Free: Coming of Age at the End of History

Published October 2021

Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated countries on earth, a place where communist ideals had officially replaced religion. Albania, the last Stalinist outpost in Europe, was almost impossible to visit, almost impossible to leave. It was a place of queuing and scarcity, of political executions and secret police. To Lea, it was home. People were equal, neighbours helped each other, and children were expected to build a better world. There was community and hope.

Then, in December 1990, everything changed. The statues of Stalin and Hoxha were toppled. Almost overnight, people could vote freely, wear what they liked and worship as they wished. There was no longer anything to fear from prying ears. But factories shut, jobs disappeared and thousands fled to Italy on crowded ships, only to be sent back. Predatory pyramid schemes eventually bankrupted the country, leading to violent conflict. As one generation’s aspirations became another’s disillusionment, and as her own family’s secrets were revealed, Lea found herself questioning what freedom really meant.

Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

Translations: German Suhrkamp, Greek Patakis, Italian Feltrinelli, French Le Seuil, Dutch De Bezige Bij, Spanish Anagrama, Polish Czarne, Albanian Dudaj, Danish Informations Forlag, Romanian Pandora, Turkish Yapi Kredi, Korean Open Books, Swedish Albert Bonniers, Norwegian Gylendol, Chinese Mandarin (Taiwan China Times and China Post Wave), Icelandic Forlagid, Portuguese Todavia, Russian Eksmo, Finnish Atena, Hungarian Europa, Czech, Host, Japanese (Keiso Shobo)

Winner, Ondaatje Prize from the Royal Society of Literature for the best work (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) in English evoking the spirit of a place (2022)

Winner, Lumo Skëndo Prize for the Best Work in Albanian Nonfiction (2022)

Winner, Slightly Foxed First Biography Award (2022)

Reviews & Press

The Architectonic of Reason: Purposiveness and Systematic Unity in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Published October 2021

The Architectonic of Pure Reason, one of the most important sections of Kant’s first Critique, raises three fundamental questions. What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope? Taken together these questions converge on a fourth one, which is at the centre of philosophy as a whole: what is the human being? This book suggests that the answer to this question is tied to a particular account of the unity of reason—one that stresses its purposive character. By focusing on the sources, evolution, and function of Kant’s concept of purposiveness, the book shows that the idea of purposiveness that Kant endorses in the Critique of Pure Reason is a concept of purposiveness as intelligent design, quite different from the concept of purposiveness as normativity that will become central to his later works. In the case of purposiveness as normativity, it is anchored to the concept of reflexive judgment, and grounded on transcendental freedom. Understanding this shift has important implications for some of the most difficult questions that confront the Kantian system: the passage from the system of nature to that of freedom, the relation between faith and knowledge, the philosophical defence of progress in history, and the role of religion. It is also crucial to shed light on the way in which Kant’s critique has shaped the successive German philosophical tradition.

Global Justice & Avant-Garde Political Agency

Published March 2017

Why should states matter and how do relations between fellow-citizens affect what is owed to distant strangers? How, if at all, can demanding egalitarian principles inform political action in the real world? This book proposes a novel solution through the concept of avant-garde political agency. Lea Ypi grounds egalitarian principles on claims arising from conflicts over the distribution of global positional goods, and illustrates the role of avant-garde agents in shaping these conflicts and promoting democratic political transformations in response to them. Against statists, she defends the global scope of equality, and derives remedial cosmopolitan principles from global responsibilities to relieve absolute deprivation. Against cosmopolitans, she shows that associative political relations play an essential role and that blanket condemnation of the state is unnecessary and ill-directed.

Advocating an approach to global justice whereby domestic avant-garde agents intervene politically so as to constrain and motivate fellow-citizens to support cosmopolitan transformations, Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency offers a fresh and nuanced example of political theory in an activist mode. Setting the contemporary debate on global justice in the context of recent methodological disputes on the relationship between ideal and nonideal theorizing, Ypi’s dialectical account illustrates how principles and agency can genuinely interact.

Italian translation: Stato e avanguardie cosmopolitiche , transl. Elisa Piras (Rome: Giusepppe Laterza, 2016).

Spanish translation: Justicia Global y Política de Vanguardia, transl. Martin Vivanco Lira (Mexico City: Biblioteca de Ética, Filosofía del Derecho y Política, Editorial Fontamar, 2015).


The Meaning of Partisanship

w/Jonathan White

Published October 2016

For a century at least, parties have been central to the study of politics. Yet their typical conceptual reduction to a network of power-seeking elites has left many to wonder why parties were ever thought crucial to democracy. This book seeks to retrieve a richer conception of partisanship, drawing on modern political thought and extending it in the light of contemporary democratic theory and practice. Looking beyond the party as organization, the book develops an original account of what it is to be a partisan. It examines the ideas, orientations, obligations, and practices constitutive of partisanship properly understood, and how these intersect with the core features of democratic life. Such an account serves to underline in distinctive fashion why democracy needs its partisans, and puts in relief some of the key trends of contemporary politics.

Finalist APSA’s Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for “The Meaning of Partisanship” as the best book on government, politics or international affairs published in 2016. 


Migration in Legal and Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership

w/Sarah Fine

Published December 2016

This book presents seminal new work on the ethics of movement and membership. All the chapters contained in this volume address challenging and under-researched themes on the subject of migration. The chapters debate the question of the scope of the right to freedom of movement, whether we ought to recognize a human right to immigrate, and whether it might be legitimate to restrict emigration. They critically examine criteria for selecting between would-be immigrants, and for acquiring citizenship, as well as the tensions between the claims of prospective immigrants and existing residents. They tackle questions of migrant worker exploitation, and responsibility for refugees. All the chapters illustrate the importance of drawing on the tools of political theory to clarify, criticize, and challenge the current terms of the migration debate.


Kant and Colonialism: Historical and Critical Perspectives

w/Katrin Flikschuh

Published November 2014

This is the first book dedicated to a systematic exploration of Kant’s position on colonialism. Bringing together a team of leading scholars in both the history of political thought and normative theory, the chapters in the volume seek to place Kant’s thoughts on colonialism in historical context, examine the tensions that the assessment of colonialism produces in Kant’s work, and evaluate the relevance of these reflections for current debates on global justice and the relation of Western political thinking to other parts of the world.


Vetëm për vete

Published 1997

Botuesi Çabej, Tirana

This book is a collection of short stories written in Albanian.