An Introduction to Radical Thinkers Set 7


Fortnightly from the 9th of April, 2013, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, five engaging speakers will be introducing the thought of Ludwig Feuerbach, Simon Critchley, Max Horkheimer, Alain Badiou and Wilhelm Reich. These events will span themes from sexuality to economics, idealism to ethics, covered in the author’s books in the new set of Radical Thinkers.

Set 7, released this month, is the latest addition to the series. These beautifully designed books have been described by Owen Hatherley as “a compendium of left-wing philosophical and political thought.”

The following provides a brief introduction to the thinkers and offers some related preparatory materials.

For the full details of events, including times and booking information, visit this page at the ICA website.

9 April: Nina Power presents The Fiery Brook by Ludwig Feuerbach

Ludwig Feuerbach
(1804–1872) was a German philosopher credited by both Karl Marx and Frederick Engels as a major influence. Feuerbach initially pursued a career in the Church, enrolling to study Theology at the University of Heidelberg. However, despite his father’s opposition, he later joined the University of Berlin to study under Hegel.   

Among Feuerbach’s many works is The Essence of Christianity, an essential reference point for the Young Hegelians who saw the value in Hegel’s methods but who criticized his idealism. Feuerbach’s attempt at a departure from theology towards humanism opened the way for the development of Marx and Engels’ Hegelian materialism.

More information on Feurbach from

23 April: Federico Campagna presents Infinitely Demanding by Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas Professor at the New School for Social Research, and also teaches at Tilburg University and the European Graduate School. For Critchley, profound disappointment is to be found at the heart of every modern liberal democracy. He argues for an ethics of commitment capable of inspiring radical change.

Interview with Simon Critchley in e-flux.

“We are all political realists, indeed most of us are passive nihilists and cynics” - Simon Critchely in a video on critical theory today  and the corresponding article in Adbusters

7 May: Esther Leslie
presents Critique of Instrumental Reason by Max Horkheimer

Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) was a sociologist, philosopher and a founder of the ‘Frankfurt School’ of social research and is particularly famed for his work with Theodor Adorno.

Horkheimer was born in Stuttgart to a wealthy family. Pressured by his father, Horkheimer left school at sixteen to work in the family’s factory however his career was cut short in 1916 when he was drafted up for the First World War. When the war was over he enrolled at Munich University where he studied philosophy and psychology. After graduating he continued to study in Frankfurt where he met his life long collaborator and friend Theodor Adorno.

Horkheimer and Adorno’s work, from within the Frankfurt School, crossed the boundaries of academic disciplines and laid the foundations of critical theory. They sought to ask how it was that the development of rational enlightenment thinking failed to create such a rational and just society. Critique of Instrumental Reason uncovers the contradictions at the heart of the Enlightenment project and why its promises failed.

More on the Frankfurt School and Horkheimer from 

A Slob’s Guide to Critical Theory in Vice magazine.

Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books, a more rigorous overview of the Frankfurt School and the value of Critical Theory.

“In our work we can bring up the negative aspects of this society, which we want to change." – A video clip of Horkheimer.

21 May: Peter Hallward presents Ethics by Alain Badiou

Alain Badiou teaches philosophy at the École normale supérieure and the Collège international de philosophie in Paris. Considered to be one of the most powerful voices in contemporary French philosophy, Badiou explores the ground left for politics after post-modernism. Following the thought of philosophers such as Heidegger and Foucault, whose work deconstructs the singular subject upon whose experience political action may depend, Badiou’s project has been to some extent an attempt to reappeal the post-modern and redefine the subject and the event of politics.

Following the publishing of Badiou’s The Communist Hypothesis, philosophers, including Slavoj Žižek and Toni Negri, attended The Idea of Communism, a conference responding to Badiou’s notions of fidelity and a revival in the revolutionary project.

In Ethics Badiou explodes the facile assumptions behind the recent ethical turn, showing how the prevailing ethical principles of the modern liberal democracy serve ultimately to reinforce an ideology of the status quo because they can provide no effective understanding of the concept of evil.

A young Badiou interviews Foucault in this video.

The Idea of Communism Conference discussing Badiou’s work in this video.

An interview with Badiou on evil.

And Terry Eagleton again, this time reviewing Ethics in the New Left Review.

4 June: Stella Sandford presents Sexpol by Wilhelm Reich

Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst who made significant contributions to psychoanalytic theory. Reich had a complex and remarkable life. Born into a farming family, his mother committed suicide and his father died of TB when Reich was 17. After fighting in the First World War, Reich eventually studied medicine in Vienna, where he lived in poverty. Aged 22 in 1919, Reich met Freud and made a small income through seeing some of Freud’s patients.

Reich developed his own methods of analysis and his thought explored the construction of character and sex. 1930 he moved with his then wife to Berlin where he joined the German Communist Party and set up clinics in working-class areas to teach sex education. After his self-published work was attacked by the Nazi Party Reich fled, living precariously in Scandinavia before taking the very last boat to leave Norway for the United States before war. In these later years in America his works pitted him against the United States Food and Drug Administration, and in 1956, many of his books, journals, and papers were incinerated under court order.

Reich had a single goal in his career: to seek relief for human suffering. The same curiosity and courage that led him to join the early pioneers of Freudian psychoanalysis and then to engage in some of the most controversial work of this century, led him also, at one period of his life, to become a radical socialist.

This extract from The Guardian comes from Christopher Turner’s book on Reich, Adventures in the Orgasmatron: Wilhelm Reich and the Invention of Sex.

For the full details of these events visit