The paper begins by examining the conditions that allowed theory to emerge and flourish in the American academy. It then proposes a typology for grouping together and analyzing the papers given at the March 2010 “Theory Now,” from which many of the essays in this issue originated. It concludes by suggesting that at a time marked by economic and political constraint, theory is indispensable as an instrument of vigilance against the obfuscations of those who rule us.

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