ASCP Members' Books 2020

The ASCP community is prolific in producing work that encompasses a variety of areas of scholarship in Continental Philosophy. The following book descriptions provide some recent examples of this work published in 2020.

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Ian Andrews, Chance, Phenomenology and Aesthetics: Heidegger, Derrida and Contingency in Twentieth-Century Art (Bloomsbury: 2020)

In drawing upon the work of Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and aligning it with a new trend in interdisciplinary phenomenology, Ian Andrews provides a unique look at the role of chance in art and its philosophical implications. His account of how the composer John Cage and other avant-garde creatives such as Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Sol LeWitt and Ed Ruscha used chance in their work to question the structures of experience and prompt a new engagement with these phenomena makes a truly important contribution to Continental philosophy.

Chance, Phenomenology and Aesthetics will appeal to scholars and advanced students in the disciplines of phenomenology, deconstruction and hermeneutics, as well as being compelling reading for anyone interested in pursuing sound studies, art theory and art history through an interdisciplinary post-phenomenological lens.

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Parisa Shams, Judith Butler and Subjectivity: The Possibilities and Limits of the Human (Palgrave Macmillan: 2020)

This book contextualises philosophy by bringing Judith Butler’s critique of identity into dialogue with an analysis of the transgressive self in dramatic literature. The author draws on Butler’s reflections on human agency and subjectivity to offer a fresh perspective for understanding the political and ethical stakes of identity as formed within a complex web of relations with human and non-human others. The book first positions a detailed analysis of Butler’s theory of subject formation within a broader framework of feminist philosophy and then incorporates examples and case studies from dramatic literature to argue that the subject is formed in relation to external forces, yet within its formation lies a space for transgressing the same environments and relations that condition the subject’s existence. By virtue of a fundamental dependency on conditions and relations that bring human beings into existence, they emerge as political and ethical agents capable of resisting the formative forces of power and responding – ethically – to the call of others.



Neil Vallelly, Futilitarianism: Neoliberalism and the Production of Uselessness (MIT: 2020)

If maximizing utility leads to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, as utilitarianism has always proposed, then why is it that as many of us currently maximize our utility—by working endlessly, undertaking further education and training, relentlessly marketing and selling ourselves—we are met with the steady worsening of collective social and economic conditions? In Futilitarianism, social and political theorist Neil Vallelly eloquently tells the story of how neoliberalism transformed the relationship between utility maximization and the common good.

Drawing on a vast array of contemporary examples, from self-help literature and marketing jargon to political speeches and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vallelly coins several terms—including “the futilitarian condition,” “homo futilitus,” and “semio-futility”—to demonstrate that in the neoliberal decades, the practice of utility maximization traps us in useless and repetitive behaviors that foreclose the possibility of collective happiness.

This urgent and provocative book chimes with the mood of the time by at once mapping the historical relationship between utilitarianism and capitalism, developing an original framework for understanding neoliberalism, and recounting the lived experience of uselessness in the early twenty-first century. At a time of epoch-defining disasters, from climate emergencies to deadly pandemics, countering the futility of neoliberal existence is essential to building an egalitarian, sustainable, and hopeful future.


Magdalena Zolkos, Restitution and the Politics of Repair. Tropes, Imaginaries, Theory (EUP: 2020)

This book analyses the social imaginary of undoing, repair and return underpinning the international norm of restitution-making. 

Challenging assumptions about restitution in the Western legal and political tradition, where it has become nearly synonymous with reacquisition of property and where legal studies focus on material objects and claims to their ownership, this book argues that the development of restitutive norms has been auxiliary to the emergence of modern state sovereignty, and excavates the restitutive tradition’s mythical-religious substrate.

Bringing together texts from within and outwith the Western canon of political theory and philosophy, including the writings of Grotius, Durkheim, Freud, and Klein, as well as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the book undertakes a dual task: reading literary texts as a political theorising of restitution, and reading political or sociological texts as literary narratives with distinctive ‘restitutive tropes’ of repair, undoing and return.