analytical Marxism

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A term sometimes applied to the writings of sociologists and social theorists such as Erik Olin Wright, Jon Elster, and John Roemer, who attempted during the 1980s and 1990s to revitalize European and North American Marxist sociology by combining the methodological tenets of Marxism with a variety of alternative approaches. For example, individual members of this loosely defined group have, to varying degrees and at different times, adopted the positivist covering law account of causal explanation (see cause)—Wright's work is sometimes referred to rather disdainfully as ‘multiple-regression Marxism’—methodological individualism, and rational choice theory. The group's commitment to abandoning some of the philosophically untenable positions of earlier Marxisms is neatly captured in their self-description as ‘No Bullshit Marxists’. Critics claim that, when the objectionable principles of Marxism (such as its historicism and economic determinism) are jettisoned, nothing that is distinctively Marxist remains (since all that seems to hold the members together is a commitment to clarity). For a sympathetic overview see Tom Mayer, Analytical Marxism (1994).

Subjects: Sociology.

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