Prof. Massimiliano Tomba’s Insurgent Universality: Continuing the Debate Virtual Discussion

March 30, 2023


Massimiliano Tomba’s Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity, is considered one of the most important recent contributions to political philosophy. Its main argument is that within traditions of subaltern resistance and insurgency, a different form of universality emerges - radical, agonistic, egalitarian - that represents the alternative ‘subterranean’ current of modernity. This resonates with both contemporary theoretical debates and political exigencies, especially those related to the egalitarian and emancipatory potential of contemporary struggles. In a period when the main thrust of the dominant discourse is to represent ‘liberal democracy’ as the inescapable finality of the entire trajectory of the political philosophy of modernity, Tomba offers in Insurgent Universality a way to both revisit this legacy and also to see the tensions and ruptures running through it. Above all, Tomba insists that the subaltern can both act and think, producing their discourse and theory in the forms of very explicit declarations and enunciations that subsequent historical and theoretical expositions (including many varieties of Marxism) have tended to underestimate. Historical Materialism. Research in Critical Marxist Theory dedicated a significant part of issue 30.4 to symposium on Insurgent Universality, with contributions by Aldo Beretta and Rebecca Fritzl, Vanita Seth, Harry D. Harootunian, Niklas Plaetzer and responses by Massimiliano Tomba, along with an introduction by Panagiotis Sotiris. The issue can be reached here:

To continue the debate on this important contribution, we have organized this broadcast in which Aldo Beretta, Panagiotis Sotiris and Alberto Toscano will discuss with Massimilano Tomba his book and the ways in which it remains pertinent to contemporary discussions.

Massimiliano Tomba is a professor in the History of Consciousness Department, University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of books and articles on Bruno Bauer, the Left Hegelians, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Benjamin. Among his publications Marx’s Temporalities, Brill, 2013 and Insurgent Universality. An Alternative Legacy of Modernity, Oxford University Press, 2019. He is currently working on a new project titled The Work and Politics of Anachrony.

Aldo Beretta is a philosopher and political theorist. He currently is visiting professor at the Alice Salomon University in Berlin and associated fellow at the Center for Social Critique of Humboldt University. Some of his publications include: Democracy and Economy: Traces of an Immanent Crisis (2020), From Marx to Mariátegui: Primitive Accumulation and Agrarian Community (2019), Observations on Habermas’s Critique of Marx (2017), and Capitalism and Reification: An Approach to Theodor W. Adorno (2016). He is currently working on the reception of Marx in contemporary Critical Theory.

Alberto Toscano teaches in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, and is the author of two books coming out this year, Terms of Disorder: Keywords for an Interregnum and Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis. He is also the co-editor of Ruth Wilson Gilmore's Abolition Geography, Georges Bataille's Critical Essays and The Sage Handbook of Marxism. He is an editorial board member of Historical Materialism Research in Critical Marxist Theory.

Panagiotis Sotiris works as a journalist in Athens, Greece and teaches at the Hellenic Open University. His most recent book is A Philosophy for Communism. Rethinking Althusser. He is an editorial board member of Historical Materialism. Research in Critical Marxist Theory.

View the recording here