'Theory' - a magical glow has emanated from this word since the sixties. Theory was more than just a succession of ideas: it was an article of faith, a claim to truth, a lifestyle. It spread among its adherents in cheap paperbacks and triggered heated debates in seminar rooms and cafes. The Frankfurt School, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Adorno, Derrida, Foucault: these and others were the exotic schools and thinkers whose ideas were being devoured by young minds. But where did the fascination for dangerous thoughts come from?
In his magnificently written book, Philipp Felsch follows the hopes and dreams of a generation that entered the jungle of difficult texts. His setting is West Germany in the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s: in a world frozen in the Cold War, movement only came from big ideas. It was the time of apocalyptic master thinkers, upsetting reading experiences and glamorous incomprehensibility. As the German publisher Suhrkamp published Adorno's Minima Moralia and other High Theory works of the Frankfurt School, a small publisher in West Berlin, Merve Verlag, provided readers with a steady stream of the subversive new theory coming out of France.
By following the adventures of the publishers who provided the books and the reading communities that consumed and debated them, Philipp Felsch tells the remarkable story of an intellectual revolt when the German Left fell in love with Theory.
Country of Publication:
Publication Date: 01 October 2021
Professional and scholarly
Introduction: What Was Theory? 1965: The Hour of Theory 1. Federal Republic of Adorno Reflections from Damaged Life Culture After Working Hours In the Literary Supermarket Adorno Answers Are Your Endeavours Aimed at Changing the World? 2. In the Suhrkamp Culture New Leftists He Didn't Write School of Hard Books Paperback Theory Birth of a Genre 1970: Endless Discussions 3. Ill-made Books Theoretical Practice Smash Bourgeois Copyright! Mondays, Fridays and Sundays The Disorder of Discourse 4. Wolfsburg Empire Proletarian Public Sphere In the Land of Class Struggle The Lightness of Being Communist A Fateful Stroke of Luck 1977: Reading French in the German Autumn 5. (Possible) Reasons for the Happiness of Thought All Kinds of Escapes Intensity Is Not a Feeling The Laugh of Merve Vague Thinkers 6. The Reader as Partisan The Death of the Author The Pleasure of the Text Children's Books A Different Mode of Production Lying on Water 7. Foucault and the Terrorists A Schweppes in Paris Political Tourists Vermin On Tunix Beach 1984: The End of History 8. Critique of Pure Text The Master Thinkers Adults Only Sola Scriptura Aesthetics of Counter-Enlightenment A Little Materialism 9. Into the White Cube The Mountain of Truth Be Smart - Take Part German Issues The Island of Posthistoire The Trouble with Duchamp 10. Prussianism and Spontaneism War in the Time of Total Peace Machiavelli in Westphalia The Wild Academy In Search of the Punctum Jacob Taubes's Best Enemy 11. Disco Dispositive Tyrannies of Intimacy Pub Blather The Art of Having a Beer In the Jungle Above the Clouds Epilogue: After Theory? Bibliography Appendix: Translations of Illustrations Notes Index
Philipp Felsch is Professor of Cultural History at Humboldt University, Berlin.
Reviews for The Summer of Theory - History of a Rebellion, 1960-1990
Impassioned and full of detail, this is a fascinating snapshot of the period. Publisher's Weekly Felsch's stance (well captured by his English translator, Tony Crawford) is that of a wry but sympathetic participant-observer. You end the book uncertain as to whether you should marvel at the grandiose pointlessness of it all, or celebrate a movement that put pure thought, accessed by careful reading and refined through intense discussions with comrades, at the very centre of life. Sheila Fitzpatrick, Australian Book Review