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Theories and Narratives: Reflections on the Philosophy of History (Post-Contemporary Interventions)

by Alex Callinicos

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At a time when philosophy of history is decidedly out of fashion, Theories and Narratives explores the relationship between historical writing and theoretical understanding and seeks to establish the legitimate scope of large-scale theories to grasp historical processes as a whole.
Pursuing this objective, Alex Callinicos critically confronts a number of leading attempts to reconceptualize the meaning of history, including Francis Fukuyama’s rehabilitation of Hegel’s philosophy of history and the postmodernist efforts of Hayden White and others to deny the existence of a past independent of our representations of it. In these cases philosophical arguments are pursued in tandem with discussions of historical interpretations or, respectively, Stalinism and the Holocaust. Leading theories of history—Marx’s and Weber’s—are then examined in the context of recent work by writers such as Michael Mann, W. G. Runciman, and Robert Brenner
Finally, the politics of historical theory is explored in a discussion of Marxism’s claims to be a universal theory of human progress. Contradicting current fashion, Callinicos rebuts the claims made by many postmodernists that Marxism is inherently Eurocentric in both its conceptual structures and its political practice. Marx’s project of human emancipation, he concludes, still define our political horizons.
Theories and Narratives will interest all readers for whom the role of history in the understanding of contemporary civilizations is an essential issue.