William Clare Roberts

Academic title(s): 

Associate Professor

William Clare Roberts
Contact Information

855 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2T7

Email address: 
william.roberts3 [at] mcgill.ca
Ferrier 426
Research areas: 
Political Theory

Political Theory

Areas of interest: 

In the history of political thought: Marx and Marxism, ancient Greek political philosophy, classical political economy, nineteenth century socialisms.

In contemporary ethical and political thought: republicanism, institutionalism and non-ideal theory, theories of power and domination, ideology.

In social theory and philosophy of the social sciences: social ontology, institutional economics, prudential rationality.

Current research: 
  • I’m writing an afterword to a new translation of Marx’s Capital, Volume One, under contract with Princeton University Press. The new edition is translated by Paul Reitter (OSU) and co-edited by Reitter and Paul North (Yale). This will be the first English edition since the Fowkes translation was published 50 years ago, and the first English translation to be based on the 2nd German edition of 1872 (the last German edition seen to publication by Marx).
  • A Radical Politics of Freedom: Domination, Ideology, and Self-Emancipation. Book manuscript in progress.
  • Universal Emancipation and History: The Making and Unmaking of ‘History From Below.’ Book Manuscript in progress.
Selected publications: 


  • "Marx's Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital," (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017. 276 pp.).
  • Winner of the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize (2017)
  • Reviews:
    • Jacobin. David Harvey, “Reading Capital,” 10 March 2017.
    • Choice. M. Perleman, May 2017, p. 1414.
    • Perspectives on Politics (15:2). Emanuele Saccarelli, June 2017, pp. 609-11.
    • Capital and Class (41:2). Nicholas Vrousalis, June 2017.
    • Marxism and Philosophy Review of Books. Sean Ledwith, 5 December 2017.
    • Political Studies Review (16:1). Alexander Tebble, December 2017.
    • H-Ideas. Amy E. Wendling, December 2017.
    • Disputatio (44:9). P. A. Raekstad, 2017, pp. 127-30.
    • International Socialism: A Quarterly Review of Socialist Theory (157). Sam Popowich, 8 January 2018.
    • The Nation. Daniel Luban, “In Marx’s Republic,” April 30-May 7, 2018.
    • Review of Politics (80:3). Alex Callinicos, Summer 2018, pp. 564-68.
    • Contemporary Political Theory (17: Supplement 3). Christian Lotz, August 2018, pp 139–142.
    • The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (26:1). Lucie Mercier & George Tomlinson, 1 November 2018, Pages 346–367.
    • Sozialwissenschaftliche Literatur Rundshau (77) Michael Brie, „Durch de Hölle“, February 2018.

Journal Articles

  • "«Une barricade, non un gouvernement» Contrasting Views of Association in the Paris Commune." Nineteenth-Century French Studies 49:3 (2021): 173-193. doi:10.1353/ncf.2021.0003.

  • "Centralism is a Dangerous Tool: Leadership in C.L.R. James’s History of Principles." The CLR James Journal 26:1/2 (2020): 219-240.

  • Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and Political TheoryContemporary Political Theory 18:3 (2019): 448–476.
  • ““What Was Primitive Accumulation: Reconstructing the Origins of a Critical Concept.” European Journal of Political Theory 19:4 (2020): 532-552. DOI: 10.1177/1474885117735961.

  • Marx’s Social Republic: Political, not Metaphysical.” Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. 27:2 (2019): 41-58. doi:10.1163/1569206X-00001870.

  • “The Idea of Emancipation after Postcolonial Theory.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 19:6 (2017): 747-763. DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2017.1347055.

  • “Compulsory Schooling: The University, the Market, and the Work Students Do.” Part of a “Critical Exchange on Education and Scholarship in the Twenty-First-Century Marketplace.” Contemporary Political Theory 14:4 (November 2015): 409-433.

  • “All Natural Right Is Changeable: Aristotelian Natural Right, Prudence, and the Specter of Exceptionalism.” Review of Politics 74:2 (Spring 2012): 261-283.

  • “The Reconstitution of Marxism’s Production Paradigm: The Cases of Benjamin, Althusser, and Marx.” Philosophical Forum 41:4 (Winter 2010): 413-440.

Book Chapters

  • “Reading Capital as Political Theory.” In Marx's Capital after 150 Years: Critique and Alternative to Capitalism, ed. Marcello Musto. Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy. London and New York: Routledge, 2019, 219-231.

  • “Marx’s German and British Political Encounters.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Marx, eds. Jeff Diamanti, Andrew Pendakis, and Imre Szeman. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, 231-40.

  • “Feuerbach and the Left and Right Hegelians.” In The History of Continental Philosophy, Volume Two: The Revolutionary Responses to the Existing Order (1840-1900), edited by Daniel W. Conway, general editor Alan D. Schrift. Stocksfield, UK: Acumen, 2010, 17-34.

  • “Abstraction and Productivity: Structures of Intentionality and Action in Marx’s Capital.” In Marx and Contemporary Philosophy, edited by Andrew Chitty and Martin McIvor. Harmondsworth, UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009, 188-203.

  • “The Origin of Political Economy and the Descent of Marx.” In Marx, Critical Theory, and Religion: A Critique of Rational Choice. Edited by Warren S. Goldstein. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006, 31-58.  (Paperback edition, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009.)

Selected talks and presentations: 

“‘Centralism is a dangerous tool’: On CLR James's history of principles,” at Historical Materialism 2018, SOAS, University of London, London, UK, November 2018.

“Ideologies of domination and democratic theory,” presented at “Political theory in/ and/ as political science,” McGill University, Montreal, QC, May 2018.

“The Past, Present, and Future of Primitive Accumulation,” at the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, September 2016.

“Unfree Agents: Emancipation and Domination after Postcolonial Theory,” at the Western Political Science Association, San Diego, CA, March 2016.

Associate Professor
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