Wednesday August 20th, 2014, 10:35 am (EDT)

In Defense of History

Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda

In Defense of History
Paperback, 224 pages

ISBN: 0-85345-983-5

Released: January 1997

Price: $16

Are we now in an age of “postmodernity”? Even as some on the right have proclaimed the “end of history” or the final triumph of capitalism, we are told by some left intellectuals that the “modern” epoch has ended, that the “Enlightenment project” is dead, that all the old verities and ideologies have lost their relevance, that the old principles of rationality no longer apply, and so on. Yet what is striking about the current diagnosis of postmodernity is that it has so much in common with older pronouncements of death, both radical and reactionary versions. What has ended, apparently, is not so much another, different epoch but the same one all over again.

In response, the best of today’s new intellectuals on the left are returning to historical materialism, to class analysis. This collection reflects that move, pinning postmodernism in its place and time. It exposes the erroneous bases of “pomo” premises, by identifying the real problems to which the current intellectual fashions offer false or no solutions. In doing so, the contributors challenge the limits imposed on action and resistance by those who see liberating “new times” in the contradictions of contemporary capitalism. What is being celebrated in the postmodern agenda, argues Ellen Meiksins Wood, is the prosperity of the consumerist 1960s reflected in a distorting mirror. The instability and economic polarization of the 1990s demand a solid critique of the conditions of capitalism, not endless reexaminations of their “meanings” this is the standard and goal of In Defense of History.

A hard-hitting critique…In Defense of History brings together fine essays that speak directly to the underlying assumptions of postmoderism and offer a stunning critique of its usefulness in both understanding and critiquing the current historical epoch.

—Contemporary Sociology

We live in an era that has made In Defense of History indispensable; an era that has delegitimized the practice of sifting through the past for clues about the present in a bid to improve the future…. It deserves an audience of old believers and young skeptics alike.

—Science and Society

Contents & Contributors

Part 1: Introduction

  • “What Is The Postmodern Agenda?” by Ellen Meiksins Wood

Part 2: Postmodernism and Intellectuals

  • “Where Do Postmodernists Come From?” by Terry Eagleton
  • “Language, History, and Class Struggle” by David Mcnally
  • “The Politics of Cultural Studies” by Francis Mulhern
  • “Culture, Nationalism, and The Role of Intellectuals” — Aijaz Ahmad Interviewed (I)
  • “Old Positions/New Necessities: History, Class, and Marxist Metanarrative” by Bryan D. Palmer
  • “Against Social De(Con)Struction of Science: Cautionary Tales From The Third World” Meera Nanda

Part 3: Postmodernism and Movements

  • “Issues of Class and Culture” — Aijaz Ahmad Interviewed (II)
  • “The Mirror of Race: Postmodernism and the Celebration of Difference” by Kenan Malik
  • “Postmodernism, Feminism, and Marx: Notes From The Abyss” by Carol A. Stabile
  • “Marx and The Environment” by John Bellamy Foster
  • “Northern Intellectuals and The EZLN” by Daniel Nugent
  • “Five Theses On Actually Existing Marxism” by Fredric Jameson

Part 4: Afterword

  • “In Defense of History” by John Bellamy Foster

Ellen Meiksins Wood is the author of numerous books including The Retreat from Class (1986, winner of the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize), The Origin of Capitalism (1999) The Pristine Culture of Capitalism (1991), and Democracy Against Capitalism (1995), co-author with Neal Wood of A Trumpet of Sedition (1997), and co-editor of In Defense of History (1997), and Rising from the Ashes?: Labor in the Age of Global Capitalism (1999). John Bellamy Foster is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon. He is the author of The Vulnerable Planet (1999) and Marx’s Ecology (2000) and co-editor of In Defense of History (1996).