History and Event: From Marxism to Contemporary French Theory

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book challenges the use of the terms 'history' and 'event' to register the shift from historical necessity in Marxism to contingent events in contemporary philosophy. It argues both classical Marxism and a strand of French theory after Louis Althusser understand history and event not as binary opposites but as a complementary pair. For Marxism, the fusion is accomplished by Hegelian dialectics and the idea of quantity to quality leaps. After Althusser, epistemological breaks in science provide the model for thinking revolutions as discontinuous with the status quo. Through critical readings of Hegel, Marx and Lenin, the first part of the book interrogates the politics of Marxist philosophy. While defending Marx from charges of 'historicism', the inability of Hegel's ‘leaps’ to think epistemological breaks is shown to support political gradualism and technological determinism. The book's second part, on Althusser, Badiou and Meillassoux, argues that although their philosophies think discontinuity more successfully, they tend towards a self-referential rationalism that shores up the authority of theorists. The final part of the book suggests that a way forward can be found in complexity theory and 'weak' notions of emergence.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages224
ISBN (Electronic)9781474404969, 9780748699001
ISBN (Print)9780748698998
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

Publication series

NameTaking on the Political
PublisherEdinburgh University Press


  • philosophy
  • politics
  • Marxism
  • events
  • Marx
  • Hegel
  • Lenin
  • Althusser
  • Badiou
  • complexity theory


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