Looking for the Proletariat

Buy hardcover (Brill)
Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004235366

Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing

Stephen Hastings-King

Looking for the Proletariat is a contribution to understanding the implosion of the Marxist Imaginary. The implosion is staged in terms of the first English-language history of the French revolutionary group Socialisme ou Barbarie from 1949 to 1957. It explains why Socialisme ou Barbarie was the only Marxist organization interested by worker experience and how the group’s anti-Leninist position on organization led it to privilege first-person worker narratives in order to understand worker experience and its revolutionary possibilities. Using the only first-person accounts of working-class experience in French industry of the 1950s, the book explores the disintegration of collective investment in the Marxist Imaginary that unfolded at Renault’s Billancourt factory in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution and the contexts that shaped it.

Biographical note

Stephen Hastings-King, Ph.D. (1999) in Modern European History from Cornell University. He lives by a salt marsh in Essex, Massachusetts where he makes constraints, works with prepared piano and writes entertainments of various kinds.


All interested in the history and crisis of Marxism, French intellectual & social history since 1945, anyone interested in Socialisme ou Barbarie.


“Stephen Hastings-Kings is very precise and punctual in describing the life of the movement, through continuous references to their historical, social, and political context, and an efficient use of their written sources. There are also a bibliography and a clear index, helping the reader to find his way through the book. This work is theoretically well supported by references to Marx and Marxism, and to pivotal authors in phenomenology, especially Husserl and Merleau-Ponty.”
Giorgio Baruchello, Nordicum-Mediterraneum, vol. 10, n. 1 (2015)

Table of contents


1. Where Things Start
2. Rethinking Revolutionary Theory
3. Frame: On Claude Lefort’s ‘L’Expérience Prolétarienne’
4. Working-Class Politics at Renault Billancourt
5. Looking for the Working Class
6. Reading Daniel Mothé