Detail of black and white photo of stacked magazines.

Journalistic Forms of Theory. The journal “alternative” (1958–1982)

The dissertation project studied the relationship between theory formation and the publishing of periodicals at the intersection of political movements, academia and public intellectualism in the second half of the 20th century, focussing on the Marxist-structuralist literary journal alternative. Published in West Berlin from 1958 to 1982, the journal’s life span covers the early years of the so-called New Left, i.e. the time of the student movement and the 1970s, a decade of crisis for the post-68 Left. The New Left mediasphere in which alternative operated was explored by taking into account processes of transfer and distinction between journals and other media. Thus, alongside alternative, pioneering publications such as the British journals Universities & Left Review, The New Reasoner and New Left Review, the French Arguments, the West German konkret and Kursbuch, as well as intellectual role models such as Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les Temps Modernes, were also reviewed. Since the theory and practice of journal publication can be located in a longue durée of political media history, the study examined references to socialist-Marxist as well as Young Hegelian traditions of publishing.

It is important to not consider periodicals as mere passive or neutral entities, mirrors, or containers of thought but instead as dynamic sites of production. Structured by their own temporalities and modes of intellectual production, they yield content and forms that are specific to their medium. Along with aspects concerning the medium itself, this study explored material, social and discursive contexts in which various actors directed expectations toward publishing projects and in which they shared experiences relevant to theory formation. Occasionally, journals themselves became objects of theory, especially in moments of elevated temporal significance, such as beginnings, endings or even the afterlives of defunct periodicals. Ultimately, it can be shown that theory, in the sense of the collective singular and generic term that arose in the 1960s and 1970s, was an intellectual phenomenon that developed through a constitutive relationship with its use of the journal as medium.


Fig. above: © Moritz Neuffer

ZfL Doctoral Fellowship 2017–2019
Head researcher(s): Moritz Neuffer


Moritz Neuffer

Die journalistische Form der Theorie
Die Zeitschrift ›alternative‹ 1958–1982

Wallstein, Göttingen 2021, 415 pages
ISBN 978-3-8353-5010-6

Moritz Neuffer


05 Jun 2018

Moritz Neuffer: Rereadings. ›68‹ as a History of Representations

Université Liège

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01 Dec 2017 · 2.30 pm

Moritz Neuffer: Was ist das Gegenteil von Apathie? Zur Publizistik der Neuen Linken um 1960

Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Karl-Tauchitz-Straße 1, 04107 Leipzig

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05 Oct 2017 · 3.30 pm

Moritz Neuffer: Theory and Its Audience (Or Lack Thereof)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, R 2249a (Marmorsaal)

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KOSMOS Workshop of the HU Berlin
05 Oct 2017 – 06 Oct 2017

Ideas in Print: Journalistic Forms in Intellectual History

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6,10099 Berlin, R 2249a (Marmorsaal)

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13 Jul 2017 · 3.30 pm

Moritz Neuffer: Von der Selbstarchivierung zur digitalen Erforschung? Zum Gesamtverzeichnis der Zeitschrift »alternative«

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

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04 Jul 2017 · 10.00 am

Moritz Neuffer: Theorie-Journalismus. Die Zeitschrift alternative im Kontext intellektueller Publizistik (1958–1982)

Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Am Neuen Markt 9d, 14467 Potsdam, Großer Seminarraum

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04 Mar 2017 · 11.15 am

Moritz Neuffer: Documentation and Disclosure: Journalistic Practices in the History of Critical Theory

Deutsches Historisches Institut, 1607 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009 (USA)

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Media Response

02 Nov 2023
Die journalistische Form der Theorie. Die Zeitschrift ›alternative‹ 1958–1982

Review by Regine Strätling, in: Komparatistik. Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft. Bielefeld: Aisthesis 2023

23 Jan 2023
Die journalistische Form der Theorie. Die Zeitschrift ›alternative‹ 1958–1982

Collective review by Jürgen-Wasem Gutensohn, in: Arbeit – Bewegung – Geschichte. Zeitschrift für historische Studien 22.1 (2023), 133–136