The Crisis of Theory

E.P. Thompson, the new left and postwar British politics

By Scott Hamilton

The Crisis of Theory


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8435-5
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: May 2011
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Socialism & left-of-centre democratic ideologies, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Modern History, History, Political science & theory, History & Archaeology, 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory


The crisis of theory tells the story of the political and intellectual adventures of E. P. Thompson, one of Britain's foremost twentieth-century thinkers. Drawing on extraordinary new unpublished documents, Scott Hamilton shows that all of Thompson's work, from his acclaimed histories to his voluminous political writings to his little-noticed poetry, was inspired by the same passionate and idiosyncratic vision of the world. Hamilton shows the connection between Thompson's famously ferocious attack on the 'Stalinism in theory' of Louis Althusser and his assaults on positivist social science in books like The making of the English working class, and he produces previously unseen evidence to show that Thompson's hostility to both left and right-wing forms of authoritarianism was rooted in first-hand experience of violent political repression.

This book will appeal to scholars and general readers with an interest in left-wing politics and theory, British society, twentieth-century history, modernist poetry, and the philosophy of history.


Part One: from the Thirties to the Cold War
1. The Making of EP Thompson: family, anti-fascism, and the thirties
Part Two: New Left, Old Problems
2. Yesterday the struggle: 'Outside the Whale' and the fight for the thirties
3. A peculiar classic
4. Getting out of the tent
Part Three: Crisis and Creativity
5. The road to St Paul's
6. The eagle and the bustard: EP Thompson and Louis Althusser
7. 'Mountainous inconsistency': EP Thompson, Marx, and 'The Poverty of Theory'
8. 'Don't tread on Me': the other side of Thompson's critique
9. Between Zhdanov and Bloomsbury: the poetry and poetics of EP Thompson
Part Four: Making Peace
10. After St Paul's: EP Thompson's late work
Conclusion: The Last Muggletonian Marxist: The Paradoxical Triumph of EP Thompson 268


Scott Hamilton is a writer and researcher based in New Zealand and has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Auckland

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