Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging

Jodi Dean’s (Faculty Berlin ’17) new book Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging (Verso) is out now. We’ve just finished reading it and can highly recommend. Available here in print and epub.


When people say “comrade,” they change the world


In the twentieth century, millions of people across the globe addressed each other as “comrade.” Now, among the left, it’s more common to hear talk of “allies.” In Comrade, Jodi Dean insists that this shift exemplifies the key problem with the contemporary left: the substitution of political identity for a relationship of political belonging that must be built, sustained, and defended.

Dean offers a theory of the comrade. Comrades are equals on the same side of a political struggle. Voluntarily coming together in the struggle for justice, their relationship is characterized by discipline, joy, courage, and enthusiasm. Considering the egalitarianism of the comrade in light of differences of race and gender, Dean draws from an array of historical and literary examples such as Harry Haywood, C.L.R. James, Alexandra Kollontai, and Doris Lessing. She argues that if we are to be a left at all, we have to be comrades.


For Jodi Dean, a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith, the word “comrade” is by no means a simple descriptor, nor is it some dusty relic of the bygone days of actually-existing state socialism. It is a perennial call to action, a challenge to accept one’s responsibility toward others who are “on the same side of a political struggle.”



About Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean teaches political, feminist, and media theory in Geneva, New York. She has written or edited thirteen books, including The Communist Horizon and Crowds and Party, both published by Verso.