Why a New Theory of the Human?
The aim of this book is to elaborate the basis for a new theory of the human.
What provokes such a project is a concern that recent and withering
critiques of the category of the human and of human exceptionalism have
left us bereft of a politically useful category of the human subject that
theorists can mobilize to address the political crises of the day. Under
critical scrutiny, the notion of the human has come to be perceived as an
index of a historically speciﬁc fantasy of mastery over the self, the earth,
and all its many creatures. The characteristics, qualities, and capacities that
heretofore have been taken to deﬁne and distinguish a human, humanity —
the human — have been so profoundly discredited through historical,
social, and scientiﬁc analysis that the notion itself seems to be bankrupt,
with very little left to recommend it. In fact, given the weight of recent
theoretical work challenging and discrediting not only the coherence of
the category of the human but also the efﬁcacy of human action, it may
seem to be that to work to recuperate or reformulate the category is to kick
against the pricks. Why bother?
At the same time that “the concept of the human has exploded,” as