In Philosophical Essays on Free Stuff, Robyn Ferrell depicts figures of freedom in consumer culture, a world made image by the internet and globalization. Through word and image associations, Ferrell links the question of "free" to the effects of instrumentalism in the political sphere. The discussion proceeds through these images which allow the question to come into focus through diverse perspectives. Each essay is autonomous, and all are linked. Grounded in critical theory, continental philosophy, and cultural studies, Ferrell explores ideas of free gift, free thought, free time, free choice, free love, free market, free speech, and free world.
Robyn Ferrell is adjunct professor at the Centre for Law, Art and Humanities at the Australian National University and in gender & cultural studies at the University of Sydney.
[list of photographs]
[introduction]… free form
[one] … free gift
[two] … free time
[three] … free market
[four] … free speech
[five] … free world
[six] … free choice
[seven] … free love
[eight] … free thought
“It is sometimes said of a book that it ‘wrote itself’—meaning it was easy to write. I would say of this book that it “reads itself”, meaning it is very easy—and pleasurable—to read. It is witty and humorous … It shows great erudition but this is worn so lightly that many would not even note it—others will read with added pleasure through the recognition of the many references to Freud, Lacan, feminist theory, Derrida, Levi-Strauss, political philosophy (perhaps more how the chess player, philosopher, or logician might read Alice in Wonderland) … It is beautifully written.”
“Ferrell’s work is consistently of the highest quality. She brings together sophisticated philosophical ideas and important cultural phenomena in an accessible way.”
"Ferrell is as light-footed as a funambulist in these essays that probe the possibilities of a new way of doing philosophy. Eschewing the authority of the academy and its dead generic forms, she embraces a sideways vision and a figurative mode of thinking to brilliantly unpick the associative logic of the image and its relentless remaking of the world into the image of the commodity. Brilliantly lucid, endlessly playful and deadly serious, Ferrell helps us confront the urgent global task of refashioning what we value."
"Playing off the ambivalence of materialism--caught between consumerism and a materialist thought beyond transcendence--Ferrell effortlessly moves from figures of our everyday to illuminating philosophical insights. Working on the great tradition of the essay while toying with aphorism, Philosophical Essays on Free Stuff demonstrates what philosophy can do when unencumbered by the instrumental professionalism of the academy: it transforms the familiar world into a magical display of matter and thought."
"Robyn Ferrell has a unique philosophical voice, and writing boring academic philosophy has never been her forte. She is a genuine educator, and in this series of brilliantly constructed essays on modes and forms of freedom she writes with conviction and illumination. Her book makes a vital contribution to the urgent need for a critical engagement with the menacing realities of our post-truth times."
"Robyn Ferrell’s essays on 'free stuff' are truly inspirational: they inspire those flights of imagination that are crucial to critical and creative thinking about those cheap notions of freedom that hold us to moribund and dangerous (economic, social, and political) habits. A new kind of freedom just might be the reward for reading this witty, intelligent, and beautifully written book."