In ‘The Poverty of Theory’, E.P. Thompson opens his critique of Althusserian Marxism – and Theory more broadly – with a caricature of the Western philosophical tradition. Within this account, the boundaries of philosophy are delimited by the dusty office and crepuscular world of the philosopher. Here, we witness the petty labour which underpins the great philosophical systems; a dimly-lit staring contest between the philosopher and ‘his’ objects. This contest goes back and forth with a predictable regularity. If the philosopher wins – presumably by reducing the object to an epiphenomenon or example – he becomes an idealist. If the object wins, it pierces the philosopher’s conceptual system, thus becoming a positive ground. However, Theory, Thompson continues, falls far behind even this age-old philosophical game.