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History and Event

From Marxism to Contemporary French Theory

Nathan Coombs

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Explores the politics of modern and contemporary historical sciences, from Marxism to contemporary French theory

Are sciences of history relics of an abandoned modernism? Nathan Coombs demonstrates that the Marxist science of history has been reimagined by a strand of contemporary French theory after Louis Althusser. Taking a comparative approach, Coombs explores the technical details of both traditions’ historical sciences. He argues that their articulations of history and event affect how we approach political transformation and view the role of theoreticians in political practice.

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Preface and Acknowledgements
Part I: History and Event in Marxist Dialectics
1. Hegel’s Leaps and the Historicist Theory of Knowledge
2. Marx’s Idea of Communist Transformation
3. Lenin’s Philosophy: A New Dialectics of Revolution?
Part II: Events and Historical Judgement after Althusser
4. Althusser’s Science: Naming the Epistemological Break
5. Badiou’s Decision: To Give Up Leadership, Somewhat
6. Meillassoux’s Politics: Speculative Justice
Part III: Suggestions about Where this Road Might Take us
7. Afterword: Towards a Complex Science of History

About the Author

Nathan Coombs is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.


This book is a timely intervention in both classical and post-Althusserian Marxist philosophies. Drawing upon both traditions, Coombs makes a compelling case for a nuanced rather than combative understanding of the relationship between historical necessity and the contingency of events.

- Iain MacKenzie, Centre for Critical Thought, University of Kent

Coombs pays tribute to Marx as the master of historicization who challenged orthodoxies with rationalism. This absorbing study acknowledges the power of 'grand narratives' by considering how they are made to arise, and it shows us how crucial beauty, bravado and imagination are to a science of the event.

- Terrell Carver, Professor of Political Theory, University of Bristol

Scholars interested in French theory or Marxism will find the book a delight, drawing from many sources. Graduate students will find the book a useful synthesis of ideas and will no doubt be able to cite Coombs in his own right.

- Nick J. Sciullo, Illinois College, Political Studies Review

Noble and impressive.

- Edward Thornton, Royal Holloway, University of London, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

This is a valuable and important book… It gives a good overview of this important field of issues; and, most importantly, it seeks to bring Marxism and recent French theory back into a dialogue which has been lacking for a long time now, and that is to be welcomed.

- Sean Sayers, University of Kent, Science & Society

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