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Speaking Against Number

Heidegger, Language and the Politics of Calculation

Stuart Elden


Numbers and politics are inter-related at almost every level - be it the abstract geometry of understandings of territory, the explosion of population statistics and measures of economic standards, the popularity of Utilitarianism, Rawlsian notions of justice, the notion of value, or simply the very idea of political science. Time and space are reduced to co-ordinates, illustrating a very real take on the political: a way of measuring and controlling it.

This book engages with the relation between politics and number through a reading, exegesis and critique of the work of Martin Heidegger. The importance of mathematics and the role played by the understandings of calculation is a recurrent concern in his writing and is regularly contrasted with understandings of speech and language. This book provides the most detailed analysis of the relation between language, politics and mathematics in Heidegger's work. It insists that questions of language and calculation in Heidegger are inherently political, and that a far broader range of his work is concerned with politics than is usually admitted.

Key Features

  • A unique introduction to the political dimension of Heidegger's work, opening it up to a wider audience*Offers an original exploration of the relationship between language, mathematics and politics in Heidegger's thinking*Shows how questions of politics and calculation are inter-related in modern conceptions of the political


1. Speaking: Rhetorical Politics
2. Against: Polemical Politics
3. Number: Calculative Politics
Conclusion: Taking the Measure of the Political.

About the Author

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick


An importantly original contribution to the question of Heidegger and the political.
- Babette E. Babich, Fordham University, New York, Political Theory
Elden is a careful scholar, who writes in a clear, accessible prose. He has identified all the important texts germane to his argument and provides a good rationale to the volume as proposed.
- Dr Laurence Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London
Elden should be applauded for writing with such sharp focus, while simultaneously never reducing the genuine complexity of Heidegger's thought.
- Contemporary Political Theory
This volume shows wide-ranging and sound scholarship. Elden has done a superior job of weaving together many important strands of Heidegger's thought.
- Richard Polt, Continental Philosophy Review
I wholeheartedly recommend this book with its rich lode of expositions of Heidegger’s texts on the political in its ancient, modern and postmodern manifestations.
- Professor Theodore Kisiel, Northern Illinois University
Stuart Elden’s Speaking Against Number takes full advantage of the most recent volumes of Heidegger’s previously unpublished lectures and manuscripts to develop a rich new approach to his political thought. The resulting book should be widely read, especially by everyone who thinks they already know all there is to know about this topic.
- Professor Robert Bernasconi, University of Memphis
Elden’s book manages to reinvigorate a seemingly tired debate regarding Heidegger’s political engagement. This is a unique achievement in that he succeeds in re-opening a question that continues to haunt readers of Heidegger: to what extent can we separate the man from his thought?
- Paul Ennis, UCD, Borderlands e-journal

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