cover image The Summer of Theory: History of a Revolt, 1960–1990

The Summer of Theory: History of a Revolt, 1960–1990

Phillipp Felsch, trans. from the German by Tony Crawford. Polity, $30 (280p) ISBN 978-1-50953-985-7

In Germany in the 1960s, “theory was more than just a succession of intellectual ideas: it was a claim of truth, an article of faith and a lifestyle accessory,” writes historian Felsch in his fascinating English-language debut. When Germany was first confronting its dark legacy from WWII, a revolution in critical theory was in the making, Felsch notes, and people became captivated with emerging philosophers and their philosophies. Felsch sheds light on how avant-garde publishers were instrumental in introducing German readers to French critical theory, notably the works of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Félix Guattari, and Claude Levi-Strauss. He moves beyond the history of ideas to document the wider impact of the movement on German society, as the pub scene evolved and bars attracted different milieux with various philosophical bents. Felsch appealingly blends social and intellectual history, and his prose shines when he writes about his own encounters with critical theory: “I read more than I have ever read since... in the heat of the Italian summer, the ‘microphysics of power’ and the ‘iceberg of history’ stuck to my forearms.” Impassioned and full of detail, this is a fascinating snapshot of the period. (Nov.)