Having set out to change the world, rather than produce one more interpretation of it, Marxist theory must ultimately be weighed on the scales of history.
Convention has it that on a blustery October day in muddy St. Petersburg the military
forces of the Bolshevik Party stormed the Winter Palace, arrested the Provisional
Government that had replaced the Czar months earlier, and took command of the state.
Actually, the storming of the Winter Palace was a more confused affair, for many
revolutionaries had been infiltrating the great Palace all day through its hundreds of
entrances and were already inside when the final assault took place. Indeed, that assault
was but the culmination of less dramatic military movements, for the Bolsheviks had, days
earlier, already assumed control over most public buildings, the post office, railroad
station, telegraph offices, and other vital centers of communication.
In any event, on October 24, 1917 (old style calendar, November 6 new style), the
Bolshevik Party that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had carefully pruned and steadfastly trained to
his will for some fifteen years, came to power in Russia. These were indeed, "ten
days that shook the world,'' as John Reed described them, and there is little in the
world--within and between nations--that has not felt the impact of this event.
Since that time, many other nations have also come under the governance of Marxist political parties, all of whom have learned from, even if not modelling themselves on, the experience of the Bolsheviks. In addition to the vast Chinese nation, others that have come under the reign of Marxist states are: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, North Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, Rumania, Vietnam, South Yemen, and Yugoslavia. Readers will note whether this list has since contracted or expanded. At this time, about one-third of the world's population lives under the governance of states regarding themselves as Marxist, and all this has come about in little more than half-a century.
Never in world history has there been so profound a change in human lives and social
systems among so many nations of people in so brief a time span. Never, for example, has a
military conqueror, a religious prophet, or a new way of life spread themselves so far and
wide in what, from any historically informed view, must be regarded as the shortest
possible time span in which events of such magnitude could have occurred. It has happened
within the normal span of a single lifetime. It was a unique event and we all still live
in its midst. The historical epicenter of that political earthquake, whose tremors are
still felt throughout the world, was the Bolshevik assumption of power in Russia.
"The Bolshevik victory in November 1917 may fairly be described," wrote Merle
Fainsod, "as one of the most remarkable triumphs of revolutionary engineering in
human history. On the eve of the March revolution [which first overthrew the Czar] the
total membership of the Bolshevik Party was generously estimated at 23,600. In the short
space of eight months, this small group was able to accumulate sufficient support to seize
power in a nation of over 150,000,000." 1 How did this happen? A
small question for a great problem. Fainsod notes that during World War I, the Czarist
Government had suffered ruinous losses of men, territory, resources, public repute, and
legitimacy, and that these losses fostered a widespread desperation. "The Bolsheviks
alone among revolutionary parties," writes Fainsod, "were able to turn the
resulting disorganization to their advantage. One major source of the strength of the
Bolshevik Party was its highly centralized organization, its activist membership, and the
determination of its leader, Lenin."
This is substantially correct, yet something of consequence has been left out. It is
the unique role of a special social theory, of Marxism, in forging the Bolshevik Party, in
endowing it with a dense cohesion, in shaping the Party's tactics and strategy, and in
giving it a sense of mission in the making of history. It is the role of this theory about
which Fainsod and, indeed a major school of interpretators of the October Revolution, are
silent. (I shall return to them later.) Certainly the man who fashioned the Bolshevik
Party, who created it committee by committee, congress by congress, almost man by man, who
painstakingly blueprinted it in his book of 1902, What Is to Be Done?--certainly
the Lenin who knew the Bolshevik Party like a Japanese gardener knows the tiny Bonsai
plant whose every branch he has trained for fifteen years--was not silent about theory but
shouted its importance for his Bolsheviks.
Lenin began, in What Is to Be Done?, by quoting Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program. In this, Marx had written to the German party leaders, "If you must combine, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not haggle over principles, do not make 'concessions' in theory."2 Then Lenin himself added:
This was Marx's idea, and yet there are people among us who strive--in his name--to belittle the significance of theory. Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism is combined with absorption in the narrowest forms of practical activity. The importance of theory for Russian Social Democrats is still greater . . . the role of the vanguard can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by an advanced theory. 3
Still further, Lenin quoted Friedrich Engels to the same effect:
It is the specified duty of the leaders to gain an ever-clearer understanding of the theoretical problems, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from an old conception of the world, and constantly keep in mind that Socialism, having become a science, demands the same treatment as every other science--it must be studied.4
Lenin insisted, and I shall return to this at a later point, that a socialist
"consciousness could only be brought to them [i.e., the workers] from without. The
history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is
able to develop only trade-union consciousness. . . . The theory of Socialism, however,
grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the
educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals. The founders of
modern scientific Socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois
The Bolshevik Party itself was at first largely conceived as the instrument through which the teoreticki, who edited Lenin's newspaper Iskra, could imprint a proper socialist consciousness on the working class, and on "practical" organizers. The party's centralized organizational character aimed, in part, to protect the theoretical germ plasm of its leaders, placing the party under the control of the most theoretically informed, ensuring their influence on those less theoretically trained: "belittling the role of 'tine conscious element,' " added Lenin, "means, whether one likes it or not, growth of influence of bourgeois ideology among the workers. All those who talk about 'exaggerating the importance of ideology,' about exaggerating the role of the conscious element, etc., imagine that the pure and simple labour movement can work out an independent ideology for itself, if only the workers 'take their fate out of the hands of the leaders.' "6
Lenin's point, however, was that a serious revolutionary could not overestimate the importance of the theoretical: "a man who is weak and vacillating on theoretical questions, who has a narrow outlook, who makes excuses for his own slackness, . . . such a man is not a revolutionist but a hopeless amateur." 7 Thus while some historians now hold that Bolshevik history was only the result of the force of circumstances, and not of Bolshevik commitment to a specific theory, the man who more than any other shaped these events, tells us, rather, that theory was decisive in forging the Bolshevik organization and without theory there would surely have been no October Revolution.
It is important to understand why these historians minimize the role of Marxist theory. Most generally, theirs was a reaction to the ideologically saturated view which regarded every development in the Russian revolution as the ''logical outgrowth" of some theoretical commitment. Thus countless analyses of Stalinism have, for example, held it to be a "straightline," "fulfillment" and "logical" result of Marxism and Leninism. Given such a mechanical view, little attention need be paid to history, to the way events actually unfolded, to what people really said and did, to the confusing circumstances in which they found themselves. One merely has to invoke Marxist theory to account for anything. This model is a form of vulgar idealism, in which history is seen simply as the outgrowth of an idea. It is easy to understand, therefore, that it inhibited serious historical study and deserved to be opposed.
Nonetheless, what has often happened in the heat of the polemic against
this vulgar idealism is that some historians overstated their case and assigned no
significance at all to Bolshevik theory and to Marxism. Here vulgar idealism was
supplanted by an eclecticism no less vulgar: by a tacit emphasis on the insignificance of
human rationality; by an overemphasis on the importance of irrationality in human affairs
and on the psychopathology of leaders in the making of history. To this extent, however
such historians failed in their special obligation to attend to the uniqueness of the
events. For what was indeed unique about the Bolsheviks, and especially their leadership,
was that they were theoretically dedicated men; instead they are, in some accounts,
treated as if they were recent "end of ideology" pragmatists, concerned only
with what "works." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Much more than most
other political leaders, the Bolsheviks were defined and shaped by their intellectual
commitments to a theory, to Marxism and especially to Lenin's reading of Marxism; they and
the things they did are incomprehensible without knowing this theory.
This is not to say that the Bolsheviks were not influenced by other conditions, by the "force of circumstances." This is not to say that they did not sometimes change their theory, or sometimes act in gross violation of it. Still, the central consideration remains: the influence that self-conscious, articulated theory had on them was vastly greater than that which it normally has on politics, and the events ramifying from their deeds will be opaque if the specific theory to which they were committed is ignored or deprecated.
The point is not that everything the Bolsheviks did was done because it was dictated by their theory, or was the mirror image of their Marxist theory. Some of it was; for example, the great importance they attributed to the use of the state as an instrument for controlling the economy. In other cases, even where theory's prescriptions were disregarded, the theory continued to have consequences in the same way that a law has consequences, even where--as in a crime--it is broken. To argue that because there are some differences between Bolshevik policies and Marxist theory, that therefore their policies were not influenced by the theory, is like concluding that since a law is broken it is without consequence.
It is uniquely important to know Marxist theory if one wishes to understand the events that have ramified into the world from the time of the October Revolution. A knowledge of Marxist theory is an indispensable key to understanding the world-shaking revolutions of the twentieth century, although it is certainly not a substitute for the study of history. Theory becomes a social force when it finds an organizational instrument as historically remarkable as the Bolshevik parties who utilize it as the lever to move great masses. Yet if theory helps to make history, it is also totally impossible to understand that theory except as itself made historically, and by situating it in its proper historical context. I shall shortly return to this point.
Why study Marxism'? For much the same reason we study genetics. Marxism is the genetic code, the germ plasm of the main twentieth century revolutions and of the societies they created. Like any genetic influence, it interacts with its environment and is only part of what shapes outcomes; but it is a vital part, and without understanding it we cannot understand many of the great events of the century.
The project here is, at one level, a critique of Marxism which rests upon some
assumptions of Marxism itself and is thus, in part, an auto-critique of Marxism. Indeed,
the very idea of a critique originally rooted in Kant's critique of pure and practical
reason, was transmitted and reshaped by Marx. In saying this, however, no ritual piety is
intended and it will soon be plain that I am not one of those who thinks a critique is
something one inflicts on others. Since the original idea of a critique was never
unambiguous, and since my own view of it is what counts here, I had best turn at once to
say what I mean by critique.
1. To understate: Marxism is something concerning which there are differences of opinion and strong feelings. It is certain that anyone interested enough in Marxism to read this work will find things that go against his grain; indeed, I take it as axiomatic that any reader who works his way through this volume without (at least) some spasm of irritation is either a saint or has altogether wasted his time. Yet critique, for me, is in no way an effort to debunk or unmask a theoretical system, is never undertaken as an occasion in which the critic outsmarts his subject, and certainly never views the subject's work as the mere product of an historical mistake or ignorance.
It would seem--at least to those who do not hold mankind in contempt--that Marxism, which has won fully a third of the world today, could not have done so if it were bereft of all reason; and so a critique searches for Marxism's rationality. At the same time, a critique, seeing a theory as a human product, can have no impulse to canonize it. Conceiving theory as a doing and making by persons caught up in some specific historical era, critique searches for the limits no less than the achievements of a theory. A critique then is a lapidary act: it strives to discern and strike off from Marxism (as from any doctrine) its flawed, erroneous, and irrational parts, so that it may rescue its productive and rational side, polishing and resituating this in a new intellectual setting.
2. To critique a theory is a very active act; engaging the theory in dialogue, it inevitably interweaves commentary with exegesis, paying scrupulous attention to what the theorist's text says, while at the same time recognizing that the meaning of any text (as of any life) is never limited to its author's self-understanding. It must be interpreted, never merely recited. A theory contains a message some part of which is surely the author's and known to him, but another part is only glimpsed and is opaque even to him. It is therefore not rendered altogether intelligible simply by putting down his prefatory explanations of what his work is about. For all prefaces (yes, all) are written only after the fact, are efforts to construct an account of what has already been done, which renders it consistent and acceptable; therefore, they are partly justifications no less than explanations, partly distorting no less than clarifying. An author's own account of himself, then, can never really be altogether superior to someone else's account of him.
To critique a theory, then, is to think about it not as a culturally privileged object but as another object of culture, to be understood as we attempt to understand, say, a novel by William Gass, a cinema by Kirosawa, a play by Pinter, the layout and architecture of Red Square in Moscow, a life such as Antonio Gramsci's, or an event such as Louis Napoleon's coup. Such a view of theory, it must be admitted, is somewhat at variance with theory's own exalted self-conception, which tends to present itself as if it were altogether transparent to itself and knowledgeable about what it is up to. The first commandment of the theorist's guild is, after all, know what you are doing. Critique takes note of this special requirement, sees theorists as bound by such a pledge, but yet as no more capable of living a life without shadows than anyone else. To view Marx or Marxism as having shadows, silences, subtexts beneath the text, is thus in no way to debase it but only to see it as sharing in the common human condition.
3. A critique sees a theory as embodying the unique talents of some intellectual craftsmen, the standards, traditions, and concerns of their craft, and also of the larger society, culture, and historical epoch in which the craft is practiced. It is to see theory as a technical product, but never as that alone. To view theory as a craft object is to see it as an object in which both personality and history, individual and group, are blended into focussed statement. To view Marxism from the standpoint of critique is thus to see it as something more than the product of lonely and tormented genius, or as the work of warrior scholars, while at the same time recognizing that, since the life of theory is concerned with transcending the commonplace, it is always a precarious performance.
Although Marxists would be the first to agree that a critique must view theory as a social and historical product--and thus as something more than the result of other and earlier theories, philosophies, or ideologies--they are not particularly eager to do this. Like "normal" academic sociologists, who are often made uneasy by the sociology of knowledge (and downright distraught by a sociology of sociology), Marxists likewise do not hurry to their rendezvous with a Marxism of Marxism; which is in part why, as Perry Anderson writes, "the history of Marxism has yet to be written." 8 For Marxists as for sociologists, reflexive efforts at historical self-understanding are often taken as narcissistic, diverting enquiry from its proper objective of understanding (not to speak of changing) the world.
That Marxism, like academic sociology, is indeed an historical and social product also discomfits those Marxists who think themselves social "scientists." For if it is an historical product, shaped by social needs no less than reason and research, it is part of the tissue of its time, rather than an eruption without precedent or an achievement without peer. This perspective on Marx and Marxism, then, will not be congenial to those like Louis Althusser who celebrate "Marx's discovery as the greatest event in the history of human knowledge, since the appearance of mathematics, somewhere in Greece," 9 or who like to shroud Marxism's origin in the mystique of an unaccountable coupure epistemologique, setting it altogether apart from (and above) other achievements of its time. Critique, however, genuflects to no theory or theorist.
4. If critique views Marxism as the product of need no less than reason, it also goes one step further, asking whose need. Certainly, Marxism never doubted that a critique required an answer to that question. Moreover, any inquiry into social theory that lets matters rest simply by setting theory in its general historical context, without also relating it to the generative interests of some specifiable social group, cannot be deemed a critique in any remotely Marxist sense. The matter, then, will in the end come down to a question that will be viewed either as outrageous or as simpleminded: What is Marxism's class grounding? What, in short, is its class origin?
This question will be viewed as simple-minded by those Marxists who, reciting by rote the catechism that "Marxism is the consciousness of the working class," think that this says all that needs saying, conveniently forgetting that Marxism also says: "Consciousness is determined by social being." If that is so, how can the proletarian consciousness of Marxism have been generated by the bourgeois social being of its authors? The question of Marxism's class origins will, however, be viewed as outrageous by those Marxists who suspect that the answer to be given here is not the mechanical and contradictory answer some of them conventionally offer.
5. Although critique views theory as expressing and relying on the needs and standards of the various groups from which it emerges, it does not assume that theory and theorist are related to this social context only in a harmonious or dependent way. On the contrary. Critique also sees theory- work as commonly shaped by a conflict with its environment and as proceeding, in particular, by opposing parts of it: elements of its technical tradition, on the one side, and of the "common sense," on the other.
Like other social theories, Marxism emerged in an ambivalent relationship--i.e., both relying on and opposed--to different parts of its technical tradition and to the culture of the everyday life around it. Marxism established its own identity only by drawing a line between itself and such technical traditions as Hegel's philosophical idealism or English political economy, as well as elements of the then common sense such as religion or conventional political ideologies. More than most theories, Marxism emerged in the form of a thrusting polemic against other views, as indicated by the very titles of its works: Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Law; The Holy Family (a polemic against Bruno Bauer and others); Critique of Political Economy; Anti-Duhring; Critique of the Gotha Program.
To understand Marxism, as any theory, then, requires an understanding not only of the
intellectual allies and ancestors from which it draws its resources but also of its
intellectual adversaries and the competitors from which it painstakingly sought to
distinguish itself. Theory-work is not done just by "adding another brick to the wall
of science" but often involves throwing bricks as well; it not only involves paying
one's intellectual debts but also (and rather differently) "settling accounts."
6. If the idea of a critique insistently focuses attention on the context of a text--i.e., its historical and technical origins--it also views texts themselves as embodying their own internal contradictions which it insistently seeks to identify and understand. But critique, as understood here, does not assume that only our adversaries are vulnerable to contradictions; it premises that even forces with whom one is aligned--we heroes--also have their own contradictions. From this standpoint, then, Marxism will be seen as possessing its own contradictions, and contradiction will not be understood simply as a stigma of Marxism's enemies.
For some (vulgar) Marxists, to speak of Marxism's own contradictions is to deprecate and even slander it. It seems to say that Marxism shares something of the defective existence of the very life it wishes to abrogate. But who could deny that'? A consistent auto-critique of Marxism can do no other; it must insist that Marxism too--even Marxism and even socialism--has its own internal contradictions. An attempt to take hold of these must deal with Marxism's living contradictions, not simply the vestigial remnants of Marxism's birth, its bourgeois heritage or Victorian prejudices; it must view Marxism's own contradictions as a living part of Marxism even today, and as an essential key to its present condition and future prospect.
6.1 To speak of Marxism's own contradictions is, I am aware, to use a metaphor insofar as Marxism is more than a system of propositions, the truth of one of which implies the falsity of another. Yet Marxism is considerably more than a system of propositions or a doctrine; it is a larger organized community of actors pursuing a revolutionary project. Can actors' actions, as well as the propositions they utter, also be contradictory? Does it help to look upon them in this way? Certainly it is legitimate to hold that propositions may be contradictory but what of persons' (other) actions?
To speak of actors' actions as "contradictory,'' is not, be it noted, a commitment to a general "dialectic of nature" in which all nature is held to be potentially contradictory; my comments only embody a limited dialectic of social action and not of Nature. All human conduct may be regarded as embodying messages and meanings some of which are reducible to propositional forms, and so human conduct itself can be contradictory, even in a strict construction of "contradiction." Yet to view social conduct as potentially contradictory or not, is to view persons as if they were logicians and rational, which they are, but only in part. Contradiction here, then, is indeed, a metaphor.
In this, however, it is not different from other equivalent characterizations of actors and their conduct as, for instance, speaking of their being in "tension," "strain," or as possessing "dissonance." All of these also entail metaphors. If contradiction likens social conduct to logic, "tension" seems an organic (even medical) metaphor likening action to the body's or mind's exhaustion; "strain" seems a mechanical metaphor likening social conduct to the overload, say, on a bridge; "dissonance" seems a musical or accoustical metaphor likening some actions to intolerable sounds. Some such metaphors are inescapable and ought, it seems to me, to be judged largely by their consequences; by whether or not they make it possible to focus systematically on implications of consequence. All these metaphors--contradiction, strain, tension, dissonance--have an overlapping implication, commonly calling attention to the increased probability of change in the actions or persons thus characterized, or to the improbability of such things remaining as they were. If critique commits us to a concern with contradiction, then, it does so because its project is the study of change and of its mechanisms.
In viewing Marxism, either as a system of propositions or of actions, as potentially
contradictory, my intent is not to render a judgement against Marxism's irrationality but,
first of all, to insist: that Marxists are themselves concerned with being and seeming to
be rational; that the requirements of rationality are important to them no less than to
us; that they will not simply be seen here as billiard balls whose movements are produced
only by external forces, but as persons attempting to live in conformity with standards
they deem proper, including those of rationality; and therefore, they will exert
themselves to pursue courses of conduct, partly because those courses are
noncontradictory, and they will seek to escape contradiction or the appearance of it. In
asserting my interest in the contradictory character of Marxist ideas and actions I am
thus asserting my assumption that Marxists are in part actors committed to and capable of
rationality, who are in part shaped by their efforts to be or to seem such.
6.2 To make a critique implies a concern with identifying the contradictions, strains, or dissonances embedded in Marxism, with a view to seeing certain other parts of the theory as efforts to reduce, control, or remove these, as well as a concern with the resulting development of the theory. One task of critique, then, is structural: to lay out and exhibit the elements opposing one another. Another part, is dynamic: to explore the results of that opposition.
From the standpoint of critique, both the structure and dynamics of opposition are understood as achievements brought about by those holding the theory, being maintained partly by their commitments and partly by the conditions within which these are lived.
One of the most general consequences of a contradiction in theory is to separate the mutually opposing elements, reducing their mutual interaction by splitting them off from the single system in which they first exist, and segregating them from one another by incorporating each in different (systems or) subsystems that are (at least) partly insulated from one another. In other words, different subsystems may be elaborated through (and result in) a process of increasing differentiation of the initial system, so that each of the formerly contradictory elements is now enclosed in boundaries reducing its interaction with the other. It will be my contention that primary Marxism has a "nuclear contradiction," and that this generates and recurrently reproduces (at least) two boundaried subsystems of elaborated theory that I will call Scientific Marxism and Critical Marxism.
6.3 Among other, specific types of contradictions that are discernible in Marxism are those that will be called "anomalies." These may be conceived as observations or assumptions that are at variance with expectations derived from prior theoretical commitments. Nothing, then, is inherently anomalous but only in relation to some theoretically grounded expectation.
It is not supposed that an observation automatically generates an anomaly, which, without interpretation, is taken to be divergent from theoretical expectation. Whether or not an observation is anomalous is a definition produced by some interpretation; but any observation can always be interpreted or defined as either conforming to or departing from theoretical expectation. Even when, from some third party's standpoint, a given observation may seem anomalous, the theorist who made it may not see it that way. On the contrary, he often has a strong impulse to ''normalize" observations, i.e., to somehow define them as consistent with his expectations, by accommodating observation to theory or by denying the need for an accommodation. I shall return shortly to the problem of normalization. For the moment, however, I simply want to stress that whether or not an observation is anomalous is a produced act, a definition made via interpretation, rather than imposed and dictated by the "data" itself.
6.4 There are at least two types of anomalies--research-generated and event-generated anomalies--our study of Marxism will encounter. The first is a divergence from expectations produced by deliberate efforts of scholarship; these research-generated anomalies are produced by scholars' own initiatives and technical interests, and would not have occurred but for some scholar's activity. The second, event-generated anomalies, seem to be produced by "history," i.e., they are not contradictions of theoretical expectation generated by scholarly initiative. In short, they are not ''academic problems" arising within scholarly work but "practical" problems arising "outside" a theory. The first, research-generated anomaly derives from reading or observation that may be made only by some scholar; the second, event-generated anomaly refers to newspaper-relevant events, hence visible even to "laymen" and all who read newspapers. The event-generated anomaly derives from "practical'' events visible to laymen but which do not become anomalies unless, additionally, viewed from the standpoint of some theoretical expectation from which they are defined as diverging.
Among the research-generated anomalies in Marxism that will be examined are Marx's "observations" on the role of the state in the course of studying The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and, a few years later, his observation of the Asiatic Mode of Production or Oriental Despotism. The event-generated anomalies of most importance to Marxism that will be discussed come in two waves: first, the "observed" failure of capitalism to self-destruct following the long depression of the last quarter of the nineteenth century; secondly, the success of the revolution where it was least expected (in Russia), and its failure where it was most expected (in industrially advanced central and Western Europe). The first, event-generated anomaly contributed to Bernstein's "revisionism"; the second accelerated the decline of "scientific" Marxism and the rise of Critical Marxism.
Critique, then, centers on contradictions: first, contradictions between a theory, in its ''foreign relations" with other views whether these are technical theories or assumptions of the ''common sense," i.e., the theories of the everyday life; and secondly critique focuses on contradictions internal to a theory, whether those termed here its "nuclear contradiction," or others termed ''anomalies," whether research-generated or event-generated.
6.5 Critique expects theorists will be far more ready to acknowledge (and even accent) contradictions between their own theoretical expectations and those of other theorists. Correspondingly, critique expects theorists to be far less ready to acknowledge the existence of internal contradictions within their own theory, or between their theory and their own research observations or with event-generated information.
External contradictions generate "polemics'' that lead theorists to overstate differences between their own theory and others and to neglect their similarities, thereby contributing to boundary formations which are identity-defining for a theory. Here the task of critique is to resist the overstatement of the divergence and, also the repression of the convergence between a theory and others. More importantly, critique also resists those deeper and more powerful impulses to deny, gloss, repress, and conceal internal contradictions and anomalies in a theory. External contradictions are more likely to be expected and polemically visible, internal contradictions, however, constitute improprieties that generate powerful impulses to conceal them and to resist efforts to uncover or even discuss them.
6.6 A theory, in short, is expected and permitted to be at war with other theories but not with itself, thus when internal contradictions are glimpsed, theorists are exposed to powerful pressure to normalize their theory. To "normalize'' is an effort to reduce the dissonance between how an object is supposed to appear and how in fact it seems to be, by treating it as if it really was what it was supposed to be; by actually perceiving its traits as they should be; or by denying or ignoring "improper" traits. Normalization includes all those devices by which disparities glimpsed between what we see and what we deem right are somehow reduced. The task of the critical theorist is to resist impulses to normalize the world, however comforting they are, and to enable persons to "recover" what they have already noticed but never really assimilated. To paraphrase Alfred North Whitehead, everything of importance has been noticed by somebody who did not see it. The task of the critical theorist, then, is to mediate between persons and their own experience, enabling them to appropriate critically something already a part of them, helping them to make it their own.
Among the important forms of normalizing maneuvers are those induced by disparities between the imputed "goodness" (or badness) of an object and its imputed "power" (or weakness). Commonly, objects perceived as good are normalized by also perceiving them as strong; those seen as weak are normalized by defining them as deservedly so because "bad." Here, to normalize is to attempt to see things regarded as good also as powerful, or to change and make them such if seen as weak; ''the bottom rail," it is promised, will in time "become the top." Conversely, the bad but powerful object will and should get its comeuppance, meet its nemesis, have justice inflicted upon it. Thus it is not that powerful objects are always seen as good but special tension and remedial efforts are generated if they are not, and these proceed either by reducing their power or enhancing their imputed goodness. Thus "populists" have often seen the powers that be as bad, but what makes them "populists" is their effort to change that.
Again, those powerful in society find the weakness of those beneath them highly convenient, but they do not commonly say that this very weakness of the subjugated is for that reason good; they define it as appropriate because the subjugated are imputed to be slothful, untrustworthy, incompetent, cowardly, or dirty, etc., and possessed of other "bad" traits. In short, an imputed lack of goodness makes the subjugated deservedly weak--in the eyes of the powerful. Correspondingly, a ruling group may be said to be all hegemonic elite when its power corresponds to a goodness--e.g., competence, bravery, productivity, etc.--imputed to them by the subordinated.
A macho or sexist culture may view feminine "weakness" or that
of children as ''endearing" not because good but because "natural." In both
cases, weakness is defined as appropriate to the nature of their being--i.e., as beyond
good and evil. The child is expected to overcome this condition--i.e., to equilibrate
power and goodness--in time by maturation. The woman is expected to overcome her own
natural weakness, precisely insofar as she is imputed to be "good," through the
deserving protection of powerful males which will overcome or compensate for her natural
weakness, thereby achieving a potency appropriate to her goodness.10
The young Marx held that the proletariat (feminine in its present weakness) 11 is good, being the bearer of universal interests; but he also maintained that the proletariat is destined to be the new repository of power and to become the ruling class. Marxism thus normalizes history and the working class.
6.7 Critique, however--the kind of critique to which I am committed here--considers all those bearing such glad tidings, in which the (suffering and good) bottom rail must become the top, to be suspect precisely because theirs is such a routine normalization. The critique to which I am committed seeks to make it possible to see whether and when the social world has become "abnormal" and thus recognize those occasions when the powerful are bad and the good weak, and that things may even remain this way, resisting all temptations to exclude them from reality or to compensate for an abnormal present with the guarantee of a normalized future. It is intrinsic, then, to the critique practiced here to reject an account of history that is essentially polyannalike, and to help persons bear bad news concerning their most cherished projects, neither overestimating their own chances nor underestimating the prospects of their adversaries. The critique I practice is stripped of the myth of inevitable progress. It does not believe that the evil are destined to lose power, that the good are fated to win it, or that we will inevitably surpass our ancestors; indeed, the critique practiced here is thoroughly confident that none of this can be improved upon without controlling the impulse to normalize.
The analytic rules by which I am guided, here as in other studies, bear of course upon the question of "objectivity." Most particularly the rules that I obey here call upon me to attend to specially and to bring out those sides of a matter that the participants themselves might prefer to avoid. The rule I follow says that, if there is something systematically silenced in an area of discussion, it is the analyst's responsibility to bring it into focus. In this analytic, then, it is a critical theorist's special task to speak the bad news. In the topic at hand, this has various applications but perhaps the most striking will be that I have felt a special obligation to attend most closely to the limits--politically and theoretically--of those Hegelian readings of Marxism for which I, like other intellectuals, feel the most sympathy, rather than adding my voice to the chorus of condemnation of "scientific'' Marxism, of its authoritarianism and "economism," or of Engels's presumable "vulgarization" of Marx. The critic's special mission, I also hold, is to protect those very intellectual values which are made most precarious in a world of encapsulated specializations, that is, to husband the fading contemporary sense of complexity, reuniting things our culture has already fragmented.
If the above attempt to clarify my own usage of critique has been successful it needs to
be added that, even at its best and most powerful, the idea of critique does not encompass
and entirely characterize the resources I propose to use in understanding Marxism.
Critique is the center but not the totality of these resources. A fuller account of them
includes five other ideas:
1. A proper discussion of a theory, I shall hold, must be textually responsible and should never be so interpretatively arrogant as to neglect questions of what in fact was said in the texts, hurrying on from this presumably simple-minded question to the more exhilarating heights of hermeneutics. I think I yield to no one when it comes to an awareness of the inescapability of interpretation and of the naiveté of believing that a text can be rendered without presupposition. Nonetheless, Marxist scholarship faces real problems of tampered and suppressed texts, indeed, of ambiguous and concealed authorship. Moreover, the authors themselves sometimes plant misleading views concerning their own texts, as, for instance, when Marx avers, in his introduction to the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire that he confined himself to "mere corrections of printer's errors and to striking out allusions now no longer intelligible." Similarly there is no doubt that Engels felt free to revise certain of Marx's own formulations after the latter's death. Again, texts long thought to have been Marx's, including some of the articles for the New York Herald Tribune, are now known to have been ghosted by Engels. My intent in mentioning this is certainly not to cast suspicion on Engels for any impropriety or to prepare the reader for an unmasking of his differences with Marx. I mean simply to indicate that there are times when questions of textual authentication are important, both to ground our own interpretations and to evaluate the interpretations of others. There have, for example, been interpretations which have so differed from my own that the first thing required was to establish whether we were really working from the same text.
I have also found it highly valuable to pay close attention to the date when a work was in progress and to distinguish this from its date of publication. It was also useful to discern whether a given work was in fact published by Marx and Engels themselves, whether it was published posthumously, and, if only posthumously, whether they themselves had earlier sought to have it published but, for whatever reason, failed to do so. Thus Marx's famous ''Theses on Feuerbach," a major early text justifying an interpretation of Marxism as a theory of practice, was written in 1845 but was published posthumously only by Engels in his Ludwig Feuerbach of 1888; there is no evidence that Marx himself ever sought to have it published. In contrast, Marx and Engels's The German Ideology, although first written in the summer of 1846, did seek but could find no publisher and was left to the "gnawing criticism of the mice," only part being published during their lifetimes.
When something was written, whether the authors wanted it published or whether it was published only posthumously but without their permission, are important bits of information for interpreting it. They constitute elemental parts of a manuscript's con-text. In the modern period, it is noteworthy that the two most celebrated breakthroughs in Marx-Engels scholarship entailed the new availability of manuscripts that were published only posthumously. The first of these was Marx's ''Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts" which, while developed in 1844, were not published until 1932 in Berlin. The second was the so-called Grundrisse which, although written during 1857-58 in London, was not widely known until the single volume edition by Dietz Verlag in 1953.
Every writer knows that there are apt to be substantial differences of many kinds between his published and unpublished work. For all manner of reasons, writers often blanch at the prospect of the posthumous publication of their hitherto unpublished manuscripts. The implications of a manuscript's being unpublished at the time of an author's death are not always transparent nor are they always the same. It would be naive to assume, then, that published and unpublished works constitute identical grounds for inferring an author's considered position.
The distinction between published and unpublished work--as distinct from poorly and fully developed work--is important, moreover, not so much for learning what an author actually thought or believed; it may also indicate a difference between positions he was prepared to present publicly and others he may have thought less attractive or defensible. Every published work, like the proverbial tip of the iceberg, is a literary superstructure erected on a substructure of unpublished work and on which it is in many ways grounded, even though the latter, literary "graveyard," may not be as rigorous as the work publicly presented. Much of the dramaturgy of literary production is concerned with making salient, defensible, or attractive things, while concealing-- often through not publishing them--the ungrounded or unattractive positions on which they may rest. Published as distinct from unpublished work is a visible indicator (when we have access to the latter) of the values the author wishes to support or with which he wishes to be identified, of the kind of scholar/writer he wishes to be thought of as being, and of the audiences to which he wishes to appeal. Unpublished work is often (not always) a form of self-censorship also indicating, if in its own different ways, the author's commitments.
It is thus important to discern whether an author's unpublished works share any common characteristics differentiating them from those he published, for these may help explain why they had been censored. Marx's unpublished work, then, need not be less indicative of what he "really thought"; but this may suggest that a certain line of thought created important difficulties for him or that he was uneasy about being seen in public with them. When there is a line of thought common to a body of unpublished work it suggests that it is inserted in his work at a special level, not that it is absent from the work, and suggests how the structure of his oeuvre acquired its form. To distinguish an author's unpublished work helps us see that certain positions may, indeed, be "his" yet not necessarily exist at the same level in his work as those positions he published. That, to anticipate, is what I shall hold concerning the two different syndromes in Marx's work, Critical and Scientific Marxisms, as I term them here.
2. One important implication of taking texts seriously is that we take language seriously. While not in the least imagining that Marxism is "only" a theory or that its success or failure depends only on its theory, Marxism is still in important part a theory; as a socialism it is distinguished by the importance it attributed to theory (and theorists) and cannot be understood unless its theory is understood. It is on this theory that we focus here. As theory, Marxism is above all language. Whatever our views on Marxism as a "science" and whether science or not, Marxist theory is expressed in language and in a system of communication. Our linguistic perspective disposes us to seek whatever assistance we can derive for an understanding of Marxism from disciplines concerned with the analysis of speech or silence, of texts or subtexts, of spoken and written forms of communication, whether these are a sociology of language, aspects of sociolinguistics, or even elements of literary criticism. An understanding of what Marxism means will be greatly facilitated if we take what it says and how it says this quite seriously.
3. In turn, our language perspective on Marxism indicates that, if we often adopt Marxist assumptions here in attempting to understand Marxism, we will not confine ourselves to Marxist precept--and certainly not at all to Marxist self-understanding--in interpreting Marxism. In particular, I have throughout also viewed Marxism from the standpoint of sociology, for each is a sister discipline to the other. Both sociology and Marxism arose in the nineteenth century as part of the emerging naturalistic view of persons and society and, indeed, of the still larger development of the natural sciences. Both Marxism and sociology developed much (and sometimes too much) of their intellectual identity from the larger emergence of natural sciences. Yet if they are sister disciplines, the two are also sibling rivals.
To hear Marxists talk, as they sometimes scoff at sociology's "triviality" and especially its powerlessness in the world, there might seem to be no comparison between the two. On this question of sociology's powerlessness, Marxists are quite right; it is true that sociology--as Stalin once remarked of the Vatican--commands no armies. To this, of course, sociologists might rejoin, that their object was not to be powerful but right, and, if powerless, they at least bear no responsibility for the vast political catastrophes, such as Stalinism, by which Marxism has been tainted.
The point of using sociology here, to understand Marxism, is of course because it provides intellectual leverage. For both Marxism and sociology, having developed partly in polemical opposition to one another, have each developed knowledge and insight the other has neglected. Precisely for that reason, then, each has much to contribute to understanding the other. Since I have already presented my critical account of sociology, in The Coming, Crisis of Western Sociology (1970), my attention here now turns to the other side of that sibling relationship. I have found it helpful not to limit myself to Marxism's own theoretical perspective but also often use those views it has systematically neglected, the work of Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and other sociologists. Sister disciplines like sisters know a great deal about each other at the deepest levels and, if listened to critically, may be heard to say incisive things about the other. It is this that gives them the right to participate in the dialogue, not their association with power which only corrodes them both and which, once more, brands them as siblings.
4. Part of taking Marxist theory seriously means that we must not only view it as a produced object but also as a producer, as having an effect upon the world even as it is affected by it. Certainly a doctrine such as Marxism which extols the ''unity of theory and practice" cannot fault an effort to understand the theory's effects upon the social world. Yet the moment we begin to take Marxism seriously in this way, exploring its relation to political practice, we will be told by Marxists (and some academic "social historians" alike) that we cannot properly hold Marxism at fault for the political failures with which it has been associated. Most particularly, this will be the judgement of those who want to dissociate Marxism from the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. Seeking to rescue Marxism and socialism from disgrace by association with those terrible events, some Marxists tell us that they were produced only because the Bolsheviks betrayed or misunderstood Marxism, rather than enacted it faithfully; or that these events were simply the outcome of the overriding special backwardness of Russian society, or of the "force of circumstances" there, thus assuring us that Marxism--the disembodied thing in "itself"--bears no share of the blame and should not be surrendered.
To explore the links between Marxism and Stalinism is, nonetheless, a litmus test of the capacity of Marxism to attain its emancipatory aims and of the problems encountered in achieving these in practice; it also provides an important perspective on the political vulnerabilities to which Marxist theory may be susceptible, that bear on its own basic reason for existence--its potential contribution to human liberation. Nowhere, however, will I argue that Marxism contained the seeds of its own inevitable undoing nor imply that Stalinism was an unavoidable outgrowth of the ''inherent logic" of Marxism.
The Russian revolutions could be pursued only in clandestine forms under Czarist absolutism with its secret police, gallows, mass arrests, deportations and exiles, and these created conditions conducive to counter-terror and counter-repression. Lacking deep-rooted traditions of political freedom, either from their own national culture or from their rebellion against it, facing the resistance of powerful forces within and outside of their own society, isolated from European ideas and from assistance by socialists in the West, and bent on imposing themselves despite the resistance of the country's overwhelming majority--its peasantry--the Bolsheviks quickly adopted terror, total censorship, and absolute authoritarianism as a way of life.
Yet having said this, we cannot conclude that Marxist theory itself bears no responsibility at all for what happened. We cannot act as if Stalinism was simply a myth invented to slander Marxism. Marxists were and are historically unique political men in their emphasis on intellectuality and in their commitment to theory. More shall any other political movement, Marxism insisted on taking its theory seriously. It will be totally incomprehensible as a political community unless an effort is made to understand how this theory was linked to the political catastrophes with which it is associated. In short, the examination of Marxist theory to follow is centrally inspired by the conviction that Marxist practice has in some substantial measure been shaped by its theory and that if we wish to understand this practice, and the Marxist societies under which a third of the world's population now lives, we cannot ignore the substantial role of Marxist theory, anymore than we can hold it alone responsible for events.
5. I began by saying that the project here was, "at one level," a critique of Marxism. The qualification indicated bears upon the fact that I am not interested in Marxist theory alone, for its own sake or even for understanding political events; I also wish to use the occasion to deepen an understanding of the life of theory more generally, of how any kind of social theory is produced and develops. This, however, means there is a moment of reflexivity in our undertaking, for among the social theories into which we seek insight--even as we wield it--is, of course, our own.
Let me add immediately, however, that unlike certain forms of theorizing, I am not primarily concerned to seize this occasion to exhibit my own concept of reason, and especially not to use my commitment to reflexivity to divert investigation from the topic at hand.12 In contrast to "analytic" sociology, which can indifferently study Sherlock Holmes, Sigmund Freud, Woody Allen, Georg Simmel, or the Gospels, and somehow contrive to reach the same conclusion about them all, I am indeed committed to the topic at hand, to the study of Marxism, and to an attempt to grasp it in its uniqueness.
The project here, then, holds that a proper view of critique requires us to respect the topic. Analytic sociology is sometimes rather like an exotic carnivorous plant, flashing colorful "topics" only in order to attract edibles that it can assimilate into its own being and, in the end, it bores us because it transforms different topics into a single, uniform nutriment and excrement. My own different view of critique is as prepared to serve as be served and is as ready to answer as to ask questions; which means that it shall hew to its topic, even while striving for a reflexivity that knows it is always interpreting, reading, and constructing the Marxism of its critique.
Finally, the study of this very specific topic properly makes demands on us that another might not; most particularly, it requires us to speak candidly of the political perspective by which the following account is to be informed. Considering that the topic is Marxism, this demand is surely legitimate. Without using the occasion for extended political analysis, let what follows be thought of rather as a partial political summary of the conclusions at which I have arrived thus far, among which the following are most important.
In Western Europe a strange situation has developed. The dominant society, a bourgeois society that evolved into corporate, late capitalism succeeded in producing a revolutionary critique of itself in Marxism and socialism. I mean this rather precisely and rigorously, for Marxism was not just produced in reaction against bourgeois society and its elites but by them. The idea that Marxism was simply a critique of bourgeois society is, at best, only Marxism's limited self-understanding.
The Marxism that emerged in Western Europe, however, was never successful in winning state power in the territory of its birth, but only elsewhere in developing societies that, by its own standards, were "backward." The "socialist" solution to the contradictions and problems of capitalism turned out to be appealing only to societies in desperate straits and often not very capitalist. If the corruption, callousness, incompetence, and lassitude of the West are increasingly evident, so, too, are the pathologies and political monstrosities of capitalism's supposed antithesis, the "socialist" states intended to transcend the ills of capitalism.
Following the October Revolution, there was the extirpation of all socialist democracy in the first "socialist" state, the USSR, which subsequently laid the grounding of Stalinism that devastated Soviet society and leaves it still blighted. This Soviet State has exerted pressure on socialisms elsewhere and has widely reproduced in them its own "dinosaur" socialism, as far as it could. As other Marxist parties took power in Asia, this became the occasion not for a new internationalism but for a new internecine violence. The new Marxist states proved as mutually wary and self-aggrandizing as the old imperialisms. The Soviet State took it upon itself to invade "socialist" Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany. Socialist Cambodia, having produced a society whose authoritarianism was so primitive that it could not be properly called "totalitarian," engaged in depredations against socialist Vietnam which, in turn, and with the prior consent of the Soviet Union, launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia and placed her under a puppet regime, which in turn caused China, Cambodia's patron, to launch its own massive punitive invasion of Vietnam. This, of course, causes profound gratification to those who supported France and the United States's earlier wars against Vietnam. Marxist socialism, in short, did not overturn the clash of empires but raised it to a new level.
The political uniqueness of our own era, then, is this: we have lived and still live through a desperate political and social malaise while, at the same time, we have also outlived the desperate revolutionary remedies that had once been thought to solve it. The old illnesses remain but the remedies once proposed for them, including Marxism, have not really improved the human prospect. We live, then, in a period when--except for those with millenarian talents--the West's political past and its political future have alike exhausted themselves. It is, therefore, time to begin a fundamental rethinking of our historical and our theoretical position. Our study, then, is informed by this political vision and it aims to make a contribution to the larger, ongoing discussion needed to transcend the unique contradictions of our era.
If this situation speaks to the existence of a crisis in the West, its unstaunched
wound, it speaks no less pointedly to a similar crisis for Marxists. Indeed, this has
become so acute that many Marxists now openly acknowledge it.
The Swedish Marxist, Goran Therborn has thus observed that the lack of a Marxism of Marxism "is hardly warranted by the history of Marxism, which has in no sense been a success story free from blockages and reversals. Fundamental aspects of Marxist theory have been called into question both by its historic defeats, so far, in North America and Western Europe, and by the aftermath of its successes--Stalinism, the Sino-Soviet split, the present social and political condition of that third of the world claiming to be governed by Marxist theory. These and other contradictory and often unexpected developments of the union of Marxist theory and practice make it possible to speak also of a crisis of Marxism. 13
Louis Althusser's appraisal of Marxism today is essentially similar in its implication. Although bland, his remarks are devastating in their import for Marx's expectations: "the revolution did not take place in nineteenth-century Britain nor in early twentieth-century Germany; it did not take place in the advanced countries at all, but elsewhere, in Russia, then later in China and Cuba, etc.... the revolutions which we know are either premature or miscarried." 14 This is nothing less than an acknowledgement that the most fundamental expectations of Marxism have been falsified by history.
It is particularly notable that Marxists' growing awareness of their internal crisis is not confined to one particular theoretical tendency; an essentially similar judgement is rendered not only by Scientific Marxists such as Althusser but by their ancient adversaries, Critical Marxists such as George Lukacs. In his last interview with Franco Ferrarotti, while Lukacs does not invoke "crisis" to characterize Marxism's condition, the substance of that idea is clearly conveyed:
Marxism as a general theory of society has in fact undergone an interruption. It has stood still. One may say that Marxism, conceived as it should be conceived, as a general theory of society and of history, no longer exists, that it came to an end some time ago.... Our analysis stood still, but capitalism continued to evolve. We stopped with Lenin. After him there has been no Marxism.15
For Lukacs, the source of these problems is essentially the incomplete and outmoded
character of Marxism. In that vein, Lukacs notes that "Marx never studied seriously
the economies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America'' and adds that capitalism has so changed
that "it is utterly useless to refurbish the idea of individual profit of the
capitalistic type or to invoke the law of the market ... the nineteenth-century market is
dead!" Thus "there are new phenomena about which we have nothing to say,"
such as mass consumerism among the working class, which serves to limit economic crises.
Lucio Colletti, too, has added his own substantial authority as a Marxist scholar to the widening consensus concerning the crisis in Marxism. Colletti focuses on its manifestations in the avoidance by leading Marxist economists of the central Marxist categories of value and surplus value. "Baran and Sweezy [in their Monopoly Capitalism] decided they were unable to use the theory of value and of surplus value in their analysis of postwar US capitalism." But these concepts, observed Colletti, are the keystone of Marx's theory and, without them, "Capital crumbles." Colletti also notes with astonishment the reliance of Maurice Dobb and of young Italian Marxist economists on the work of Piero Sraffa. It is "absolutely absurd," says Colletti, to use him to shore up Marx's economics, since Sraffa's work "implies the demolition of the entire foundation of Marx's analysis" being a critique of neoclassical economics that involves a return, behind Marx, to Ricardo.
Noting that Marx's theory of the falling rate of profit has never been empirically verified; noting (like Althusser) that "the central test of Capital," namely, a socialist revolution in the industrially advanced West, has not yet come to pass; and observing the widening Sino-Soviet conflict, Colletti, too, concludes that "Marxism is in crisis today."16 This, he adds, is a crisis which can be surmounted only on the condition that it first be acknowledged in its full extent, both theoretically and politically.
My own critique of Marxism is grounded in part in this growing recognition (among Marxists) of the contemporary crisis in Marxism. In my view however, to be developed below, this crisis was due not only to the fact that the world has outgrown a Marxism limited by its European-centered origins, or that Marxism was based on an intensive study of only one single case, the development of English capitalism. All these significant limits imputed to Marxism are correct, yet Marxism's problems go deeper still. The contemporary crisis of Marxism17 derives also from the sharpening of a contradiction always inherent to it. In this respect, my view of Marxism differs from that shared by Lukacs and Althusser, for both of them maintain a common silence about the internal contradictions that Marxism has and always had.
1. Merle Fainsod, "Soviet Communism," in the International Encyclopedia of
Social Sciences, vol. 3, ed. David L. Sills, 17 vols. (London: Macmillan & Co.,
1968), p. 105.
2. V. I. Lenin, What Is to Be Done? (New York: International Publishers, 1929), cited on p. 27.
3. Ibid., pp. 27 - 28. Lenin's italics.
4. Cited in Lenin, ibid., p. 30.
5. Ibid., pp. 32-33.
6. Ibid., pp. 39-40.
7. Ibid., p. 118.
8. Perry Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 1.
9. Louis Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 110. It is notable that Althusser compares Marxism here with a formal discipline rather than an empirical science.
10. Moreover, in macho cultures, however "weak" women are defined as being, they are not usually defined as so weak as to be unable to "bear" or give birth to children or to offer no resistance to attacks on their "honor."
11. Indeed, in his Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right," Marx calls the proletariat a passive element and the "heart" of revolution whose virgin ignorance needs to be pierced by the lightning bolt of theory, the "head" of the revolution. "Revolutions require a passive element, a material basis . . . just as philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its spiritual weapons in philosophy; and once the lightning of thought has struck deeply into this naive soil of the people the emancipation of the Germans into men will be accomplished.... The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat." See Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right," ed. Joseph O'Malley. (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 138.
12. Thus Alan Blum holds that "every approach to a corpus is a re-view not of the corpus . . . but of our tradition of Rationality. We use Marx to once again put our tradition into view." But if that is all we do then we never have the opportunity to put Marx's tradition into view. There seems to be a certain confusion between reflexivity and narcissism here. Reflexivity means, among other things, that we are aware in scanning a text that we do so within the limits of our own tradition and the perspective it affords; but narcissism views the other, the text, simply as a mirror in which to see our own image. Given what he calls his "violent" reading of Marx, Blum thus concludes that "theory and practice are metaphors for speech that is historically reflexive and speech that is forgetful ... capitalism and socialism are respective code names for the typification of inquiry guided by interest, body, impulse, and situation, and for the ideal of inquiry guided by the standard of the Good." In the first instance, practice is reduced to speech and, in the second, socialism or capitalism to modes of inquiry. These are most imaginative readings. But one wonders why one should bother to bridle his imagination by confronting it with any text at all. See Alan Blum, "Reading Marx," Sociological Inquiry, Spring 1973, pp. 23, 30-31.
13. Goran Therborn, Science, Class and Society (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 38. My own efforts differ from Therborn's in certain ways; among them that he commits himself to an Althusserian perspective which he does not appraise critically and thus launches himself upon a Marxism of Marxism in which "Marxism" has a taken-for- granted character. Indeed, we are not told how he understands the Marxism that he takes both as method and topic, and his work thus exhibits a lack of reflexivity inherently paradoxical in any effort at a "Marxism of Marxism." Most critically, Therborn's concept of Marxism, and his Marxism of Marxism, diverge from my own with respect to the different importance we each attribute to contradiction, I making it central to my conception of Marxism, while Therborn treats it as peripheral.
14. Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism, p. 196.
15. "A Final Rethinking: Georg Lukacs Talks with Franco Ferrarotti," Social Policy, July/August 1972, pp. 7, 57.
16. Quotations are from the interview with Lucio Colletti in New Left Review, July/August 1974.
17. No one has more deeply grasped, more comprehensively gauged, nor more concisely laid out "The Crisis in Marxist Sociology" than Norman Birnbaum (see Social Research, Summer 1968, pp. 348-80). Considering the brevity of his statement, it was definitive for that time. My own work here, not as acutely limited by spatial requirements as was his, differs from it in the following ways: (1) I stress the internal contradictions of Marxism which have been with it from the first. (2) Consequently, my own focus is on original Marxism, Marx and Engels's own work. (3) I focus on the genetic process through which this crisis develops over time during the founders' lifetimes, (4) seeing it as a result partly of the confrontation between their original paradigm and their own research-generated anomalies, (5) and partly as the product of history-generated anomalies, (6) which Marxism in both cases glossed and repressed for sociological reasons rather than systematically worked through and incorporated into a cumulatively developing theory. (7) I am concerned not only with the theory's internal logic but additionally (as in chapter five, "The Social Origins of the Two Marxisms") I seek to explore some of the historical conditions for the original character and subsequent transformation of Marxism in millenarian movements, the development of natural science, the vagaries of the economic cycle, and the political dilemmas of the international socialist community. In a later volume on the social origins of Marxism, other historical moorings of Marxism will be systematically developed, including its technical antecedents. A recent discussion, "Some Reflections on the Crisis of Marxism," by the Spanish Marxist Fernando Claudin is interesting because it is not so much concerned with demonstrating the existence of the crisis in Marxism but, taking this for granted, dwells on the various reactions it has elicited among Marxists. See Socialist Review, May/June 1979, pp. 137-44.
From Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 1 "Introduction," pp. 3-31.
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