The Birth of Theory

October 31, 2020
The Birth of Theory

Modern theory needs a history lesson. Neither Marx nor Nietzschefirst gave us theory—Hegel did. To support this contention, AndrewCole’s The Birth of Theory presents a refreshingly clearand lively account of the origins and legacy of Hegel’s dialecticas theory. Cole explains how Hegel boldly broke from modernphilosophy when he adopted medieval dialectical habits of thoughtto fashion his own dialectic. While his contemporaries rejectedpremodern dialectic as outdated dogma, Hegel embraced both itsemphasis on language as thought and its fascination with thecategories of identity and difference, creating what we nowrecognize as theory, distinct from systematic philosophy. Notcontent merely to change philosophy, Hegel also used this dialecticto expose the persistent archaism of modern life itself, Coleshows, establishing a method of social analysis that has influencedeveryone from Marx and the nineteenth-century Hegelians, toNietzsche and Bakhtin, all the way to Deleuze and Jameson.By uncovering these theoretical filiations across time, TheBirth of Theory will not only change the way we read Hegel,but also the way we think about the histories of theory. Withchapters that powerfully reanimate the overly familiar topics ofideology, commodity fetishism, and political economy, along with agroundbreaking reinterpretation of Hegel’s famous master/slavedialectic, The Birth of Theory places the disciplines ofphilosophy, literature, and history in conversation with oneanother in an unprecedented way. Daring to reconcile the swornenemies of Hegelianism and Deleuzianism, this timely book willrevitalize dialectics for the twenty-first century.