A Politics of Emancipation

The Miguel Abensour Reader

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Table of contents

Note on Translations

Introduction: The Legacy of Miguel Abensour
Martin Breaugh and Paul Mazzocchi

Part I: The Return of Political Things

1. Manifesto for the "Critique de la Politique" Book Series, Éditions Payot (1974)

2. New Manifesto for the "Critique de la Politique" Book Series, Éditions Klincksieck (2016)

3. Modern Political Philosophy and Emancipation (1983; republished 2009)

4. What Kind of Return? (1994; republished 2009)

Part II: The Critique of Totalitarianism

5. On a Misinterpretation of Totalitarianism and Its Effects (1996; republished 2009)

6. On Compactness: Architecture and Totalitarian Regimes (1996; republished 1997)

Part III: Critical-Utopian Political Philosophy

7. Hannah Arendt against Political Philosophy? (2001; republished 2009)

8. For a Critical Political Philosophy? (2002; republished 2009)

Part IV: Utopia, Democracy, and Emancipation

9. E. P. Thompson's Passion (1988; republished 2012)

10. The New Utopian Spirit (1991; republished 2013)

11. The Utopian Conversion: Utopia and Awakening (2013)

12. Letter from a "Revoltist" to Marcel Gauchet, Convert to "Normal Politics" (2004; republished 2008)


A systematic overview of French Philosopher Miguel Abensour’s groundbreaking work and the two inseparable projects that govern it: a radical critique of all forms of domination and a search for a politics of emancipation.


Despite his influence in utopian studies and democratic theory, French philosopher Miguel Abensour (1939–2017) has yet to be fully discovered in the English-speaking world as only a fraction of his work has been translated. A Politics of Emancipation fills this void by translating a selection of his seminal essays into English for the first time. The Reader provides a systematic overview of Abensour's work and the two inseparable projects that govern his approach to political theory: on the one hand, a radical critique of all forms of domination and, on the other, a desire to conceptualize the political as the realm of freedom and emancipation. For Abensour, both projects are to be undertaken together in order to avoid the double trap of an evacuation of conflict from politics and the reduction of politics to a form of domination. In other words, a politics of emancipation requires a "ruthless" critique of domination coupled with an analysis of politics as the domain within which human beings experience freedom and equality.

Martin Breaugh is Professor of Political Theory at York University. He is the author of The Plebeian Experience: A Discontinuous History of Political Freedom. Paul Mazzocchi is Adjunct Professor at York University. Together they are coeditors (with Christopher Holman, Rachel Magnusson, and Devin Penner) of Thinking Radical Democracy: The Return to Politics in Post-War France.


"This is an excellent collection of important and representative texts by a highly original thinker, whose message is deeply relevant to current concerns. It is enhanced by judicious editorial work and above all by a superb editors' introduction that will undoubtedly be a crucial touchstone for English readers seeking a point of entry into Abensour’s work." — Warren Breckman, coeditor of the two-volume The Cambridge History of Modern European Thought