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Theory in Crisis - Gavin Walker, Outside in the Critique of Political Economy

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Gavin Walker presents notions of ‘the outside’ from his new book, Marx et la politique du dehors, as part of Theory in Crisis: a series of talks platforming dynamic new work in contemporary critical theory. Recordings of previous talks, can be found in the Research Seminar Series: Theory in Crisis.


Two outsides characterize contemporary work in Marxist theory and critical social thought. On the one hand, an outside related to the social structure: labour power, land, nation, race, gender, sexuality – the exteriorities that, paradoxically, capital must rely on and can never sever its relation to, in order to appear as a pure interiority.

The other outside – if there is one and we can utilize it – is an outside related to both the politics of theory and the theory of politics.

A politics in the strong sense can only be something affirmative, something which not only detects the potential demise of the existing order through the analysis of powers and orders, but which also proposes an unprecedented emancipatory maxim, issuing from the exteriority of the popular strata, that positively breaks with the status quo.

In other words, it must be outside the existing order, outside perhaps even its forms of reason. Only such a decisive, affirmative outside of politics can truly counter the peculiar structural quasi-exteriority in which we are enclosed by capital.

Gavin Walker’s intervention proposes a theoretically driven investigation of Marx that cross-reads this work with figures of philosophy and political thought such as Badiou, Balibar, Deleuze & Guattari, Foucault, Schmitt, Zizek, and more. Ranging across the landscape of contemporary theory, his recent book Marx et la politique du dehors proposes another ‘thought of the outside’ that takes its point of departure from the critique of political economy in relation to postwar European philosophy and social theory.


Gavin Walker is Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Before coming to Cornell, he was Associate Professor of Intellectual History at McGill University in Montreal, Québec, where he taught for 12 years.

His research and teaching focuses on contemporary theory in its intersections with global intellectual history, continental philosophy and world literature, politics and aesthetics.

He is the author of The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016) and Marx et la politique du dehors (Lux Éditeur, 2022), the editor of The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History (Duke, 2019, with Naoki Sakai), The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68 (Verso, 2020), Foucault’s Late Politics, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly (Duke, Fall 2022), and ‘Ronsō’ no buntai (Hōsei University Press, 2023, with Yutaka Nagahara) as well as editor and translator of Kojin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility (Verso, 2020).

His new book, The Rarity of Politics: Passages from Structure to Subject is forthcoming from Verso next year.

Rock geology surface
Gavin Walker presents notions of ‘the outside’ from his new book, Marx et la politique du dehors.