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Reflections on the Marxist theory of history

By Paul Blackledge

Reflections on the Marxist theory of history

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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6956-7
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: July 2006
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Historiography, HISTORY / Social History, Historiography, Social & cultural history, History

Description

A decade after Francis Fukuyama announced the 'End of History', anti-capitalist demonstrators at Seattle and elsewhere have helped reinvigorate the Left with the reply 'another world is possible'. More than anyone else it was Marx who showed that slogans such as this were no utopian fantasies, and that capitalism was just as much a historical mode of production, no more natural and certainly no less contradictory, than were the feudal and slave modes which proceeded it. Paul Blackledge opens this study with a defence of the Marxist approach to the study of history against what he argues as being the naive empiricism of traditional historians and the relativism of the postmodernists. He moves on to outline Marx and Engels analyses of concrete historical processes and their critiques of the alternative historiographic methodologies of their contemporaries. He then discusses neglected historical works produced by Marxists in the half-century or so after Marx and Engels' deaths. Two central chapters survey recent Marxist debates on, first, the nature of modes of productions, including slave, feudal and tributary systems, and the revolutionary transitions between them; and, second, the methodological debate over the issue of structure and agency in the movement of history. Finally, he shows the political relevance of these debates through a concluding survey of competing Marxist attempts to periodise the present, postmodern, conjuncture. This book should be read by historians, students of cultural, social and political theory and anti-capitalist activists.

Reviews

This is a useful contribution to the literature on historiography and a welcome change from the more nihilistic of postmodern approaches.. (It) will be valuable to students of historiography and those seeking guidance to various schools of Marxism.


Paul Blackledge has attempted a brave and long overdue project. this is overall an impressive book worthy of serious study. Tribute must be paid to the author's scholarship and impressive range

This book is a welcome contribution to the body of literature devoted to the discussion of Marxist historiography. It is a rich text, very well researched and well-written. It contains a great deal of material and touches on a wide-range of issues with admirable economy of expression.


Paul Blackledge ... contributes importantly to the growing literature in the revival of serious studies in historical materialism. In five long chapters he takes the reader on a fascinating journey ... One comes away from Blackledge's Reflections with a strong sense of the power and potential of Marxist historiography and historical analysis.


[Blackledge's Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History] derives its energy from a deep understanding of Marxist scholarship

[Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History] is a useful critical survey of the major debates within Marxist historiography, particularly in the Anglophone world.

Blackledge has produced a valuable guide to the arguments that surround the Marxist theory of history, one that will be a vital reference point for socialists involved in these debates.

Blackledge's book is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in using Marxism to understand history. For a work of theory it is remarkably concise and readable. Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History therefore has tremendous value not just for historians, but also for anyone who thinks the study of the past should inform our struggles to shape the future."

Reflections [on the Marxist Theory of History] is a significant resource. It is a cogent defence of the contribution of Marxist historians to the discipline, from Marx to the present via Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, Geoffrey de St Croix's Class Struggles in the Ancient World, and the British Marxist historians Hill, Hobsbawm and Thompson. In the face of current academic hostility to theoretical interpretations of historical events it is a powerful argument for historical materialism as a critical tool to interpret the past.


Blackledge's reflections are a readable and very competent introduction to ... debates among Marxists about the character of modes of production and the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and about the roles of social structure and human agency in making history, as well as Marxist historical theory's relationship to postmodernity

Author

Paul Blackledge is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Leeds Metropolitan University

Contents

Preface and acknowledgements
1. Marxism and history
2. Marx, Engels and historical materialism
3. Historical materialism: From the Second to the Third Internationals
4. Modes of production and social transitions
5. Structure, agency and the struggle for freedom
Conclusion - The Present as History: Marxism and postmodernity

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