Helena Sheehan

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Professor Helena Sheehan is an academic philosopher, historian of science, and writer on communication studies, politics, and philosophical (particularly Marxist) subjects. Sheehan is a retired (Professor Emeritus) Communications lecturer at Dublin City University and has been a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town.


Born in the United States, Sheehan describes her childhood as Catholic and conservative, Sheehan began studies her university and taught primary school as a nun.[1] As a result of studying, she became an agnostic and liberal, then later an atheist and radical. She then left the convent. Sheehan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1967 from St. Joseph's University (then known as St. Joseph's College) in Philadelphia, followed by an MA in 1970 from Temple University in Philadelphia. She earned a PhD in 1980 from Trinity College (Dublin) in philosophy – then already active in the Trinity College Dublin Communist Society.[2]

As an historian of science, Sheehan develops the view that Marx and Engels shared fundamentally the same view on the philosophy of science.[3] A Marxist humanist, Sheehan has written critically of Lysenkoism and Stalin's impact on scientific development.

Sheehan has lectured at the Humanist Association of Ireland.[4]

In her personal life, Sheehan is the partner of the trade unionist Sam Nolan.[5]

Death of Communism[edit]

Writing in June 1989 as Eastern Europe was being liberated from Soviet imperialism: "The world is 'going our way', the leaders of 'the free world' have declared. The iron curtain has come tumbling down. The Kremlin has been conquered without a single marine opening fire, without a single ICBM being launched. It unravels before me like a nightmare. No more the red flags flying. No more the heads held high and the fists clenched and the voices raised to the strains of The International. No more the larger-than-life murals of workers and soldiers and peasants marching into the future shaping the world with the labour of their hands and hearts and minds. Now it is to be Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola and Michael Jackson and Sacchi & Sacchi."


Books by Sheehan include:

  • The Continuing Story of Irish Television Drama: Tracking the Tiger, Four Courts Press, 2004.
  • Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History, Humanities Press, 1993.
  • European Socialism: A Blind Alley or a Long and Winding Road?, MSF, 1992.
  • Has the Red Flag Fallen?, Attic Press, 1989.
  • Irish Television Drama: A Society and Its Stories, Radio Telefís Éireann, 1987.


In academic journals (peer-reviewed):

  • 'Fair City'. Journal of Irish Studies. January 2006.
  • 'Grand narratives then and now: Can we still conceptualise history?' Socialism and Democracy 12, 1998.
  • 'On public service broadcasting: against the tide'. Irish Communications Review 2, 1992
  • 'Writing and the zeitgeist'. Irish University Review 21, 1991

In political journals:

Book reviews[edit]




  • 'Communism and the Emancipation of Women'. (Communist Party of Ireland, 1976).


  • On Marxism:

    'Whatever Marxism is, it is systemic analysis and historical perspective. It is a totalising (not totalised) philosophy of history. It is the only mode of thought able to give a coherent, comprehensive, and credible account of the complexity of contemporary experience. It is the only coherent analysis of the capitalist mode of production and how it structurally generates, not only the maximum expropriation of surplus value, but maximum dissolution of social bonds, involving decreasing access to totality and increasing atomisation of thought processes. It is the only credible analysis of an alternative mode of production, proposing socialism, not only as a radical restructuring of the relations of production, but as a fundamental transformation of patterns of thought and forms of social organisation.'[6]

  • On Lysenkoism:

    "What went wrong was that the proper procedures for coming to terms with such complex issues were short-circuited by grasping for easy slogans and simplistic solutions and imposing them by administrative fiat."[7]

See also[edit]

List of Dublin City University people


  1. ^ Communications: Professor Helena Sheehan. Staff Details. University of Dublin. Accessed 8 April 2009.
  2. ^ Johnston, Roy W.H. Century of Endeavour: A Biographical and Autobiographical View of the 20th Century in Ireland. Academica Press, LLC, 2003 ISBN 1-930901-76-3, ISBN 978-1-930901-76-6. Pp. 332–333.
  3. ^ Steger, Manfred B. The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-521-58200-8, ISBN 978-0-521-58200-1. P. 92
  4. ^ "Monthly Meetings". Humanist Association of Ireland. Accessed 8 April 2009.
  5. ^ "I went to Tripoli just to give a lecture – and flew into a seven-day nightmare", Irish Independent, 5 March 2011
  6. ^ Sheehan, Helena. 'Grand narratives then and now: Can we still conceptualise history?' Socialism and Democracy 12, 1998. Cited in Rao, Ramesh N., Narayanan Komerath, Beloo Mehra, Chitra Raman, and Sugrutha Ramaswami. 'A Factual Response to the Hate Attack on the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF)'. Friends of India, 2003. P. 10.
  7. ^ Sheehan, Helena. Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History, Humanities Press, 1993. Cited in Ollier, Cliff. "Lysenkoism and Global Warming". Lavoisier Group, Inc. http://www.lavoisier.com.au/articles/greenhouse-science/method/ollier2008-28.php

External links[edit]