Western Marxism

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Western Marxism is a body of various Marxist theoreticians based in Western and Central Europe, in contrast with philosophy in the Soviet Union. While György Lukács's History and Class Consciousness[1] and Karl Korsch's Marxism and Philosophy,[2] first published in 1923, are often seen as the works that inaugurated this current, the phrase itself was coined much later by Maurice Merleau-Ponty.[3]

Antonio Gramsci is also of great significance, though many of his writings were not translated into English until comparatively late. Western Marxists have commonly (but not exclusively) worked as professional academics; philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, literary critics, and so on.

Distinctive elements[edit]

Although there have been many schools of Marxist thought that are sharply distinguished from Marxism-Leninism - such as Austromarxism or the Left Communism of Antonie Pannekoek or Rosa Luxemburg - those theorists who downplay the primacy of economic analysis are considered Western Marxists, as they concern themselves instead with abstract and philosophical areas of Marxism. In its earliest years, Western Marxism's most characteristic element was a stress on the Hegelian and humanist components of Karl Marx's thought, but later forms of Western Marxism, such as Structural Marxism, have been just as strongly antihumanist.

Western Marxism often emphasises the importance of the study of culture for an adequate Marxist understanding of society. Western Marxists have thus elaborated often-complex variations on the theories of ideology and superstructure, which are only thinly sketched in the writings of Marx and Engels themselves.

British Cultural Studies[edit]

Usually seen as a separate current of thought, Cultural Studies developed by British academics in the 1960s shares much common ground with Western Marxism. The work of theorists such as Raymond Williams addresses issue of culture that were dismissed by previous Marxists as unimportant. The theories of Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School are important source points for British Cultural Studies.

Political commitments[edit]

Western Marxists have varied in terms of political commitment: Lukács and Gramsci were members of Soviet-aligned parties; Karl Korsch was heavily critical of Soviet Marxism, advocating council communism and later becoming increasingly interested in anarchism; the theorists of The Frankfurt School tended towards political quietism, although Herbert Marcuse became known as the 'father of the New Left'; Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Althusser and Lefebvre were, at different periods, supporters of the Communist Party of France, but all would later become disillusioned with it; Ernst Bloch lived in and supported the Soviet Union, but lost faith in it towards the end of his life. Maoism and Trotskyism also influenced Western Marxism.

Western Marxists[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://libcom.org/library/taxonomy/term/119
  2. ^ http://libcom.org/library/marxism-philosophy-korsch
  3. ^ Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1973). Adventures of the Dialectic. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. pp. 30–59. ISBN 0-8101-0404-0. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Anderson, Perry. Considerations on Western Marxism. London: New Left Books, 1976.
  • Fetscher, Iring. Marx and Marxism. New York: Herder and Herder, 1971.
  • Grahl, Bart, and Paul Piccone, eds. Towards a New Marxism. St. Louis: Telos Press, 1973.
  • Howard, Dick, and Karl E. Klare, eds. The Unknown Dimension: European Marxism Since Lenin. New York: Basic Books, 1972.
  • Jay, Martin, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukacs to Habermas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
  • Korsch, Karl. Marxism and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970.
  • Lukacs, Georg. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. London: Merlin, 1971.
  • McInnes, Neil. The Western Marxists. New York: Library Press, 1972.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Adventures of the Dialectic. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
  • Van der Linden, Marcel. Western Marxism and the Soviet Union. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

External links[edit]