Varities of neo-marxian theory economic determinism



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PART TWO: MODERN SOCILOOGICAL

the social world) by using concepts that are part of the broader intellectual tradition. The major example of this, and one of the key documents in analytical Marxism, is G. A.


Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (1978). Instead of interpreting Marx as an exotic dialectician, Cohen argues that he employs the much more prosaic func­tional form of explanation in his work. He offers the following examples of functional explanation in Marx's work:

• Relations of production correspond to productive forces.

• The legal and political superstructure rises on a real foundation.

• The social, political, and intellectual process is conditioned by the mode of production of material life.

• Consciousness is determined by social being.

(Cohen,1978/1986:221)

In each of these examples, the second concept explains the first concept. The nature of the explanation is functional, in Cohen's view, because "the character of what is ex­plained is determined by its effect on what explains it" (1978/1986:221). Thus, in the case of the last example, the character of consciousness is explained by its effect on, more specifically its propensity to sustain, social being. More generally, social phe­nomena are explained in terms of their consequences for other social phenomena. It is Cohen's view that Marx practices functional thinking in the examples above, and throughout his work, because he seeks to explain social and economic phenomena in this manner. Thus, Marx is not a dialectician; he is a functional thinker. In adopting such a perspective, Cohen is reinterpreting Marx by using mainstream philosophic ideas and viewing Marx as part of that mainstream.

Cohen takes pains to differentiate functional thinking from the sociological variety of (structural) functionalism discussed in Chapter 3. Cohen sees (structural) functional­ism as composed of three theses. First, all elements of the social world are intercon­nected. Second, all components of society reinforce one another, as well as the society as a whole. Third, each aspect of society is the way it is because of its contribution to the larger society. These theses are objectionable to Marxists for a variety of reasons, espe­cially because of their conservatism. However, the functional explanations mentioned previously can be employed by Marxists without their accepting any of the tenets of functionalism. Thus, functional explanation is not necessarily conservative; indeed, it can be quite revolutionary.

Rational Choice Marxism Many analytical Marxists have drawn on neoclassical economics, especially rational choice theory and game theory (see Chapter 8 for a dis­cussion of the use of rational choice theory in mainstream sociological theory). Roemer argues that "Marxian analysis requires micro-foundations," especially rational choice and game theory, as well as "the arsenal of modelling techniques developed by neoclassical economics" (1986b:192). In drawing on such approaches, Marxian theory is giving up its pretentions of being different and is utilizing approaches widely used throughout the so­cial sciences. But while neo-Marxian theory can and should draw on neoclassical eco­nomics, it remains different from the latter. For example, it retains an interest in collective action for changing society and accepts the idea that capitalism is an unjust system.
CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 171
Jon Elster (1982, 1986) is a major proponent, along with John Roemer, of analytical Marxism. Elster believes that neo-Murxiun theory has been impeded by its adoption of the kind of functional theorizing discussed by Cohen. He also believes that Marxian

theory ought to make greater use of game theory, a variant of rational choice theory. Game theory, like other types of rational choice theory, assumes that actors are rational and seek to maximize their gains. Although it recognizes structural constraints, it does not suggest that they completely determine actors' choices. What is distinctive about game theory as a type of rational choice theory is that it permits the analyst to go beyond the ra­tional choices of a single actor and deal with the interdependence of the decisions and ac­tions of a number of actors. Elster (1982) identifies three interdependencies among actors involved in a game. First, the reward for each actor depends on the choices made by all the actors. Second, the reward for each actor depends on the reward for all. Finally, the choice made by each actor depends on the choices made by all. The analysis of "games" (such as the famous "prisoner's dilemma" game, in which actors end up worse off if they follow their own self-interest than if they sacrifice those interests) helps explain the strategies of the various actors and the emergence of such collectivities as social class. Thus, rational choice Marxism searches for the micro-foundations of Marxist theory, al­though the rational actor of this theory is very different from critical theory's actor (dis­cussed earlier in this chapter), who is derived largely from Freudian theory.

Elster's rational choice orientation is also manifest in Making Sense of Marx (1985). Elster argues that Marx's basic method for explaining social phenomena was a concern for the unintended consequences of human action. To Elster, and in contrast with most other Marxists, who see Marx as a "methodological holist" concerned with macro struc­tures, Marx practiced "methodological individualism," or "the doctrine that all social phenomena--their structure and their change--are in principle explicable in ways that only involve individuals--their properties, their goals, their beliefs and their actions" (1985:5). To Elster, Marx was concerned with actors, their goals, their intentions, and their rational choices. Elster uses such a rational choice perspective to critique the ori­entation of the structural Marxists: "Capitalist entrepreneurs are agents in the genuinely active sense. They cannot be reduced to mere place--holders in the capitalist system of production" (1985:13). Rational choice Marxism focuses on these rational agents (cap­italist and proletarians) and their interrelationships.

Roemer (1982) has been in the forefront of the development of an approach within analytical Marxism toward exploitation (for a critique, see Schwartz, 1995). Roemer has moved away from thinking of exploitation as occurring at the point of production (and therefore from the highly dubious labor theory of value) and toward thinking of ex­ploitation as relating to coercion associated with differential ownership of property. As Mayer puts it, "exploitation can arise from unequal possession of productive resources even without a coercive production process" (1994:62). Among other things, this per­spective allows us to conceive of exploitation in socialist as well as capitalist societies. This view of exploitation also relates to rational choice theory in the sense, for example, that those whose exploitation arises from the unequal distribution of property can join social movements designed to redistribute property more equally. This kind of orienta­tion also allows analytical Marxism to retain its ethical and political goals while buying into a mainstream orientation such as rational choice theory.

172 PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: THE MAJOR SCHOOLS

Empirically Oriented Marxism The leading figure associated with the importa­tion and application of rigorous methods to the empirical study of Marxian concepts is Erik Olin Wright (1985; Burawoy and Wright, 2001). Wright explicitly associates himself with analytical Marxism in general and the work of John Roemer in particular. Wright's work involves three basic components: first, the clarification of basic Marxian concepts such as class; second, empirical studies of those concepts; third, the develop­ment of a more coherent theory based on those concepts (especially class).

In his book Classes (1985), Wright seeks to answer the question posed by Marx but never answered by him: "What constitutes class?" He makes it clear that his answer will be true to Marx's original theoretical agenda. However, it will not be the same as the an­swer Marx might have offered, because since Marx's day there has been over 100 years of both theoretical work and history. Thus, we are more sophisticated theoretically, and times have changed. As a result, Wright, like the other analytical Marxists, starts with Marx but does not accept his position as dogma or try to divine how he might have de­fined class. Because of Marx and the theoretical work done since his time, contempo­rary Marxists are in a better position to come up with such definitions. In any case, we live in very different times, and Marx's definition, even if we could divine it, might well not be appropriate for modern society.

Since this is a book on theory, we need not go into detail about Wright's research or that of any of the other empirically oriented Marxists. However, it would be useful to say something about his best-known conceptual contribution--the idea of "contradic­tory locations within class relations" (Wright, 1985:43). His basic premise is that a given position need not, as is commonly assumed, be located within a given class; it may be in more than one class simultaneously. Thus, a position may be simultaneously proletarian and bourgeois. For example, managers are bourgeois in the sense that they supervise subordinates, but they are also proletarian in that they are supervised by oth­ers. The idea of contradictory class locations is derived through careful conceptual analysis and then is studied empirically (see Gubbay, 1997, for a critique of Wright's approach to social class).

Analytical Marxism Today While, as we have seen, analytical Marxists consider themselves to be Marxists, there are those (for example, Callinicos, 1989) who wonder whether their attraction to mainstream concepts and methods makes this designation meaningless or subversive of a Marxian orientation (Kirkpatrick, 1994). In response, Elster asserts: "Most of the views that I hold to be true and important, I can trace back to Marx" (1985:531).

Mayer (1994) has offered an overview of analytical Marxism that attempts, among other things, to review and rebut what he sees as the six major criticisms of the ap­proach. However, before we discuss those criticisms, there is one critique that emanates from Mayer's work itself: "Analytical Marxism is not a unified or even an internally consistent body of thought" (1994:300). The differences among the three major practi­tioners discussed here (Cohen; Roemer, and Wright), to say nothing of the others who can be included under this heading (especially Adam Przeworski [1985] and his work on the state), are enormous and make it difficult to discuss these individuals in the same context. Those differences may splinter analytical Marxism before it has an opportunity to develop into a coherent perspective.

The first criticism reviewed by Mayer is that analytical Marxism is atomistic and fo­cuses on rational actors. He responds that analytical Maxims do not conceive of society
CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 173
as composed of isolated individuals and that they recognize that people do not always behave rationally. Second, analytical Marxists are accused of economic determinism, but the response is that the predominant position is that economic factors are primary, not that they are deterministic. The third critique is that analytical Marxists are ahistorical, but Mayer does not see this characteristic as inherent in the approach. Rather, it is traceable to its newness and to the fact that there has not been time to deal with histori­cal issues. Fourth, and relatedly, analytical Marxists are accused of offering static ap­proaches that have difficulty dealing with change. While Mayer recognizes this problem, he argues that virtually all social scientists have this predicament. Fifth, there is the accusation of tautology--"assuming what needs to be proven" (Mayer, 1994:305). Mayer sees this as a problem inherent in all deductive approaches. Finally, analytical Marxism is seen as lacking in moral fervor, but Mayer counters, "Analytical Marxists are quite capable of moral passion, and what their moral critique of capitalism lacks in fervor it more than gains in accuracy and insight" (1994:315).

Mayer concludes with a discussion of six challenges facing analytical Marxism, chal­lenges that must be met if analytical Marxism is to be a significant force in the social sciences. First, analytical Marxism must develop a more dynamic approach. As Mayer puts it, "Any version of Marxism unable to account for social dynamics cannot expect to flourish" (1994:317). Second, the theories of the analytical Marxists must do a better job of relating to specific events and situations. Third, practitioners of this approach must right the current imbalance in the direction of theory and do more empirical re­search. Fourth, analytical Marxists must expand from their base in economic factors and deal with a wider range of social factors. Fifth, they must move away from a focus on advanced capitalist nations and deal with less developed nations. Finally, analytical Marxists must demonstrate the existence of viable alternatives to capitalism.



Postmodern Marxian Theory

Marxian theory has been profoundly affected by theoretical developments in structural­ism, poststructuralism (Anderson, 1984:33), and, of particular interest here, postmod­ernism (Landry, 2000; Wood and Foster, 1997; see Chapter 13).



Hegemony and Radical Democracy A major representative work of postmodern Marxism is Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985). In Ellen Wood's view, this work, accepting the focus on linguistics, texts, and discourse in postmodernism, detaches ideology from its material base and ultimately dissolves "the social altogether into ideology or `discourse"' (1986:47). The concept of hegemony, which is of central importance to Laclau and Mouffe, was developed by Gramsci to focus on cultural leadership rather than on the coercive effect of state dom­ination. This shift in focus, of course, leads us away from the traditional Marxian con­cern with the material world and in the direction of ideas and discourse. As Wood puts it, "In short, the Laclau-Mouffe argument is that there are no such things as material in­terests but only discursively constructed ideas about them" (1986:61).

In addition to substituting ideas for material interests, Laclau and Mouffe displace the proletariat from its privileged position at the center of Marxian theory. As Wood argues,




  1. PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL

Leclau and Mouffe are part of a movement involved in do declassing of the socialist project" (1986:4). Laclau and Mouffe put the issue of class in subjective, discursive terms. The social world is characterized by diverse positions and antagonisms. As a re­sult, it is impossible to come up with the kind of "unified discourse" that Marx envi­sioned surrounding the proletariat. The universal discourse of the proletariat "has been replaced by a polyphony of voices, each of which constructs its own irreducible discur­sive identity" (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985:191). Thus, instead of focusing on the single discourse of the proletariat, Marxian theorists are urged to focus on a multitude of di­verse discourses emanating from a wide range of dispossessed voices, such as those of women, blacks, ecologists, immigrants, and consumers, among others. Marxian theory has, as a result, been decentered and detotalized because it no longer focuses only on the proletariat and no longer sees the problems of the proletariat as the problem in society.

Having rejected a focus on material factors and a focal concern for the proletariat, Laclau and Mouffe proceed to reject, as the goal of Marxian theory, communism in­volving the emancipation of the proletariat. Alternatively, they propose a system labeled "radical democracy." Instead of focusing, as the political right does, on individual de­mocratic rights, they propose to "create a new hegemony, which will be the outcome of the articulation of the greatest number of democratic struggles" (Mouffe, 1988:41). What is needed in this new hegemony is a "hegemony of democratic values, and this re­quires a multiplication of democratic practices, institutionalizing them into even more diverse social relations" (Mouffe, 1988:41). Radical democracy seeks to bring together under a broad umbrella a wide range of democratic struggles--antiracist, antisexist, anticapitalist, antiexploitation of nature (Eder, 1990), and many others. Thus, this is a "rad­ical and plural democracy" (Laclau, 1990:27). The struggle of one group must not be waged at the expense of the others; all democratic struggles must be seen as equivalent struggles. Thus, it is necessary to bring these struggles together by modifying their iden­tity so that the groups see themselves as part of the larger struggle for radical democ­racy. As Laclau and Mouffe argue:
The alternative of the Left should consist of locating itself fully in the field of the democratic revolution and expanding the chains of equivalents between different struggles against oppression. The task of the Left therefore cannot be to renounce liberal-democratic ideology, but on the contrary, to deepen and expand it in the direction of a radical and plural de­mocracy. . . . It is not in the abandonment of the democratic terrain but, on the contrary, in the extension of the field of democratic struggles to the whole of civil society and the state, that the possibility resides for a hegemonic strategy of the Left.

(Laclau and Mouffe, 1985:176)


While radical democracy retains the objective of the abolition of capitalism, it recog­nizes that such abolition will not eliminate the other inequalities within society. Dealing with all social inequalities requires a far broader movement than that anticipated by tra­ditional Marxists.

Continuities and Time-Space Compression Another Marxian foray into post­modernist theory (see Chapter 13 for u discussion of yet another, the work of Fredric Jameson) is David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity (1989). While Harvey sees much that is of merit in

CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 175


postmodern thinking, he sees serious weaknesses in it from a Marxian viewpoint. Postmodernist theory is accused of overemphasizing the problems of the modern world and underemphasizing its material achievements. Most important, it seems to accept postmodernity and its associated problems rather than suggesting ways of overcoming these difficulties: "The rhetoric of postmodernism is dangerous for it avoids confronting the realities of political economy and the circumstances of global power" (Harvey, 1989:117). What postmodernist theory needs to confront is the source of its ideas--the political and economic transformation of early twenty-first-century capitalism.

Central to the political economic system is control over markets and the labor process (these two arenas involve the issue of accumulation in capitalism). While the postwar period between 1945 and 1973 was characterized by an inflexible process of ac­cumulation, since 1973 we have moved to a more flexible process. Harvey associates the earlier period with Fordism (as well as Keynesian economics) and the later period with post-Fordism (for a critique of this, see Gartman, 1998), but we need not discuss these issues here, since they already have been covered in this chapter. While Fordism is inflexible, Harvey sees post-Fordism as associated with flexible accumulation resting "on flexibility with respect to labour processes, labour markets, products, and patterns of consumption. It is characterized by the emergence of entirely new sectors of produc­tion, new ways of providing financial services, new markets, and, above all, greatly intensified rates of commercial, technological, and organizational innovation" (1989:147).

While Harvey sees great changes, and argues that it is these changes that lie at the base of postmodern thinking, he believes that there are many continuities between the Fordist and post-Fordist eras. His major conclusion is that while "there has certainly been a sea-change in the surface appearance of capitalism since 1973 ... the underlying logic of capitalist accumulation and its crisis tendencies remain the same" (Harvey, 1989:189).

Central to Harvey's approach is the idea of time-space compression. He believes that modernism served to compress both time and space and that that process has accelerated in the postmodern era, leading to "an intense phase of time-space compression that has a disorienting and disruptive impact upon political-economic practices, the balance of class power, as well as upon cultural and social life" (Harvey, 1989:284). But this time­space compression is not essentially different from earlier epochs in capitalism: "We have, in short, witnessed another fierce round in that process of annihilation of space through time that has always lain at the center of capitalism's dynamic" (Harvey, 1989:293). To give an example of the annihilation of space through time, cheeses once available only in France now are sold throughout the United States because of rapid, low-cost transportation. Or, in the 1991 war with Iraq, television transported us instan­taneously from air raids in Baghdad to "scud" attacks on Tel Aviv to military briefings in Riyadh.

Thus, to Harvey, postmodernism is not discontinuous with modernism; they are re­flections of the same underlying capitalist dynamic.7 Both modernism and postmod­ernism, Fordism and post-Fordism, coexist in today's world. The emphasis on Fordism

7 Bauman (1990) contends that capitalism and socialism are simply mirror images of modernity.

176 PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

and post-Fordism will "vary from time to time and place to place, depending on which configuration is profitable and which is not" (Harvey, 1989:344). Such a viewpoint serves to bring the issue of postmodernity under the umbrella of neo-Marxian theory, al­though it is, in turn, modified by developments in postmodern thinking.

Finally, Harvey discerns changes and cracks in postmodernity, indicating that we al­ready may be moving into a new era, an era that neo-Marxian theory must be prepared to theorize, perhaps by integrating still other idea systems.



After Marxism

There are innumerable post-Marxist positions that could be discussed in this section, but we will close with one of the more extreme positions.

The title of Ronald Aronson's (1995) book, After Marxism, tells much of the story. Aronson, a self-avowed Marxist, makes it clear that Marxism is over and that Marxist theorists are now on their own in dealing with the social world and its problems. This position is based on the idea that the "Marxian project" involved the integration of the­ory and practice. While some Marxists may continue to buy into parts of Marxian the­ory, the Marxian project of the transformation from capitalism to socialism is dead, since it clearly has failed in its objectives. It is history, not Aronson, that has rendered the judgment that the Marxian project has failed. Thus, those Marxists who continue to buy into the theory are destroying the dialectical whole of theory and practice that con­stituted the Matxian project. This splintering is disastrous because what gave Marxism its compelling power is the fact that it represented "a single coherent theoretical and practical project" (Aronson, 1995:52).

But how can the Marxian project be over if capitalism continues to exist and may, with the death of communism, be more powerful than ever? In fact, Aronson recognizes that there are a variety of arguments to be made on behalf of the idea that Marxism is still relevant. For example, he recognizes that most people around the world are worse off today than they were at the dawn of capitalism and that in spite of a number of changes, the fundamental exploitative structure of capitalism is unaltered. In spite of such realities, Aronson argues that a variety of transformations must lead us to the con­clusion that crucial aspects of Marxian theory are obsolete:



  • The working class has not become increasingly impoverished.

  • The class structure has not simplified to two polarized classes (bourgeoisie and proletariat).

  • Because of the transformation of manufacturing processes, the number of indus­trial workers has declined, the working class has become more fragmented, and their consciousness of their situation has eroded.

  • The overall shrinkage of the working class has led to a decline in its strength, its class consciousness, and its ability to engage in class struggle.

  • Workers are increasingly less likely to identify themselves as workers; they have multiple and competing identities, and so being a worker is now just one of many identities.

CHAPTER FOR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 177

While Marxism is over as far as Aronson is concerned, he argues that we should not regret its existence, even with the excesses (for example, Stalinism) that were commit­ted in its name. Marxism

gave hope, it made sense of the world; it gave direction and meaning to many and countless lives. As the twentieth century's greatest call to arms, it inspired millions to stand up and fight, to believe that humans could one day shape their lives and their world to meet their needs.

(Aronson,1995:85)
In addition to the failures of Marxism in the real world, Aronson traces the demise of Marxism to problems within the theory itself. Those problems he traces to the fact that Marx's original theory was created during the early days of the modern world and, as a result, contains an uncomfortable mixture of modern and premodern ideas. This prob­lem has plagued Marxian theory throughout its history. For example, the premodern, prophetic belief in emancipation coexisted with a modern belief in science and the search for facts: "Beneath its veneer of science, such dogmatic prophecy reveals its deeper and premodern kinship with religious anticipations of a world redeemed by a di­vine power beyond our control" (Aronson, 1995:97). To take one other example, Marx­ism tended to emphasize objective processes and to deemphasize subjective processes.

Aronson begins one of his chapters with the following provocative statement: "Fem­inism destroyed Marxism" (1995:124). He quickly makes it clear that feminism did not accomplish this feat on its own. However, feminism did contribute to the destruction of Marxism by demanding a theory that focuses on the "oppression of women as women" (Aronson, 1995:126). This focus clearly undermined Marxian theory, which purported to offer a theory applicable to all human beings. Feminism also set the stage for the de­velopment of other groups demanding that theories focus on their specific plight rather than on the universal problems of humanity.

Aronson describes post-Marxist theories like the analytical Marxism discussed ear­lier as Marxism without Marxism. That is, they are pure theories, lacking in practice, and therefore, in his view, should not be called Marxism:
They may claim the name, as does analytical Marxism, but they do so as so many Marxisms without Marxism. They have become so transformed, so limited, so narrowly theoretical that even when their words and commitments ring true they only invoke Marxism's aura, but no more. However evocative, the ideas cannot conjure the fading reality.

(Aronson,1995:149)


Such Marxian theories will survive, but they will occupy a far humbler place in the world. They will represent just one theoretical voice in a sea of such voices.

Given all this, Aronson concludes that critical analysts of the modern world are on their own without a Marxian project to build upon. However, this is a mixed blessing. While the Marxian project had enormous strengths, it was also an albatross around the necks of critical analysts. Should former Marxists search for a new Marx? or a new Marxian project? In light of developments in society and in theory, Aronson feels that the answer to these questions is no, because we have moved "beyond the possibility of the kind of holism, integration, coherence


178 PART TWO: MODERN SOCIOLOGICAL
and confidence that Marxism embodied" (1995:168). Thus, for example, instead of a single radical movement, what we must seek today is a radical coalition of groups and ideas. The goal of such a coalition is the emancipation of modernity from its explosive inner tensions and its various forms of oppressiveness.

One problem facing such a new radical movement is that it can no longer hope to be driven by a compelling vision of some future utopia. Yet it must have some sort of emo­tional cement to hold it together and keep it moving ahead. The movement must have a moral base, a sense of what is right and what is wrong. It also must have hope, albeit a far more modest hope than that which characterized the Marxian project. Although mod­est, such hopes are less likely to lead to the profound disenchantment that characterized the Marxian project when it failed to achieve its social objectives.


Criticisms of Post-Marxism

Many Marxian theorists are unhappy with post-Marxist developments (for example, Burawoy, 1990; Wood, 1986; Wood and Foster, 1997). Burawoy, for instance, attacks the analytical Marxists for eliminating the issue of history and for making a fetish of clarity and rigor. Weldes criticizes analytical Marxism for allowing itself to be colonized by mainstream economics, adopting a purely "technical, problem-solving approach," be­coming increasingly academic and less political, and growing more conservative (1989:354). Wood picks up on the political issue and criticizes analytical Marxism (as well as postmodern Marxism) for its political quietism and its "cynical defeatism, where every radical programme of change is doomed to failure" (1989:88). Even supporters of one branch of analytical Marxism, the rigorous empirical study of Marxian ideas, have been critical of their brethren in rational choice theory, who, mistakenly in their view, adopt a position of methodological individualism (Levine, Sober, and Wright, 1987).

The work of Laclau and Mouffe has come under particularly heavy attack. For ex­ample, Allen Hunter criticizes them for their overall commitment to idealism and, more specifically, for situating "themselves at the extreme end of discourse analysis, viewing everything as discourse" (1988:892). Similarly, Geras (1987) attacks Laclau and Mouffe for their idealism, but he also sees them as profligate, dissolute, illogical, and obscurantist. The tenor of Laclau and Mouffe's reply to Geras is caught by its title "Post­-Marxism without Apologies" (1987). Burawoy attacks Laclau and Mouffe for getting "lost in the web of history where everything is important and explanation is therefore impossible" (1990:790).

Finally, in contrast to Aronson, Burawoy believes that Marxism remains useful in un­derstanding capitalism's dynamics and contradictions (see also Wood, 1995). Thus, with the demise of communism and the ascendancy of worldwide capitalism, "Marxism will . . . , once more, come into its own" (Burawoy, 1990:792). More recently, and in light of developments in the 1990s, Wood and Foster (1997:67) argue that Marxism is more nec­essary than ever because "humanity is more and more connected in the global dimen­sions of exploitation and oppression."


SUMMARY

In this chapter we examine u wide range of approaches that can be categorized as neo­Marxian sociological theories. All of them take Marx's work as their point of departure,

CHAPTER FOUR: VARIETIES OF NEO-MARXIAN THEORY 179
but they often go in very different directions. Although these diverse developments give neo-Marxian theory considerable vitality, they also create at least some unnecessary and largely dysfunctional differentiation and controversy. Thus, one task for the modern Marxian sociological theorist is to integrate this broad array of theories while recogniz­ing the value of various specific pieces of work.

The first neo-Marxian theory historically, but the least important at present, espe­cially to the sociologically oriented thinker, is economic determinism. It was against this limited view of Marxian theory that other varieties developed. Hegelian Marxism, es­pecially in the work of Georg Lukacs, was one such reaction. This approach sought to overcome the limitations in economic determinism by returning to the subjective, Hegelian roots of Marxian theory. Hegelian Marxism is also of little contemporary rel­evance; its significance lies largely in its impact on later neo-Marxian theories.

The critical school, which was the inheritor of the tradition of Hegelian Marxism, is of contemporary importance to sociology. The great contributions of the critical theo­rists (Marcuse, Habermas, and so forth) are the insights offered into culture, conscious­ness, and their interrelationships. These theorists have enhanced our understanding of cultural phenomena such as instrumental rationality, the "culture industry," the "knowl­edge industry," communicative action, domination, and legitimations. To this they add a concern with consciousness, primarily in the form of an integration of Freudian theory in their work. However, critical theory has gone too far in its efforts to compensate for the limitations of economic determinism; it needs to reintegrate a concern for econom­ics, indeed, for large-scale social forces in general.

Next we offer discussions of two lines of work in neo-Marxian economic sociology. The first deals with the relationship between capital and labor, especially in the works of Baran and Sweezy and of Braverman. The second is concerned with the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism. Both sets of work represent efforts to return to some of the traditional economic concerns of Marxian sociology. This work is significant for its effort to update Marxian economic sociology by taking into account the emerging real­ities of contemporary capitalist society.



Another concern is historically oriented Marxism, specifically the work of Immanuel Wallerstein and his supporters on the modern world-system. Then there is a discussion of those neo-Marxists who focus on spatial issues. The chapter closes with a section de­voted to what, in light of the demise of communism, have come to be called post­-Marxist theories. Included under this heading are several types of analytical Marxism and postmodern Marxian theory. Also included in this section is a discussion of an ex­ample of the kind of position taken by Marxists who have been forced to give up on the Marxian project in light of developments in the world.
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