Neal Wood

A Marxist scholar of the history of political thought, Neal Wood (10 September 1922 – 17 September 2003) located political ideas within social relations, property forms, and popular struggles, writing on topics as variant as the British Communist Party, John Locke, Aristotle, Edmund Burke, and St. Augustine.


Born in Los Angeles, Wood volunteered for the Royal Air Force before the United States entered the Second World War. After four years in the R.A.F., he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force and served in Italy. After the war, the G.I. Bill helped him to study at the University of California, Berkeley, from which he graduated in 1951 with a degree in history. From 1955 to 1957, he studied at Cambridge University for his Ph.D. His doctoral thesis, Communism and British Intellectuals, was published in 1959.

Between 1958 and 1963, Wood taught at Columbia University. He then accepted an appointment at the University of California, Los Angeles before taking up, in 1966, a chair in political science at the newly established York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife, Ellen Meiksins Wood, with whom he co-authored several studies, became Canadian citizens. He retired from York in 1988, and settled in England a decade later, where he died of cancer in Devon.

The Woods had one son, Cody Markwell Wood, who died suddenly in 1984. Cody had one daughter, Chantal Ferris, born in 1975, who currently resides in Canada.

His final book, a jeremiad against the direction of his country of origin entitled Tyranny in America: Capitalism and National Decay, appeared posthumously in 2004.


  • Communism and British Intellectuals, Columbia University Press, 1959.
  • Class Ideology and Ancient Political Theory: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Social Context, with Ellen Meiksins Wood, Blackwell, 1978.
  • The Politics of Locke's Philosophy : A Social Study of 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding', University of California Press, 1983.
  • John Locke and Agrarian Capitalism, University of California Press, 1984.
  • Cicero's Social and Political Thought, University of California Press, 1988.
  • Foundations of Political Economy : Some Early Tudor Views on State and Society, University of California Press, 1994.
  • A Trumpet of Sedition: Political Theory and the Rise of Capitalism, with Ellen Meiksins Wood, New York University Press, 1997.
  • Reflections on Political Theory : A Voice of Reason from the Past, Palgrave, 2002.
  • Tyranny in America: Capitalism and National Decay, Verso, 2004.