Universal Politics (co-authored with Zahi Zalloua; Oxford University Press, 2022)

In Universal Politics, Ilan Kapoor and Zahi Zalloua argue that, in the face of the relentless advance of global capitalism, a universal politics is needed today more than ever. But rather than appealing to the narrow particularism of identity politics, the authors argue for a negative universality rooted in social antagonism (i.e., shared experiences of exploitation and marginalization). This conception of shared struggle avoids the trap of a neocolonial universalism, while foregrounding the politics of the systematically dispossessed and excluded. The book examines what a universal politics might look like in the context of key current global sites of struggle, including climate change, workers’ struggles, the Palestinian question, the refugee crisis, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Political Islam, the Bolivian state under Morales, the European Union, and COVID-19. 

Universal Politics by Ilan Kapoor and Zahi Zalloua comes at a moment that could not have been more timely—when the world seems to be exploding with particularisms and when capital appears as the only universal. Avoiding both the trap of neocolonial universalism and the narrow particularism of identity-based politics, the book develops a truly compelling concept of universal politics. An absolute must-read for anyone interested in emancipatory politics.” — Alenka Zupančič, Institute of Philosophy at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Confronting Desire: Psychoanalysis and International Development (Cornell U Press, 2020)

By applying psychoanalytic perspectives to key themes, concepts, and practices underlying the development enterprise, Confronting Desire offers a new way of analyzing the problems, challenges, and potentialities of international development. Ilan Kapoor makes a compelling case for examining development’s unconscious desires, and in the process inaugurates a new field of study: psychoanalytic development studies.

“This provocatively structured book queers the pursuit of happiness as capitalist development by lodging it in the Lacanian unconscious as read by Slavoj Žižek. Movements for change must take this into account, acknowledging their own enjoyment of/in the undertaking. Required reading.”— Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University

Psychoanalysis and the GlObal (edited, U of Nebraska Press, 2018)

Psychoanalysis and the GlObal is about the hole at the heart of the “glObal,” meaning the instability and indecipherability that lies at the hub of globalization. The contributors use psychoanalysis to expose the unconscious desires, excesses, and antagonisms that accompany the world of economic flows, cultural circulation, and sociopolitical change. Unlike the mainstream discourse of globalization, which most often assumes unencumbered movement across borders, these contributors uncover what Lacan calls “the Real” of the glObal—its rifts, gaps, exceptions, and contradictions.

Psychoanalysis and the GlObal brilliantly confirms Jacques Lacan’s thesis that the unconscious is political. It not merely applies psychoanalysis to global economic and political movements; it reveals how the unconscious itself is already traversed by social and political antagonisms. For this reason alone, this edited volume by Ilan Kapoor is obligatory reading, not only for those who want to penetrate the dark underside of our social life but also for those who want to bring out the economic and political mediation of our most intimate traumas.”—Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity (Routledge, 2013)

In the last two decades especially, we have witnessed the rise of ‘celebrity’ forms of global humanitarianism and charity work, spearheaded by entertainment stars, billionaires, and activist NGOs (e.g. Bob Geldof, Bono, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Bill Gates, George Soros, Save Darfur, Medeçins Sans Frontières). This book examines this new phenomenon, arguing that celebrity humanitarianism legitimates, and indeed promotes, neoliberal capitalism and global inequality. 

“Ilan Kapoor’s stunning new book exposes the most appealing–and thus most dangerous–sacred cows of contemporary ideology: the humanitarian actor, the billionaire philanthropist, and the NGO. Kapoor shows that it is precisely where we feel most emotionally satisfied that we must be most suspicious. Celebrity Humanitarianism represents a landmark in the critique of ideology and a decisive blow in the struggle against apolitical ethics.”—Todd McGowan, University of Vermont

The Postcolonial Politics of Development (Routledge, 2008)

This book uses a postcolonial lens to question development’s dominant cultural representations and institutional practices, investigating the possibilities for a transformatory postcolonial politics. 

“Kapoor forces development theory and practice to face an unlikely combination of critical traditions: European social theory, postcolonial analysis, and dependencia thinking. In relatively few words, he hits the missing notes in standard and critical scores of foreign aid, democratization, local participation, liberal modernity, basic needs, structural adjustment, good governance, and human rights. Then he serves up Homi Bhabha as antidote. Terrific –and very stylish.”Christine Sylvester, Lancaster University