Political Science Marx's Political Thought
by
Paul Blackledge
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0171

Introduction

Karl Marx (b. 1818–d. 1883) is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential thinkers of the modern period. Nevertheless, although much of what he wrote has been sedimented into contemporary culture, many of his ideas, especially his political ideas, are far too scandalous ever to be fully incorporated into academic common sense. Part of the reason for this is that his legacy has consistently been attacked and misrepresented by individuals and groups who are, so to speak, on the other side of the barricades. At a much more interesting level, however, academic incomprehension of Marx’s thought is rooted in a structural gap between his totalizing methodology and academia’s tendency to fragment along disciplinary and sub-disciplinary lines. It is because Marx’s thought marks a profound break with this standpoint that any serious attempt to map his ideas onto the categories of modern academic thought will be fraught with dangers. Indeed, the deeply historical and revolutionary character of Marx’s thought makes it almost unintelligible from the essentially static perspective of modern theory. It is not that modern theory does not recognize change; it is rather that it tends to conceive it in effectively reformist terms: change is fixed within boundaries set by more-or-less naturalized capitalist social relations. Any attempt to write a study of Marx’s supposed political theory must therefore confront the problem that his thought cannot be fully incorporated within this standpoint. He was neither an economist nor a sociologist nor a political theorist, but his revolutionary theory involves the sublation of these (and more) categories into a greater whole. Consequently, though Marx’s thought can be said to have economic, political, and sociological, etc., dimensions, it cannot be reduced to an amalgam of these approaches, and critics should be wary of Procrustean attempts to fit aspects of his work into one or other academic sub-discipline, or indeed to reduce his conception of totality to a form of inter- or multi-disciplinarity. Specifically, whereas modern political theory tends to treat politics as a universal characteristic of human communities, Marx insists that it is a historical science: states, ideology, and law are aspects of broader superstructural relations that function to fix and reproduce minority rule within class-divided societies. Politics, from this perspective, is best understood as an epiphenomenon of the relations of production by which one class maintains its control over humanity’s productive interaction with nature: it has a beginning with the emergence of class societies, hopefully an end with what Marx calls the communist closure of humanity’s “pre-history,” and can only properly be understood by those involved in the struggle to overcome the conditions of its existence.

Journals

There are numerous Marxist journals available in the Anglophone world, each catering in differing degrees to academic and activist audiences from perspectives rooted in Marx’s legacy. The oldest continuously published journal on the English-speaking Marxist left is Science and Society, which was launched at the height of the “Popular Front” in 1936. Just over a decade later Monthly Review was launched in much less propitious circumstances at the beginning of the Cold War—and its editors faced the wrath of McCarthyism in the 1950s. Both journals were and continue to be open and independent vehicles of debate and analysis on the Marxist left. New Left Review, International Socialism, New Politics and Socialist Register were launched at the time of the British and American New Lefts at the turn of the 1960s and have continued publication as distinctive voices on the left long after the collapse of the movement that gave them life. Critique and Capital and Class came into being more than a decade later to cater to a new audience of ex-students who had been radicalized in the 1960s and subsequently moved into the academy. As the left went on the defensive in the 1980s, new journals such Capitalism Nature Socialism, Rethinking Marxism, Socialism and Democracy, and Studies in Marxism were launched to response to the crisis of Marxism as both social democracy and Stalinism retreated before neoliberal capitalism. More recently, since its launch in 1997 Historical Materialism has become an important voice on the academic Marxist left.

Marx’s Writings: Key Texts

2004 saw the completion of the English-language edition of Marx and Engels’s Collected Works (Marx and Engels 1975–2004). Though not as comprehensive as the German edition (Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA)), which has the benefit both of being in Marx’s native language and of including the various drafts of Capital (Marx 1976–1981) and Marx’s except notebooks, the fifty volumes of the Collected Worksare nonetheless an invaluable resource for Anglophone students of Marx and Engels’s work. Marx’s magnum opus is, of course, Capital. Only Volume 1 was published in his lifetime while Volumes 2 and 3 were constructed by Engels from manuscripts written by Marx between 1863 and 1865. These latter volumes are consequently contested as sources of Marx’s finished reflections on political economy and should be read alongside the economic manuscripts published as part of the collected works. Most prominent of these is the first rough draft of Capital known as the Grundrisse (Marx 1973), the second, published as A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Marx 1970), and the third draft known as the 1861–1863 manuscripts and partially published as Theories of Surplus Value (Marx 1969–1972) before full publication as part of the Collected Works. The best English translations of the three volumes of Capital are found in the edition published by New Left Review in collaboration with Penguin Books in the 1970s (Marx 1976–1981). This venture also saw the first complete English translation of Marx’s so-called rough draft of Capital, the Grundrisse. Of Marx’s other works, The German Ideology (Marx and Engels 1976) is, with the exception of the Communist Manifesto (see Draper 2004, cited under Selections of Marx’s Mature Writings), perhaps the text most read by students of Marx’s ideas. This is a very problematic source precisely because, though it is often presented as a complete and unitary study, it was never finished and the published version was pulled together from disparate fragments. Nevertheless, it is filled with insightful comments and prefigures his subsequent work.

  • Marx, Karl. Theories of Surplus Value. Parts 1–3. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1969–1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the mid-1880s Engels hoped to recast Marx’s 1861–1863 manuscripts as Volume 4 of Capital. However, he did not have time to do so before his death. These three volumes, which constitute more than half of the 1861–1863 manuscripts, were first published by Karl Kautsky between 1905 and 1910.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1970.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Most famous as the source of the “1859 Preface” in which Marx overviews his own intellectual trajectory while simultaneously providing a terse and dense (to help bypass the Prussian censors) outline of his worldview.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl. Grundrisse. London: Penguin, 1973.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marx’s “rough draft” of Capital—very dense but equally rewarding; includes a very important methodological introduction.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl. Capital. 3 vols. London: Penguin, 1976–1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The best translation of this fundamental work, and because Capital is a “critique of political economy” rather than a mere work of economics it is a treasure trove of political insight. Chapter 24 of Volume 1 is the point in his mature writings where Marx most eloquently restates his claim about the relationship between the point of view of the totality and the standpoint of the working class. Vol. 1, 1976; vol. 2, 1978; vol. 3, 1981.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl. The Poverty of Philosophy. In Collected Works. Vol. 6. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 105–212. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A powerful critique of Proudhon’s anarchism for failing to extend the critique of political economy beyond the horizons of political economy. Marx’s movement beyond these limitations is helped through his first use of the concept of relations of production by which he delineates modes of production and thus historical epochs.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Collected Works. New York: International Publishers, 1975–2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Collected Works brings together all of Marx and Engels early works (vols. 1–3), their published and unpublished general works (vols. 4–27), their letters (vols. 38–50), and Marx’s major economic writings (vols. 28–37).

    Find this resource:

  • Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. The German Ideology. In Collected Works. Vol. 5. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 20–539. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This problematic work remained unpublished in Marx and Engels’s lifetimes and was subsequently reconstructed from fragmentary manuscripts. Nonetheless, it remains a useful guide not merely to their critique of the Young Hegelian milieu but more importantly to their mature thought. If the bulk of this manuscript is the largely unread critique of Max Stirner’s proto-Nietzschean anarchism, the most famous sections include Marx’s notes on Feuerbach.

    Find this resource:

  • Marxist Internet Archive.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A very important and useful Internet resource that contains many of Marx and Engels’s most important works alongside a plethora of other works by Marxists of various stripes—invaluable.

    Find this resource:

Selections of Marx’s Early Writings

Among the most important, and willfully misinterpreted, of Marx’s early writings is his brilliant transitional essay, On the Jewish Question (Bottomore 1963, Colletti 1975, Easton and Guddat 1997, O’Malley 1994), in which he explores the profound limitations of liberal political theory through the lens of an analysis of the class character of the revolutionary movements that gave rise to the supposedly universal ideas of the rights of man and the subsequent social movements that threatened to deepen the “political emancipation” enshrined in these ideals into true “human emancipation.” Written at around the same time as On the Jewish Question, Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Bottomore 1963, Colletti 1975, O’Malley 1994) includes his famous analysis of religion not as simple error but rather as an expression of real suffering: “[r]eligion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Perhaps the most important of Marx’s notes written in this period is the so-called Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (Bottomore 1963, Colletti 1975, Easton and Guddat 1997), in which he outlines an immanent critique of capitalism through the lens of the writings of the English political economists before moving on to analyze French socialism as a practical proletarian alternative to the dehumanization of social life wrought by capitalism. These notebooks culminate with a synthesis of these moments by means of a reworking of Hegel’s concept of change through internal contradiction. Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State (Bottomore 1963, Colletti 1975) is similarly important for signaling his break with Hegel’s statism. His new worldview was expressed in pithy form in The Theses on Feuerbach (Bottomore 1963, Colletti 1975), which culminated in the famous claim that “The philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it.” Often interpreted as a crude rejection of philosophy, this dictum is better understood as announcing a revolution in philosophy attendant to Marx’s “discovery of the proletariat” most famously elucidated in The Communist Manifesto (1848) (see Draper 2004, cited under Selections of Marx’s Mature Writings).

  • Bottomore, Tom, ed. Early Writings. London: McGraw-Hill, 1963.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes translations of Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State and his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right alongside On the Jewish Question, the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, and The Theses on Feuerbach.

    Find this resource:

  • Carver, Terell, and Daniel Blank, eds. Marx and Engels’sGerman Ideology” Manuscripts. London: Palgrave, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Though often read as a finished work, The German Ideology exists in fragments. This text provides an expert scholarly reconstruction of the main part (excluding the opening sections) of what is usually presented as the first part of the book on Feuerbach. An essential resource for experts.

    Find this resource:

  • Colletti, Lucio, ed. Early Writings. London: Penguin, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This edition of Marx’s early writings includes On the Jewish Question alongside Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, his Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State, and The Theses on Feuerbach.

    Find this resource:

  • Easton, Loyd, and Kurt Guddat. Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alongside On the Jewish Question and excerpts from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, this selection includes a number of shorter journalistic pieces and extracts from The Holy Family and The German Ideology.

    Find this resource:

  • McLellan, David, ed. Karl Marx: Early Texts. Oxford: Blackwell, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alongside many of the major early essays, this selection includes a number of Marx’s early works of political journalism.

    Find this resource:

  • O’Malley, Joseph, ed. Marx: Early Political Writings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes a number of Marx’s more directly political writings that predate the publication of the Communist Manifesto. These include On the Jewish Question, Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, and Critical Notes on the King of Prussia and Social Reform.

    Find this resource:

  • Schafer, Paul, ed. The First Writings of Karl Marx. New York: Ig, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes Marx’s doctoral dissertation and his notebooks on Epicurean philosophy.

    Find this resource:

Selections of Marx’s Mature Writings

Beyond Capital and other book-length projects, Marx was the author of innumerable pamphlets, letters, and (notoriously) unfinished works. It is from these sources that the detail of much of his thought is best gleaned—though Hal Draper is right to caution Marx’s interlocutors that they should be wary of quoting from texts that were either unintended for publication or published in circumstances out of Marx’s control (Draper 1977–2005, cited under More Substantial Studies Of Marx’s Thought, pp. 3–4). Both McLellan 1977 and Tucker 1978 are good single-volume selections of Marx’s writings, while New Left Review brought together an important selection of Marx’s writings in the 1970s: alongside improved translations of the three volumes of Capital (Marx 1976–1981, cited under Marx’s Writings: Key Texts) and the first complete English edition of the Grundrisse (Marx 1973, cited under Marx’s Writings: Key Texts), this selection includes three excellent volumes of Marx’s political writings alongside a complementary selection of his early writings (Fernbach 1973a, Fernbach 1973b, Fernbach 1974; also Colletti 1975, cited under Selections of Marx’s Early Writings). Also, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Progress Publishers of Moscow published a number of useful collections of Marx and Engels’s writings on specific topics: these include On Reformism (1984), Ireland and the Irish Question (1971), Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism (1972), On Britain (1953), and On Colonialism (1960). In addition to these, Hal Draper produced important critical editions both of the Communist Manifesto (see Draper 2004) and Marx and Engels’s writings on the Paris Commune (Draper 1971). The Communist Manifesto (1848) is not merely Marx and Engels’s most-read piece, but also one of history’s most influential political pamphlets. Written in beautiful and memorable prose, the Manifesto synthesizes Marx’s outline of the origins of capitalism, his hymn of praise of its dynamism, his critique of its self-destructive essence, and his revolutionary call to arms to overthrow it. If the Manifesto announces Marx’s ideas to the world in broad brush stokes, his Instructions for Delegates to the Geneva Congress (see Fernbach 1974) is the (historically specific but nonetheless very illuminating) place to look for detail of his vision of a socialist program. Beyond this, his Critique of the Gotha Programme (see Carver 1996, Fernbach 1974) is a stinging assessment of the program by which German “Marxists” came together in a common organization with the followers of Ferdinand Lassalle. This essay incorporates much more generally significant and concise summaries of Marx’s approach to such questions as the labor theory of value, the relationship of the working class to other classes in the struggle for socialism, the nature of socialism and communism, the substance of equality, and the nature of the state. Marx’s most brilliant piece of contemporary historical analysis is his study of the revolution and counter-revolution in France between 1848 and 1851, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (see Fernbach 1973b), while his seminal study of the Paris Commune includes his most important discussion of workers’ power: The Civil War in France (see Carver 1996, Draper 1971, Fernbach 1974).

  • Carver, Terrell, ed. Marx: Later Political Writings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes Marx’s most important mature political writings, including the Communist Manifesto, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Civil War in France, and several important methodological essays.

    Find this resource:

  • Draper, Hal, ed. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Writings on the Paris Commune. New York: Monthly Review, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alongside the final version of Marx’s The Civil War in France, this edition includes two preliminary drafts and selections of letters and related documents.

    Find this resource:

  • Draper, Hal, ed. The Adventures of the Communist Manifesto. Alameda, CA: Center for Socialist History, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This superb resource includes four parallel editions of the Manifesto: the original German edition; Helen Macfarlane’s 1850 English translation; the standard 1883 English translation by Samuel Moore (with a very significant input from Engels); and a new translation intended to supplement Moore’s version by Draper himself. The book also includes a comprehensive overview of the Manifesto’s production and history from 1848 through to Engels’s death.

    Find this resource:

  • Fernbach, David, ed. The Revolutions of 1848. London: Penguin, 1973a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alongside The Communist Manifesto (1848), Fernbach’s collection also includes many of Marx’s most important direct political interventions as a participant in the revolutionary movement of 1848 and his subsequent “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.” Written in 1850, and commonly known as the March Address, this document marks the moment in Marx’s oeuvre when he comes closest to prefiguring Lenin’s conception of an interventionist revolutionary workers’ party.

    Find this resource:

  • Fernbach, David, ed. Survey from Exile. London: Penguin, 1973b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey from Exile includes Marx’s most famous and most brilliant work of contemporary history: his account of the revolution and counter-revolution in France from 1848 to 1851: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. This volume also contains Marx’s most important writings on India and China and a selection of his writings on the American Civil War.

    Find this resource:

  • Fernbach, David, ed. The First International and After. London: Penguin, 1974.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This selection includes Marx’s fundamental articles on the disabling nature of anti-Irish racism on the English working class, his Instructions for Delegates to the Geneva Congress and what is arguably his most important direct contribution to political theory: Critique of the Gotha Programme. Also included are important criticisms of anarchism (“Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy”), reformism (1879 Circular Letter), and his seminal discussion of workers’ power (The Civil War in France).

    Find this resource:

  • McLellan, David, ed. Karl Marx: Selected Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A substantial selection of Marx’s writings including many of Marx’s mature political publications (sections 3 and 5).

    Find this resource:

  • Tucker, Robert. The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: Norton, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An extensive selection of Marx and Engels’s writings which includes Marx’s key early writings (Part 1), a selection of the most important strategic and sociopolitical analyses (Parts 3 and 4), and a selection of Engels’s later writings (Part 5).

    Find this resource:

Biographies of Marx

Among the many biographies of Marx, the classic though dated work is Mehring 1962, and the standard academic work in English is McClellan 2006. Blumenberg 2000 paints a poignant picture of Marx’s personal relations. Thomas 2012 is useful for highlighting the unity between Marx’s theory and practice and Wheen 1999 is highly readable journalism. Gabriel 2012 paints a spellbinding portrait of Marx’s relationship with his wife and other intimates, while Prawer 1976 synthesizes copious, fascinating evidence of how Marx’s love of literature both informed and found expression in his theoretical works.

Introductory Overviews of Marx’s Thought

The best single-volume introduction to Marx’s ideas is Callinicos 2011, while Eagleton 2011, Collier 2004, and Wood 2004 all provide excellent introductory summaries of his thought and practice. The most rewarding engagement with Marx’s thought from a first-rank intellectual opponent of his ideas is Berlin 2013.

More Substantial Studies of Marx’s Thought

Among the more substantial studies of Marx’s thought, pride of place must go to Hal Draper’s superb five-volume work (Draper 1977–2005). Richard Hunt’s two-volume study of Marx and Engels’s politics (Hunt 1975–1984) also repays reading. Elster 1985 is insightful but destructive. On Marx and Engels’s respective roads to Marxism, see Löwy 2003, Leopold 2007, and Kouvalakis 2003 for competing narratives.

Classical Marxist Developments of Marxism

Marxism is a living tradition that has been extended and revised by a number of important theorists. Below are some of the key contributions. Luxemburg 1989 is an important critique of reformism, while Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution (Trotsky 1969) alongside Luxemburg’s conception of the mass strike (Luxemburg 1986), both penned in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1905, and Lenin’s renewal of Marx’s theory of the state (Lenin 1968, cited under State Form), penned in response to the collapse of social democracy into support for war in 1914, all mark pivotal moments in the renewal of Marxism around the collapse of the Second International in 1914. Similarly, Gramsci 1992–2007 is a very influential attempt to come to terms with the novel problems posed to the revolutionary left in modern Western social formations. Lenin 1993 is an important attempt to outline the coordinates of a renewed Marxist approach to politics after the collapse of the Second International, while Trotsky 1971 is a powerful application and extension this framework to Germany at the time of the struggle against Hitler’s rise to power.

  • Gramsci, Antonio. Prison Notebooks. 3 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992–2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gramsci’s fragmentary notes are arguably one of the most important attempts to raise Marxist theory to the level of practice—difficult but well worth the effort.

    Find this resource:

  • Lenin, Vladimir. “What Is to Be Done?” In Lenin Collected Works. Vol. 5. By Vladimir Lenin, 347–529. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1961.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The most influential and probably most misrepresented extension of Marx’s political ideas in a 20th-century setting. At its core is an interventionist conception of political practice.

    Find this resource:

  • Lenin, Vladimir. “Left Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder. London: Bookmarks, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alongside his State and Revolution, this is arguably Lenin’s most important work. In it he distills the lessons of Bolshevism for a non-Russian audience.

    Find this resource:

  • Luxemburg, Rosa. The Mass Strike. London: Bookmarks, 1986.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Fundamental critique both of bureaucratic conservatism within trade unions and of the potential for rank-and-file struggles to exceed this conservatism.

    Find this resource:

  • Luxemburg, Rosa. Reform or Revolution. London: Bookmarks, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The pivotal contribution to the “revisionist debate” at the turn of the 19th century. Luxemburg argued that reform and revolution were not two roads to the same goal but paths that led in very different directions—the first to the subordination of the workers’ movement to the power of capital, the latter to human emancipation.

    Find this resource:

  • Trotsky, Leon. Permanent Revolution and Results and Prospects. New York: Pathfinder, 1969.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution is not a theory of revolution in permanence but a strategy aimed at transforming the coming bourgeois revolution (initially in Russia but later more generally) into a socialist revolution. This text marked an important critique of mechanical materialism within the Second International and also the Stalinist Comintern.

    Find this resource:

  • Trotsky, Leon. The Struggle against Fascism in Germany. New York: Pathfinder, 1971.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among the most impressive (and tragic) creative applications and extensions of Marxist political theory in the context of a pivotal crisis. In particular, the essay What Next?: Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (1932) combines an authoritative analysis of fascism with a powerful contribution to socialist strategic and tactical thought—a fundamental work.

    Find this resource:

  • Trotsky, Leon. Literature and Revolution. London: Redwords, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A wonderful contribution to literary theory that includes a powerful pointer to Trotsky’s vision of communist politics.

    Find this resource:

The Present as a Historical Problem: Historical Materialism

Marx’s conception of politics differs fundamentally from alternative approaches by his profound sense of history. From Marx’s perspective, politics generally is a transitional form characteristic of the struggle for power in class-divided societies, while modern politics is a variant of this condition as realized through the capitalist form of state. Marx’s theory of history is thus best understood as a method for making sense of the historically conditioned parameters of possible change in the present. And as such it forms a whole that includes his conceptions of politics, economics, sociology, etc. The heading of this section is taken from Lukács 1971 (cited under Marx’s Approach to Politics), a fundamental theoretical work on this subject. Anderson 1980 is a reply to Thompson 1978, a critique of the reconceptualization of historical materialism in Althusser 1969 (cited under Freedom, Alienation, and Human Nature). This is a brilliant exchange in which Anderson draws heavily upon Cohen 2000 and its seminal “orthodox” interpretation of historical materialism according to which primacy is assigned to the development of the forces of production in explaining changing social relations through history. This interpretation of Marx’s theory of history is challenged by Rigby 1998 who, following Brenner, for instance in Wickham 2007, assigned primacy to changes in relations of production over the development in the forces of production Callinicos 2004 attempts to navigate a way between these interpretations of Marx. Wickham 2007 is evidence of the power of Marxist history writing, while Blackledge 2006 is a critical synthesis of these approaches.

Studies of Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

In Capital (Marx 1976–1981, cited under Marx’s Writings: Key Texts), Marx explores the specifically capitalist form of humanity’s interaction with nature as the basis upon which to ground his politics. Many of Marx’s critics, and not a few of his followers, have interpreted Capital as a (failed) work of 19th-century positivism. This interpretation has been powerfully challenged from perspectives informed by Marx’s famous introduction to the Grundrisse (Marx 1973, cited under Marx’s Writings: Key Texts), in which he argued that his method of analysis was characterized by an intellectual movement from the abstract to the concrete. Following Rosdolsky 1977, many of Marx’s interlocutors have read Capital through the lens of the overtly Hegelian formulations in the Grundrisse. Callinicos 2014 and Bidet 2007 by contrast insist not only on the influence of Hegel on Marx but also on Marx’s profound break with Hegel.

Applying Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

There has been a legion of works developing Marx’s categories in line with later crises and periods of growth. For instance, Marxist analyses of imperialism as a capitalist phenomenon blossomed at the time of the First World War, while works on crisis theory came to the fore in the 1930s. During the 1950s and 1960s the most erudite Marxists tried to make sense of the long boom, while important studies of the crisis re-emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s. The recent economic crisis has brought forth a similar flowering of Marxist analyses of the crisis. Among these there is a crucial debate, represented, for example, by Harvey 2011, McNally 2011, and Lapavitsas 2013 on the one hand, which explain the crisis in terms of the financialization, and Carchedi 2011, Harman 2010, Foster and Magdoff 2009, Kliman 2012, and Roberts 2016 on the other, which frame it in terms of more classical accounts of the long-term tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

Marx’s Approach to Politics

It is very difficult to disentangle Marx’s political ideas from the rest of his thought. As opposed to the partial conceptions of reality available from standpoint of civil society, Marx argued that the totality could be grasped only from the standpoint of the proletariat. From this perspective capitalism is understood as a novel and transitional mode of production characterized by the (partial) separation of economics from politics. Whereas this separation informs the reification of politics within bourgeois thought, for Marx, as Lenin famously observed, “politics is the most concentrated expression of economics.” While this perspective is often caricatured as a form of mechanical materialism or economic fatalism, the studies below—most importantly Lukács 1971—show that this is very far from the truth. In fact, Marx’s aim was to comprehend, in contrast with liberalism’s abstract conception of individual agency, (political) agency in all its concrete richness. The distinction between Marxism and liberalism is clearly adumbrated by Ramsay 1997, while Mészáros 2010–2011 details Marx’s analysis of the historically constituted limitations of (liberal) bourgeois thought. Arthur 1986 explicates the revolution in philosophy that underpins Marx’s critique of liberalism, while Eagleton 1991 and Jay 1984 provide, in turn, a useful survey of Marxist (and other) accounts of ideology and a superb critical overview of Marxist attempts to overcome ideological thinking through the concept of totality. Wood 2002 outlines Marx’s historical alternative to liberalism’s transhistorical abstractions, while Kain 1993 explores how Marx’s politics evolved out of an attempt to overcome the structural limitations of liberal thought.

Overviews of Marx’s Politics

Callinicos 2004 provides a succinct overview of Marx’s critique of politics. Miliband 1977 attempts to pull together a systematic Marxist approach to politics from the fragmentary writings of Marx and his most important followers. Molyneux 1976 provides an important synthetic survey of classical Marxist approaches to building a socialist party, while Wood 1985 articulates a powerful rebuff of post-Marxist criticisms of Marx’s central focus on the politics of class.

Marx’s Political Practice

Marx, as Engels said at his graveside, was “above all else a revolutionist.” The minutes of the General Council of the First International provide a detailed resource for anyone wanting to fully understand Marx’s political practice in the 1860s. Collins and Abramsky 1965 is the standard historical account of his political work in this period, while Fernbach 1974 adds a surer sense of his political and theoretical contribution at this time. Gilbert 1981 is an excellent study of the evolution of Marx’s political ideas in the 1840s and early 1850s, while Nimtz 2000 makes a powerful case for Marx and Engels’s practical contribution to the democratic breakthrough begun in the 19th century.

The State Form

Marx never left a systematic study of the state, though he did provide many scattered insights. Volume 1 of Draper 1977–2005 is the best starting point. In the 1970s, Marxist debate on the state focused on the exchange between the instrumentalist approach of Miliband 1969 and the structuralism of Poulantzas 1978. Despite their insights and formal differences, these approaches both opened the door to a break with Marx’s revolutionary politics that Lenin 1968 had done so much to recover. The German state derivation debate of the 1970s was much more theoretically robust. Important contributions to this debate are collected in Holloway and Picciotto 1978, and these arguments inform the contributions of Clarke 1991, Block 1987, and chapter 4 of Harman 2010 (cited under Applying Marx’s Critique of Political Economy).

Social Class

Marx’s discussion of the nature of class famously cuts off mid-sentence in Capital Volume 3. Nonetheless, as with his analysis of the modern state, his oeuvre is full of insights on the subject that have been explored and extended by numerous theorists over the years since his death. Volume 2 of Draper 1977–2005 is probably the best route into Marx’s ideas on the subject. Beyond this, Thompson 1980 brings the concept of class to life, while the equally brilliant contribution of Ste. Croix 1983 includes a direct challenge to Thompson’s understanding of the concept of social class. Carchedi 1977 and Wright 1978 made fundamental contributions to the study of class in the 1970s, while Wright 1989 is a useful collection of some key Marxist contributions to debates in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Callinicos, Alex, and Chris Harman. The Changing Working Class. London: Bookmarks, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lucid and compelling collection of essays that includes explorations of the nature of the new middle classes and the working class after the recession alongside a penetrating critical assessment of Erik Olin Wright’s early work by Callinicos.

    Find this resource:

  • Carchedi, Guglielmo. On the Economic Identification of Social Classes. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important attempt to extend Marx’s famously unfinished definition of class. Carchedi defines classes by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production; by their relation to the means of production; by their role in the social organization of labor; and by their share of social wealth, their mode of acquiring wealth, and the origins of their wealth.

    Find this resource:

  • Miliband, Ralph. Divided Societies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A powerful and convincing defense of the importance of class within the broader array of divisions in modern capitalist societies.

    Find this resource:

  • Poulantzas, Nicos. Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. London: Verso, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important attempt to extend Marx’s politics through an exploration of a class as a complex structurally determined category. Poulantzas defined the proletariat narrowly as productive workers, thus concluding that the largest part of the modern labor force is made up of a “new petty bourgeoisie.”

    Find this resource:

  • Ste. Croix, Geoffrey de. Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. London: Duckworth, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An influential and authoritative contribution to a Marxist theory of class—and a compelling history of Antiquity too!

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, Edward. The Making of the English Working Class. London: Penguin, 1980.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brilliant history of the English working class from the end of the 18th century to the Great Reform Act of 1932. Its preface includes Thompson’s famous definition of class—the rest of the book sees him put this concept to work.

    Find this resource:

  • Wright, Erik Olin. Class, Crisis and the State. London: Verso, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perhaps the most important of Wright’s many studies of class—it includes a powerful criticism of Poulantzas’s narrow definition of class and an important discussion of the “contradictory class locations” of the “new middle class.”

    Find this resource:

  • Wright, Erik Olin, et al., eds. The Debate on Classes. London: Verso, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful introduction to Marxist debates on class with contributions from most of the key contributors to this debate from the 1970s and 1980s.

    Find this resource:

Environmental Politics

Paul Burkett and John Bellamy Foster have between them demolished the myth that Marx was a Promethean thinker who has nothing of interest to contribute to modern concerns about the environment. Foster 2000 and Burkett 2014 are the essential starting points for anyone wanting to understand the profound relevance of Marx’s thought to environmental concerns. Both authors have richly expanded their contributions to this field in subsequent works (Burkett 2009; Foster 2002; Foster 2009; Foster, et al. 2010). Meek 1971 provides a useful collection of Marx’s writings on Malthus, while Empson 2014 is a useful and historically grounded contribution to a Marxist understanding of the contemporary environmental crisis.

Trade Unionism

If, as Marx argued, “the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself” and trade unions are the basic defense organizations of the working class, it stands to reason that Marxists will have a lot to say on this subject. Lapides 1987 brings together Marx and Engels’s key contributions to the subject, while Cliff and Gluckstein 2015 and Kelly 1988 represent important divergent attempts, influenced by the upturn in class struggle in the 1960s and 1970s, to synthesize Marx and later Marxist writings on the subject. Both agree that there is no “Chinese Wall” between day-to-day struggles over “bread-and-butter” issues and the broader revolutionary struggles that sometimes emerge out of these lower-level struggles. Where they differ is in their respective analyses of the relationship between rank-and-file workers and trade union bureaucracies. Clarke and Clements 1977, Darlington 2013, Hyman 1971, and Hyman 1984 all engage with this issue in attempts to synthesize Marxist accounts of trade unionism. Lozovsky 1935 is a comprehensive if problematic assessment of Marx’s writings on the subject.

Engagements with Liberal Political Philosophy: Marx’s Ethics

Buchanan 1982 and Peffer 1990 explore the complementarities between Marx’s thought and Rawls’s liberalism, whereas Callinicos 2000 attempts to draw out the revolutionary political implications of egalitarian liberalism. Against those who would paint Marx as positivist opponent of normative theory, Geras 1986 includes an important attempt to reconstruct a Marxist theory of justice. Similarly, against the division between normative and positive theory Collier 1990 argues that “Marx’s scientific analysis of capitalism is the case for socialism” (p. ix). Cohen 1995 is a powerful statement of his exploration of the complementarities between Marxism and egalitarian liberalism after the falsification of the former’s historical and political predictions, while Kain 1988 details Marx’s evolving ethical perspective. Blackledge 2012 explores Marx’s synthesis of modern and classical thought as a lens through which to explore his radical ethical alternative to the simulacrum of ethics characteristic of bourgeois thought.

Freedom, Alienation, and Human Nature

Marx’s theory of alienation presupposes both an essential, if historically constituted, human nature from which we are alienated, and an ethical goal of freedom as the political alternative to this condition. Althusser 1969 dismissed the concept of alienation as a “pre-Marxist ideological concept.” This interpretation of Marx reading was decisively criticized by, most importantly, Ollman 1976 and Mészáros 1975 in their powerful studies of alienation. They showed that far from rejecting the concept of alienation in his mature writings, Marx deepened it. Geras 1983 definitively counters the claim that Marx rejected the idea of human nature. Eagleton 1997 insists that a historically concrete conception of freedom is at the core of Marx’s politics, while Brenkert 1983 shows how this conception of freedom acts as the ethical core of Marx’s though.

Imperialism and Colonialism

In certain circles Marx is often derided as an “orientalist” thinker who acted as an apologist for capitalist advance outside Europe and who dismissed the suffering and the agency of non-European peasantries. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the essays on India included in Fernbach 1973b (cited under Selections of Marx’s Mature Writings) attest. Brewer 1990 provides a commanding overview of Marx’s and other Marxist theories of imperialism. The most important of the classic contributions were made by Lenin 1968 and Bukharin 2003, while Callinicos 2009, Hardt and Negri 2000, Harvey 2005, Wood 2003, and Panitch and Gindin 2012 make important contributions to an ongoing debate. Anievis 2010 is a useful selection of critical Marxist perspectives on contemporary imperialism.

Marxism and Nationalism

Marx and Engels famously predicted the demise of nation states in the Communist Manifesto. Unfortunately, most of their critics tend to start and end their criticisms with this statement. Harris 1990, Löwy 1998, and Nimni 1994 all show that there was much more to Marx and Engels’s contribution to understanding nationalism than this superficial view would suggest. Cummins 1980 surveys Marx and Engels’s attempts to make sense of nationalist movements.

Women’s Oppression: From Classical Marxism to Second Wave Feminism

Marx and Engels are often chided for either dismissing divisions other than class or reducing these divisions to class. This is a one-sided and mistaken critique. Marx looked to explain the specifically capitalist form of these divisions, and he agreed with Fourier that the level of social progress could be judged by the position of women within particular societies. The most important classical Marxist contribution to a theory of women’s oppression is Engels’s Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (Engels 1972, cited under Engels’s Contribution to Marxism). This influential and controversial text is the foundation stone upon which are built Marxist debates about the relationship between class exploitation and women’s oppression. The first and most influential Marxist contribution to the theory of women’s oppression and liberation is August Bebel’s Women in the Past, Present and Future. Originally published as Women and Socialism in 1879, Bebel’s book went through twenty-five editions in its first three decades. Over this period Bebel changed the book’s title in a forlorn attempt to evade Germany’s anti-socialist laws while simultaneously revising its opening section on women in the past in light of Engels’s Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Subsequently Bebel’s and Engels’s books framed classical works such as Kollantai 1977 and Zetkin 2015. The strengths and limitations of Engels’s work were hotly contested in the 1970s and 1980s. For a sense of these debates, see German 1998, Vogel 2013, Barrett 2014, and the essays brought together in Sargent 1981 and Sayers, et al. 1987.

  • Barrett, Michèle. Women’s Oppression Today. London: Verso, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally published in 1980, this is an influential attempt to synthesize Marxism and feminism by exploring the operation of gender relations within capitalism. The new edition includes a reply to critics.

    Find this resource:

  • German, Lindsey. Sex, Class and Socialism. London: Bookmarks, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally published in 1989, this book is an important attempt to integrate an analysis of women’s oppression within the family into a broader model of the reproduction of capitalist relations of production—sharply critical of Hartmann’s claim that Marxism is sex blind.

    Find this resource:

  • Kollantai, Alexandra. Selected Writings. London: Allison & Busby, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A selection of essays by the organizer of Zhenotdel, the Communist Party’s Women’s Department, after the Russian Revolution. It includes essays such as “Sexual Relations and the Class Struggle” and “Communism and the Family” that expand the Marxist analysis of women’s oppression to take account of personal relationships in particular by challenging the forms of moralism by which women’s oppression had long been justified and reproduced.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitchell, Juliet. Psychoanalysis and Feminism. London: Penguin, 1974.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important statement of the dual systems approach according to which, as she puts it, “we are dealing with two autonomous areas, the economic mode of capitalism and the ideological mode of patriarchy” (p. 412).

    Find this resource:

  • Sargent, Lydia, ed. The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: A Debate on Class and Patriarchy. London: Pluto, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important selection of essays centering on a seminal piece by Heidi Hartmann in which she tries to map a course between what she sees as the idealistic and ahistorical model of patriarchy found in Mitchell 1974, on the one hand, and Marxism’s sex blindness on the other. (This collection was published in America as Women and Revolution. Boston: South End.)

    Find this resource:

  • Sayers, Janet, Mary Evans, and Nanneke Redclift, eds. Engels Revisited. London: Tavistock, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Centenary (critical) celebration of Engels’s Origins of the Family by a series of socialist feminist writers.

    Find this resource:

  • Vogel, Lise. Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Towards a Unitary Theory. Chicago: Haymarket, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004248953Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally published in 1983, Vogel’s book is a powerful attempt to develop a unitary analysis of women’s oppression under capitalism by extending the categories of Marx’s Capital rather than Engels’s account of the origins of women’s oppression.

    Find this resource:

  • Zetkin, Clara. Selected Writings. Chicago: Haymarket, 2015.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This selection of essays by the leading figure of the German left and a close collaborator of Rosa Luxemburg. It includes her important 1896 essay “Only in Conjunction with Proletarian Women Will Socialism Be Victorious,” in which she delineated women’s oppression along class lines and the statement she wrote launching International Women’s Day in 1910.

    Find this resource:

Marxism and Women’s Oppression: Contemporary Contributions

With the retreat of the working-class movement and the rise of neoliberalism, from the 1980s onwards Marxism very much went out of favor in the academy. Nonetheless, Eisenstein 2004 argues that Marx’s categories are essential to make sense of the position of women within modern capitalist societies. Elsewhere, Brown 2013 is an important study of Marx’s understanding of women’s oppression, while Brenner 2000 and Orr 2015 use his ideas as a lens through which to engage with contemporary concerns. The essays collected in Gimenez and Vogel 2005, Holmstrom 2002, and Mojab 2015 similarly evidence the rich and varied literature on this subject. Arruzza 2013 is a useful point of entry to these debates.

Theorizing Racism

If Marx first grasped the importance of race in his analysis of the debilitating influence of anti-Irish racism on the English working class, Nimtz 2003 explains that he also had a much more profound understanding of racism in America than did Tocqueville. Anderson 2010 shows that Marx’s theory of history was far from Eurocentric, while Barker 1981 and Callinicos 1993 extend Marx’s method to explore the novelty and resilience of modern racism. Similarly, if in a much richer register, Allen 2012 is a detailed and powerful account of the origins and debilitating (for working-class whites as well as blacks) nature of racism in America. Sivanandan 1990 is a powerful response to racism in the United Kingdom in the postwar period; and in particular to the way that the British state fostered racism to divide the working class. Virdee 2014 is a more recent work is an exploration of the radicalized nature of modern class relations.

Marxism and Religion

Marx’s ethics and politics of liberation grew out of his critique of religion. In his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, he famously argued that “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” He concludes that “the criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that for man the supreme being is man, and thus with the categorical imperative to overthrow all conditions in which man is a debased, enslaved, neglected and contemptible being Colletti 1975, p. 244–251”. For Marx, therefore, the criticism of religion leads not to crude atheism but rather in the direction of a political challenge to the oppressive conditions from which religion emerges. MacIntyre 1995 argues that Marxism expresses in secular form what had otherwise been expressed in religious terms: a vision of human liberation. Pickard 2013 is a powerful historical materialist deconstruction of the myths of early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Kee 1990 and Löwy 1996 explore the strengths and weaknesses of Latin American liberation theology from Marxist perspectives. Siegel 1986 is a useful overview of Marx on religion followed by a survey of world religions from this standpoint. Mann 1999 analyzes the resilience of religion through the lens of Marx and Freud, while Eagleton 2009 has much fun exploring the strength of religion against crude atheism. Boer 2012 includes a reconstruction of Marx and Engels’s writings on religion.

Engels’s Contribution to Marxism

If the Communist Manifesto became the most influential of Marx and Engels’s works, in the late 19th century Engels’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific was much more widely read. Drawn from several chapters of his Anti-Dühring (Engels 1947)—a critique of the philosophical and theoretical pretentions of Eugen Dühring then influential among the proto-reformist elements within the German Social Democratic Party—Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is not merely a brilliant popularization of Marx and Engels’s ideas, it became, alongside its parent text and Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy (Engels 1990), the foundation stone upon which “Marxism” as a political doctrine was built at the turn of the last century—and consequently forms the pivot of debates on the relationship between Marx and Engels. Engels 1987 is a fundamental text in terms both of painting a picture of Manchester in the 1840s and of understanding Engels’s road to “Marxism.” Engels 1972 is powerful and controversial in equal measures—an essential read.

  • Engels, Frederick. Anti-Dühring. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1947.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The book which won the German Social Democratic Party to Marxism—brilliantly written and chief hero or villain depending on your perspective on Engels’s relationship to Marx: four chapters were extracted from it as Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. Dialectics of Nature. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1954.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Controversial unfinished manuscript in which Engels attempts to situate the Marxist conception of totality within nature.

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1972.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Engels’s account of the formation of the state is rooted in his reading of Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society and Marx’s Ethnological Notebooks. It provides the historical basis for the Marxist claim that the state is a historical phenomenon attendant to the division of society into irreconcilable classes and consequently that politics, as the attempt to conquer state power, is a historically transitory moment in human history.

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. “The Peasant War in Germany.” In Collected Works. Vol. 10. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 397–482. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first work of “Marxist” history—a study of the social roots of the religious wars of the 16th century.

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. The Condition of the Working Class in England. London: Penguin, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Published when Engels was still only twenty-four years old this classic marked a good part of the journey along Engels’s independent road to “Marxism.”

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. “The Housing Question.” In Collected Works. Vol. 23. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 317–391. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Powerful argument that the housing shortage can only be overcome through revolutionary means.

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. “On Authority.” In Collected Works. Vol. 23. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 42–425. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1988b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brilliant brief critique of anarchist criticisms of authority: “Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon” (p. 425).

    Find this resource:

  • Engels, Frederick. “Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy.” In Collected Works. Vol. 26. By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 353–398. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief and powerful overview and analysis of Marx’s break with and inheritance from Hegelianism.

    Find this resource:

Studies of Engels’s Thought

The best biography of Engels is still Mayer 1936, a two-volume study—unfortunately only available in English as a one-volume abridgment. Among the more recent literature Carver 1983 and Levine 1975 are the most prominent representatives of those who posit a clear division between Marx and Engels, Rigby 1992 and Hunley 1991 defend the unity of their thought—though for Rigby this is merely a precursor to rejecting it as a whole.

Marxism after Marx

The best critical history of Marxism since Marx’s death is Anderson 1976. Bidet and Kouvalakis 2008 is a very impressive resource, as is, in a slightly different register, Bottomore 1991. Townsend 1996 provides a useful survey of debates among Marxists, while McLellan 1979 is a very useful overview of the international Marxist left up to the 1970s. For a clear and concise attempt to rescue Marx from Stalinism, see Molyneux 2003.

Theorizing Stalinism

The bureaucratic dictatorship that emerged in Russia in the 1920s, and which was reproduced in Eastern Europe by Russian military forces after the Second World War and copied in China, Cuba, and elsewhere on the basis of peasant wars or guerrilla uprisings, threw the idea of socialism into disrepute. Though the collapse of Stalinism has been widely perceived as a practical refutation of Marx’s ideas, in the 20th century the most vibrant tendencies within Marxism were highly critical of the idea that Russia was socialist. Marcuse 1958, an immanent critique of Stalinism, does not deliver a positive assessment of Stalinism but does detail the profound gap between Stalin’s ideology and Marx’s revolutionary theory. Beginning with Trotsky 1973, a fundamental if flawed analysis, studies of Stalinism have tended to divide between those that argue, whatever its limitations, Stalinism did mark a progressive break with capitalism (Ali 1983); those claiming that it represented a new form of class society (Haberkern and Lipow 2008); and those that see it as a specific form of bureaucratic state capitalism (Cliff 1974, Harman 1988). These debates are comprehensively surveyed in van der Linden 2007. Blackburn 1992 and Callinicos 1991 represent opposing interpretations of the collapse of the Soviet Union from these competing perspectives.

back to top

Article

Up

Down