1st Edition

Left Theory and the Alt-Right

Edited By Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Sophia A. Mcclennen Copyright 2024
    190 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    190 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The alt-right movement in the United States has actively been endorsing the use of left theory to achieve its ends—and with varying degrees of success. Tracing occasions where figures on the alt-right reference left theory, this volume asks if the alt-right’s reference of left theory is just bad reading, or are there troubling ways that certain types of left theory encourage such interpretations? What if the connections between left theory and the alt-right lie in the shared disdain for certain types of institutions, structures of power, and the status quo? Are there lessons to be learned in what can often appear as an overlapping desire to deconstruct concepts like truth, justice, freedom, and democracy? Drawing on the longer history of right-wing readings of left theory, this volume seeks to unpack these recent developments and consider their impact on the future of theory.

    An Introduction

         Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Sophia A. McClennen

    1 Steal this Theory, or How the Alt-Right Accomplished the Intellectual Crime of the Century by Stealing Theory from the Left

         Jeffrey R. Di Leo

    2 The Three Stooges: How David Horowitz, Stanley Fish, and Cary Nelson Turned Academic Freedom into Right-Wing Slapstick

         Sophia A. McClennen

    3 The Zionist’s Gambit: Israel Politics, the "Antisemitism" Ruse, and the Rightist Weaponization of Identity

         Benjamin Schreier

    4 The Public Use of Ressentiment

         Zahi Zalloua

    5 Glitch Politics: Specters of Alt-Right Anarchism

         Emily Apter

    6 Inertia Creeps: Critical Theory on/as Stasis

         Peter Hitchcock

    7 Rocket Theory

         Rita Raley and Russell Samolsky

    8 Ugly Freedoms and the January 6 Insurrection

         Elisabeth Anker

    9 The Online House of Mirrors: Left Theory, Alt-Right Tactics, and Anticoalitional Digital "Communities"

         Gina Arlene Stinnett

    10 The 3-D Printed Gun, the Logic of Simulation, and the Postmodern Right

         Geoff Schullenberger

    11 What’s in a Face? Theory of the Mask

         Robin Truth Goodman

    12 The Global Alt-Right as Prefigured in Roberto Bolaño

         Héctor Hoyos

    13 Bad Laws: Torture John Yoo

         Jacques Lezra


    Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston-Victoria. He is founder and editor of symplokē and Executive Director of the Society for Critical Exchange and its Winter Theory Institute. His books include Dead Theory: Death, Derrida, and the Afterlife of Theory (2016), Higher Education under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct, and the Neoliberal Condition (2017), American Literature as World Literature (2017), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory (2019), The End of American Literature: Essays from the Late Age of Print (2019), Biotheory: Life and Death under Capitalism (2020, with Peter Hitchcock), Philosophy as World Literature (2020), What’s Wrong with Antitheory? (2020), Vinyl Theory (2020), Catastrophe and Education: Neoliberalism, Theory, and the Future of the Humanities (2020), and Happiness (2022).

    Sophia A. McClennen is Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University and founding director of the Center for Global Studies. She has published 13 books, including Trump Was a Joke: How Satire Made Sense of a President Who Didn’t (2023), Pranksters vs. Autocrats: Why Dilemma Actions Advance Nonviolent Activism with Srdja Popovic (2020), and Globalization and Latin American Cinema (2018).

    "Language has always been a site of struggle and when understood in the context of theorizing political strategies it becomes even more problematic. Di Leo and McClennen address this debate in a unique and brilliant way by asking why and how the language of the left is often successfully appropriated by the alt-right. This is a brilliant book that rethinks and reworks language and theory both in terms of misleading appropriations and a path through which language offers a more focused educational focus on culture and a commitment to making education central to politics itself."

    - Henry Giroux, McMaster University

    "Left Theory and the Alt Right is the only book that takes on the difficult analysis, from a variety of perspectives, of how the excess of leftish theory fuels the alt-right, even as the alt-right inspires the most powerful critiques to emerge from leftish theory. As such, this book is of enormous value for understanding and moving beyond the dead-ends of contemporary society, national and global."

    -- Daniel O’Hara, Temple University

    "Left Theory and the Alt Right makes a crucial intervention into one of the most surprising and dismaying intellectual developments of the present: the appropriation of left-wing theory by the alt-right. Rather than blaming academic theory or conceding aspects of it to the neo-fascist right, the essays in this volume bring theoretical expertise to bear on this phenomenon, demonstrating that the right gets theory wrong. It also demonstrates that precise and clear-eyed theorizing, as is present in this volume, is a crucial weapon in the war against the racist and class-stratified imaginary of the alt-right. The left concedes the terrain of theory only at its own peril."

    -Christopher Breu, Illinois State University

    "This book takes the bull by the horns and addresses the common trope that upon which the left and the right ultimately converge. Did Derrida bring us Trump? On one level, of course not. And yet there are echoes and sometimes direct appropriations. How do we make sense of this phenomenon? How do we not capitulate to a simplistic both-sidesism? How do we resist oppression without undoing the very tools necessary for that resistance? These are the stakes of this book. Left Theory and the Alt Right is an extremely timely book edited by two top scholars in the field with a very impressive list of contributors. It is a very important book."

    – Allen Miller, University of South Carolina