Militant Acts

The Role of Investigations in Radical Political Struggles

By Marcelo Hoffman

Subjects: Political Theory, Marxism, History, Philosophy, Sociology
Series: SUNY series in New Political Science
Hardcover : 9781438472614, 204 pages, January 2019
Paperback : 9781438472621, 204 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Sources of the Militant Investigation in Marxism: Marx, Lenin, and Mao

3. Workers’ Inquiries from Breakaway Trotskyism to Italian Workerism

4. Badiou, the Maoist Investigation, and the Party Form

5. In the Shadow of Oedipus: Enquêtes in Foucault’s Theory and Practice

6. Conclusion


Offers a history of the role of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century forward.


Militant Acts presents a broad history of the concept and practice of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century to the present. Radicals launched investigations into the conditions and struggles of the oppressed and exploited to stimulate their political mobilization and organization. These investigations assumed a variety of methodological forms in a wide range of geographical and institutional contexts, and they also drew support from the participation of intellectuals such as Marx, Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, Foucault, and Badiou. Marcelo Hoffman analyzes newspapers, pamphlets, reports, and other source materials, which reveal the diverse histories, underappreciated difficulties, and theoretical import of investigations in radical political struggles. In so doing, he challenges readers to rethink the supposed failure of these investigations and concludes that the value of investigations in radical political struggles ultimately resides in the possibility of producing a new political "we. "

Marcelo Hoffman is an independent scholar who received his PhD in international studies from the University of Denver and the author of Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power. He recently served as a Visiting Specialist Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the State University of Campinas in Brazil.


"In Militant Acts, a deep philosophical query traverses a minute historical reconstruction of the militant investigation in the history of Marxism … The book will surely become a reference on the issue … it is a brilliantly executed foray into an issue that deserves much more attention from academics and activists alike. " — Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"Militant Acts is a timely and original monograph that makes a convincing case for the practice as well as the study of militant investigations. " — Radical Philosophy Review

"This slim volume provides a fascinating survey of not only the wide variety in the forms of militant investigation but also their sources, purpose, and their mixture of success … Militant Acts should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the ways the tools of social science have been used by Marxists of the past in their efforts to both understand capitalist society and to replace it. " — New Political Science

"Marcelo Hoffman's Militant Acts is an important contribution to a growing body of writing that seeks to understand how research and organising can be combined … While broader and more heterodox than other existing accounts, it draws out the importance of learning from the past to inform struggles today. The challenges and opportunities of investigation are laid out to the reader. In the spirit of this history the book should not only be read, but then also interpreted in investigations that seek to understand how capitalism has changed today—not as an intellectual pursuit, but as part of a project of radical transformation. " — Global Labour Journal

"…[an] excellent book … in Militant Acts Hoffman has shown that there is much to learn from these histories of militant investigation, not as models to be copied, but rather as examples of attempts to forge new tools for responding to ever-changing but always demanding circumstances. " — Ephemera

"…Militant Acts makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the pre-history of the GIP and UCFML's investigative practices … it has much to offer to anyone interested in a radical politics of knowledge today. " — Contemporary Political Theory

"This book uniquely brings together approaches and methodologies and studies comparatively the inquiry, across political and faction lines, countries and continents. The author uses a truly impressive and widespread array of resources and—significantly—across several languages. " — British Journal of Industrial Relations

"The kind of archival and synthetic work on investigations that this book evinces has been accomplished nowhere else. Hoffman's survey provides the reader with an understanding of how investigations fit into the theoretical practice of many important Marxist thinkers, along with an argument for their utility. Further, original insights into these thinkers, which enhance or even contradict our available understandings with better historical evidence, are offered. " — William S. Lewis, author of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism

"Hoffman focuses on a distinctive, yet little recognized practice of resistance and shows how it impacts and is impacted by the theories of ideology and power in which it was employed. The scholarship is not only sound, but truly pathbreaking in its treatment of various traditions, languages, and even its usage of extremely diverse source materials. " — Kevin Thompson, DePaul University