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2 Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory

2 Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory - Contemporary...

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Contemporary Sociological Theory Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory Since the time of Karl Marx's writing, a variety of theories have emerged that bear the Marxian legacy, although in many different ways. Economic Determinism Although it is often said that Marx was an economic determinist, or, rather, that he focused narrowly on how the economic dimension of society determined the shape of the rest of society, this view overlooks Marx's dialectical inclinations. A number of the so-called revisionist Marxists, including Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) , Karl Kautsky (1850-1938) , and Eduard Bernstein (1850-1932), espoused an economically deterministic brand of Marxism, influenced primarily by the boom and busts that characterized this period of capitalism. Hegelian Marxism One reaction to the growth of economic determinism was a renewed focus on Marx's philosophical writings, particularly their Hegelian roots. Although a number of Marx's early writings, which were primarily philosophical in their orientation, were unpublished and therefore unavailable to scholars at the time, Georg Lukács (1885-1971) managed to anticipate much of what was to be revealed of Marx's philosophical perspective. In particular, Lukács focused on two major concepts - reification and class consciousness . With reification he extended Marx's notion of the fetishism of commodities to include the process by which any portion of social life could be made a "thing," rather than just commodities. Lukács also developed the notion of class consciousness, or the belief systems shared by those who occupy the same class position within society. Conversely, those who occupy the same class position may be unaware of their common lot, and may possess a false consciousness . Although classes are a part of every historical epoch, to Lukács it was only under capitalism that a class could achieve true class consciousness and be a truly revolutionary force. Lukács discussed the ways in which the nature of the capitalist system is obscured. He thought that once these were revealed, society would become a battleground in the conflict between those who wished to conceal the class character of society and those who wished to expose it. Another important Hegelian Marxist is Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) . Gramsci rejected deterministic Marxist formulations, focusing instead on how revolution was contingent on action on the part of the masses, assuming they became conscious of the nature of capitalism and their role in it. This they could do only by using the analysis provided to them by intellectuals.
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