Themes in Marxist Social Theory

Ira Katznelson

in Marxism and the City

Published in print September 1993 | ISBN: 9780198279242
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601910 | DOI:

Series: Marxist Introductions

 Themes in Marxist Social Theory

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The first of the two main sections of this chapter discusses Marx's goal and the elements of a Marxist tradition, and presents the views of various later scholars (David Little, Steven Lukes, Alvin Goulder, Edward Thompson, Leonard Krieger, Georg Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, and others) on these elements. The three distinctive but inter‐related projects elaborated in Marx's aim of reconstructing the post‐capitalist world are examined in detail: the construction of a theory of history to account for the change between epochs on the largest possible scale, which focuses on the struggles between social classes within the twin frame of the development of the forces of production, and the nature of the relationships joining people in the social features of the production process; the building of a model of the economy within the capitalist epoch; and the construction of a social theory capable of inventing explanations about specific capitalist societies (the focus of most of this book). Gramsci elaborated on the most promising lines of inquiry embedded in Marx's historical writings to develop the base–superstructure distinction as a complex web of relations in which the economic, political, and cultural elements of a situation are interconnected, and in which the historicity of social structure is made central. The final section of the chapter explores these issues of Marxist social theory in the work of Edward Thompson, Raymond Williams, Eric Hobsbawm, and G. A. Cohen (who demonstrate the repertoire of alternative theoretical moves developed since Gramsci), and points out that the capacity of Marxism to provide an attractive alternative to the differentiation problematic in studies of the city hinges on the character and persuasiveness of these linkages. In the concluding discussion, the author returns to the issue of the capaciousness of Marxist theory.

Keywords: Alvin Goulder; Antonio Gramsci; base–superstructure distinction; cities; David Little; differentiation problematic; Edward Thompson; Edward Thompson; Eric Hobsbawm; forces of production; G. A. Cohen; Georg Lukács; Leonard Krieger; Marxism; Marxist social theory; Raymond Williams; reconstruction of the post‐capitalist world; social theory; Steven Lukes; struggles between social classes; theory of history

Chapter.  19129 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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