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Neo-Marxism is a loose term for various twentieth-century approaches that amend or extend Marxism and Marxist theory, usually by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions, such as: critical theory, psychoanalysis or Existentialism (in the case of Sartre).
Erik Olin Wright's theory of contradictory class locations, which incorporates Weberian sociology, critical criminology, and anarchism, is an example of the syncretism in neo-Marxist theory. As with many uses of the prefix neo-, many theorists and groups designated as neo-Marxist have attempted to supplement the perceived deficiencies of orthodox Marxism or dialectical materialism. Many prominent neo-Marxists, such as Herbert Marcuse and other members of the Frankfurt School, were sociologists and psychologists.
Neo-Marxism comes under the broader framework of the New Left. In a sociological sense, neo-Marxism adds Max Weber's broader understanding of social inequality, such as status and power, to Marxist philosophy. Strains of neo-Marxism include: critical theory, analytical Marxism and French structural Marxism.
The concept arose as a way to explain questions which were not explained in Karl Marx's works. There are many different "branches" of Neo-Marxism often not in agreement with each other and their theories.
Limitations within orthodox Marxism
The development of Neo-Marxism came forth through several political and social problems which traditional Marxist thought was unable to answer. Examples to this were: Why did socialist and social-democratic political parties not band together against WWI, but instead supported their own nations' entrance into the Great War? Why, although the timing seemed to be right for a workers' revolution in the West, had no large-scale revolution occurred? Also how at this time could the rise of Fascism occur in Europe?
All these questions led to internal problems within Marxist theory, which caused renewed study and reanalysis of Marx's works to begin.
Expansion of Marxist critiques
One idea that many "branches" of Neo-Marxism share is the desire to move away from the idea of open, bloody revolution to one of a more peaceful nature. Moving away from the violence of the Red revolutions of the past while keeping the revolutionary message. Neo-Marxist concepts can also follow an economic theory that attempts to move away from the traditional accusations of class warfare and create new economic theory models, such as Hans-Jürgen Krahl did.
Several important advances to Neo-Marxism came after World War I from Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch and Antonio Gramsci. From the Institute for Social Research founded in 1923 at the University of Frankfurt am Main grew one of the most important schools of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, The Frankfurt School. Its founders were Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno whose critical theories had great influence on Marxist theory especially after their exile to New York (Columbia University) after the rise of National Socialism in Germany in 1933.
Neo-marxist theories of development
The Neo-Marxist approach to development economics is connected with dependency and world systems theories. Here the "exploitation" which defines it as a marxist approach is an external exploitation rather than the normal "internal" exploitation of orthodox/classical marxism.
- Analytical Marxism
- Cultural Marxism
- Marxist humanism
- Neue Marx-Lektüre
- Budapest School (Lukács)
- Open Marxism
- Western Marxism
- Young Marx
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