemporary far right.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist recently retired from the University of Toronto. Around fall 2014, I became aware that a hyper-energetic, well-educated intelligentsia was trying to move heaven and earth to make fascism intellectually respectable again. I resolved to educate myself about these scary characters. I was truly alarmed, and wrote my book to convey my alarm to fellow citizens who hadn’t yet woken up to the threat. Sure enough, within a couple of years, Richard Spencer rose to media stardom; and one of the first things that Trump did after being elected in November of 2016 was to decide that a crypto-fascist Steve Bannon was worthy of a senior position in the White House. 

Ronald's book list on the intellectuals of the contemporary far right

Ronald Beiner Why did Ronald love this book?

A strong case can be made that Richard Wolin got the jump on the rest of us with respect to appreciating the continued relevance of the Nietzsche-inspired intellectual far right. The first edition of Seduction of Unreason was published in 2004, 14 years before I published my book. I’m humbled by the fact that it took me so long to wake up to the fact that what was dangerous about Nietzsche in the 20th century remains dangerous today.

By Richard Wolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Seduction of Unreason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ever since the shocking revelations of the fascist ties of Martin Heidegger and Paul de Man, postmodernism has been haunted by the specter of a compromised past. In this intellectual genealogy of the postmodern spirit, Richard Wolin shows that postmodernism's infatuation with fascism has been extensive and widespread. He questions postmodernism's claim to have inherited the mantle of the Left, suggesting instead that it has long been enamored with the opposite end of the political spectrum. Wolin reveals how, during in the 1930s, C. G. Jung, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot were seduced by fascism's promise of political…


Book cover of The Palliative Society: Pain Today

William Byers Author Of How Mathematicians Think: Using Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox to Create Mathematics

From my list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a mathematician but an unusual one because I am interested in how mathematics is created and how it is learned. From an early age, I loved mathematics because of the beauty of its concepts and the precision of its organization and reasoning. When I started to do research I realized that things were not so simple. To create something new you had to suspend or go beyond your rational mind for a while. I realized that the learning and creating of math have non-logical features. This was my eureka moment. It turned the conventional wisdom (about what math is and how it is done) on its head.

William's book list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics

William Byers Why did William love this book?

It’s a little weird that this book should find a place on my list. It’s a book about how society has become resistant to anything that is difficult and painful and the kinds of people that we have become as a result. But mathematics is difficult! To understand mathematics you have to think hard, sometimes for a long time. Moreover understanding something hard is discontinuous, it requires a leap to a new way of thinking. You have to start with a problem and this problem might be an ambiguity or a contradiction. A is true and B is true but A and B seem to contradict one another. When you sort out this problem you will have learned something.

The moral here is to embrace things that are difficult if you want to learn significant new things. “No pain, no gain.” You don’t have to worry about some super AI…

By Byung-Chul Han, Daniel Steuer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Our societies today are characterized by a universal algophobia: a generalized fear of pain. We strive to avoid all painful conditions - even the pain of love is treated as suspect. This algophobia extends into society: less and less space is given to conflicts and controversies that might prompt painful discussions. It takes hold of politics too: politics becomes a palliative politics that is incapable of implementing radical reforms that might be painful, so all we get is more of the same.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, the palliative society is transformed into a society of survival. The virus enters…


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