Chapter 2


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Marxism and theorists of the Marxist community have been divided, it has long been noticed,1 into roughly two tendencies: one conceiving Marxism as "critique" and the other conceiving it to be some kind of social "science." Marxism has been divided then between Critical Marxists and Scientific Marxists, as I shall call them here.

Marx conceived of the emergence of socialism as depending on the prior maturation of certain "objective" conditions, especially the structures of an advanced industrialism, while also conceiving of capitalism as producing these conditions through the operation of its own blind, impersonal, and necessary laws. Thus viewed, capitalism is a stage in a social evolution destined to give rise to another, higher society--socialism.

At the same time, Marx did not think of his theory simply as a social science (the view of "clubby" academicians who want to "normalize" Marxism into something familiar). It was also a doctrine of violent revolution. Marxism is not attempting simply to understand society; it does not only predict the rise of a revolutionary proletariat that will overturl1 capitalism, but also actively mobilizes persons to do this. It intervenes to change the world. The problem is that if capitalism is indeed governed by lawful regularities that doom it to be supplanted by a new socialist society (when the requisite infrastructures have matured), why then stress that "the point is to change it"'? Why go to great pains to arrange capitalism's funeral if its demise is guaranteed by science? Why must persons be mobilized and exhorted to discipline themselves to behave in conformity with necessary laws by which, it would seem, they would in any event be bound.

In his famous eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach Marx had held that "the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." This surely reads as if Marx was calling on people to put forth an effort to change their world in reality and not only in thought. Yet, the question is, what obliges them to do so? Marx does not reply by invoking some general ideal which he holds incumbent on persons, for he supposed such ideals are only the reflex of class interests. As Marx said, communism was the real movement that abolishes the present state of society, not just an ideal. But if communism is only a real social movement expressing laws of society, then Marx was just describing--and validating his description of--the social world, either predicting what will happen or stating what had already happened. Yet in the eleventh Thesis he is clearly doing more: he is urging persons to undertake action--i.e., "praxis."

That eleventh Thesis surely cannot be understood as saying that impersonal laws govern society; rather, that the purposive actions of men and women, to which Marx urges them, can shape human destiny. This implies that human effort and purpose, and the ideals shaping them, influence the outcome of human action. There is, then, a tension between Marx's dismissal of idealism and his call to change the world,2 and it is a contradiction in Marx that existed almost from the beginning. Marx was a paradoxically idealistic materialist who suppressed his own idealism, declaring that he was not really pursuing an ideal but (like Socrates) was only a midwife delivering what had been prepared in the womb of history, and calling upon others to do likewise.

This ambiguity is reproduced in his conception of "praxis." Marx had two tacitly different conceptions of praxis or, as I will usually call it here, of practice: Praxis, is the unreflective labor on which capitalism rests, the wage labor imposed by necessity which operates within its confining property institutions and its stunting divisions of labor. While this labor inflicts an alienation upon workers, it also constitutes the foundation of that society, reproducing the very limits crippling workers. Here workers are constrained to contribute to the very system that alienates them. This conception of praxis is congenial to Scientific Marxism. In the second, more heroic concept of practice--Praxis2, more congenial to Critical Marxism--emphasis is on a practice that is more freely chosen, most especially on political struggle. If Praxisl is the constrained labor that reproduces the status quo, Praxis2 is the free labor contributing toward emancipation from it. In undertaking the first form of labor or practice, persons submit to necessity; in the second, however, they undertake a deliberate and Promethean struggle against it.

In one part, then, Marxism is a philosophy of praxis; in another it is a "science"--i.e., the political economy of the laws of capitalism. Marxism is thus a tensionful conjunction of science and politics, of theory and practice. Its topic is the objective socioeconomic conditions imputedly requisite for socialism. Its object in addressing this topic, however, is not only understanding but also a revolutionary practice aimed at changing the world. It must accomplish this, as all politics does, partly by appealing to and arguing with people, by attempting to persuade them through rational discourse and promises. For politics never assumes that since "history is on our side" we may wait for things and people to come our way; but it premises that outcomes depend upon the active mobilization of people. So Marxism is both: science and ideology; rational understanding and political practice; "reports" about the world and a "command" to do something to change it.

Yet there is also an irreducible tension between the call to do something now and the warning that those who do not wait for appropriate conditions or use scientific guidance are dangerous adventurers or mere "utopians." Marxism as science premises that some things will happen without men's rational foresight and whatever their efforts. As a politics, however, it also premises that events depend crucially on people's efforts, struggle, capacity for sacrifice, and self-discipline. Indeed, while all politics premises that men "must seize the time," science premises that things have their own nature and rhythms.

The two readings of Marxism briefly outlined here have, in part, grown up around the nuclear tension between voluntarism and determinism, between freedom and necessity. Both of these readings, let me hasten to insist, are a true part of Marxism. We are not faced with only a seeming contradiction that can be glibly resolved by claiming that one side is false, revisionist, opportunist, misguided, not really Marxist, while the other is the authentic, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, true revolutionary article.

Our Two-Marxisms thesis maintains that both are in fact structural differentiations of a single originally undifferentiated Marxism; that over time the "two" emerge in part out of an effort to reduce the real internal tensions of original Marxism. Indeed, the Two Marxisms could not emerge as structurally distinct tendencies but for the fact that both are truly present in Marxism. Their conjunction in ordinary Marxism is recurrently productive of tensions and of a tension-reducing segregation of the inconsistent elements, by insulating them from one another into two (or more) distinct and boundaried systems of ''elaborated" Marxisms, Critical and Scientific Marxism.

As I will document, Marxism did indeed say that capitalist society was governed by blind and necessary laws to which persons were inescapably subject; it is also true that Marxism treats persons as free agents who will not only do what they must, but who can respond to appeals and be won over even against their own class interests. There is thus both determinism and voluntarism in Marxism.

As the Communist Manifesto remarks, "a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class.... Just as, therefore, in an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole."3

If the blind laws of economics imprison people, it is also evident that Marx and Engels believed that theoretical enlightenment might cast the scales from their eyes and strike the shackles from their hands. Theory might make persons, or at least some persons, free. Indeed, they had made the same point earlier in The German Ideology: "the consciousness of a fundamental revolution, the communist consciousness . . . may, of course, arise among other classes than the impoverished working majority too, through the contemplation of the situation of this impoverished class. "4

No one has better caught the impatient, voluntaristic spirit of a Critical Marxism--and the epistemological inclinations of that voluntarism--than the young Max Horkheimer:

Present talk of inadequate conditions is a cover for tolerance of repression. For the revolutionary, conditions have always appeared right. What appears in retrospect as a preliminary state or a premature situation was once, for a revolutionary, a last chance to change. A revolutionary is with the desperate people for whom everything is on the line, not with those who have time. The invocation of a scheme of social stages which demonstrates post festum the importance of a past era was at the time an inversion of theory and politically bankrupt. . . . Critical theory . . . rejects the kind of knowledge that one can bank on. It confronts history with that possibility which is always concretely visible within it. . . . [Mankind is] not betrayed by the untimely attempts of the revolutionaries but by timely attempts by the realists.5

In distinguishing Critical and Scientific Marxisms, there is however, no intention of suggesting that the voluntarism/determinism differentiation is the deepest ''essence" or truest meaning of that larger distinction. It is but one marker in a larger set of elements constituting the two syndromes; the precise relationship of the elements and their relative importance for the larger syndrome remain to be established empirically.6

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Voluntarism/Determinism as Deep Structure

The tension between voluntarism and determinism within Marxism, and around which there clot the Two Marxisms, is not the special plight of Marxism. It is, in fact, only the expression within Marxism of a larger condition common to social theory, to academic sociology no less than Marxism. It has thus been observed repeatedly that "sociological theories may be grouped around two poles. The first presents us with a view of society as a network of human meanings and as embodiments of human activity. The second. . . presents us with society conceived as a thing-like facticity, standing over against its individual members with coercive controls and moulding them in its socializing processes. . . . the first view presents us with man as the social being and with society as being made by him, whereas the second view sets society as an entity over and against man, and shows him being made by it."7

The crucial problem of sociology is not to find clever ways in which these two standpoints can be "harmonized" but, rather, to accept that institutions made by men do somehow acquire a certain givenness opposed to their makers and to study the manner in which this strange objectivity comes about: "One must take seriously the objectivity of social existence in its relatedness to human subjectivity . . . and [ask how] is it possible that human activity should produce a world of things . . ." 8

But it would be intellectual parochialism to imagine that this problem existed only for sociology or social science. Modern philosophy itself reproduces some of these very limits and, in particular, the tension between voluntarism and determinism. The tension between existentialism and structuralism is a familiar case in point. "Existentialism focuses on the creating of meaning, structuralism focuses on structures of meaning as pregiven
. . . . Existentialism assumes that social actors are moral agents who (in principle are able to) consciously intend their conduct. Structuralism assumes that intentions are super-intended by the deeper structures of the mind . . . laying behind or beneath the actors' conscious awareness."9

Nor is the dissonance between voluntarism and determinism peculiar only to modern secular thought as the tension between "free will" and "natural law" in Christian theology has long indicated. In fact, that centuries-long debate was but the theological scholasticism of an earlier encounter with the dilemma where, as in so many other spheres, religion's insight was preceded by myth in the earlier, imprinting culture of ancient Greece.

In the Greek view, there was a sacred law by which men were bound, there was a division nf the cosmos by fate (or Moira) into distinct spheres by which even the gods themselves were bound. There was, in short, "necessity." Yet to pursue a course of conduct simply out of "necessity" was a slave's way and a free people insisted on going to their fate, even if this were death itself, out of their own free will. It was slavish for persons to be dragged to their fate; free people would face it unblinkingly. "Even if the fates have spun death for a man," said the poet, "he should always march straight forward carrying his spear."

When Oedipus sins, the land of Thebes suffers for it; yet Oedipus could sin. Law and destiny were imposed upon humanity, yet they were not robots and could conform to their destiny or might struggle against it. The Greek "necessity," then, did not contain the idea of the absolutely impossible. The boundaries around people, their destiny, could indeed be stretched or breached, at least momentarily; all that the law ensured was retribution for the breach, but could not prevent it from happening. The forbidden is not the same as the impossible; it is merely the costly, and men can do proscribed things if they are prepared to pay the price.

Such, at any rate, was something of the way in which the Greeks expressed the tension between (and sought to reconcile) freedom and necessity.10 The tension between voluntarism and determinism in Marxism, then, is part of the deep structure of Western thought that it shares. Marxism did not invent this tension and it did not resolve it.

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Critical and Scientific Marxism:
The Larger Paradigms

As different, elaborated paradigms of Marxism, Critical and Scientific Marxism emerge under different sociohistorical conditions and among different persons and in differentiated social networks and groups. It also seems clear that some who were Critical Marxists at one point in their lives may change and become Scientific Marxists at a later time, and vice versa.

The rolls of Critical Marxism include Georg Lukacs, the early Karl Korsch, Antonio Gramsci, J-P. Sartre, Lucien Goldmann Rudolph Bahro, Schlomo Avineri, Carmen Claudin-Urondo, the Telos circle in its more Lukacsian days, Victor Perez-Diaz, the "News and Letters" group in Detroit, and such members, or onetime members, of the "Frankfurt School" as Max Horkheimer, T. W. Adorno, Franz Neumann, Leo Lowenthal, Erich Fromm, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, or its second generation, such as Albrecht Wellmer, Alfred Schmidt, and Jurgen Habermas.

Opposed to this distinguished group, there are other Marxists who eschew critical theory as mere ideology and who conceive Marxism as a true science. They include such men as Galvano della Volpe, and the Marxist mandarin of  l'Ecole Normale Superieure, Louis Althusser, and those influenced by him, including (at one time) Nicos Poulantzas, Maurice Godelier, Andre Glucksmann, Charles Bettelheim; the intellectual leader of their Swedish outpost in Lund, Goran Therborn, and an editor of the British New Left Review, Robin Blackburn. The boundaried social networks of these Two Marxisms is the sociological shell of an intellectual skirmish that has manifested itself among Marxists for some fifty years now.11

Some part of this theoretical tension is organized as a conflict between those supporting (and those rejecting) the importance of Hegel for Marx, and between those using and those rejecting a more Hegelian conception of "ideology critique."

Both Scientific and Critical Marxism even tend to view ideology differently and their critique of ideology differs as well. Scientific Marxism views ideology as a distorted reflection of the world, indeed, as turned upside down by the distorting lens of self-interest but, nonetheless, as a reflection mirroring (albeit it weirdly) the world. Critical Marxism, however, believes that even as men go about fashioning ideological masks for class domination, they do so under the scrutiny of their own and others' critical reason, and must thus seek masks that will persuade themselves and others. What makes ideologies persuasive (and thereby capable of legitimating class domination) is precisely their elements of rationality and reasonableness. From the standpoint of Critical Marxism, then, reason even seeps into ideology itself and it must, therefore, contain something more than the false and mistaken; consequently, ideology cannot simply be shrugged aside as a mere tool of domination, or straightened out simply with a transformative criticism that turns it "right side up."

The difference between Critical and Scientific Marxism reflects a conflict between those viewing Marx as the culmination of German idealism and those emphasizing Marx's superiority to that tradition. It is, therefore, also a difference between those accepting the young (and consequently more Hegelian) Marx as authentically Marxist and others who regard the young Marx as still mired in ideology.

On each side of this division between Critical and Scientific Marxism there is a set of correlated commitments which is the mirror image of the syndrome of correlated commitments on the other side. Critical Marxists (or Hegelianizers) conceive of Marxism as critique rather than science; they stress the continuity of Marx with Hegel, the importance of the young Marx, the ongoing significance of the young Marx's emphasis on ''alienation,'' and are more historicist. The Scientific Marxists, or anti-Hegelians, have (at times) stressed that Marx made a coupure epistemologique with Hegel after 1845. Marxism for them is science, not critique, entailing a "structuralist" methodology whose paradigm is the "mature" political economy of Capital rather than the "ideologized" anthropology of the 1844 Manuscripts. In one part, the controversy about the young versus the old Marx is a metaphor for the more analytic distinction between Critical and Scientific Marxism.

Critical Marxists, therefore, commonly stress the continuity between the young and old Marx because the young Marx was patently an Hegelian; they wish to establish Marxism's abiding link with the larger tradition of German philosophy of which Hegel was the culmination.12 Correspondingly, Scientific Marxists may stress the quantum leap that the maturing Marx presumably made from ideology to science, as well as imputing sharp differences between ideology and science in general.

Critical and Scientific Marxisms differ, then, in their most basic background assumptions: in their epistemologies, especially with respect to the role of science as against critique, and with respect to their domain assumptions concerning the fundamental nature of social reality (i.e., their social ontologies). Critical Marxists stress an historicism that emphasizes social fluidity and change, a kind of organicism calling for the contextual interpretation of events; Scientific Marxists search out firm social structures that recur and which are presumably intelligible in decontextualized ways.


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Cognitive Styles

The structuralist propensities of Scientific Marxism express themselves as a cognitive style that sees objects as having hard-edged boundaries with little or no commingling of different objects, different objects are neatly assigned to different categories, and the criteria of categorization stress the unambiguous assignment of an object to one and only one category, generally devaluing the "ambiguous,'' rather than seeing it as valuable under certain conditions (as for example, in William Empson or Kenneth Burke). Critical Marxism's cognitive style, however, does not view objects as hard edged; deemphasizing dichotomous notions of infra- and superstructures and invoking the "totality" within which boundaries among objects are blurred, it avoids carefully graded ranks and hierarchies, each having a distinct Apollonian separation from the other--which is the preference of Scientific Marxism--but has a more mystical impulse toward oneness, communion, the Dionysian. Scientific Marxism's cognitive style, then, evidences the presence of a low tolerance for ambiguity; Critical Marxism's style rejects formal, hard-edged categorization as a vivisection that mutilates and distorts living reality.

The central problematic around which this distinction in cognitive styles expresses itself is Scientific Marxism's tendency to divide the sociocultural world of objects and events into two basic structures:13 the economic infrastructure, centering on the mode of production, and the superstructure, involving the ideological and the state, with the firm insistence that the former controls the latter "in the long run."

In contrast, Critical Marxism's tendency is to reject such a dichotomous division of the social world as vulgar oversimplification, to stress the ''totality," and to argue that those using the dichotomy have unduly narrow conceptions of the elements that enter into either side of it. Thus, in this vein, Russell Jacoby remarks that "what needs to be avoided is, as it were, the vulgar critique of vulgar Marxism. The mere addition of a political-superstructure component to a political economy which has lost its politics may yield only a pluralist formula. . . the objection against vulgar Marxism is not that it overemphasized the role of the economy, but conceived it too narrowly."14 In a similar way, it has been claimed that the state has been too narrowly conceived by other Marxists: ''the State is much more than its manifest apparatuses of coercion.... The State is all the activities employed by a ruling class to secure its collective conditions of production.''l5 (What, then, is not the State?)

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Evolutionism and Catastrophism

Scientific and Critical Marxisms, however, do not differ only in their epistemologies, styles of cognition, and modes of analysis and interpretation of the social world. They differ also in the ways they deliberately seek to change the world and in their conceptions of natural social change. Since it accents the density of social structure and the weight of history (to use Merleau-Ponty's phrase), Scientific Marxism sees the social world as difficult to deflect in its course and thus as unchangeable by "mere will." Indeed, Scientific Marxism sees the social world as imposing itself on persons, rather than being a fluid medium open to human intervention Critical and Scientific Marxisms differ also, then, in their politics; in their conception of revolution and how it is made; and, vitally, in their vision of what is to be brought into existence, i.e, in their imagination of what socialism is, no less than in their conception of capitalism and its pathologies.

Marx employed two concepts of change: one gradualistic, evolutionary, and continuous; the second, more discontinuous, abrupt, catastrophic. The first is largely Scientific Marxism's conception of historical change and is coincident with Darwinianism; the second is more nearly how Critical Marxism focuses on historical change and is grounded in Hegel. The concepts of change held by both Scientific and Critical Marxism differ primarily in that the first (Darwinian) view is object- centered, addressing the changes in a series of natural forms, while the second partly involves the activity of the knowing subject and the corpus of his knowledge.

Hegel's notion of contradiction, involving an Aufhebung in which the later form incorporates parts of the earlier form which is synthesized in a new, more encompassing whole, embodies a specific concept of progress. This concept of progress is that all that is true, or still of value, in the past is carried forward and preserved in the new object, so that all that one needs is the most recent or modern form, since it embodies and transcends the truth of the past. In the Hegelian notion of aufgehoben, having the new object thus allows us to drop the old one, to cease honoring it, indeed, to forget it; a rupture with the past is inserted.

Critical and Scientific Marxists differ, also, in what they relate Marxism to in the surrounding culture. Those defining Marxism as science naturally link it to science and technology more broadly and to the institutions on which these depend. They are more disposed to assume that science and technology--"forces of production"--are central in defining the essential character of the modern world, are linked with efforts at "modernization," and define that as nucleated with science. Critical Marxists, however, connect Marxism to a very different layer of culture, a more humanistic culture that preceded modern science and technology and which feels itself to be older and more fundamental than science and technology. Critical Marxism is linked to a humanistic culture--not without its own forms of arrogance--that may in fact feel itself to have been improperly displaced by parvenu, shallow science.

A basic difference between Scientific and Critical Marxism is to be found, then, in their relationship to what Robert Redfield once called the "great tradition," which he contrasted with the "little tradition," of folk and peasant culture. Both Critical and Scientific Marxism are bearers of the great tradition of European culture. Each is connected more closely, however, with a different aspect of it. Scientific Marxism, of course, is oriented to modern technology and science and accepts the great value placed upon them, while Critical Marxism is oriented to the older, more "humanistic," more literary and more philosophical aspects of Europe's great tradition. Stated differently, Scientific Marxism is grounded in a more "instrumental" culture, in that part of the great tradition which is valued not so much for itself, but for what it can bring about. Critical Marxism, however, is oriented more strongly toward the transcendental aspects of Europe's great tradition, the basic goals and values it has long prized. Put in other and older terms, Scientific Marxism is concerned with technical "civilization", while Critical Marxism is more concerned with the preservation of "culture." Scientific Marxism seeks technical "modernization; Critical Marxism aims at a moral reinvigoration that may even be dissonant with technical modernization.

It is in part for this reason that Critical Marxism has a closer affinity with Hegelian views, for the latter (as I will suggest) is a kind of secular Protestantism that stresses the importance of "sectarian" internal conviction and authentic belief, contrasting this invidiously with the "positivity" of churchly reliance upon institutional forms, i.e., mere behavioral conformity. Significantly, no one has stressed Hegel's critique of "positivity" more emphatically than the Critical Marxist Georg Lukacs, in his splendid study of  The Young Hegel.


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

The Critique of Science

In the lexicon of the Scientific Marxist, "science" is both powerful and, for the most part, good. Science provides the lexical anchor for a devaluing context in which "philosophy" is perceived as a diminished figure that needs to be "abolished" or sublated, and in which the evaluative implications of critique are perceived as misplaced sentimentalities. Critical Marxism's judgement on science clearly differs, regarding it in general less benign or good, even if accepting Scientific Marxism's judgement of its great power.

In large measure, then, for Critical Marxism, science is part of the modern human problem, or too intimately associated with those producing it; for Scientific Marxism, however, science is more comfortably accepted as part of the solution. Critical Marxism's critique of contemporary society does not exempt science, and it does not see the limits of science as due only to the property system within which it operates. At the same time, a direct critique of science is dissonance-generating, partly because it violates the value so widely awarded it in the larger society. Since science is defined as the dominant form of rationality, any critique of it exposes the critic to condemnation as antiscientific, antiintellectual, and even as irrational and nihilistic.16 Because of the intense pressure exerted against almost any generalized critique of science in industrial society, Critical Marxism pursues its critique obliquely, often focusing its attack on diffuse "positivism" rather than science itself. In this, however, what it is basically objecting to is that--unlike Scientific Marxism which retains a certain ambiguity about this--it rejects a de-contextualized notion of science, i.e., as self-contained. In short, critique rejects science as the ultimate form of rationality. For Critical Marxism, "positivism" is a dyslogism referring to any commitment to science mistakenly presenting itself as autonomous or self- grounded, or which fails systematically to raise questions about this grounding.

Scientific Marxism seeks to re-contextualize the topics and objects it studies and is thus drawn to versions of "systems analysis." Critical Marxism (as I will develop in a later volume) additionally seeks to re-contextualize the very intellectual resources with which it grapples with these topics. It is thus more capable of a reflexivity that can transform its own resources into topics, or its assumptions into problematics. Critical Marxism pursues its studies of social structure, of its development and of efforts to change it, as the doing, making, and commitment of persons, undertaking these studies with a critical effort to appropriate the traditions in which they had developed.

Critical Marxism thus generates a discourse oriented both to the social world and to the traditions in which that world had been discussed, whether the latter were extraordinary, technical languages such as "political economy," or the ordinary languages of the everyday life and its "common sense." Critical Marxism, like Scientific Marxism, of course has a politics. Rather than being positivistically obsessed with the certainty of its knowledge, however, as Scientific Marxism is, Critical Marxism is more fearful of the dangers of Hamletian procrastination. Its anxieties center on the threat of passivity. Critical Marxism thus refuses to wait indefinitely for "certain" (or "positive") knowledge about the social world before acting. Indeed, it may plunge into action at some point, in the expectation that action will resolve epistemological ambiguities. Indeed, Critical Marxism does at times even manifest an antiintellectual impulse, occasionally intimating that the very quest for knowledge is the mask of a cowardly avoidance of struggle.


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Politics of the Two Marxisms

Beyond the intellectual differences separating Scientific and Critical Marxists there are also, as suggested earlier, political differences which are in themselves linked to Scientific Marxism's stress upon instrumental measures and to Critical Marxism's concern with ultimate values. The political expression of this is found in the Scientific Marxists' great commitment to their party and political organizations, in short, to the means as such, while Critical Marxists make their deepest commitment to a set of values, to a conception, a consciousness, to the inward "spirit" or ends of the revolution as such. Scientific Marxists risk losing touch with the emancipatory ends sought by socialism and the revolution in order to protect the means, the organizational instrument, the party "vanguard." The pathological potentiality of this tendency is a political "ritualism" in which what was initially regarded as an instrument, the party, comes in time to be redefined as an end in itself. In the language of Marxism itself, this is "revisionism." As the master revisionist, Eduard Bernstein, himself remarked: The end is nothing, the movement everything.

Critical Marxists, however, are not, as I will be at pains to indicate, immune to political pathologies; they merely have different vulnerabilities, rather than none. Their lunge toward the revolutionary goal is so dominating that they have only calculating instrumental ties to any specific organizational instrument, such as the "vanguard" party, or even to any specific social class such as the proletariat. Correspondingly, they are also less insistent on the prior presence of certain ''objective" historical conditions as the requisite for the revolutionary plunge. (Critical Marxism is thus the Marxism toward which the less industrially developed countries of the Third World are disposed.) If the political pathology of the Scientific Marxists is ritualism and revisionism, that of the Critical Marxists is adventurism or (as Georg Lukacs termed his early position) "revolutionary messianism." In one part, then, this tension between the Critical and Scientific Marxists is the theoretical counterpart of the fundamental sociological dilemma--the Scylla and Charybdis--of revolutionary politics: "sectarianism" and "opportunism."

If each side has characteristic political pathologies, each also has its own characteristic political strengths. For the Critical Marxists, this is in their refusal to submit to "what is," their reluctance to wait interminably, their expectation that the time is always right to change the world, that there is always some way to exert pressure against the status quo--in short, that there is always some path forward to the revolution. There is an echo of millenarianism here. They are constantly alert to the dangers of political exhaustion, apathy, and of undue reliance upon forces outside of their own control. Their political position insists that people count more than technology and weapons; that men can and should do something without waiting interminably for other "forces" to mature. They see the importance of courage and commitment in politics; of consciousness; of the here-and-now transformation of human relationships. In its strengths no less than its weaknesses, Critical Marxism is romantic. It sometimes borders on a macho utopianism aggressively ready to "seize the time."

Scientific Marxists, however, have different political talents: they stress the cultivation of political endurance and patience; the husbanding and developing of cadres until the time is right; the careful appraisal of historical conditions for what they are, not confusing them with what they would like them to be. Above all, Scientific Marxists seek to protect their future ability to act when objective conditions promise to better their chance of success. They place their greatest reliance on the development of the forces of production and on the opportunities and contradictions this will create.

Critical and Scientific Marxists are each committed to revolution, yet each views the revolution's future as protected in different ways. Critical Marxists see the future of revolution as depending on the clarity of awareness and the vigor of inner, conscious commitment, on a consciousness that can be imprinted on history like a kind of germ matter, by those with courage. Scientific Marxists, however, see the revolution's future as vouchsafed not by the revolutionary's clear-sighted heroism, but by history itself; by the inexorable contradictions of each society; by the scientific appraisal of these contradictions; and by exploiting the political crises created by these unfolding contradictions. The mission of Critical Marxism is to safeguard revolutionary purpose and elan; the mission of a Scientific Marxism is to protect the organizational instrument and its future options. It is thus easier for revolutionaries out of power--or whose power is still precarious--to be Critical Marxists. Revolutionaries are exposed to great pressure to be Scientific Marxists, however, once their power is institutionally stabilized. Mao's ''cultural revolutions" had been a struggle against such tendencies, and they lost.

The stress on consciousness typical of Hegelian or Critical Marxists is intensified in the work of Lenin and matures in the theory of Karl Korsch and Georg Lukacs in the early 1920s, after the defeat of the revolutions in Hungary and Germany, but also in the buoyant wake of the successful revolution in Russia. The defeat of the revolution in nations that were industrially advanced, and its paradoxical success in one that was backward, went far toward undermining the authority of a "scientific," materialistic Marxism and supporting a critical, dialectical Marxism.

Critical Marxism compensates with its emphasis on voluntarism for the deficiency of economic and technological conditions once deemed requisite (by Scientific Marxists) for socialism and is, therefore, a Marxism appropriate to revolutionary efforts in "underdeveloped" or Third World nations. This is in part why, before Lukacs and Korsch, it was Lenin who launched the movement toward a Critical Marxism. (Launched, but did not pursue it.) Such a Marxism was an effort to compensate for deficient material socioeconomic conditions by stressing the significance and potency of the "human" agency and of his awareness, consciousness, sacrifice, and courage. Underlying the "consciousness-raising" of the Critical Marxist, then, is an inability to rely on material conditions to support his efforts; and more, he has a sense that the ''natural'' drift of things is inimical to the revolution. The call to consciousness, then, is the ideology of those who have come to suspect that neither time nor "history is on our side."

Scientific Marxism, however, confidently relies on social evolution and on the unfolding of certain "natural" tendencies to fulfill its socialist expectations. It feels itself allied with history and nature. Correspondingly, however, Scientific Marxism also views objectified social structures as those upon which it would rely rather than "men," and their will and consciousness. Scientific Marxism regards men as the products of such structures; Critical Marxism, however, sees men (some men) as the producers of social structures. In short, Scientific Marxism is sedimented with a tacitly dour judgement on human nature, as somehow falling short of history's requirements; it does not rely on people but on social structures to solve the historical problem. In contrast, Critical Marxism does not rely upon an objectified history, on social structures, or on nature, but on people's will and consciousness, to overcome the deficiencies of nature, history, and economic structures.

Critical Marxism relies upon and seeks to evoke the extraordinary potentialities of men. It holds that people make a great difference; it is capable of relying upon at least some persons, although sometimes only a few charismatic leaders, "great men." Critical Marxism's reliance upon persons, then, is not incompatible with a hierocratic elitism. It shares this potentiality for elitism and authoritarianism with Scientific Marxism, although the latter's elitism is more nearly the meritocratic hierarchy of technocrats while Critical Marxism's elitism has a more charismatic tinge.


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Pessimism and Optimism in the Two Marxisms

If Scientific Marxism is characterized by an insistence on the limits imposed by the world--by its historical density and weight-- and thus conceives itself as a ''materialism," Critical Marxism celebrates the ''dialectic,'' and defines social situations in ways maximizing the importance of the ''subjects" (or actors) and of their action in or interaction with the situation. Critical Marxism is thus precisely an activistic "theory of praxis" (in Gramsci's terms), focused on the shifting dialectic of subject and object. It is, in short, most definitely not a generalizing social science enunciating immutable "laws'' of social evolution, or of the connections among abiding social structures that limit, channel, and constrain the action of persons. Critical Marxism thus defines social reality in ways maximizing the justification for intervening politically--at almost any time or place. By stressing the indeterminate openness of the situation and the uncertainty of its character or of its course Critical Marxism thereby opens itself to the possible effectiveness and potential success of political initiatives.

But not all knowledge of social situations is equally inhibitive of political initiative and intervention. Knowledge inhibits action primarily when it alleges (or implies) that the natural, "lawful" drift of social life runs counter to goals which persons .seek or to the hopes they hold. Only when knowledge stresses the weight, destiny, and strength of the status quo and, correspondingly, of the frailty of the forces opposing it must knowledge undermine radicals' political morale. Critical Marxism's disposition to oppose a generalizing social science is partly due to its tacit supposition that ''history'' is not on its side. Critical Marxism rejects a generalizing social science, then, not simply because of judicious qualms about its inherent epistemological difficulties but, rather because of certain of social science's specific reports or implications--its "bad news" concerning the world in which revolutionary politics must be made. It was Eduard Bernstein's "bad news" about capitalism--that its "crash'' was not inevitable--that was conducive to Georg Lukacs's reconceptualization of Marxism as a "method" focused on the "totality," rather than on the sphere of the economic.

Critical Marxism contains a profound ambiguity. On one side, it limits reliance on any "objective" knowledge of society, grounded in a generalizing science of society. It stresses the limits of knowledge, doing so thereby to allow greater room for political action and will, and thus has an opening toward irrationality. On the other side, however, Critical Marxism tacitly predicates a certain concrete knowledge of the social world which, being dissonant with its revolutionary purpose, is a "bad news" which it then maneuvers to discredit on ''methodological" grounds. Here, on this side, it is not just that Critical Marxism rejects the possibility of a science of society but, rather, it tacitly accepts as knowledge what it experiences politically as bad news. Critical Marxism's structure of sentiment thus has an undertow of pessimism.

Scientific Marxism's structure of sentiment, however, is more optimistic. Indeed, Scientific Marxism will be attractive and accepted in part because its specific generalizations about society and its development are consistent with hopes for the future. It will he attractive at least to those groups whose hopes for the future are consistent with its reports about the social world. History is here experienced objectivistically, as apart from us and our doing, as something with which one is "allied." When what is seen of history is viewed as legitimating and ensuring one's political project, the epistemological grounding of these reports is less apt to be made problematic; one does not then call for their critique from the standpoint of "method.

Correspondingly, this means that a Scientific Marxism would be dissonant with the politics of those for whom it did not bear glad tidings but, rather, bad news; of those, that is, whose revolutionary aspirations it did not support but who, nonetheless, persist in their revolutionary project. Scientific Marxism and revolution have been sundered because the will to revolution persisted in certain places and among some to whom it offered little hope. Rather than relinquish their politics they exerted pressure to redefine their theory, that is, to surrender Scientific Marxism and to substitute for it Critical Marxism. All of this was accomplished, however, not by openly opposing Marxism but, rather, by the "discovery" of true Marxism. This "true" Marxism is claimed to reside in hitherto unknown, only recently available works, the works of the younger, more Hegelian Marx, of the economic and philosophical manuscripts, the theses on Feuerbach, or the Grundrisse, and which indeed Marx never sought to publish.

The problem was that Scientific Marxism was a theory about certain historically specific entities: about advanced industrial capitalism, about the proletariat, and about its socialist revolution. But revolution in our time betrayed the Marxist expectation that it would occur in advanced capitalist societies and be made by mature proletariats. Modern revolution has largely been an affair of industrially backward societies, of the peasantry, and of their agrarian revolutions under the tutelage of radicalized intellectuals.17 Critical Marxism was a response to this unexpected development, serving to bridge the gap between the industrial backwardness of the Third World and the persisting vision of socialism. As I shall later show, however, this is not to say that Critical Marxism is produced by underdevelopment; rather, it was produced for undeveloped societies by highly advanced Europeanized intellectuals whose theories did not simply reflect the economic level in the Third World. Critical Marxism is thus not an expression of industrial backwardness but of the gap between the ambitions of an extremely advanced intelligentsia and the weakness of the industrial proletariat and of industry in their locality. Critical Marxism is the expression of Europeanized intellectuals' will to socialism, of their refusal to surrender this goal despite the prevalence of conditions which, from the standpoint of Scientific Marxism, were defined as unfavorable to it.

As the ideology of those who have few or no resources of power and control other than those they themselves can activate, the power of Critical Marxists depends on their effectiveness in mobilizing others. Being a Marxism that is less able to rely on forces already in being--whether an advanced industrial economy or a trade union movement--Critical Marxists must seek hegemonic authority, must be able to move persons by their appeal, and hence must be more open to their needs and suffering, at least during the initial period of political mobilization. Critical Marxism is, therefore, more populistic and less bureaucratic than Scientific Marxism. It is precisely this combination of populism and its need to rely on rational persuasion that now makes Critical Marxism particularly attractive to many young Western socialists and intellectuals. Yet these elements are in tension with Critical Marxism's impulse to antiintellectualism  and its suspicion that the quest for knowledge may deter revolution. Moreover, since Critical Marxism has an underlying pessimism about its revolutionary prospect, it also has a readiness for violence and terror to produce the revolutionary "leap" as a substitute for Scientific Marxism s inevitable laws which, under advanced capitalism, presumably guarantee the victory of socialism. It is a central contradiction of Critical .Marxism, then, that while it has a potential for rationality and populism, it is also vulnerable to an authoritarian voluntarism, irrationality, and elitist terror.


Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

Cuban and Chinese Marxism as Critical Marxisms

Cuban and Chinese Marxism both converge more with an Hegelian, Critical Marxism than with a "scientific" socialism.18 In both, the importance attributed to revolutionary will and voluntarism, so characteristic of Critical Marxism, is signaled by the crucial place each assigns to military initiative, to the guerrilla column, and by their common conviction that "power comes out of the barrel of a gun." Both believed that the revolution need not require the prior maturation of the objective conditions of an advanced industrial economy. If the limited Leninist movement toward voluntarism was exhibited in Lenin's emphasis on the initiative of the political instrument, the party "vanguard," then the full-blown voluntarism of Cuban and Chinese Marxism is indicated by the importance each attributes to the military instrument, the army, and to the latter's influence on (if not priority over) the vanguard party itself:19

Maoism, says Robert Jay Lifton, assumed two things: first, it views

. . . the human mind as infinitely malleable, capable of being reformed, transformed, and rectified without limit. The second is a related vision of the will as all-powerful, even to the extent that (in his own words) "The Subjective creates the Objective ,"'20

Much the same may be and has been said of Castroism.

In a converging analysis, Richard R. Fagen stresses that the style of Cuban revolutionary politics was crystallized by the guerrilla experience in the Sierra Maestra during 1958-59, whose enduring legacy was "voluntarism, egalitarianism, and ruralism."21 Voluntarism, Fagen indicates, refers to "the expansive sense of efficacy, competence, and personal power generated during the guerrilla period. . . [and denotes] a philosophy which conceives human will to be the dominant factor in experience and thus history. "

Whether Cuba's voluntarism derives from (was "generated by") the guerrilla period or, as seems far more likely, whether it also preceded it and was the underlying consciousness that allowed Castro to launch guerrilla warfare, is a secondary point. The essential consideration here is that this voluntarism is surely a salient feature of Castroism and a central symptom of its convergence with Critical Marxism.

It is, however, a salient but not distinctive feature of Castroism. I would also say the same about the two other components Fagen deems distinctive of the Cuban style of revolutionary politics, ruralism and egalitarianism. They are distinctive only in that they set it apart from political models consistent with a ''scientific" socialism, but they are certainly not peculiar to Cuba. Exactly this same triad of voluntarism, ruralism, and egalitarianism also characterized Mao's Marxism.

Fagen's analysis suggests that the egalitarianism of Cuban socialism was accentuated by the experience of shared danger and shared struggle characteristic of a military brotherhood; this experience affected the participants' ideas about the character of a good social order, which they subsequently sought to reproduce in society at large, and their notion of political method. In short (and to reverse Clausewitz), politics became a continuation of war by other means. It may be that insofar as the military brotherhood becomes a societal paradigm this helps explain how egalitarianism can be associated with decision-making concentrated at the top and with strict control over dissent. "In Cuba, a radical economic, social and cultural egalitarianism is married to an authoritarian and hierarchical decisional structure."22 The stress of men in combat frequently generates informalities, mutual reliance, and a sense of shared fate without, however, actually changing the formal hierarchical social structure of the military unit and the differential authority of officers and men. As battle and danger recede with victory, the informal egalitarianism gives way to the abiding formal hierarchy.23

Cuban (and, as I will indicate, Chinese) voluntarism was also associated, in the manner characteristic of Critical Marxism, with a stress of the importance of consciousness and awareness. In Castro's view, socialism is not simply socialization of the means of production but the transformation of men, the creation of a new revolutionary man, "a man devoid of egoismo, guided by conciencia, who puts service to society above service to self." "A communist society," in Castro's own words, ''is one in which man will have reached the highest degree of social awareness ever achieved.... To live in a Communist society is to live without selfishness."24 Certainly this is far more reminiscent of the young Marx's philosophical manuscripts than of his Capital.

Castro's model of development, like Mao's, does not give first place to the classical verities of Scientific Marxism: resources, capital, technology, efficiency or growth. Instead, it stresses "mass participation, determination, selflessness, enthusiasm, and faith." Again: "a profound general faith in achieving economic progress through the formaci6n and utilization of revolutionary man certainly pervades the highest decisional circles." The leadership's commitment to development rests less on technological factors than on the transformation of human relations and consciousness. It rests, in Castro s own formulation, on "factors of a moral order, factors having to do with awareness."

Much the same portrait of Maoist development policies has been drawn by E. L. Wheelwright and B. MacFarlane who note that

a fundamental axiom of Maoist thought is that public ownership is only a technical condition for solving the problems of Chinese society . . . the goal of Chinese socialism involves vast changes in human nature, in the way people relate to each other.... Once the basic essentials of food, clothing, and shelter for all have been achieved, it is not necessary to wait for higher productivity levels to be reached before attempting socialist ways of life.25

Michael Kosok expressly counterposes the Soviet view of development with the Maoist, indicating the economistic side of "scientific" socialism with incisive clarity. Kosok holds that the "economism" of Scientific Marxism implies that the "structure of society is essentially the development of productivity and the 'level of production'," and it regards man as an ''efficiency machine serving the dictates of technology.... Communism and socialism are seen [by Scientific Marxism] as contingent upon the availability of a sufficient number of things," quantification and reification being characteristic of it. Again, Scientific Marxism stresses the importance of technical skills rather than will or motivation; in holding that expertise is more important than "redness," it ultimately delivers the economy to the control of specialists,26 alienating the proletariat from the revolution.

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

The Unity of Critical and Scientific Marxism

Critical and Scientific Marxism each opens a space for the other by reason of its own characteristic limitations. Scientific Marxism typically focuses on the necessary internal contradictions of a capitalist economy that inevitably doom it. Since the transformation of capitalist society into socialism is seen as taking place via an inevitable economic catastrophe, Scientific Marxism fails to develop a political theory which explains how the working class would struggle for and seize power in the state. Politics is treated as an epiphenomenon, as falling automatically into line with changes in the mode of production, the mature development of which need only be capped by the capture of state power in order to establish socialism--in the vision of Scientific Marxism.

This, therefore, omits any clear indication of the rational preparation and political organization required to produce socialism. Scientific Marxism, then, is a kind of political utopianism which assumes that the political conditions and effort requisite for socialism will, somehow, arise from the maturation of capitalism's economy and contradictions. Thus an automatic evolution of the economy, rather than the determined struggle, discipline, effort and will of people, suffice to produce socialism. If, however, this economic evolution will yield socialism inevitably there is no reason why anyone should exert, much less sacrifice, themselves for it. It is as if soldiers at the front had heard that the war was soon to end and the enemy was shortly to surrender. Under these conditions, few will be inclined to run risks. In short, a Scientific Marxism has ambiguous consequences: it leads adherents to wait for the unfolding of the inevitable, induces a certain passivity, and yields an evolutionary, parliamentary socialism, even as the guaranty of victory it provides sustains hope.

Scientific Marxism generates just those difficulties to which Critical Marxism, with its focus on voluntaristic struggle, is a precise response. It is Scientific Marxism's disregard of the political instrument--its political utopianism--that in part fosters Critical Marxism which minimizes the importance of prior economic development for socialism--its own economic utopianism--which, in turn, opens a space for a Scientific Marxism, etc. In short:

Scientific Marxism

---------------------------------g Critical Marxism




Thus though they are in tension, the Two Marxisms constitute a dialectical "unity of opposites," each contributing to the development of its adversary.

Critical Marxism, like critique in general, judges that a political and social system can be something other than it is now, and that all effort--involving struggle, discipline, courage, consciousness--ought to be made to close the gap between what the system is and what it could be. But to call for the closing of this gap is to invoke a morality, implying that what could be should be. To make a critique of something is thus to state its limits in terms of a set of values; a critique implies--if it does not state outright--that what is ought to be otherwise. Yet what are the grounds on which this morality, this "ought", is itself justified? Marx argued that moralities and ideals were disguises of the egoism of class interests, that ruling ideas were the ideas of the ruling class and the instruments of their hegemony. No reason, then, to consider them binding.

But what reason is there to believe that the ruling class's moralities are anymore egoistic than any other set of ideals and values'? Are not all moralities instruments for pursuing some group's interests? Indeed, one of the Young Hegelians, Max Stirner, argued just that, relativizing all values, declaring them all lacking in validity, asserting that all were the camouflage of the will, disguising someone's egoism and self-interest under the banner of a universal morality. Socialism, then, simply becomes the egoism of the proletariat (or whichever class is behind it). The values underlying it are thus as specious as those underlying the hegemony of the ruling class, essentially disguising and reflecting class needs. In short, critique and the critic expose the limits of others, without being aware that they too share the same kind of limits. If this situation is allowed to stand, what has been generated is a relativization of all values and an onrushing nihilism in which all moral claims are seen as equally selfish, as possessing no intrinsic merit justifying the choice of one rather than the other. Critique and Critical Marxism, then, require a value grounding for choice and for the criticism of what is, but they do not actually hare one.

Correspondingly, if Scientific Marxism only says what is going to happen, pronouncing the inexorable laws of economic evolution, it presents no intrinsic grounds for accommodating to the future they portray. For although death too is inevitable it is commonly resisted and put off. Scientific Marxism thus does not embody grounds for accepting what it holds to be economically ordained; its enemies will continue to oppose it, while friends who believe its predictions may wait complacently for the happy event to come about. Correspondingly, Critical Marxism provides no justified grounds for rejecting the present. Thus neither Critical Marxism nor Scientific Marxism justify the commitments they seek.

Scientific Marxism sought other, non-moral grounds, grounds in the necessity of certain developments, to justify the commitments it sought, premising that unnecessary poverty deserved to be opposed and that changes which were historically necessary deserved to be made. Necessity became its morality substitute. Yet the question remains: why should anyone accept, let alone actively support, what is necessary; why oppose unnecessary poverty? People do not accept death despite its necessity. One response is that it does not matter whether persons actually accept (and hence work for) what is necessary, since, being necessary, it will in any event occur. That is precisely the implicit logic by which Scientific Marxism is conducive to a passivity which triggers critical Marxism's activistic voluntarism, which, lacking a foundation for its morality, in its hlrn triggers a search for an amoral grounding, which Scientific Marxism claims to find in the inexorable necessity of its economic laws. The cycle is thus complete, each Marxism generating its adversary.

Yet why was it assumed by Max Stirner and others that persons' collective arrangements, made by men in society or in their smaller groups, did not suffice to form a morality that might bind them'? If men are the source of values, why can they not make values that bind and lay effective claim to allegiance? On what assumption was this ruled out?

It was assumed that the decisive interests that persons have are always partisan interests. If the decisive interests are egoistic, then men can change their ideals as their circumstances change, revoking or de-authorizing tomorrow what they had invoked and authorized today. Again, if emphasis is placed on a mind-as-mirror epistemology, in which mind simply reflects what is, then the focus shifts from the moral to the cognitive; attention is given over not to the question of how men made their commitments, but to the social forces that shaped them. Justification is supplanted by the sociology of knowledge. Scientific Marxism's mirror epistemology tends to divert attention from what ought to be to the question of what is.

On the further assumption that "the people" alone can and should decide what is good, that they alone are sovereign and that there ought to be nothing limiting their choice, any existing set of ideals is continually open to challenge in the name of "the people." Being the sole and exclusive governor of their destiny, the people have the sole and exclusive right to determine what limits them and to change their commitments as they see fit. A radical doctrine of popular sovereignty is conducive to the radical de-authorization of morality. For since any morality limits persons, it can be defined as restricting their proper sovereignty. Neither god nor church, neither tradition nor past, can now authorize what should be, but only "the people."

But since it is here supposed that the decisions and moralities which the people make are grounded only in their conditions, and that the former mirror the latter, then people who have been subjected to the corrupting influence of past institutions cannot be trusted to make the right decisions. Thus neither they, the "sovereign people," nor certainly old regime traditional authorities, may say what is good. Where can any standard, value, ideal, or morality then find justification? Stirner had concluded there was none. Indeed, Marx too had also said there was only "the clash of right against right."

We are then left with several possibilities. One is that an educated elite appoints itself as the trustee of the people's interests. This, in fact, is precisely the logic that led Lenin to the conclusion that the working class could not itself generate a socialist consciousness (that this had to derive from the bourgeois intelligentsia); this is precisely what underlies Lenin's conception of the Bolshevik Party as a "vanguard." Yet insofar as members of the vanguard accept a radical popular sovereignty in principle, they certainly cannot acknowledge they are usurping the people's sovereignty. Thus one possibility for overcoming the radical crisis of values that had been generated was for an intellectual elite to usurp, and conceal their usurpment of, popular sovereignty by proclaiming themselves the mere servant of that sovereignty. But how can they justify this?

Their common justification, and again Lenin's theory of the vanguard exemplifies this clearly, is their self-imputed possession of a superior knowledge or theory. But how does it happen that their knowledge is not distorted--as everyone else's is--by their social conditions? How is it that they escape the general ideological corruption of the status quo?

One answer given is that theirs is not just ordinary theory, and certainly not another mere "ideology," but an extraordinary and very superior knowledge, having some special quality immunizing it from the corrupting social conditions in which it was born. In short, they claim their knowledge is "science" and they further assume that science somehow rises above its social origins. Yet this special immunization from the common corruption of circumstances is never demonstrated but merely asserted.27 The whole point of calling this new theory, "science," is to claim that it has escaped distortion by social circumstances. Scientific Marxism was thus grounded in a crisis of morality. In effect, its tactic is to obviate the question of how--in a world where "social consciousness is determined by social being"--our knowledge escapes the common fate, by surrounding itself with the aura of the new, highest secular authority: science. As Merleau-Ponty notes, given its own assumptions, it was a kind of miracle that was being proclaimed.

Scientific Marxism sought to provide a grounding for revolutionary transcendence of the status quo in essentially the same way that Auguste Comte's "posivitism" sought to mend the rift in the status quo. Being "certain'' (or "positive''), science-- according to Comte--would induce consent and produce consensus, relieving "rational" men of the problem of moral choice. Marxism's own effort to find a ground for decision, however, ends in the conclusion that moralities are unnecessary sentimentalities. For it, the question of how to criticize the world without a grounded value position is answered by replying that one is not criticizing the world; one is simply relying on the impersonal laws of history, not on morality or ideals, to bring about the social change desired. That is how Scientific Marxism comes to cut itself off from critique. In Scientific Marxism, this is the posture taken by "historical materialism." Historical materialism expresses the renunciation of critique in Marxism on behalf of necessity. Once committed to necessity, however, it needs to know, and know with certainty, what is becoming, otherwise there is no necessity to which it can consent. It must therefore insist that what it sees in the world, it knows with certainty (i.e., it too must be ''positive" about it).

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)

The Two Marxisms: A Preliminary Recapitulation

To summarize some of the differences between Critical and Scientific Marxism: Critical Marxism leans toward a perspective in which human decisions can make an important difference, toward a voluntarism in which human courage and determination count, while Scientific Marxism stresses the lawful regularities that inhere in things and set limits on human will, counterposing determinism to voluntarism. Critical Marxism pursues a policy of active interventionism, organizing instruments such as the Party "vanguard" or military forces that facilitate intervention; Scientific Marxism leans toward an evolutionism in which the requisites of change have their own rates of maturation and, believing history to be on "their side," is prepared to wait until things come their way. The cognitive focus of Critical Marxism is therefore "critique," while that of Scientific Marxism is "science." Critique goes beyond science toward "epistemology" and philosophy which serve as an effort to probe the limits of science, to find a basis in which science itself might be appraised as an intellectual enterprise and cultural product. Scientific Marxism, however, tends to view science as self-justifying and regards philosophy as suspect and demode; like Marx, it sometimes speaks of "abolishing" philosophy.

In part, for that reason, Critical Marxism is more favorably disposed toward Hegel and accents Marxism's continuity with Hegel, while Scientific Marxism focuses on the discontinuity between Hegel and Marx, stressing the leap forward or coupure that Marxism supposedly involved. In consequence, and since the young Marx was the more Hegelian, Critical Marxism is also prepared to accept the continuity between the young and older Marx and see the young Marx as authentically Marxist, while Scientific Marxism is disposed to view the young Marx as still mired in ideology, as not yet "Marxist," thus accenting the differences between him and the older one.

If Critical Marxism accepts Hegel and the young Marx, it is often disposed to suspect Engels, defining him as the source of the positivistic" distortion of Marxism, as the "first vulgar Marxist." Scientific Marxists are more inclined to appreciate Engels, giving him his due as one of the founders of Marxism.

Critical Marxism is more disposed to an historicism in which each different social phase of society is seen as operating according to unique and different requirements, and it stresses society's organic character as a special totality. Scientific Marxism is more disposed to a structuralism in which the social totality is viewed as a conjunction of abiding elements, which transcend its boundaries in time and space, and thus has an atomistic and mechanistic character For the Scientific Marxist life is a game always played with essentially the same pieces, although these are arranged differently in different societies and form different structures; the enduring unit-structures, however, limit the possible games that can be played. The Critical Marxist, in contrast, accents the emergent novelties possible under new historical circumstances. For the Scientific Marxist it is these socioeconomic institutions that shape, pattern, and limit social action; it is these impersonal structures that are (for him) the true "actors." Scientific Marxism is thus "decentered." Its focus is no longer on the central role of persons but on the encompassing structures and roles within which persons play their part, and it thus tends to deemphasize the importance of "alienation" insofar as this is understood as grounded in human nature. Contrariwise, Critical Marxism views "alienation" as grounded in human nature which resists crippling by historical circumstances.

For the Scientific Marxist, exploitation grounded in the structures of capitalism replaces alienation as the source of resistance to the present, while for the Critical Marxist alienation remains the more encompassing limitation on human life. The fundamental goals of Critical Marxism are to preserve human culture anti certain transcendental values, to reinvigorate human morality, and to restore men to a life in an integral communty. This is socialist "emancipation" for them. The socialization of the means of production is, for them, only the first requisite of socialism. For the Scientific Marxist, however, socialism means emancipation from "necessity" by developing the forces of production, by intensifying industrial development and science, by modernizing. Critical Marxism, by contrast, seeks to foster a New Man and a new consciousness and is as much concerned about the kinds of social relations of production to which persons are exposed, as the intensification of the forces of production.

Both Scientific and Critical Marxism are analytic distinctions, or ideal types, rather than concrete historical groups and persons. Thus it is fundamentally not correct to say, for example, that Louis Althusser is a Scientific Marxist or Georg Lukacs a Critical Marxist, or that Maoism is a Critical Marxism. The ideal types facilitate our examination of concrete groups and specific persons, but the latter are not identical with or reducible to the former. A specific Marxist (or group of Marxists) may be more Scientific Marxist than others, but to speak of him as a Scientific Marxist is only an elliptical, shorthand expression for referring to his relatively greater Scientific Marxism-ness.

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)


1. See Werner Sombart, Le Socialisme et le mouvement social au XIX Siecle (Paris: Giard et Briere, 1898), pp. 108-10.

2. See the pithy discussion by N. Lobkowicz, Theory and Practice: History of a Concept from Aristotle to Marx (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1967), pp. 412ff.

3. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authorized English edition of 1888, supervised by Engels, published by Charles H. Kerr, Chicago.

4. K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology, trans. W. Lough and C. P. Magill, ed. R. Pascal (New York International Publishers, n.d.), p. 69.

5. Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State," Telos, Spring 1973, p. 11.

6. In short, we do not know where in, say, a Gutman scale the voluntarism/determinism alternative would figure in relation to the other "items," or how "popular" or "difficult" an item it would be; we do not know how large a "factor loading" voluntarism/determinism would have on any dimension of Critical or Scientific Marxism yielded by a factor analysis, although we hypothesize that either a Gutman scale or factor analysis would yield valid dimensions of Critical and Scientific Marxism. We may conceive of the various proposed differentia of Critical and Scientific Marxism to be discussed as "items" for an instrument measuring theoretical and ideological differences among Marxists.

7. Peter Berger and Stanley Pullberg, ''Reification and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness," New Left Review, January/February 1966, p. 56. See my own discussion of this dualism in sociology in The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (New York: Basic Books, 1970), pp. 51ff.

8. Berger and Pullberg, "Reification and Sociological Critique," p. 56.

9. This admirably succinct formulation is found in an interesting paper by Richard H. Brown, unpublished at the time of this writing.

10. For further discussion see Alvin W. Gouldner, Enter Plato: Classical Greece and the Origins of Social Theory (New York: Basic Books, 1965), pp. 121-22.

11. That it still continues vigorously is evident from Gareth Stedman-Jones's Althusserian critique of Lukacs as the "first irruption of Romanticism within Marxism" (New Left Review, November/December 1971, p. 44). While too sanguine by far, this compares favorably with George Lichtheim's long- standing effort to weigh the effect of Romanticism on Marxism--an effort somewhat vitiated by Lichtheim's Goethean inclination to view Romanticism as Krankheit.

12. George Lichtheim's well-titled From Marx to Hegel (New York: Herder & Herder, 1971), deals directly with the conflict between Hegelian and anti-Hegelian Marxisms, as well as with the development of the former into the Critical or Frankfurt School in the work of Adorno, Marcuse, and Habermas. Lichtheim always knew who the players were and situated them deftly. The very breadth of Lichtheim's scholarship, his even-handed treatment of conflicting standpoints, his insistence on clarity even from Germans, and his feeling for the historically concrete--all these are substantial virtues which make this book, with the exception of its last and very dated essay, useful reading for students of Marxism.

13. "This basis-superstructure metaphor," we are reminded by Hal Draper, "sometimes treated as a late invention by Engels, was first set down in [their 1846] The German Ideology: 'The social organization, evolving directly out of production and commerce . . . in all ages forms the basis of the state and of the rest of the ideological superstructure....' " Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Part 1: The State and Bureaucracy (New York: (Monthly Review Press, 1977), vol. 1, p. 252.

14. Russell Jacoby, "Politics of the Crisis Theory," Telos, Spring 1975, p. 48. Italics added.

15. Philip Corrigan, Harvey Ramsay, and Derek Sayer, Socialist Construction and Marxist Theory: Bolshevism and Its Critique (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), p. 10. Italics in the original. A very able study written with great economy.

16. It has seemed to me that precisely this attitude prompted the denunciation of Thomas Kuhn's careful critique of "normal" science, even though the critical facet of Kuhn's view of science is greatly muted. See the volume edited by I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave, Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

17. For details see Alvin W. Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (New York: Seabury Press, 1979), pp. 53ff.

18. As I will clarify in a later methodological appendix, Critical Scientific Marxisms are on a different, more analytic level than Cuban or Chinese Marxisms which, being concrete, are admixtures.

19. In this respect, Maoism represented the extension of Lenin's emphasis on the initiatives of the political organization to a voluntarism stressing the initiatives and importance of the military. While Lenin had "regarded the use of armed force for revolutionary purposes as legitimate at all times and as crucial in the hour of decision, he never viewed it as means of gaining mass influence or of bringing about the revolutionary crisis" (Richard Lowenthal, "Soviet and Chinese Communist World Views," in Donald W. Treadgold, ea., Soviet and Chinese Communism: Similarities and Differences, Seattle: University of Seattle Press, 1967], p. 383). Mao's political strategy aimed at using "protracted armed struggle . . . as a means for reversing an originally unfavorable relation of forces between a revolutionary minority and an apparently strong regime" (Ibid., p. 385).

20. Robert Jay Lifton, America and the Asian Revolution (Chicago: Aldine Publishing, 1970), p. 153.

21. Richard R. Fagen, "Cuban Revolutionary Politics," Monthly Review, April 1972, p. 27.

22. Ibid., p. 30.

23. This seems to have been the experience of the Yugoslavian Partisan lighters, and it may be a source of the disillusionment of those, such as Djilas, who retained a vivid image of the older military brotherhood and therefore keenly resented the emergence of new, socioeconomic distinctions--the "New Class."

24. Fagen, "Cuban Revolutionary Politics," p. 46.

25. E. L. Wheelwright and B. MacFarlane, The Chinese Road to Socialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), p. 221.

26. Michael Kosok, "Review of Wheelwright and MacFarlane," Telos, Spring 1971, pp. 127 - 43.

27. In this vital respect, academic social "science" makes exactly the same claim and for much the same reason. See Alvin W. Gouldner, The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology (New York: Seabury Press, 1976), pp. 3-6, 8-13, 16-19, 34-35, 55, 57, 112-17, 216.

Bluefade.gif (789 bytes)


From Alvin W. Gouldner,  The Two Marxisms.   New York:  Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 2 "Marxism as Science and Critique," pp. 32-63.

Waveline.gif (3038 bytes)


Back to the Table of Contents

Back to Chapter 1, "Introduction"

Forward to Chapter 3, "Philosophy, Science and the Two Marxisms"

Back to the Dead Sociologists' Index