Dr Peter Thompson

peter thompson imageReader Emeritus in German

email : p.thompson@sheffield.ac.uk

I have been teaching at the University of Sheffield since 1990, when I was appointed to build up the provision of politics and history options within the Department. My background is a somewhat unusual one: I left school at 16, joined the army for 5 years and then worked as a lorry driver, before commencing undergraduate study as a mature student in 1983 at Portsmouth Polytechnic. My interests have always been in the post-war history of the GDR and German unification, but my main area of research at present is in the field of Ernst Bloch studies, encompassing not only his period in the GDR from 1949 to 1961 - when he was Professor of Philosophy at Leipzig University and centrally involved in oppositional Marxist activities of the Harich-Gruppe of the mid 1950s – but also in the philosophical impact of his theories of “Concrete Utopia” and the central role of hope in social transformation.

I am also the Director of The Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies, which was established at Sheffield in 2008.

In 2013, Duke University Press will publish my edited volume The Privatisation of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia in Slavoj Žižek’s SIC series. Contributors include Slavoj Žižek, Wayne Hudson, Vince Geoghegan, Roland Boer, Ruth Levitas, Johan Siebers, Cat Moir, Henk de Berg, Caitríona Ní Dhúill, David Miller, Rainer Zimmerman, Francesca Vidal, Welf Schröter, Frances Daly and me.

Since 1990 I have published on the history of ideas, political developments in the GDR and post-unification Germany, Bertolt Brecht, ecology and philosophy, and the PDS/Linke. In 2005 I published The Crisis of the German Left (Berghahn, NY and Oxford), which deals with the history of Stalinism in the workers´ movement and its continuing influence on the post-unification Left. I am also one of the founding editors of the journal DEBATTE, which has been running since 1993 and deals with German and wider Central European Affairs.


I am a media commentator on German affairs, having appeared in several Radio 4 programmes and a Channel 4 documentary on British attitudes to the Third Reich. I publish regular columns in the Guardian on a variety of issues related to Germany and the philosophy of religion. My article series on Marx, How to Believe, was published as a Guardian Short e-book.

Guardian blog peter

Current Projects

  • a monograph for Zero Books called Does Marx Still Matter?, which is based on a series of eight columns I did for the Guardian on Karl Marx
  • a short monograph called The Metaphysics of Contingency, with Upper Westside Philosophers (NY).
  • (together with Cat Moir, Johan Siebers) a series of monographs and edited volumes on and translations of Ernst Bloch for Brill publishers (Leiden) who have now established a Bloch Bibliothek. Eventually it is hoped that we will translate the whole of Bloch’s work
  • a book of essays on Bloch entitled God’s Atheist as well as translating Bloch’s Thomas Münzer als Theologe der Revolution and his Avicenna und die Aristotelische Linke in this series.

British Academy Award

In 2008 I was awarded a three-year British Academy Research Development Award (BARDA) totalling £107,000, to work on a project entitled Ernst Bloch and the Return of Religion as well as to support the wider activities of the Bloch Centre.

List of Publications, Papers and Conference Contributions

The Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies

Guardian Profile