Theory as History
Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation
Winner of the 2011 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize
The essays collected here straddle four decades of work in both historiography and Marxist theory, combining source-based historical work in a wide range of languages with sophisticated discussions of Marx's notion of 'modes of production.' From the emergence of medieval relations of production; the origins of capitalism; the dichotomy between free and unfree labour; and essays in agrarian history that range widely from Byzantine Egypt to 19th-century colonialism. The essays demonstrate the importance of reintegrating theory with history and of bringing history back into historical materialism.
Part of the Historical Materialism Book Series.
"The great merit of this volume is that it establishes an approach for [the debates about the nature and origin of capitalism] that is deeply theoretical, but at the same time refreshingly unhampered by the kind of doctrinaire attachment to a perceived (and often misread) orthodoxy that plagued so much of “historical materialism” for the past century. It is scholarly, without being purely academic ... Banaji’s book deserves to be read and debated as one of the starting points for a new wave of Marxist historiography, still in the process of liberating itself from the ghost of its formalist past."
—Pepijn Brandon, International Socialism
"Banaji’s seemingly idiosyncratic but in fact highly sophisticated and original approach to historical analysis provides not only a welcome stimulus and a challenge for scholars today, but also will give them plenty to think about for many years to come"
—Marcel van der Linden, research director of the International Institute of Social History
“Theory as History is a book written at the summit of a lifetime’s engagement with issues of Marxist theory and practice ... Banaji’s work demonstrates that no aspect of human history is irrelevant to the present. His scholarship shows immense skill, depth and range … [proving] it is not the Marxist method that has been at fault, but the dominance of non-Marxist theory and method in the minds of Marxist ." —Counterfire
"From the impact of slavery, the rise of the poor taking control, and the role of other philosophies and faiths impacting the discussion, Theory as History is a unique way to discuss history, economics, and the people behind it, a core addition to any community library history collection."—Midwest Book Review