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Theory in Theoretical Times

Theoretical Times is the title of my regular blog on this website but also the title of one of my new books coming out next year. We used to live theoretically in interesting times, now we live interestingly in ‘Theoretical Times’ where theory and theorists are important in a new and interesting way. The featured theorists in Theoretical Times are global icons like Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek but for years I worked on others such as Jean Baudrillard, French theorist of ‘integral reality’ and the hyperreal, who died in 2007, and Paul Virilio, French urban theorist of speed and ‘pure war’. Study today has attached itself to ‘theory’ and ‘theorists’ as never before. And ‘high theory’ at that. But there has also been a delve into ‘the popular’ of culture as never before, too – both high and low popular culture. The celebrity intellectual culture which has developed over the past few years has produced open access online journals devoted to theorists such as Jean Baudrillard, Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek. The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies began in 2004, the International Journal of Zizek Studies began in 2007 and Badiou Studies began in 2012. In some cases the open access journals overlap: for instance in 2016 the International Journal of Zizek Studies will publish a special issue on Slavoj Zizek and Jean Baudrillard around the theme ‘Before Zizek – There was Baudrillard’ with one of my essays included. The European Graduate School features people like Badiou and Zizek as star professors whose lectures are then posted on YouTube. YouTube promotes hour long presentations by theorists such as Zizek and Badiou as if they were rock stars like Bruce Springsteen giving extended shows, an essential part of ‘showbiz’ academia, indistinguishable from all other performers. In some senses disciplines have been superceded. We have become post-disciplinary in our interdisciplinarity and devoted in our studies to the life and work of singular theorists. Dictionaries have been produced concentrating on theorists such as Zizek, Baudrillard, Virilio and Badiou in the intellectual space where whole disciplines would have featured in the past. The Theoretical Times book I am currently writing is a part of long term work on theory, and the history of theory, in the post-crash global condition and the narrow theoretical ledge we now inhabit in its wake. It concentrates on the work of Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou and their acolytes.