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Perry Anderson

The Merciless Laboratory of History

1998

Gregory Elliott

Perry Anderson

A penetrating guide to the thought and career of this foundational figure.

Perry Anderson, longtime editor of New Left Review and the man whom Terry Eagleton called “Britain’s most brilliant Marxist intellectual,” is perhaps the most influential proponent of Marxism in the English-speaking world. This book is the first comprehensive study of his work.

In Perry Anderson, the first full-length study of Anderson’s work, Gregory Elliott seeks to understand his intellectual achievements in the light of his political commitments. He charts Anderson’s often tortuous political evolution from his involvement in the first New Left as a student in Oxford at the end of the 1950s, through various political positions he adopted during his editorship of New Left Review.

Times Literary Supplement

The man whom Terry Eagleton has called “Britain’s most brilliant Marxist intellectual,” Perry Anderson, longtime editor of New Left Review, is perhaps the most influential proponent of Marxism in the English-speaking world. This book is the first comprehensive study of his work.

Gregory Elliott gives a dramatic view of the emergence of New Left theory in response to the degeneration of social democracy in the West and Communism in the East. As he traces the evolution of Anderson’s thought-arguably the most brilliantly original and ambitiously wide-ranging body of Marxist historical revision produced in a generation—Elliott also sketches the collective career of New Left Review, one of the most influential international journals of the postwar period.

Drawing on a wealth of material, Elliott identifies the enduring influence on Anderson of such figures as Isaac Deutscher and Antonio Gramsci. He also provides a detailed exposition and critique of Anderson’s writings on politics and culture—whether English exceptionalism or European Marxism, Louis Althusser or E. P. Thompson, Gramsci or Francis Fukayama, the fate of communism or the future of capitalism.

This first full reconstruction of Anderson’s distinguished career provides an overview of the evolution of the British New Left since 1956 and reveals a great deal about the vicissitudes of Marxist theory and political practice in the era of post-Stalinist communism. Elliott ultimately argues that, notwithstanding significant discontinuities in his intellectual development, Anderson remains a critically engaged thinker of the intransigent Left—a contemporary historian whose commitment to the long view renders him an indispensable commentator on our times.

Perry Anderson

Gregory Elliott is senior lecturer in humanities at the University of Brighton, UK.

Perry Anderson

In Perry Anderson, the first full-length study of Anderson’s work, Gregory Elliott seeks to understand his intellectual achievements in the light of his political commitments. He charts Anderson’s often tortuous political evolution from his involvement in the first New Left as a student in Oxford at the end of the 1950s, through various political positions he adopted during his editorship of New Left Review.

Times Literary Supplement

Elliott’s book is sure to be the benchmark be which others are compared. It impresses by the near exhaustiveness of its coverage and the intelligence of its critical judgments.

Left History

Perry Anderson

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations

1. Demarcations
2. Missed Rendezvous
3. Against the Historical Current?
4. The Verdict of the World

Conclusion: The Figure in the Mirror

Notes
Select Bibliography

Index