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Hardback By Dieter Thomä, Jessica Spengler
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The political crises and upheavals of our age often originate from the periphery rather than the center of power. Figures like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning acted in ways that disrupted power, revealing truths that those in power wanted to keep hidden. They are thorns in the side of power, troublemakers in the eyes of the powerful, though their actions may be valuable and lead to positive changes.

In this important new book, Dieter Thomä examines the crucial but often overlooked function of these figures on the margins of society, developing a philosophy of troublemakers from the seventeenth century to the present day. Thomä takes as his starting point Hobbes’s idea of the puer robustus (literally “stout boy”), meaning a figure who rebels against order and authority. While Hobbes saw the puer robustus as a threat, he also recognized the potential, in the right conditions, for figures to rise up and become agents of positive change. Building on this notion, Thomä provides a rich survey of intellectuals who have been inspired by this idea over the past 300 years, from Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Victor Hugo, Marx, and Freud to Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and Horkheimer, right up to the recent work of Badiou and Agamben. In doing so, he develops a typology of the puer robustus and a means by which we can evaluate and assess the troublemakers of our own times.

Thomä shows that troublemakers are an inescapable part of modernity, for as soon as social and political boundaries are defined, there will always be figures challenging them from the margins. This book will be of great interest not only to students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences but to anyo

Product Details

Format: Hardback, 400 pages Language: English
Dimension: 23.62cm x 15.49cm x 4.32cm ISBN10: 1509525580
Weight: 862g ISBN13: 9781509525584
Publication Date: 19 Apr 2019 Publisher: Polity Press

About Author

Dieter Thomä is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Gallen

Product Reviews


“In fluent and energetic style, Dieter Thomä offers a compelling response to the current threats facing our economic, social, and political order. This timely and important book will be of great interest to anyone who is struggling to understand what is going on in the world today.”Joachim Whaley, University of Cambridge“For some years now, Dieter Thomä has been writing extraordinarily original, elegantly conceived and executed books about topics as varied as parents, fathers, and Americans – in effect, he has been re-defining the proper topics of philosophical reflection. His new book on the puer robustus, a notion introduced by Hobbes about the ‘troublemakers’ in society, is a masterpiece of this genre, the literate philosophical essay. The scholarship is astonishing, ranging over Hobbes, Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Hugo, Marx, Freud, and others, the insights acute and important, and the pleasure of reading it constant.”Robert Pippin, University of Chicago“With an admirable combination of historical serendipity, hermeneutical sensitivity, and philosophical farsightedness, Dieter Thomä manages in this fascinating book to reanimate a political figure always present in the imaginary of democratic societies but never fully disclosed or theorized: the puer robustus, the troublemaker, who since the times of Hobbes has again and again haunted the fantasy of political philosophers as someone either undermining or rejuvenating the democratic order of modern societies. It is the path-breaking thesis of this masterful study that, without revealing the exact role of these troublemakers, we are not capable of understanding both the risks and the potentials for renewal, the dangers and the vitality of democratic regimes.

  A must read for everyone interested in political theory and philosophy.”Axel Honneth, University of Frankfurt “As the philosopher Dieter Thomä shows in this brilliant study, the puer robustus is a central element of societies marked by division and uncertainty. His book could not be more timely.”NZZ am Sonntag “Dieter Thomä tells a captivating adventure story of the troublemakers who have disrupted social order.”Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“Endlessly lively… tremendous entertainment”Catholic Herald


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