In Defense of History

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In Defense of History: Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda,” co-edited with Ellen Meiksins Wood (Foster listed second) (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1997), 204 pp. Expanded version of July-August 1995 special issue of Monthly Review. (Contains two essays, including an afterword, authored by Foster.)

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.


  • Indian edition, (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2006).
  • Chinese translation by Hao Mingwei. (Beijing: Social Science Academic Press, 2009).
  • Portuguese translation published in Rio de Janeiro in 1999.
  • The afterword to this book by Foster, entitled “In Defense of History,” was translated into Farsi and published in the Iranian journal Negah, September 2000.


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