PhD Exam Reading List

Area 1: Non-linear Historical Materialism

Examined by Eugene W. Holland


Revolutions in theory are required to keep up with the millions of tiny revolutions set into motion by capitalism every day.  Even if capitalism has been dialectical, it is becoming less so as exhibited by the collapse of civil society, the emergence of immaterial labor, and the growing indistinguishability between surplus labor and other labor.  What is at stake are not only problematics that maintain the footing of Marxism as a critique of political economy but also the potential to produce movement in an age where the modern dialectic “has been replaced by a play of degrees and intensities, of hybridity and artificiality” (Hardt and Negri, Empire, 189).


Non-Linear Dynamics


A number of fields have produce a wealth of alternative models and that fit with the non-linear materialist questions of genesis, structure, and transformation.  Many of the advancements come from complexity theory, which works with relatively simple functional structures that emerge from complex interchanges of the component parts of a system.  The other field is (post)structuralist metaphysics, which theorizes the transversal connections between local, singular, differentiated terms without assuming a single origin or reducing them to a static unity.


Protevi, Political Affect

Massumi, Parables for the Virtual

Kauffman, At Home in the Universe

Delanda, A New Philosophy of Society

Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge

Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History”

Deleuze, “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?”

Genosko, “Felix Guattari – Towards a Trans-Disciplinary Meta-Modeling”

Lazzarato essay

Althusser, For Marx

Althusser, Philosophy of the Encounter

Read, Micro-Politics of Capital


The Historical Matter


The primary purpose of this reading area is to develop a more sophisticated critique of political economy.  Marx’s work serves as both a historical and theoretical foundation.  Additional texts provide examples of possible non-linear analyses of the development of the capitalist mode of production.  A guiding question is: to what extent should orthodox Marxist formulations be appropriated, modified, or selected out?


Deleuze, Control Societies

Delanda, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (political economy, again)

Holland, “Marx and Spinoza”

Holland, “Nonlinear Historical Materialism and Postmodern Marxism” (and its follow-up)

Holland, Cologne Paper

Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital

Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx

Marx, Capital Volume 1

Read – primtive accumulation, universal history

Beinhocker, Origin of Wealth




The point of a critique of political economy is to determine points of leverage sensitive to change.  The exam includes a number of ‘bridging’ texts to transport lessons to and from other areas of inquiry to the critique of political economy.  In turn, it illuminates the transversal potential of making a local intervention that generates effects in multiple sites.  These texts emphasize the differential consequences of similar non-linear processes.


Bataille, “Essay on Expenditure”

Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production

Chesters and Welsh, Complexity and Social Movements

Delanda, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

Deleuze, “Three Group Related Problems”

Foucault, SMBD



Lyotard, “A Desire Called Marx”, The Libidinal Economy

Thoburn, Deleuze, Marx and Politics


Immanence, Power, and Desire


Modeling non-linear dynamics in terms of immanence, power, and desire develops an image of thought attentive to micro-interventions.  These concepts focus on what connects and animates the collection of elements in an assemblage, and their interactive effects.  This section is the most crucial for the political project because of its emphasis on transformation.


Deleuze, Nietzsche

Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?

Guattari, Chaosmosis

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

Deleuze, “Desire and Pleasure”

Patton, Deleuze and the Politics

Lazzarato, Revolutions of Capitalism

Massumi, User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Holland, An Introduction to Anti-Oedipus


Area 2: Political Theory and Anarchism

Examined by Philip Armstrong and Franco Barchiesi

If statecraft is capture, then anarchism is a mode of politics uniquely attentive to contemporary governance.  Especially because of its attentiveness to power and recuperation, anarchism(s) provide a limit-based challenge to many foundational concepts of political theory.  As a form of thought, anarchism problematizing reducing politics to state form.  As a practice, anarchism provides concrete strategies to materially challenge governance.  And in the realm of social movements, anarchism provides both critique of traditional left activism and examples of alternative forms of movement.


The Contemporary State Form


Governance in the current moment is going through a number of a transformations.  In particular, the shift from citizenship and rights characteristic of post-Westphalian nation-states to neo-liberal governmentality as an instrument of integrated world capitalism.  The overriding question is: what are the points of entry and zones of contestation within these changing contemporary forms?


Brown, States of Injury

Clastres, Society Against the State

Zibechi, Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces

Deleuze and Guattari, “Nomadology” and “Apparatus of Capture”

Deleuze, “Societies of Control”

Mitchell Dean – Governmentality

Rose – Powers of Freedom

Foucault – SMBD, STP, BOB

Hardt and Negri, Empire

— Multitude


Negri, Insurgencies


Ferguson, Global Shadows

Camaroff and Camaroff, Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is

Evolving Toward Africa


Anarchist Practice


Anarchism’s practice-based approach to politics intervenes directly in the material conditions of a given concrete moment.  This provides immanent immanent or horizontalist strategies of contestation that doesn’t seek to synthesize/’resolve conflict’ to impose a plan from a higher plane.  What is at stake is for defining politics in terms of dynamic interactivity or even conflict without lapsing into war and domination or consensus and pacification.  Therefore, in what way can anarchism extend spaces of ungovernability in a politically useful way?


Milstein, Anarchism and its Aspirations

Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power

Ranciere, Disagreement

-May on Ranciere/Anarchism

Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life

Crimethinc (many texts, including the recent one on insurrection)


Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically (?)


James C Scott – The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia

Peter Gelderloos – Anarchy Works


Hakim Bey, TAZ

Jo Freeman, “Tyranny of Structurelessness”

Cathy Levine, “The Tyranny of Tyranny” in Untying the Knot

Andrew X, “Give Up Activism”

–“Give Up Activism: Postscript”

J. Kellstadt, “The Necessary and Possibility of Anti-Activism”


Social Movements


There are both historical examples of anarchist social movements, and an ongoing anarchist critique of social movements.  Paying specific attention to alternative forms of knowledge production and political affiliation, this section utilizes both to demonstrate that the creation of other possible worlds diverges from traditional politics and activism.  In particular, the question is how ungovernable spaces define their own forms of social organization without reflecting relations of exploitation?


Van der Walt and Schmidt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class

Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism

Day, Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements

Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography

Simone, Invisible Governance


Shut Them Down!

Notes from Nowhere, We Are Everywhere

We Are an Image from The Future

Prakash and Esteva, Grassroots Postmodernism

Marcos, Shadows of Tender Fury

Katsiasficas, Subversion of Politics

Steve Wright’s Storming Heaven


Stirin, Horizontalism: Voices of Power in Argentina


Spivak – “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

Sakolsky and Koehline – Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Culture


Shukaitis – Imaginal Machines

Beasley-Murray – Posthegemony





Invisible Committee

Killing King Abacus / Willful Disobedience / Zerzan

PNB / other IA

“Ten Blows Against Politics”


Area 3: Cultural Studies + Affect/Power

Examined by Philip Armstrong and Eugene W. Holland


Cultural Studies


Intersection of Cultural Studies and Politics

-Includes the historical emergence of cultural studies as a form of political intervention



Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, Barker

Cultural Resistance Reader, Duncombe

New Cultural Studies – Liquid Theory Reader, Culture Machine

Cultural Theory: An Anthology, Szeman and Kaposy

Cultural Studies and Political Theory, ed Dean

Culture/Power/History, Dirks, Eley, Ortner

Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Nelson and Grossberg

Cultural Studies, Nelson, Grossberg, Treichler



Hall, Stuart. “The emergence of cultural studies and the crisis of the humanities”, October

Hall, Stuart. “Cultural studies and its theoretical legacies”, Cultural STudies

Bratlinger, Patrick. Crusoe’s Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America

Grossberg, Lawrence. “Cultural studies: an Introduction”, Cultural Studies

Dean, Jodi. “Political Theory and Cultural Studies”, The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory



Eagleton, Terry. Idea of Culture

Wolin, Sheldon. “What Time Is It?”, t&e 1(1)





-histories of affect

-How affect functions as a theory of power



Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish

–. History of Sexuality, Volume 1

–. Society Must Be Defended

–. Security, Territory, Population

–. Birth of Biopolitics

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus

–. A Thousand Plateaus

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. “Politics” in On The Line

Deleuze, Gilles. “Post-Script on the Societies of Control”, Negotiations



The Affect Studies Reader, Duke

Spinoza Spinoza, Baruch. “Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Affects.”

Guattari, Felix. “Ritornellos and Existential Affects”, The Guattari Reader

Guattari, Felix. Chaosmosis

Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza: A Practical Philosophy

–. Nietzsche and Philosophy

Massumi, Brian. Politics of Everyday Fear, ed.

–. Parables for the Virtual

Protevi, John. Political Affect

Connolly, William. ID/Diff or Christianity

Seigworth, Gregory. “Fashioning a Stave, or, Singing Life”, Animations of Deleuze and Guattari

Freud ??

Hardt, Michael. “Affective Labor”, Boundary 2

Negri, Antonio. “Alma Venus: Love”, Time for Revolution

Prada, Juan Martin. “Affective Link. Policies of affectivity, aesthetics of biopower”,

Prada, Juan Martin. “Economies of Affectivity”,

Genosko, Gary. “Transversality,” Félix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction. London: Continuum Press.



Berlant “The Broken Circuit: an Interview with Lauren Berlant,” Cabinet Magazine Issue 31: Shame, 85.

Berlant, “Intimacy: A Special Issue,” Critical Inquiry

Berlant, “The Epistemology of State Emotion,” in Dissent in Dangerous Times

Cvetkovic Public Feelings

Ahmed “Affective Economies”

Lingis Dangerous Emotions

Brown “Resisting Left Melancholia”

+Gatens, Grosz, other Spinozist feminists.



Precarias a la Deriva “”A Very Careful Strike – Four Hypotheses,” the commoner Number 11: 33-45.

Duncombe, Stephen Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy

Pruchnic, “The Invisible Gland: Affect and Political Economy,” Criticism Volume 50, Number 1: 160-175.


13 thoughts on “PhD Exam Reading List

  1. Do these three areas correspond to the diss in any determinative way? I guess, can we say that we are looking at three movements within the diss?

  2. Maybe in a non-representational sense. These are the three pillars of my thought, but my ‘dream’ for the diss has a completely different form.

    The ideas of the diss I’ve thrown around w/ the committee…

    Nonlinear. Somewhere between keywords-approach and vignettes. Maybe three-five sections, each including a cluster of concepts.

    Constructivist. I’m thinking about having the body of the text avoid too much ‘secondary commentary’. It may be difficult to sustain. Find a way to incorporate the academic rigor of secondary commentary: written in margin notes, intensive footnoting, other forms of non-traditional formatting.

    beyond traditional left activism. thru: microphysics of power, micropolitics of desire — anarchism + communism.

    We’ll see if they balk at my ‘creative approach’ when we get to prospectus stage.

  3. Yeah, I was going to ask, what Bonanno are you reading? I will (hopefully) be presenting on Hardt, Negri and Bonanno at the The VIII Annual SOCIAL THEORY FORUM
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    April 13 and 14, 2011
    Italian Social Theory: from
    Antonio Gramsci to Giorgio Agamben

    But for the Bonanno, Armed Joy and Revolution, Violence,
    Anti-authoritarianism — A few notes

  4. MM: Thanks!

    P&M: Haven’t completely decided. I think Bonanno’s work is often a bit longer than it should be – the over-explaining is good for general audiences but it sort of drags on for me. I was thinking Armed Joy & Anarchist Tension at least. A friend sent me a link to this press, which seems to put out nice editions of his work:

    On the insurrectionist question more generally, I find it so circumscribed by milieu that it doesn’t seem to translate well across nation-state contexts. Have you seen Hardt’s most recent piece on the student protests? Reclaim the UC had a (brief) but interesting analysis:

    Anyway – don’t want to draw this out too much.

    One last link: Nate Hawthorne posted a few of his insurrection links the other day –>

    Boston sounds great! Wish I lived a bit closer, or that there was functional mass transit in these parts.

  5. I love your reading list. I am a phd student as well, and my interest is in the area of “politics of desire.” My program is in psychoanalysis and culture. I am wondering where and what program you are in; they seem to be very open to this line-of-thinking, which is refreshing. Good luck, and I would love to hear from you.

  6. What a list! Just came across this post (obviously a bit late) and was wondering if you were planning to engage with some thinkers who hold a monopoly on “historical materialism” (Hegel and friends). While planning my own dissertation work, which falls in line with a lot of what you are doing, my advisors have recommended that I respond to traditional readings in historical materialism. I was wondering if you got any similar feedback as well. Either way, great stuff going on here.

    1. While I read some of the deep philosophical background behind historical materialism, my project is very “cultural studies” focused. I doubt it’ll ever have a resounding impact on philosophy proper and thus I read philosophy quite selectively.

      That being said, I have friends who avid Hegel fans, and others who really like Stirner. I have no hopes of resolving a lot of the German Idealist debates, but I do know that my familiarity with Deleuze means that I tend to resolve philosophical problematics in favor of “pure positive multiplicities” with a heavy emphasis on their virtual (“real abstraction”) dimension – though I am most friendly to the so-called Dark Deleuzians, who aspire for negative politics despite utilizing a positive metaphysics.

      I’d love to chat more about this stuff, if you’d like. But you will have to excuse my selective & shallow readings of philosophy.

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