Equaliberty: Political Essays

Written by Etienne Balibar, translated by James Ingram | February 21, 2014
Equaliberty: Political Essays, by Etienne Balibar, Duke University Press, February 2014

First published in French in 2010, Equaliberty brings together essays by Étienne Balibar, one of the preeminent political theorists of our time. The book is organized around equaliberty, a term coined by Balibar to connote the tension between the two ideals of modern democracy: equality (social rights and political representation) and liberty (the freedom citizens have to contest the social contract). He finds the tension between these different kinds of rights to be ingrained in the constitution of the modern nation-state and the contemporary welfare state. At the same time, he seeks to keep rights discourse open, eschewing natural entitlements in favor of a deterritorialized citizenship that could be expanded and invented anew in the age of globalization. Deeply engaged with other thinkers, including Arendt, Rancière, and Laclau, he posits a theory of the polity based on social relations. In Equaliberty Balibar brings both the continental and analytic philosophical traditions to bear on the conflicted relations between humanity and citizenship.

"This outstanding book is Étienne Balibar at his most powerfully synthetic and politically incisive. In Equaliberty Balibar works his way through the house of left-wing political thought, performing a sort of philosophical spring cleaning. He disarticulates complex concepts only to reassemble them in better, more usable combinations. It is a call to action."— Bruce Robbins, author of Perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence

"Today many of the key concepts of our political vocabulary—including equality, freedom, democracy, and emancipation—seem so corrupted and vacuous that they are almost unusable. Étienne Balibar makes an important contribution by engaging critically and restoring these and other crucial political concepts. Equaliberty is a major book that displays Balibar's exemplary combination of erudition and clear, accessible argument."— Michael Hardt, coauthor of the books Declaration, Commonwealth, Multitude, and Empire.


Étienne Balibar was a student of Louis Althusser, with whom he cowrote Reading Capital. The author of many books on moral and political philosophy, he is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Paris–X Nanterrre and Anniversary Chair in the Humanities at Kingston University in London. He has served as Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, and, more recently, as Visiting Professor at Columbia University.

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