Marxism after postmodernism: Rethinking the emancipatory political subject

The concept of a historical-social and political emancipatory subject, central in Marxism, has been rebuked by postmodern theories. In this article the authors examine the encounter between Marxist and postmodernist theories and ponder whether and how to conceive of an emancipatory political subject. The article identifies the questions posed by worldwide protests in the context of the global economic crisis and outlines a typology of the different responses of Marxist thinkers to the postmodernist challenge. The authors distinguish between ‘total rejection’ (anti-postmodern Marxism) and ‘total acceptance’ (post-Marxism), and between ‘rejection in part’ (Marxist postmodernism) and ‘acceptance in part’ (synthetic Marxist postmodernism). Based on this typology, the authors discuss the different approaches to the question of the emancipatory subject. Anti-postmodern Marxists have made relatively small adaptations to the contention that class constitutes the central explanatory concept. Marxist postmodernists retain the major Marxist categories, but they conceptualize also new struggles and new political subjectivities. Synthetic Marxist postmodernists view political subjectivity as a combination of classical Marxist categories and identity and cultural categories. Post-Marxists deconstruct the concept of class and propose new collective subjectivities. Finally, the article discusses the limitations of each of the approaches in addressing the identity of the emancipatory subject.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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