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 (especially Aristotle), classical political economy, Heidegger and his students.

In contemporary ethical and political thought: republicanism, moral particularism, institutionalism and non-ideal theory.

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

Current research: 
  • “BDS and Political Theory.” Critical Exchange in Contemporary Political Theory, edited and introduced by myself and C. Heike Schotten. Due 1 June 2019.
  • “‘Centralism is a dangerous tool’: On CLR James's history of principles.” Essay in progress. Committed for a special issue of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism on CLR James, edited by Umut Ozsu and Philip Kaisary.
  • “‘A Barricade, Not a Government’”: The Universal Republicanism of the Paris Commune.” Essay in progress. Committed for “la Commune n’est pas morte…”: a special issue of Nineteenth-Century French Studies, edited by Robert St. Clair and Seth Whidden, for May 2021.
  • “Republicanism from Below: Powers, Counter-powers, and Ideological Impediments to Freedom.” Essay in progress.
  • “Marx’s Politics of Freedom.” Essay in progress.
  • A Radical Politics of Freedom: Domination, Ideology, and Liberation. Book manuscript in progress.
  • Universal Emancipation and History: A Conceptual History of ‘History From Below.’ Book Manuscript in progress.
  • The Politics of Primitive Accumulation. With Gavin Walker (History, McGill University). Edited volume in preparation.
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 (https://www.thenation.com/article/in-marxs-republic/).
    • 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

  • “Marx’s Social Republic: Political, not Metaphysical.” Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. (Forthcoming: 27:2, 2019).

  • “What Was Primitive Accumulation: Reconstructing the Origins of a Critical Concept.” European Journal of Political Theory. (Online first: 11 October 2017). DOI: 10.1177/1474885117735961.

  • “The Idea of Emancipation after Postcolonial Theory.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 19:6 (August 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, expected August 2019.

  • “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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