Political Essays


a John Hope Franklin Center Book

More about this series

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: Published: February 2014

Author: Étienne Balibar

Translator: James Ingram

Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy

First published in French in 2010, Equaliberty brings together essays by Étienne Balibar, one of the preeminent political theorists of our time. The book is organized around equaliberty, a term coined by Balibar to connote the tension between the two ideals of modern democracy: equality (social rights and political representation) and liberty (the freedom citizens have to contest the social contract). He finds the tension between these different kinds of rights to be ingrained in the constitution of the modern nation-state and the contemporary welfare state. At the same time, he seeks to keep rights discourse open, eschewing natural entitlements in favor of a deterritorialized citizenship that could be expanded and invented anew in the age of globalization. Deeply engaged with other thinkers, including Arendt, Rancière, and Laclau, he posits a theory of the polity based on social relations. In Equaliberty Balibar brings both the continental and analytic philosophical traditions to bear on the conflicted relations between humanity and citizenship.


". . . this is a timely publication. It identifies and expands upon a crucial tension within liberal citizenship that runs through the course of history, but which seems particularly prescient today, especially within Europe. . . .  Rare for a book with such a philosophical argument, the connection to these issues is clear and prescient. Indeed, this continual problematization of the conditions for citizenship might be considered to be an exemplary manifestation of what it means to be a critical citizen." — Jonathan Joseph, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“This is a wonderful speculative text in the best tradition of French political philosophy. But it is not only this: Balibar is also in dialogue with problems of leftist American social and political philosophy and especially its focus on the violences of neoliberalism. Finally, in a style that, by design, knows no country, Balibar’s Equaliberty works to update the enduring insights of Marx and Marxism in a deep reflection for our times." — Amy E. Wendling, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

“Balibar may accept the frameworks and language of really existing capitalism, but he does so in order to pull at their threads and to refocus critique upon tired concepts. But a revolutionary fervour (although this too does not escape theorizing) runs throughout these essays. . . . It is Balibar’s persuasive analysis of who counts as a citizen and who does not, and who is granted rights and who must take them another way, that makes these essays.”  — Nina Power, Radical Philosophy

“A well-written, if still extremely dense, collection of theoretical investigations that lead towards more than just mere armchair philosophising; rather, to a motivated call for sophisticated and impassioned activism through normative research agendas for graduate students and academic professionals, specifically focusing on the future of cosmopolitics and trans-/de-nationalised notions of citizenship.” — Bryant William Sculos, Political Studies Review

"This outstanding book is Étienne Balibar at his most powerfully synthetic and politically incisive. In Equaliberty, Balibar works his way through the house of left-wing political thought, performing a sort of philosophical spring cleaning. He disarticulates complex concepts only to reassemble them in better, more usable combinations. It is a call to action."
  — Bruce Robbins, author of Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence

"Today many of the key concepts of our political vocabulary—including equality, freedom, democracy, and emancipation—seem so corrupted and vacuous that they are almost unusable. Étienne Balibar makes an important contribution by engaging critically and restoring these and other crucial political concepts. Equaliberty is a major book that displays Balibar's exemplary combination of erudition and clear, accessible argument." — Michael Hardt, coauthor of the books Declaration, Commonwealth, Multitude, and Empire


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Étienne Balibar was a student of Louis Althusser, with whom he cowrote Reading Capital. The author of many books on moral and political philosophy, he is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Paris–X Nanterrre and Anniversary Chair in the Humanities at Kingston University in London. He has served as Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, and, more recently, as Visiting Professor at Columbia University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword vii

Introduction. The Antimony of Citizenship 1

Part One. The Statement and Institution of Rights 33

1. The Proposition of Equaliberty 35

2. The Reversal of Possessive Individualism 67

3. New Reflections on Equaliberty: Two Lessons 99

Part Two. Sovereignty, Emancipation, Community (Some Critiques) 133

4. What Is Political Philosophy? Notes For a Topography 135

5. Communism and Citizenship: On Nicos Poulantzas 145

6. Hannah Arendt, the Right to Have Rights, and Civil Disobedience 165

7. Populism and Politics: The Return of the Contract 187

Part Three. For a Democracy Without Exclusion 197

8. What Are the Excluded Excluded From? 199

9. Dissonances within Laïcité: The New "Headscarf Affair" 209

10. Secularism and Universality: The Liberal Paradox 223

11. Uprisings in the Banlieues 231

12. Toward Co-Citizenship 259

Conclusion. Resistance, Insurrection, Insubordination 277

Notes 295

Works Cited 343

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5564-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5550-2
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