1st Edition

Social Theory and the Political Imaginary Practice, Critique, and History

By Craig Browne Copyright 2024

    Social Theory and the Political Imaginary: Practice, Critique, and History is an innovative work of synthesis, critique and analysis. It presages a social theory perspective that recognizes the constitutive significance of the political imaginary in modernity. Social theory’s current dilemmas are explored through a series of interlinked assessments of recent substantial strands, specifically, Luc Boltanski’s pragmatism and the wider ‘practical turn,’ the perspectives of multiple modernities and global modernity, the outlook of social and political imaginaries and critical social theory. The political imaginary’s reconfigurations are evident in the tensions of global modernity, and original social theory interpretations are advanced of landmark instances of twenty-first-century social contestation: the Hong Kong protests conditioned by threats to civil freedoms and a lack of self-determination, the radical democratic practices of anti-austerity movements contesting capitalist globalization’s injustices and the inverted cosmopolitanism of the 2005 French Riots challenging the oppression and inequalities experienced by immigrant communities and marginalized youth. These incisive applications of social theory and complementary conceptual innovations illuminate the vicissitudes of social struggles, political forms and theoretical perspectives. Similarly, reflection on the political imaginary is found to enable a necessary rethinking of the interrelationship of practice, critique and history.

    Introduction Chapter 1. Social Theory Chapter 2. The Modern Political Imaginary and the Pronlem of Hierachy Chapter 3. From the Philosophy of Praxis to the Sociology of Practice Chapter 4. The Institution of Critique and the Critique of Institutions Chapter 5. The Political Forms of Modernity: The Gauchet-Badiou Debate over Democracy and Communism Chapter 6. Hong Kong as a Dual Periphery Chapter 7. Austerity and its Antitheses: Practical Negations of Capitalist Legitimacy Chapter 8. Enacting Half-Positions: Creative Disrespect in the 2005 French Riots


    Craig Browne is an associate professor at The University of Sydney. He works in the area of critical social theory. His research into intersubjectivity, creative democracy, social change, contestation, global modernity and social and political imaginaries systematically revises the philosophy of praxis. He is the author of Critical Social Theory, Sage; and Habermas and Giddens on Praxis and Modernity: A Constructive Comparison, Anthem; and co-author of Taylor and Politics: A Critical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press. He co-edited Violence in France and Australia: Disorder in the Postcolonial Welfare State, SUP, and a special issue of Social Epistemology on conceptualizing the political imaginary.

    'Social Theory and the Political Imaginary will encourage – even force – Sociologists and Social Theorists to think about modernity in new and more expansive ways. The book is an excellent example of contemporary social theory, with its conceptual insights concerning the intersection and tensions between social imaginaries, especially those of democratic polities, nation states and capitalistic forms.' Honorary Professor Jocelyn Pixley, Macquarie University 

    'This is an especially important book for contemporary critical theory. Its contributions unfold on multiple layers that cut across current relations of domination as well as quests for emancipation. Browne encourages us to focus on the complex dynamics, contradictions, crises, and possibilities of our political imaginaries. By engaging with the reconfiguration of political imaginaries, social theory can make a key contribution to critically understanding the historical character of the relationships that define us. Browne’s book confronts us with matters that are unavoidable today and his own proposals are based on interrogations of theories sensitive to these practical concerns.' Alejandro Bialakowsky, Professor and Researcher of Sociological Theory, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina