Between Marx, Marxism, and Marxisms – Ways of Reading Marx’s Theory

The objective of the fol­low­ing obser­va­tions is to offer a rough overview of central ways of read­ing Marx’s theory. These are to be presented – by means of a few selected topics – as Marxisms that can be rel­a­tively clearly delimited from one another, and the his­tory of their reception and influence will be eval­u­ated with regard to the common-sense under­stand­ing of “Marx­ist theory.” A dis­tinc­tion will be made between the hitherto pre­dom­i­nant inter­pre­ta­tion of Marx, pri­mar­ily asso­ci­ated with polit­i­cal par­ties (tra­di­tional Marx­ism, Marx­ism in the sin­gu­lar, if you will), and the dis­si­dent, crit­i­cal forms of reception of Marx (Marxisms in the plural), with their respective claims of a “return to Marx.” The first inter­pre­ta­tion is under­stood as a product and process of a restricted read­ing of Marx, in part emerging from the “exo­teric” layer of Marx’s work, which updates tra­di­tional par­a­digms in polit­i­cal economy, the theory of his­tory, and phi­los­o­phy. Sys­tem­atized and elevated to a doc­trine by Engels, Kaut­sky, et al, it succumbs to the mys­ti­fi­ca­tions of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion and cul­mi­nates in the apologetic science of Marxism-Leninism. The other two inter­pre­ta­tions, specif­i­cally West­ern Marx­ism as well as the Ger­man neue Marx-Lektüre (“new read­ing of Marx”), usu­ally explore the “eso­teric” con­tent of Marx’s critique and analysis of society, often con­sum­mated out­side of institutionalized, cumu­la­tive research pro­grams, by isolated actors in the style of an “under­ground Marxism.”

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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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