This work ranges across five areas of debate that have remained largely unconnected until now: epistemology, with special reference to philosophy of science; Marxist theory; philosophy of history; modern historiography; and substantive Marxist interpretations of the past. Its purpose is to clarify the nature, and explanatory competence of historical materialism. What are the philosophical premises of historical materialism? Can any theory of history be justified by philosophical argument alone?
In answering these questions McLennan begins by appraising the conception of science upheld by such thinkers as Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend, and the influential reading of historical materialism propounded by G. A. Cohen. Turning to questions of method, he analyses current trends in 'social' and 'socialist history', and assesses the achievement of the Annales School. The third part of the book focuses directed on Marxist interpretation of history, from Marx and Engel's themselves to such contemporary Marxist historians as John Foster and Gareth Stedman Jones.
Marxism and the Methodologies of History is a welcome contribution to a discussion whose complexities engage many key issues of philosophy and history and reach into the very core of Marxism itself.