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Published 7th February, 2011


















‘The long night of the left is coming to a close’ write Slavoj Zizek and Costas Douzinas in their introduction to The Idea of Communism. The continuing economic crisis which began in 2008, the shift away from a unipolar world defined by American hegemony, and the ecological crisis mean that growing numbers of people are keen to explore an alternative, and to re-discover the idea of communism. This volume, which emerges from the landmark ‘Idea of Communism’ conference in 2009, marks the theoretical beginning of that re-discovery.

Bringing together an all-star cast of radical intellectuals, including Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, Terry Eagleton, Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri, The Idea of Communism explores the historical, philosophical, and political dimensions of the communist ideal, in order to clarify its meaning and relevance today. The volume brings together their discussions from the landmark conference, highlighting both the idea of communism’s continuing significance and the need to reconfigure the concept within a world marked by havoc and crisis.

The contributors argue that multiple crises of the modern world lay bare the limits of mainstream liberal capitalist ideology. Blending astute analysis with compelling theoretical sophistication, The Idea of Communism complements the themes and arguments in other works in Verso’ ‘Pocket Communism’ series, including Badiou’s The Communist Hypothesis, Boris Groys’ The Communist Postscript, and Bruno Bosteel’s forthcoming The Actuality of Communism.

The collection opens with an exhilarating call to arms by France’s greatest living intellectual, the ‘last man standing’ of ’68. The iconic Badiou examines the link between the communist idea and political practice, highlighting what he calls “the anonymous action of millions of militants, rebels, fighters” who, although “unrepresentable as such”, have throughout history represented, “elements of the Idea of Communism at various stages”.

Capturing the sense of intellectual confidence and excitement in renewing the communist ideal, Slavoj Zizek concludes the collection with a characteristically wide-ranging contribution taking in Lenin, Bill Gates and Samuel Beckett. He addresses the question, ‘how to begin from the beginning?’ and posits an answer by way of identifying new revolutionary subjects which correspond to today’s ‘post-industrial’ capitalism.


Praise for SLAVOJ ZIZEK:

“Zizek leaves no social or cultural phenomenon untheorized, and is master of the counterintuitive observation.” New Yorker

“A great provocateur… Zizek writes with passion and an aphoristic energy that is spellbinding.” Los Angeles Times

“The most dangerous philosopher in the West.” New Republic


SLAVOJ ZIZEK is today’s most controversial public intellectual. His work traverses the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory, taking in film, popular culture, and literature to provide acute analyses of the complexities of contemporary ideology as well as a serious and sophisticated philosophy. The author of over 30 books, SLAVOJ ZIZEK’S provocative prose has challenged a generation of activists and intellectuals. His latest book is LIVING IN THE END TIMES. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London, and a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

COSTAS DOUZINAS is a Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London. He is the author of numerous works, including HUMAN RIGHTS AND EMPIRE, THE END OF HUMAN RIGHTS, and LAW AND THE IMAGE: THE AUTHORITY OF ART AND THE AESTHETICS OF LAW.


ISBN -13: 978 1 84467 459 6 / $26.95 / £14.99 / $33.50 / Paperback / 240 pages

ISBN -13: 978 1 84467 455 8 / $95.00 / £55.00 / $118.50 / Hardback / 240 pages

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Polygraph 21

Polygraph 21



Study, Students, Universities

Issue Editors: Luka Aarsenjuk and Michelle Koerner

Introduction: Available as a PDF file, Luka Arsenjuk and Michelle Koerner

Creating Commons: Divided Governance, Participatory Management, and Struggles Against Enclosure in the University, Isaac Kamola and Eli Meyerhoff

Surplus Knowledge; or, Can We Teach Today? Juliet Flower MacCannell

Destinies of the University, Alessandro Russo, Translated by Roberta Orlandini

Risky Business: Why Public Is Losing to Private in American Research, Christopher Newfield

The Financialization of Student Life: Five Propositions on Student Debt, Morgan Adamson

Axiomatic Equality: Jacques Rancière and the Politics of Contemporary Education, Nina Power

A ‘Nueva Politicidad’, A Different Epistemology: An Introduction to ‘Colectivo Situaciones’ and ‘Universidad Trashumante’, Beatriz Llenin-Figueroa

An Elephant at School and Other Texts, Colectivo Situaciones, Translated by Beatriz Llenin-Figueroa

Walking the Other Country: Reflections on ‘Trashumancia’ and Popular Education, Universidad Trashumante, Translated by Beatriz Llenin-Figueroa

On Study: A ‘Polygraph’ Roundtable Discussion with Marc Bousquet, Stefano Harney, and Fred Moten, Available as a PDF file.

Universities in France: Forty Years After May ’68, Renaud Bécot, Translated by Justin Izzo

The Gated Campus, Its Borderless Subjects, and the Neighborhood Nearby, Gökçe Günel, Books in Review

Marc Bousquet, How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation (2008), Available as a PDF file, Review by Gerry Canavan

Antonio Negri, The Porcelain Workshop: For a New Grammar of Politics (2008); Paolo Virno, Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation (2008); Christian Marazzi, Capital and Language: From the New Economy to the War Economy (2008), Review by Alex Greenberg

John R. Betz, After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann (2009), Review by Lucas Perkins

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On the Idea of Communism – Conference Programme


Conference: 13-15 March 2009

“It’s just the simple thing that’s hard, so hard to do” (B. Brecht)

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
13th/14th/15th March 2009
Logan Hall, Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL





Friday March 13

2pm    Costas Douzinas – Welcome

Alain Badiou: Introductory remarks

Michael Hardt: “The Production of the Common”

Bruno Bosteels: “The Leftist Hypothesis: Communism in the Age of Terror”

Peter Hallward: “Communism of the Intellect, Communism of the Will”

Alberto Toscano:    “Communist Power / Communist Knowledge”

Jean-Luc Nancy will be present throughout the conference and will intervene in the discussions.

6 pm    End

Saturday March 14

10am    Alessandro Russo: “Did the Cultural Revolution End Communism?”

Wang Hui:    “Transition towards Socialism”

Toni Negri: “Communisme: reflexions sur le concept et la pratique”

1pm    Lunch

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

3pm    Terry Eagleton: “Communism: Lear or Gonzalo?”

Jacques Ranciere:    “Communists without Communism?”

Alain Badiou: “Communism: a generic name”

6pm    End


Sunday March 15

10am    Slavoj Zizek: “To begin from the beginning over and over again”

Gianni Vattimo:    “Weak Communism?”

Judith Balso: “Communism: a hypothesis for philosophy, an impossible name for politics?”

Concluding Debate

2pm    End


For the previous post on this item, which provides a rationale for the Conference, see:



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