Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

The Marxian Legacy, first published in 1977 and released in a second edition in 1988, was and remains distinct in its view of Marxian theory as 'critique, ' aware of its own origins and limitations and self-conscious about its own historical rootedness in changing social and political conditions. This new and fully revised third edition retains the original synthesis of the divergent traditions of German, critical, and French Marxisms into a living Marxian legacy that changes and reconceptualizes itself, while also providing a new critical introduction and concluding chapter. Such a re-evaluation of the Marxian legacy, which was urgent in the 1970s when the United States was caught up in imperial wars and domestic as well as racial conflict, remains relevant today when—as was the case nearly half a century ago—Marx’s legacy has largely been forgotten and yet remains as a symbol of radical thinking that could inspire the new movements. The Marxian Legacy, 3rd Edition retains the freshness of discovery from those times while fully updating the text for our contemporary moment, and adding two features: a philosophical closure; and, a perspective on what was possible then, and what remains to be done today.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. The New Left and the Marxian Legacy: Early Encounters in the United States, France, and Germany

Abstract
In the mid-1960s, as the Cold War seemed frozen into place after the Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and the stalemate that defused the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the spirit of a ‘New Left’ began to emerge in the West. Although encouraged by events in the Third World, its common denominator was the idea that the misunderstood (or misused) work of Karl Marx must have offered a theory that both explained the discontent with the present among a new generation of youth and could also offer them guidelines for future action. At once personal and social, critical and political, this expectation was encouraged by publications of the writings of the young Marx as well as the discovery of non-orthodox theorists and political activists whose critical work had been ignored or suppressed by Soviet-dominated communist parties. These theories represented an ‘unknown dimension’ that became the object of vigorous debate in the 1960s and early 1970s. The searching candle burned bright for a decade before it flamed out.
Dick Howard

Within Marxism

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. Theory, the Theorist, and Revolutionary Practice: Rosa Luxemburg

Abstract
The question to be addressed here is not that of the adequacy of this or that particular theory in accounting for, or acting on, a given context of social relations. I am not concerned whether, for example, the theory expressed in The Accumulation of Capital is adequate to account either for the conditions of the period in which it was formulated or for our present conditions; nor, a fortiori, am I concerned with whether that theory conforms to the edifice of Marx’s Capital. To judge a theory in terms of its adequacy to supposedly real conditions implies a latent conservatism and positivism; theory is then treated as an analysis of ‘facts’ about a world that itself is taken as pre-given and fixed. Such an approach implies a dualism—on the one side, the theory; on the other side, the ‘facts’ which it is to reflect—that makes it fundamentally undialectical. Moreover, the point, after all, is not to understand a given positive world, but to change it! And this intention implies a very different notion of theory.
Dick Howard

Chapter 3. Marxism and Concrete Philosophy: Ernst Bloch

Abstract
In order to situate Bloch and his Marxism, it is necessary to move beyond the history of ideas to enter into the concerns and choices of a real movement aiming at changing the world. This orientation presents a double difficulty that arises from trying to understand a thinker who has been an actor in this movement for the past 70 years and at the same time trying to cast some light on this movement itself. The difficulty is multiplied by the fact that Bloch considers himself not simply a philosopher but a Marxist philosopher for whom Marx’s Aufhebung of philosophy proposes the elimination of the bad, contemplative philosophy of the past, but not the destruction of philosophy itself. As a result, the facts of history and the choices made by Bloch cannot explain the movement of his action or thought; it is necessary to philosophize with the philosopher-Marxist in order to illuminate his contribution as it was at the time and as it remains.
Dick Howard

Using Marxism

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Toward a Critical Theory: Max Horkheimer

Abstract
I contrasted Ernst Bloch’s concrete philosophical attempt to appropriate Marx creatively through the notions of concrete phantasy, labor, and the futurity of the present with the Critical Theory of Max Horkheimer. Since my concern was with Bloch, for purposes of exposition I did not treat the nuances in Horkheimer’s text. I now want to show that Horkheimer’s writings as well as the influence exercised through his self-declared ‘dictatorship of the director’ are more probing than they first appeared; the result is a concept of Critical Theory that is a research program with practical implications. Looking first at Horkheimer’s own explicit program will make clear that he fits clearly into the search for the Marxian legacy. However, as his project deepened philosophically, its socio-political concerns widened in the dark days of exile and war; the reflections that Horkheimer published in 1942 under the laconic title ‘Authoritarian State’ mark a turning point in his debate attempt to appropriate Marx for Critical Theory. The path toward pessimism opened; the vision of revolutionary politics dimmed before it disappeared.
Dick Howard

Chapter 5. From Critical Theory Toward Political Theory: Jürgen Habermas

Abstract
The goals Max Horkheimer had set out for the Institute for Social Research were passed on to Jürgen Habermas in the 1960s when he was named professor of philosophy and sociology at the University of Frankfurt. Faithful to the attitude of Critical Theory, Habermas’ evolving work has been driven between two seemingly opposed, but in fact mutually dependent, poles: the concrétisation of Critical Theory as a research program and the political concerns bound up with the Marxian heritage of Critical Theory. By actively inheriting the tension between these two poles, Habermas has been able to rethink many of the questions that blocked the development of Marxism. He has also been attacked politically by others who also claim to be heirs of Marx. This is not the place to adjudicate that case. At the end of the 1970s, Habermas was still in his 40s; his philosophical thought began to develop the idea of a ‘communicative reason’ that could overcome reified rationality. While waiting for the promised new study, a reflection on the path traveled by Critical Theory under his leadership offers a useful pause.
Dick Howard

Chapter 6. The Rationality of the Dialectic: Jean-Paul Sartre

Abstract
The sharp rupture that appeared in May 1968 threw into question not only the functional machine of modernizing French capitalism; the spontaneous creativity it revealed was also so much sand in the smoothly oiled machinery of orthodox Communist practice and Marxist theory. Neither the Gaullist victory at the polls in June nor the promise of the electoral Common Program of the socialist and communist parties deceived anyone: the specter of May had replaced the ‘specter of communism’ announced in The Communist Manifesto. The New Left specter has not achieved an institutional identity, and this makes it all the more dangerous to the established order while at the same time preserving its explosive force. The discovery and self-discovery symbolized by May was in fact a rediscovery of that unfinished work and elemental hope that Ernst Bloch showed to be not just the driving force but as well the arché and logos of revolution. More prosaically, it could be suggested that the nineteenth-century bourgeois revolutions, followed by bitter proletarian struggles, achieved only one of the three emblems that adorned the banners of 1789—equality—and that May 1968 represented the forms of liberty and fraternity that remain to be realized. This was expressed most emphatically in Cohn-Bendit’s iconoclastic insistence that ‘Tu fais la révolution pour toi’; the insistence on the role of pleasure and desire in the festive atmosphere of fraternization and communality turned the revolt into a positive affirmation. Underground, surfacing only in occasional and punctual actions, the specter of May, like that ‘old mole’ whose image captured the imagination of poets and philosophers alike, is digging away and undermining the structure of bureaucratized capitalist daily life.
Dick Howard

Criticizing Marxism

Frontmatter

Chapter 7. From Marxism to Ontology: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Abstract
The name of Maurice Merleau-Ponty conjures a multitude of images, refracting against one another in ways that continually surprise. There is first of all the phenomenologist. Under his pen, phenomenology becomes less than a method to be applied and more than an attitude: the phenomenological analyses emerge on their own from the materials in which they were embedded, those of science, of culture, and of the everyday. His studies of expression in art and literature are of a piece with the sure hand that guides his interpretations of the so-called hard sciences. The philosopher was part of a generation that lived through war, occupation, and the unanswered challenges of creating a post-war. The same manner of cleaving to the world is present in his political choices and critical analyses. He seemed to accept the reality of Cold War political dualism (in Humanism and Terror) before challenging its apparent common sense in a denunciation of what he called ‘Sartre’s Ultra-Bolshevism’ in his study of the Adventures of the Dialectic. The speculative moment of his phenomenology reappears in the unfinished ontology in The Visible and the Invisible where the reader has a sense that a poetic layer of mystery overlain with Heideggerian echoes weighs down the articulation of his philosophical lucidity. Each rereading, particularly in light of the fact that his work was cut short prematurely, offers new possibilities of interpretation, poses new questions, even at times suggests new practical political-historical understandings.
Dick Howard

Chapter 8. Bureaucratic Society and Traditional Rationality: Claude Lefort

Abstract
The work of Claude Lefort highlights one of the paradoxes of the Marxist tradition. Despite its claim to be the theory of the revolutionary proletariat, developing dialectically with the advances of the working class, a specifically Marxist approach to sociology and political theory was never developed. This might result from the ‘traditional’ structure of these disciplines, whose aim is prediction and manipulation of human objects. While the Institute for Social Research set itself the task of filling this lack (including in every issue extensive book reviews of contemporary empirical research), the political theory that would have been necessary to fuse its philosophical self-understanding with its empirical concerns was never developed, cut short by the development of what its leaders called the ‘authoritarian state’, fascism. What remained was the assumption that classical Marxism provides a theory of the inherently contradictory and exploitative nature of the societal infrastructure, leaving the contemporary theorist with the task of elaborating the more or less independent tensions in the superstructure.
Dick Howard

Chapter 9. Ontology and the Political Project: Cornelius Castoriadis

Abstract
For those who emerged from the political upheavals of the ‘New Left’ in the early 1970s, it has become at once more difficult and easier to be a Marxist. The difficulties are evident: numerical decline of the industrial working class as well as its depoliticization and domination by labor bureaucrats; the impossibility of deluding oneself about the heirs of 1917 and the kind of society they have instituted in the Soviet Union and its satellite states; and the seeming displacement of the axis of contradiction to the Third World, leaving only a vague cultural malaise at home that can be easily co-opted and ephemeral. The paradox is that precisely these difficulties make Marxism more attractive. Blocked in practical politics, Marxism offers a theory of the ‘essential’ course and agency of history. It defines the nature of revolution, condemning all reformism. The absence of an industrial proletariat leaves the political intellectual both a theoretical and a practical task: the empirical appearances must be interpreted critically in order to discover their essential structure; at the same time, these foundational structures must be translated into practical propositions whose aim is not simply reforms for their own sake but projects whose realization points to human possibilities beyond the immediate good they can bring.
Dick Howard

Chapter 10. Actualizing the Legacy—New Social Movements in the West and Civil Society against the State in the East

Abstract
The reader of this volume may wonder why some thinkers were included while others are absent. The answer lies in the concept of a legacy and in the politics of its inheritance. The wordplay is important. Designating the legacy as Marxian suggests that Marx and those Marxists who claim to be his heirs have no monopoly on the theoretical definition or practical realization of radical politics. By refusing to accord Marx the sole paternity of the political search for what classical philosophers called ‘the Good Life in the City’, it becomes possible to rethink political theory and the light that it casts on contemporary political choices. My principles of inclusion and exclusion can be explained by this broader goal. As for Marx himself, to whose work I have returned several times during the years since the first edition of The Marxian Legacy, he is also best understood within the context constituted by his legacy, which has practical as well as theoretical, as the title of this chapter suggests.
Dick Howard

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen