Todd Mcgowan, "Embracing Alienation: Why We Shouldn't Try to Find Ourselves" (Repeater, 2024)


The left views alienation as something to be resisted or overcome, but could it actually form the basis of our emancipation? We often think of our existential and political projects as attempts to overcome or eradicate alienation: therapists imagine that they help patients to attain self-identity; political revolutionaries strive for a society in which they can live in harmony with others; ecological activists work toward a future form of existence in touch with the rest of the natural world. 

In Embracing Alienation: Why We Shouldn't Try to Find Ourselves (Repeater, 2024), Todd McGowan offers a completely different take on alienation, claiming that the effort to overcome it is not a radical response to the current state of things but a failure to see the constitutive power of alienation for all of us. Instead of trying to overcome alienation and accede to an unalienated existence, it argues, we should instead redeem alienation as an existential and political program. Engaging with Shakespeare’s great tragedies, contemporary films such as Don’t Worry Darling, and even what occurs on a public bus, as well as thinkers such as Descartes, Hegel, and Marx, McGowan provides a concrete elaboration of how alienation frees people from their situation. Relying on the tradition of dialectical thought and psychoanalytic theory, Embracing Alienation reveals a new way of conceiving how we measure progress — or even if progress should be the aim at all.

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Cody Skahan

Cody Skahan ( is a graduate of the MA program in Anthropology at the University of Iceland as a Leifur Eriksson Fellow and will be starting his DPhil at the University of Oxford in the fall of 2024. His work focuses on environmentalism in the Arctic, especially amidst conflicting and interrelated sociotechnical imaginaries originating from different sources such as youth environmentalists. Cody co-hosts a social theory and anthropology podcast with two of his friends called Un/livable Cultures ( available wherever you get podcasts.
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