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Karl Marx



The Historical Materialism and International Relations seminar series seeks to explore and develop the multiple points of contact between Marxist theory and international relations, most broadly defined. It does so with the double aim of investigating the critical and explanatory potentials of Marxism in the domain of international relations, as well as to probe what an engagement with ‘the international’ might contribute to Marxist theory. The seminar series is associated with the journal of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory and its forthcoming ‘Historical Materialism and International Relations’ book series.

The following seminars will be given at 5 pm on Thursdays at Manor Road Building, Seminar Room C, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. 

For further information please see:

Convener: Alexander Anievas

23 February 2012:

‘Uneven Developments, Combined: Gramsci and Trotsky on Permanent Revolution’

Peter Thomas 

Abstract: This paper will explore the different formulations of the notion of Permanent Revolution in the work of Antonio Gramsci and Leon Trotsky. Although Gramsci himself explicitly rejected Trotsky’s notion of permanent revolution as a reversion to a strategy of ‘war of movement’, he also claimed that his development of the theory of hegemony could be regarded as a contemporary form of Marx and Engels’s notion of the ‘Revolution in Permanence’. The paper will analyse the similarities and differences of the two seemingly divergent claims to inherit a central perspective of the classical Marxist tradition, and will argue that thinking the concepts of permanent and passive revolution together enables us to clarify and to make explicit dimensions that remain underdeveloped in each theorist’s respective work.

Peter Thomas is Lecturer in the History of Political Thought at Brunel University,London. He is the author of The Gramscian Moment: Philosophy, Hegemony and Marxism (Brill, 2009), and (with Juha Koivisto) Mapping Communication and Media Research: Conjunctures, Institutions, Challenges (Tampere University Press, 2010) and co-editor (with Riccardo Bellofiore and Guido Starosta) of In Marx’s Laboratory: Critical Interpretations of the Grundrisse(Brill, 2010). He has published widely on Marxist political theory and philosophy, the history of political thought and the history of philosophy.


1 March 2012:

‘Fatal Attraction: a critique of Carl Schmitt’s international political and legal theory’

 Benno Teschke

Abstract: The ongoing Schmitt revival has extended Carl Schmitt’s reach over the fields of international legal and political theory. Neo-Schmittians suggest that his international thought provides a new reading of the history of international law and order, which validates the explanatory power of his theoretical premises – the concept of the political, political decisionism, and concrete-order-thinking. Against this background, this article mounts a systematic reappraisal of Schmitt’s international thought in a historical perspective. The argument is that his work requires re-contextualization as the intellectual product of an ultra-intense moment in Schmitt’s friend/enemy distinction. It inscribed Hitler’s ‘spatial revolution’ into a full-scale reinterpretation ofEurope’s geopolitical history, grounded in land appropriations, which legitimized Nazi Germany’s wars of conquest. Consequently, Schmitt’s elevation of the early modern nomos as the model for civilized warfare – the ‘golden age’ of international law – against which American legal universalism can be portrayed as degenerated, is conceptually and empirically flawed. Schmitt devised a politically motivated set of theoretical premises to provide a historical counter-narrative against liberal normativism, which generated defective history. The reconstruction of this history reveals the explanatory limits of his theoretical vocabulary – friend/enemy binary, sovereignty-as-exception, nomos/universalism – for past and present analytical purposes. Schmitt’s defective analytics and problematic history compromise the standing of his work for purposes of international theory.

Benno Teschke completed his doctorate in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at theUniversityofSussexand a Visiting Research Fellow at the European Research Council funded ‘Research Project Europe 1815–1914’ at theUniversityofHelsinki. He is the author of The Myth of 1648: Class, Geopolitics and the Making of Modern International Relations (2003), which was awarded the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize. More recently, he has published in the New Left Review and in International Theory on the international thought of Carl Schmitt and is preparing a monograph on thesubject.


8 March 2012: 

‘The Bourgeois Revolution as an International Process’

Neil Davidson 

The concept of bourgeois revolution is one of the most controversial in Marxist historiography and in recent years it has been dismissed as irrelevant by several important schools of thought, including World Systems theory (Wallerstein, Gunder Frank) and Political Marxism (Brenner, Wood). In this talk, Neil Davidson will attempt to defend the explanatory power of the concept, but will also argue that it can only be understood as referring, not only to a succession of individual revolutions (England, America, France…) but also to an extended international process, the whole of which was greater than the sum of these parts. Beginning with the Reformation and only concluding with decolonisation after the Second World War, the capitalist world which emerged from it did not inherit the pre-existing absolutist states system, but created an entirely new one in which the component states had been reconfigured as independent centres of capital accumulation.

Neil Davidson is Senior Research Fellow with theSchool ofApplied Social Science at theUniversity ofStrathclyde. He is Author of The Origins of Scottish Nationhood (2000), Discovering the Scottish Revolution (2003), for which he was awarded the Deutscher Memorial Prize and co-editor and contributor to Alasdair MacIntyre’s Engagement with Marxism: Selected Writings, 1953-1974 (2008) and Neoliberal Scotland (2010). He has two books coming out next year: How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions? and Violating all the Laws of History: Combined Development, Nation-states, and Neoliberal Capitalism.


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Marxism and World Politics: Contesting Global Capitalism
Edited by Alexander Anievas

This book brings together internationally-distinguished scholars from History, Philosophy, Development Studies, Geography, and International Relations (IR) to examine recent developments in Marxist approaches to world politics.

Offering original and stimulating analyses of subjects traditionally at the forefront of Marxist studies of world politics, the collection also considers issues which have yet to be fully explored within a number of disciplines. Examining a wide array of topics ranging from the imperialism-globalization debate, the connections between social structures and foreign relations, the role of identity and imperialist norms in world politics, to the relationship between Marxist and Realist IR Theory, the contributors seek to further theoretical discussions and their implications for emancipatory radical politics. These contributions are structured around two major themes:

* The relationship between capitalist modernity and the states-system in explaining the changing patterns of inter-state conflict and cooperation;

* The debates within Marxist and IR discourses on the theoretical significance of ‘the international’, covering topics including uneven and combined development and passive revolution.

An impressive collection that seeks to advance dialogue and research, Marxism and World Politics will be of interest to students and scholars of IR, International Political Economy, Political Science, and Historical Sociology.

Table of Contents

The Renaissance Of Historical Materialism In International Relations Theory: An Introduction
Alexander Anievas

Part I: The Geopolitics Of Capitalist Modernity

1. Does Capitalism Need The State-System?
Alex Callinicos
2. The Changing “Logics” Of Capitalist Competition
Benno Teschke and Hannes Lacher
3. Western Hegemony And Transnational Capital: A Dialectical Perspective
Kees Van Der Pijl
4. Beyond The Theory Of Imperialism: Global Capitalism And The Transnational State
William I Robinson
5. Many Capitals, Many States: Logic, Contingency Or Mediation?
Neil Davidson
6. Globalization And Ideology: Post-Fordist Capitalism And The Politics Of Imperial Consent
Mark Rupert
7. To Be Or Not To Be, a Reductionist Marxism: Is That The Question?
John Hobson
8. Industrial Development And International Political Conflict In Contemporary Capitalism
Peter Gowan

Part II: Marxism And “The International”

9. Uneven And Combined Development: The Social-Relational Substratum Of “The International”? An Exchange Of Letters
Alex Callinicos And Justin Rosenberg
10. Non-Synchronicity, Capitalism And Uneven And Combined Development
Sam Ashman
11. The Geopolitics Of Passive Revolution
Adam David Morton
12. Approaching “The International”: Beyond Political Marxism
Jamie C. Allinson and Alexander Anievas
13. Politics And The International
Simon Bromley

Author Biography
Alexander Anievas is a PhD candidate at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge, UK. He is also currently the managing editor of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and member of the Editorial Board of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory.

April 2010 | Paperback: 978-0-415-47803-8 (Routledge) £25.99

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