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This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom

To be released by Pantheon Books, March 5, 2019

 

A profound, original, and accessible book that offers a new secular vision of how we can lead our lives. Ranging from fundamental existential questions to the most pressing social issues of our time, This Life shows why our commitment to freedom and democracy should lead us beyond both religion and capitalism.

 

In this groundbreaking book, the philosopher Martin Hägglund challenges our received notions of faith and freedom. The faith we need to cultivate, he argues, is not a religious faith in eternity but a secular faith devoted to our finite life together. He shows in turn that all spiritual questions of freedom are inseparable from economic and material conditions. What ultimately matters is how we treat each other in this life and what we do with our time together.

 

Hägglund develops new existential and political principles, while transforming our understanding of spiritual life. His critique of religion takes us to the heart of what it means to mourn our loved ones, be committed, and care about a sustainable world. His critique of capitalism demonstrates that we fail to sustain our democratic values because our lives depend on wage labor. In clear and path-breaking terms, Hägglund explains why capitalism is inimical to our freedom and why we should instead pursue a novel form of democratic socialism.

 

In pursuing his vision of an emancipated secular life, Hägglund engages with great philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel and Marx; literary writers from Dante to Proust and Knausgaard; political economists from Mill to Keynes and Hayek; religious thinkers from Augustine to Kierkegaard and Martin Luther King, Jr. This Life gives us new access to our past—for the sake of a different future.

 

 

Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov (Harvard University Press, 2012)

Dying for Time engages classical questions concerning the aim of desire, the nature of temporal experience, and why we are moved by a work of art. Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Vladimir Nabokov transformed the art of the novel to convey the experience of time. Nevertheless, their works have persistently been read in accordance with a desire to transcend time—whether through an epiphany of memory, an immanent moment of being, or a transcendent afterlife. Dying for Time takes on these themes but gives them another reading entirely. The fear of time and death (chronophobia) does not stem from the desire for a timeles state of being. On the contrary, it is generated by the desire for temporal life to continue (chronophilia). From this vantage point, Hägglund offers in-depth analyses of Proust's Recherche, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, and Nabokov’s Ada

 

Through his readings of literary works, Hägglund also sheds new light on topics of broad concern in the humanities, including time consciousness and memory, trauma and survival, the technology of writing and the expressive power of art. Finally, Hägglund develops an original theory of the relation between time and desire through an engagement with Freud and Lacan, addressing mourning and melancholia, pleasure and pain, attachment and loss. Dying for Time thereby opens a new way of reading the dramas of desire as they are staged in philosophy and literature.

 

Table of Contents
Introduction: Of Chronolibido
1. Memory: Proust
2. Trauma: Woolf
3. Writing: Nabokov
4. Reading: Freud, Lacan, Derrida
Conclusion: Binding Desire

 

Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (Stanford University Press, 2008)

Radical Atheism offers a novel account of Jacques Derrida’s thinking of time and space, life and death, good and evil, self and other. Against the prevalent notion that there was an ethical or religious “turn” in Derrida’s thinking, Hägglund argues that a radical atheism informs his work from beginning to end. Atheism has traditionally limited itself to denying the existence of God and immortality, without questioning the desire for God and immortality. In contrast, radical atheism seeks to demonstrate that the desire for immortality (a state of timeless fullness where nothing can be lost) dissimulates a desire for survival (the persistence of temporal life that is subject to loss). Developing a deconstructive account of time, Hägglund shows how Derrida rethinks the constitution of identity, the violence of ethics, the desire of religion, and political emancipation in accordance with the condition of temporal finitude. Radical Atheism not only explicates Derrida’s position but also develops his arguments, fortifies his logic, and pursues its implications. The result is a deconstruction of the perennial philosophical themes of time and desire as well as pressing contemporary issues of sovereignty and democracy.

 

Table of Contents
Introduction
1. Autoimmunity of Time: Derrida and Kant
2. Arche-Writing: Derrida and Husserl
3. Arche-Violence: Derrida and Levinas
4. Autoimmunity of Life: Derrida's Radical Atheism
5. Autoimmunity of Democracy: Derrida and Laclau