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Distillations : Theory, Ethics, Affect
Bloomsbury Academic

Distillations : Theory, Ethics, Affect

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Author(s): Mari Ruti

Distilling into concise and focused formulations many of the main ideas that Mari Ruti has sought to articulate throughout her writing career, this book reflects on the general state of contemporary theory as it relates to posthumanist ethics, political resistance, subjectivity, agency, desire, and bad feelings such as anxiety. It offers a critique of progressive theory's tendency to advance extreme models of revolt that have little real-life applicability. The chapters move fluidly between several theoretical registers, the most obvious of these being continental philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, Butlerian ethics, affect theory, and queer theory. One of the central aims of Distillations is to explore the largely uncharted territory between psychoanalysis and affect theory, which are frequently pitted against each other as hopelessly incompatible, but which Ruti shows can be brought into a productive dialogue.


“Mari Ruti's is among the most singular and significant voices in theoretical writing today. Her latest book, aptly named, condenses and refines her most recent thinking on the conflictual intersections between Lacanian political theory, affect theory, queer theory, and feminism, providing indispensable reflections on questions of ethics and agency, defiance and desire, the particularities of suffering and the precarities of love. Ruti calls her field 'progressive critical theory, broadly understood,' and Distillations demonstrates that no one understands this field more broadly, and more acutely, than she.” —Calvin Thomas, Professor of English, Georgia State University, USA, and author of Ten Lessons in Theory: An Introduction to Theoretical Writing

“Ruti refuses the false choice between Foucault and Lacan and further cements her position as our leading psychoanalytic thinker of affect. In her precise and exceedingly generous readings of theoretical allies and opponents, Ruti's writing exemplifies the very psychoanalytic ethics she foregrounds-care for the other, attentiveness to the social dimensions of psychic life, and a willingness to place one's most privileged assumptions in doubt in service of creativity, change, and (dare we say it) the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.” —Scott Krzych, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, Colorado College, USA

“Insofar as there might be a Lacanian struggle with Alain Badiou, this would centre on what explicitly does Badiou preserve of psychoanalysis in his theory of the event? Mari Ruti confronts this question in two ways--first, by reinvigorating and privileging the vulnerability of the subject and second, by masterfully negotiating the complex and precarious fine line between critical theory and continental philosophy. Ruti courageously asserts a confronting and compelling claim--that the existential viability of human suffering is in itself, evental. In refusing Badiou's disappearance of the subject by insisting that given today's uncertain world it is the careful distillation of logic, reason and affect which not only redeems but pivots subjectivisation, Ruti re-establishes the relevance of critical theory as a philosophical investment in the universal. Here we are taken on a wonderful adventure beyond resignation to the chaos of language, a journey which reveals the possibility of a transformative political act. For those grappling with tensions between theory and philosophy Ruti refuses the privileging of either, instead invoking Badiou and other important thinkers (Žižek, McGowan, Butler and Ahmed) in successfully undertaking a challenging thought experiment in which the crisis of the subject, far from being philosophically and politically laid to rest, is resurrected through a focus on subjective suffering and vulnerability. Ruti's experiment provides both a critical reading of and an important extension to Badiou's theory of the event.” —Cindy Zeiher, Lecturer in Languages, Social and Political Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

“In this collection of incisive essays, Mari Ruti distills a number of critical perspectives in contemporary theory on a wide range of questions––universality, suffering, affect, politics, love, enjoyment, and what really matters––but she also blends, mixes, and shakes. The result is a series of potent and innovative cocktails that enable us to see old problems in new ways. Especially refreshing is the way that Ruti resists any one theoretical mold in order to answer to the demands of the question itself.” —Richard Boothby, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University Maryland, USA, and author of Freud as Philosopher: Metapsychology After Lacan (2001)

“In Distillations, Mari Ruti negotiates the differences between those critical theorists willing to shatter the subject for the sake of the universal and those willing to dispense with universals for the sake of particular fragile subjects. Locating normative threads running through both approaches, Ruti makes a case for how fragile subjects can and should follow their utopian desires, however tinged with trauma.” —Noelle McAfee, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program, Emory University, USA

ISBN:  9781501333798