Western Marxism

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Western Marxism is a current of Marxist theory arising from Western and Central Europe in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the ascent of Leninism. The term denotes a loose collection of theorists who advanced an interpretation of Marxism distinct from that codified by the Soviet Union. [1]

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Western Europe region comprising the westerly countries of Europe

Western Europe is the region comprising the western part of Europe. Though the term Western Europe is commonly used, there is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the countries that it encompasses.

Central Europe Region of Europe

Central Europe is the region comprising the central part of Europe. Central Europe occupies continuous territories that are otherwise sometimes considered parts of Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. The concept of Central Europe is based on a common historical, social, and cultural identity.

Contents

The Western Marxists placed more emphasis on Marxism's philosophical and sociological aspects, and its origins in the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (for which reason it is sometimes called Hegelian Marxism) and what they called "Young Marx" (i.e. the more humanistic early works of Marx). Although some early figures such as György Lukács and Antonio Gramsci had been prominent in political activities, Western Marxism became primarily the reserve of the academia especially after World War II. Prominent figures included Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life using the principles of psychology neuroscience and network science. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel German philosopher who influenced German idealism

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism. He achieved wide recognition in his day and—while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy—has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although Hegel remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized.

Since the 1960s, the concept has been closely associated with the New Left. While many of the Western Marxists were adherents of Marxist humanism, the term also encompasses their critics in the form of the structural Marxism of Louis Althusser.[ citation needed ]

New Left political ideology

The New Left was a broad political movement mainly in the 1960s and 1970s consisting of activists in the Western world who campaigned for a broad range of social issues such as civil and political rights, feminism, gay rights, abortion rights, gender roles and drug policy reforms. Some saw the New Left as an oppositional reaction to earlier Marxist and labor union movements for social justice that focused on dialectical materialism and social class, while others who used the term saw the movement as a continuation and revitalization of traditional leftist goals.

Marxist humanism school of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marxs earlier writings, esp. the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 on alienation, as opposed to his later works, concerned with a structural conception of capitalist society

Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx espoused his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. The Praxis School, which called for radical social change in Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia in the 1960s, was one such Marxist humanist movement.

Structural Marxism Socioeconomic Doctrine

Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxist philosophy based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French philosopher Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the 1960s and 1970s, and also came to influence philosophers, political theorists and sociologists outside France during the 1970s. Other proponents of structural Marxism were the sociologist Nicos Poulantzas and the anthropologist Maurice Godelier. Many of Althusser's students broke with structural Marxism in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Terminology

The phrase "Western Marxism" was coined in 1953 by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. [2] While it is often contrasted with the Marxism of the Soviet Union, Western Marxists have been divided in their opinion of it and other Marxist-Leninist states.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty French phenomenological philosopher

Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. The constitution of meaning in human experience was his main interest and he wrote on perception, art, and politics. He was on the editorial board of Les Temps modernes, the leftist magazine established by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1945.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

History and distinctive elements

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, the theorists who downplay the primacy of economic analysis are considered Western Marxists, as they focus on areas such as culture, philosophy and art. [1]

Austromarxism Marxist theoretical current, led by the Social Democratic Workers Party of Austria during the late decades of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the First Austrian Republic (1918–1934)

Austro-Marxism was a Marxist theoretical current, led by Victor Adler, Otto Bauer, Karl Renner and Max Adler, members of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria in Austria-Hungary and the First Austrian Republic (1918–1934). It is known for its theory of nationality and nationalism, and its attempt to conciliate it with socialism in the imperial context. Hence, Otto Bauer thought of the "personal principle" as a way of gathering the geographically divided members of the same nation. In Social Democracy and the Nationalities Question (1907), he wrote that "The personal principle wants to organize nations not in territorial bodies but in simple association of persons", thus radically disjoining the nation from the territory and making of the nation a non-territorial association.

Antonie Pannekoek Dutch astronomer and Marxist theorist

Antonie (Anton) Pannekoek was a Dutch astronomer, Marxist theorist, and social revolutionary. He was one of the main theorists of council communism.

Culture Social behavior and norms found in society

Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.

György Lukács's History and Class Consciousness and Karl Korsch's Marxism and Philosophy, published in 1923, are the works that inaugurated Western Marxism. [1] In these books, Lukács and Korsch proffer a Marxism that emphasises the Hegelian components of Karl Marx's thought. Marxism is not simply a theory of political economy that improves on its bourgeois predecessors. Nor is it a scientific sociology, akin to the natural sciences. Marxism is primarily a critique, a self-conscious transformation of society. Marxism does not make philosophy obsolete, as vulgar Marxism believes; Marxism preserves the truths of philosophy until their revolutionary transformation into reality. [3]

<i>History and Class Consciousness</i> book by György Lukács

History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics is a 1923 book by the Hungarian philosopher György Lukács, in which the author re-emphasizes Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's influence on Karl Marx, analyses the concept of "class consciousness", and attempts a philosophical justification of Bolshevism.

Karl Korsch German politician

Karl Korsch was a German Marxist theoretician. Along with György Lukács, Korsch is considered to be one of the major figures responsible for laying the groundwork for Western Marxism in the 1920s.

Political economy Study of production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government

Political economy is the study of production and trade and their relations with law, custom and government; and with the distribution of national income and wealth. As a discipline, political economy originated in moral philosophy, in the 18th century, to explore the administration of states' wealth, with "political" signifying the Greek word polity and "economy" signifying the Greek word "okonomie". The earliest works of political economy are usually attributed to the British scholars Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, and David Ricardo, although they were preceded by the work of the French physiocrats, such as François Quesnay (1694–1774) and Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781).

While their work was greeted with hostility by the Third International, [4] [5] which saw Marxism as a universal science of history and nature, [3] this style of Marxism would be taken up by Germany's Frankfurt School in the 1930s. [1] The writings of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, produced during this period but not published until much later, are also classified as belonging to Western Marxism. [1]

After World War 2, a number of thinkers such as Lucien Goldmann, Henri Lefebvre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre would constitute a French Western Marxism. [1]

Western Marxism often emphasises the importance of the study of culture, class consciousness and subjectivity for an adequate Marxist understanding of society. [1] Western Marxists have thus tended to stress Marx's theories of commodity fetishism, ideology and alienation [1] and have elaborated these with new concepts such as false consciousness, reification and cultural hegemony. [6]

Western Marxism also focuses on the works of the Young Marx, where his encounters with Hegel, the Young Hegelians and Feuerbach reveal what many Western Marxists see as the humanist philosophical core of Marxism. [6] However, the Structural Marxism of Louis Althusser, which attempts to purge Marxism of Hegelianism and humanism, has also been said to belong to Western Marxism.[ citation needed ]

Political commitments

Western Marxists have held a wide variety of political commitments: Lukács and Gramsci were members of Soviet-aligned parties; Korsch, Marcuse and Debord were highly critical of Soviet communism and instead advocated council communism; Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Althusser and Lefebvre were, at different periods, supporters of the Soviet-aligned Communist Party of France, but all would later become disillusioned with it; Bloch lived in and supported the Eastern Bloc, but lost faith in Soviet Communism towards the end of his life. Maoism and Trotskyism also influenced Western Marxism. Nicos Poulantzas, a later Western Marxist, was an advocate for Eurocommunism.

List of Western Marxists

See also

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Marxist philosophy Philosophy influenced by Marxist political thought

Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are works in philosophy that are strongly influenced by Karl Marx's materialist approach to theory, or works written by Marxists. Marxist philosophy may be broadly divided into Western Marxism, which drew out of various sources, and the official philosophy in the Soviet Union, which enforced a rigid reading of Marx called dialectical materialism, in particular during the 1930s. Marxist philosophy is not a strictly defined sub-field of philosophy, because the diverse influence of Marxist theory has extended into fields as varied as aesthetics, ethics, ontology, epistemology, theoretical psychology and philosophy of science, as well as its obvious influence on political philosophy and the philosophy of history. The key characteristics of Marxism in philosophy are its materialism and its commitment to political practice as the end goal of all thought. The theory is also about the struggles of the proletariat and their reprimand of the bourgeoisie.

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György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, aesthetician, literary historian, and critic. He was one of the founders of Western Marxism, an interpretive tradition that departed from the Marxist ideological orthodoxy of the Soviet Union. He developed the theory of reification, and contributed to Marxist theory with developments of Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. He was also a philosopher of Leninism. He ideologically developed and organised Lenin's pragmatic revolutionary practices into the formal philosophy of vanguard-party revolution.

Dialectical materialism strand of Marxism

Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science and nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In contrast to the Hegelian dialectic, which emphasized the idealist observation that human experience is dependent on the mind's perceptions, Marxist dialectics emphasizes the importance of real-world conditions, in terms of class, labor, and socioeconomic interactions. Marx supposed that these material conditions contained contradictions which seek resolution in new forms of social organisation.

References

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Jacoby, Russell (1991). "Western Marxism". In Bottomore, Tom; Harris, Laurence; Kiernan, V.G.; Miliband, Ralph (eds.). The Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Second ed.). Blackwell Publishers Ltd. p. 581. ISBN   0-631-16481-2.
  2. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1973). Adventures of the Dialectic. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press. pp. 30–59. ISBN   0-8101-0404-0.
  3. 1 2 Jacoby, Russell (1991). "Western Marxism". In Bottomore, Tom; Harris, Laurence; Kiernan, V.G.; Miliband, Ralph (eds.). The Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Second ed.). Blackwell Publishers Ltd. p. 582. ISBN   0-631-16481-2.
  4. Kołakowski, Leszek (2005). Main Currents of Marxism. London: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 994–5. ISBN   978-0-393-32943-8.
  5. Kołakowski, Leszek (2005). Main Currents of Marxism. London: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 1034. ISBN   978-0-393-32943-8.
  6. 1 2 Jacoby, Russell (1991). "Western Marxism". In Bottomore, Tom; Harris, Laurence; Kiernan, V.G.; Miliband, Ralph (eds.). The Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Second ed.). Blackwell Publishers Ltd. p. 583. ISBN   0-631-16481-2.

Bibliography

  • Anderson, Perry. Considerations on Western Marxism. London: New Left Books, 1976.
  • Bahr, Ehrhard (2008). Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism. University of California Press. ISBN   0520257952.
  • 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.