Microverses: Observations from a Shattered Present
Short essays of social theory for damaged times, encompassing intellectual history, philosophy and culture
Microverses comprises over a hundred short essays inviting us to think about society – and social theory – in new ways. Lockdown created the conditions for what Adorno once termed ‘enforced contemplation’. Dylan Riley responded with the tools of his trade, producing an extraordinary trail of notes exploring how critical sociology can speak to this troubled decade. Microverses analyses the intellectual situation, the political crisis of Trump’s last months in office, and love and illness in a period when both were fraught with the public emergency of the coronavirus.
Riley brings the theoretical canon to bear on problems of intellectual culture and everyday life, working through Weber and Durkheim, Parsons and Dubois, Gramsci and Lukács, MacKinnon and Fraser, to weigh sociology’s relationship to Marxism and the operations of class, race and gender, alongside discursions into the workings of an orchestra and the complicatedness of taking a walk in a pandemic.
Invitations rather than finished arguments, the notes attempt to recover the totalising perspective of sociology – the ability to see society in the round, as though from the outside – and to recuperate what Paul Sweezy described as a sense of the ‘present as history’.
About the Author
Dylan Riley is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of The Civic Foundations of Fascism in Europe. He is also an editor at New Left Review.
Praise for Microverses: Observations from a Shattered Present
"Rarely have the concepts of classical sociology and Marxist analysis seemed so relevant to life itself."
—Malcolm Bull, author of The Concept of the Social
"Inspiring and thought-provoking, living up to the author’s credo that ideas should be 'strange...difficult...antagonizing'."
—Göran Therborn, author of Inequality and the Labyrinths of Democracy
"Provocative and moving observations on the crisis-conjuncture, and a transcript of an embattled soul"
—Gavin Jacobson, New Statesman
"An impassioned defense of social theory"
—Ishan Desai-Geller, Nation
"Small starbursts written with a light hand but deep scholarship"
—Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, LA Review of Books
"A withering demolition of a political culture. Both warranted and necessary"
—Luke Warde, Review 31