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Marxism is a particular political philosophy, economic and sociological worldview based upon a materialist interpretation of history, a Marxist analysis of capitalism, a theory of social change, and an atheist view of human liberation derived from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The three primary aspects of Marxism are:

  1. The dialectical and materialist concept of history — Humankind's history is fundamentally that of the struggle between social classes. The productive capacity of society is the foundation of society, and as this capacity increases over time the social relations of production, class relations, evolve through this struggle of the classes and pass through definite stages (primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism). The legal, political, ideological and other aspects (e.g. art) of society are derived from these production relations as is the consciousness of the individuals of which the society is composed.
  2. The critique of capitalism — In capitalist society, an economic minority (the bourgeoisie) dominate and exploit the working class (proletariat) majority. Marx uncovered the interworkings of capitalist exploitation, the specific way in which unpaid labor (surplus value) is extracted from the working class (the labor theory of value), extending and critiquing the work of earlier political economists on value. Although the production process is socialized, ownership remains in the hand of the bourgeoisie. This forms the fundamental contradiction of capitalist society. Without the elimination of the fetter of the private ownership of the means of production, human society is unable to achieve further development.
  3. Advocacy of proletarian revolution — In order to overcome the fetters of private property the working class must seize political power internationally through a social revolution and expropriate the capitalist classes around the world and place the productive capacities of society into collective ownership. Upon this, material foundation classes would be abolished and the material basis for all forms of inequality between humankind would dissolve.

Contemporarily, Karl Marx’s innovative analytical methods — materialist dialectics, the labour theory of value, et cetera — are applied in archaeology, anthropology,[1] media studies,[2] political science, theater, history, sociological theory, cultural studies, education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical psychology, and philosophy.[3]

Classical Marxism

The term Classical Marxism denotes the theory propounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.[citation needed] As such, Classical Marxism distinguishes between “Marxism” as broadly perceived, and “what Marx believed”; thus, in 1883, Marx wrote to the French labour leader Jules Guesde and to Paul Lafargue (Marx’s son-in-law) — both of whom claimed to represent Marxist principles — accusing them of “revolutionary phrase-mongering” and of denying the value of reformist struggle; from which derives the paraphrase: “If that is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist”.[4] To wit, the US Marx scholar Hal Draper remarked, “there are few thinkers in modern history whose thought has been so badly misrepresented, by Marxists and anti-Marxists alike”.[5]

Marx and Engels

Karl Marx - Founder of Marxism.

Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 1818—14 March 1883) was a greatly influential German philosopher, political economist, and socialist revolutionary, who analytically addressed the matters of alienation and exploitation of the working class, the capitalist mode of production, and historical materialism. He is famous for analysing history in terms of class struggle, summarised in the initial line introducing the Communist Manifesto (1848): “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. His ideas were influential in his time, and it was greatly expanded by the successful Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917 in Imperial Russia.

Friedrich Engels, co-founder of Marxism.

Friedrich Engels (28 November 1820–5 August 1895) was the nineteenth century German political philosopher and Karl Marx’s co-developer of communist theory. Marx and Engels met in September 1844; discovering that they shared like views of philosophy and socialism, they collaborated and wrote works such as Die heilige Familie (The Holy Family). After the French deported Marx from France in January 1845, Engels and Marx moved to Belgium, which then permitted greater freedom of expression than other European countries; later, in January 1846, they returned to Brussels to establish the Communist Correspondence Committee.

In 1847, they began writing The Communist Manifesto (1848), based upon Engels’ The Principles of Communism; six weeks later, they published the 12,000-word pamphlet in February 1848. In March, Belgium expelled them, and they moved to Cologne, where they published the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a politically radical newspaper. Again, by 1849, they had to leave Cologne for London. The Prussian authorities pressured the British government to expel Marx and Engels, but Prime Minister Lord John Russell refused.

After Karl Marx’s death in 1883, Friedrich Engels became the editor and translator of Marx’s writings. With the Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) — analysing monogamous marriage as guaranteeing male social domination of women, a concept analogous, in communist theory, to the capitalist class’s economic domination of the working class — intellectually significant contributions to feminist theory and Marxist feminism.

Early intellectual influences

Different types of thinkers influenced the development of Classical Marxism; the primary influences derive from:

and secondary influences derive from:

Principal ideas

These are the principal concepts of Marxism:


A person is exploited if he or she performs more labour than necessary to produce the goods society consumes; likewise, a person is an exploiter if he or she performs less labour than is necessary to produce goods.[6] Exploitation is a matter of surplus labour — the amount of labour one performs beyond what one receives in goods. Exploitation has been a socio-economic feature of every class society, and is one of the principal features distinguishing the social classes. The power of one social class to control the means of production enables its exploitation of the other classes.

In capitalism, the labour theory of value is the operative concern; the value of a commodity equals the total labour time required to produce it. Under that condition, surplus value (the difference between the value produced and the value received by a labourer) is synonymous with the term “surplus labour”; thus, capitalist exploitation is realised as deriving surplus value from the worker.

In pre-capitalist economies, exploitation of the worker was achieved via physical coercion. In the capitalist mode of production, that result is more subtly achieved; because the worker does not own the means of production, he or she must voluntarily enter into an exploitive work relationship with a capitalist in order to earn the necessities of life. The worker's entry into such employment is voluntary in that he or she chooses which capitalist to work for; the worker must work or starve, thus exploitation is inevitable, and the voluntarism of capitalist exploitation is illusory.


Alienation denotes the estrangement of people from their humanity (German: Gattungswesen, “species-essence”, “species-being”), which is a systematic result of capitalism. Under capitalism, the fruits of production belong to the employers, who expropriate the surplus created by others, and so generate alienated labourers.[7] Alienation objectively describes the worker’s situation in capitalism — his or her self-awareness of this condition is unnecessary.

Historical Materialism

The historical materialist theory of history, also synonymous to “the economic interpretation of history” (a coinage by Eduard Bernstein),[8] looks for the causes of societal development and change in the collective ways humans use to make the means for living. The social features of a society (social classes, political structures, ideologies) derive from economic activity; “base and superstructure” is the metaphoric common term describing this historic condition.

Base and superstructure

The base and superstructure metaphor explains that the totality of social relations regarding “the social production of their existence” i.e. civil society forms a society’s economic base, from which rises a superstructure of political and legal institutions i.e. political society. The base corresponds to the social consciousness (politics, religion, philosophy, etc.), and it conditions the superstructure and the social consciousness. A conflict between the development of material productive forces and the relations of production provokes social revolutions, thus, the resultant changes to the economic base will lead to the transformation of the superstructure.[9] This relationship is reflexive; the base determines the superstructure, in the first instance, and remains the foundation of a form of social organization which then can act again upon both parts of the base and superstructure, whose relationship is dialectical, not literal.[citation needed]

Historical periodisation

Marx considered that these socio-economic conflicts have historically manifested themselves as distinct stages (one transitional) of development in Western Europe.[10]

  1. Primitive Communism: as in co-operative tribal societies.
  2. Slave Society: a development of tribal progression to city-state; Aristocracy is born.
  3. Feudalism: aristocrats are the ruling class; merchants evolve into capitalists.
  4. Capitalism: capitalists are the ruling class, who create and employ the proletariat.
  5. Socialism: workers gain class consciousness, and via proletarian revolution depose the capitalist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, replacing it in turn with dictatorship of the proletariat through which the socialization of the means of production can be realized.
  6. Communism: a classless and stateless society.


The identity of a social class derives from its relationship to the means of production; Marx describes the social classes in capitalist societies:

  • Proletariat: “those individuals who sell their labour power, and who, in the capitalist mode of production, do not own the means of production“.[citation needed] The capitalist mode of production establishes the conditions enabling the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat because the workers’ labour generates a surplus value greater than the workers’ wages.
  • Bourgeoisie: those who “own the means of production” and buy labour power from the proletariat, thus exploiting the proletariat; they subdivide as bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie.
    • Petit bourgeoisie are those who employ labourers, but who also work, i.e. small business owners, peasant landlords, trade workers et al. Marxism predicts that the continual reinvention of the means of production eventually would destroy the petit bourgeoisie, degrading them from the middle class to the proletariat.
  • Lumpenproletariat: criminals, vagabonds, beggars, et al., who have no stake in the economy, and so sell their labour to the highest bidder.
  • Landlords: an historically important social class who retain some wealth and power.
  • Peasantry and farmers: a disorganised class incapable of effecting socio-economic change, most of whom would enter the proletariat, and some become landlords.
Class consciousness

Class consciousness denotes the awareness — of itself and the social world — that a social class possesses, and its capacity to rationally act in their best interests; hence, class consciousness is required before they can effect a successful revolution.


Without defining ideology [11], Marx used the term to denote the production of images of social reality; according to Engels, “ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces”.[12] Because the ruling class controls the society’s means of production, the superstructure of society, the ruling social ideas are determined by the best interests of said ruling class. In The German Ideology, “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is, at the same time, its ruling intellectual force”.[13] Therefore, the ideology of a society is of most importance, because it confuses the alienated classes and so might create a false consciousness, such as commodity fetishism.[citation needed]

Political economy

The term political economy originally denoted the study of the conditions under which economic production was organised in the capitalist system. In Marxism, political economy studies the means of production, specifically of capital, and how that is manifest as economic activity.

Marxist schools of thought


Note: this is a discussion of Marxism-Leninism as a school of thought. For a discussion of its political practice, see subsection Marxism#Marxism as a political practice below.

At least in terms of adherents and the impact on the world stage, Marxism-Leninism, also known colloquially as Bolshevism or simply communism is the biggest trend within Marxism, easily dwarfing all of the other schools of thought combined.[14] Marxism-Leninism is a term originally coined by the CPSU in order to denote the ideology that Vladimir Lenin had built upon the thought of Karl Marx. There are two broad areas that have set apart Marxism-Leninism as a school of thought.

First, Lenin's followers generally view his additions to the body of Marxism as the practical corollary to Marx's original theoretical contributions of the 19th century; insofar as they apply under the conditions of advanced capitalism that they found themselves working in. Lenin called this time-frame the era of Imperialism. For example, Joseph Stalin wrote that

Leninism grew up and took shape under the conditions of imperialism, when the contradictions of capitalism had reached an extreme point, when the proletarian revolution had become an immediate practical question, when the old period of preparation of the working class for revolution had arrived at and passed into a new period, that of direct assault on capitalism.[15]

The most important consequence of a Leninist-style theory of Imperialism is the strategic need for workers in the industrialized countries to bloc or ally with the oppressed nations contained within their respective countries' colonies abroad in order to overthrow capitalism. This is the source of the slogan

Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World, Unite![16]

which is Lenin's twist on the traditional socialist slogan.

Second, the other distinguishing characteristic of Marxism-Leninism is how it approaches the question of organization. Lenin believed that the traditional model of the Social Democratic parties of the time, which was a loose, multitendency organization was inadequate for overthrowing the Tsarist regime in Russia. He proposed a hardened cadre organization that disciplined itself under the model of Democratic Centralism.

Marxism-Leninism was closely associated with the figure of Joseph Stalin until his death. Eventually after the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev became the leader of the Soviet Union, an act which ultimately lead to the splintering of the Marxist-Leninism into several competing schools of thought.

Post-Stalin Moscow-aligned communism

At the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev made several ideological ruptures with his predecessor, Joseph Stalin. First, Khrushchev denounced the so-called Cult of Personality that had developed around Stalin, which ironically enough Khrushchev had had a pivotal role in fostering decades earlier. More importantly, however, Khrushchev rejected the heretofore orthodox Marxist-Leninist tenet that class struggle continues even under socialism. Rather, the State ought to rule in the name of all classes. A related principle that flowed from the former was the notion of peaceful co-existence, or that the newly-emergent socialist bloc could peacefully compete with the capitalist world, solely by developing the productive forces of society.


Beginning around the 1970s, various communist parties in Western Europe, such as the Partito Comunista Italiano in Italy and the Partido Comunista de España under Santiago Carillo tried to hew to a more independent line from Moscow. Particularly in Italy, they leaned on the theories of Antonio Gramsci, despite the fact that Gramsci happened to consider himself an orthodox Marxist-Leninist. This trend went by the name Eurocommunism.


There are many proponents of Marxist-Leninism who rejected the theses of Khrushchev, particularly Marxists of the Third World.[citation needed] They believed that Khrushchev was unacceptably altering or "revising" the fundamental tenets of Marxism-Leninism, a stance from which the label "anti-revisionist" is derived. Typically, anti-revisionists refer to themselves simply as Marxist-Leninists, although they may be referred to externally by the following epithets.


Maoism takes its name from Mao Zedong, the erstwhile leader of the Peoples Republic of China; it is the variety of anti-revisionism that took inspiration, and in some cases received material support, from China, especially during the Mao period. There are several key concepts that were developed by Mao. First, Mao concurred with Stalin that not only does class struggle continue under the dictatorship of the proletariat, it actually accelerates as long as gains are being made by the proletariat at the expense of the disenfranchised bourgeoisie. Second, Mao developed a strategy for revolution called Prolonged People's War in what he termed the semi-feudal countries of the Third World. Prolonged People's War relied heavily on the peasantry. Third, Mao wrote many theoretical articles on epistemology and dialectics, which he called contradictions.


Hoxhaism, so named because the central contribution of Albanian statesman Enver Hoxha, was closely aligned with China for a number of years, but grew critical of Maoism because of the so-called Three Worlds Theory put forth by elements within the Communist Party of China and because it viewed the actions of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping unfavorably. Ultimately, however, Hoxhaism as a trend came to the understanding that Socialism had never existed in China at all.


Trotskyism is the usual term for followers of the ideas of Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was a contemporary of Lenin from the early years of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, where he led a small trend in competition with both Lenin's Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks; nevertheless Trotsky's followers claim to be the heirs of Lenin in the same way that mainstream Marxist-Leninists do, hence the preferred self-designation amongst Trotskyists of Bolshevik-Leninists. There are several distinguishing characteristics of this school of thought; foremost is the theory of Permanent Revolution. This stated that in less-developed countries the bourgeoisie were too weak to lead their own 'bourgeois-democratic' revolutions. Due to this weakness, it fell to the proletariat to carry out the bourgeois revolution. However, with power in its hands the proletariat would then continue this revolution (permanently), thus transforming it from a bourgeois to a socialist revolution, and from a national to an international revolution.

Another shared characteristic between Trotskyists is a variety of theoretical justifications for their negative appraisal of the post-Lenin Soviet Union; that is to say, after Trotsky was expelled by a majority vote from the CPSU[17] and subsequently from the Soviet Union. As a consequence, Trotsky defined the Soviet Union under Stalin, as a planned economy ruled over by a bureaucratic caste. In The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky advocated for the position of a political overthrow against the majority around Stalin lest a capitalist counterrevolution were to take place in the USSR.

Left Communism

Left communism is the range of communist viewpoints held by the communist left, which criticizes the political ideas of the Bolsheviks from a position that is asserted to be more authentically Marxist and proletarian than the views of Leninism held by the Communist International after its first two congresses.

Although she lived before left communism became a distinct tendency, Rosa Luxemburg has been heavily influential for most left communists, both politically and theoretically. Proponents of left communism have included Herman Gorter, Anton Pannekoek, Otto Rühle, Karl Korsch, Amadeo Bordiga, and Paul Mattick.

Prominent left communist groups existing today include the International Communist Current and the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party. Also, different factions from the old Bordigist International Communist Party are considered left communist organizations.

Western Marxism

Western Marxism is a term used to describe a wide variety of Marxist theoreticians based in Western and Central Europe (and more recently North America), in contrast with philosophy in the Soviet Union, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or the People's Republic of China.

Structural Marxism

Structural Marxism is an approach to Marxism based on structuralism, primarily associated with the work of the French theorist Louis Althusser and his students. It was influential in France during the late 1960s and 1970s, and also came to influence philosophers, political theorists and sociologists outside of France during the 1970s.


Neo-Marxism is a school of Marxism that began in the 20th century and hearkened back to the early writings of Marx, before the influence of Engels, which focused on dialectical idealism rather than dialectical materialism. It thus rejected economic determinism being instead far more libertarian. Neo-Marxism adds Max Weber's broader understanding of social inequality, such as status and power, to orthodox Marxist thought.

The Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt School is a school of neo-Marxist social theory, social research, and philosophy. The grouping emerged at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) of the University of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. The term "Frankfurt School" is an informal term used to designate the thinkers affiliated with the Institute for Social Research or influenced by them: it is not the title of any institution, and the main thinkers of the Frankfurt School did not use the term to describe themselves.

The Frankfurt School gathered together dissident Marxists, severe critics of capitalism who believed that some of Marx's alleged followers had come to parrot a narrow selection of Marx's ideas, usually in defense of orthodox communist or social democratic parties. Influenced especially by the failure of working-class revolutions in Western Europe after World War I and by the rise of Nazism in an economically, technologically, and culturally advanced nation (Germany), they took up the task of choosing what parts of Marx's thought might serve to clarify social conditions which Marx himself had never seen. They drew on other schools of thought to fill in Marx's perceived omissions.

Max Weber exerted a major influence, as did Sigmund Freud (as in Herbert Marcuse's Freudo-Marxist synthesis in the 1954 work Eros and Civilization). Their emphasis on the "critical" component of theory was derived significantly from their attempt to overcome the limits of positivism, crude materialism, and phenomenology by returning to Kant's critical philosophy and its successors in German idealism, principally Hegel's philosophy, with its emphasis on negation and contradiction as inherent properties of reality.

Cultural Marxism

Cultural Marxism is a form of Marxism that adds a critical theory based Marxist analysis of the role of the media, art, theatre, film and other cultural institutions in a society, often with an added emphasis on race and gender in addition to class. As a form of political analysis, Cultural Marxism gained strength in the 1920s, and was the model used by the Frankfurt School at Columbia University; and later by another group of intellectuals at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, England.

Autonomist Marxism

Autonomism is a term applied to a variety of social movements around the world, which emphasizes the ability to organize in autonomous and horizontal networks, as opposed to hierarchical structures such as unions or parties. Autonomist Marxists, including Harry Cleaver, broaden the definition of the working-class to include salaried and unpaid labour, such as skilled professions and housework; it focuses on the working class in advanced capitalist states as the primary force of change in the construct of capital. Modern autonomist theorists such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt argue that network power constructs are the most effective methods of organization against the neoliberal regime of accumulation, and predict a massive shift in the dynamics of capital into a 21st Century Empire.

Analytical Marxism

Analytical Marxism refers to a style of thinking about Marxism that was prominent amongst a half-dozen analytically trained English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because they have biennial meetings in varying locations every other September to discuss common interests. The group also dubbed itself "Non-Bullshit Marxism" (Cohen 2000a). It was characterized, in the words of David Miller, by "clear and rigorous thinking about questions that are usually blanketed by ideological fog". (Miller 1994)

Marxist humanism

Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx develops his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. It was opposed by Louis Althusser's "antihumanism", who qualified it as a revisionist movement.

Marxist humanists contend that ‘Marxism’ developed lopsided because Marx’s early works were unknown until after the orthodox ideas were in vogue – the Manuscripts of 1844 were published only in 1932 – and it is necessary to understand Marx’s philosophical foundations to understand his latter works properly.

Marxist theology

Although Marx was intensely critical of institutionalized religion including Christianity, some Christians have "accepted the basic premises of Marxism and attempted to reinterpret Christian faith from this perspective."[18] Some of the resulting examples are some forms of liberation theology and black liberation theology. Pope Benedict XVI strongly opposed radical liberation theology while he was still a cardinal, with the Vatican condemning acceptance of Marxism. Black liberation theologian James Cone wrote in his book For My People that "for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism as a tool of social analysis can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are."[19]

Key Western Marxists

Georg Lukács

Georg Lukács (April 13, 1885 – June 4, 1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic in the tradition of Western Marxism. His main work History and Class Consciousness (written between 1919 and 1922 and first published in 1923), initiated the current of thought that came to be known as Western Marxism. The book is notable for contributing to debates concerning Marxism and its relation to sociology, politics and philosophy, and for reconstructing Marx's theory of alienation before many of the works of the Young Marx had been published. Lukács's work elaborates and expands upon Marxist theories such as ideology, false consciousness, reification and class consciousness.

Karl Korsch

Karl Korsch (August 15, 1886 - October 21, 1961) was born in Tostedt, near Hamburg, to the family of a middle-ranking bank official.

In his later work, he rejected orthodox (classical) Marxism as historically outmoded, wanting to adapt Marxism to a new historical situation. He wrote in his Ten Theses (1950) that "the first step in re-establishing a revolutionary theory and practice consists in breaking with that Marxism which claims to monopolize revolutionary initiative as well as theoretical and practical direction" and that "today, all attempts to re-establish the Marxist doctrine as a whole in its original function as a theory of the working classes social revolution are reactionary utopias."[20]

Korsch was especially concerned that Marxist theory was losing its precision and validity - in the words of the day, becoming "vulgarized" - within the upper echelons of the various socialist organizations. His masterwork, Marxism and Philosophy is an attempt to re-establish the historic character of Marxism as the heir to Hegel.

Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci (January 22, 1891 – April 27, 1937) was an Italian writer, politician and political theorist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy. Gramsci can be seen as one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the twentieth century, and in particular a key thinker in the development of Western Marxism. He wrote more than 30 notebooks and 3000 pages of history and analysis during his imprisonment. These writings, known as the Prison Notebooks, contain Gramsci's tracing of Italian history and nationalism, as well as some ideas in Marxist theory, critical theory and educational theory associated with his name, such as:

Herbert Marcuse

Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a prominent German-American philosopher and sociologist of Jewish descent, and a member of the Frankfurt School.

Marcuse's critiques of capitalist society (especially his 1955 synthesis of Marx and Freud, Eros and Civilization, and his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man) resonated with the concerns of the leftist student movement in the 1960s. Because of his willingness to speak at student protests, Marcuse soon became known as "the father of the New Left," a term he disliked and rejected.

Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980) was already a key and influential philosopher and playwright for his early writings on individualistic existentialism. In his later career, he attempted to reconcile the existential philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard with Marxist philosophy and Hegelian dialectics in his work Critique of Dialectical Reason.[21]

Sartre was also involved in Marxist politics and was impressed upon visiting Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, calling him "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age".[22]

Louis Althusser

Louis Althusser (October 16, 1918 – October 22, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. He was a lifelong member and sometimes strong critic of the French Communist Party. His arguments and theses were set against the threats that he saw attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism. These included both the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, and humanist and reformist socialist orientations which manifested as divisions in the European Communist Parties, as well as the problem of the 'cult of personality' and of ideology itself. Althusser is commonly referred to as a Structural Marxist, although his relationship to other schools of French structuralism is not a simple affiliation and he is critical of many aspects of structuralism.

His essay Marxism and Humanism is a strong statement of anti-humanism in Marxist theory, condemning ideas like "human potential" and "species-being", which are often put forth by Marxists, as outgrowths of a bourgeois ideology of "humanity". His essay Contradiction and Overdetermination borrows the concept of overdetermination from psychoanalysis, in order to replace the idea of "contradiction" with a more complex model of multiple causality in political situations (an idea closely related to Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony).

Althusser is also widely known as a theorist of ideology, and his best-known essay is Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation.[23] The essay establishes the concept of ideology, also based on Gramsci's theory of hegemony. Whereas hegemony is ultimately determined entirely by political forces, ideology draws on Freud's and Lacan's concepts of the unconscious and mirror-phase respectively, and describes the structures and systems that allow us to meaningfully have a concept of the self.

Hill, Hobsbawm, and Thompson

British Marxism deviated sharply from French (especially Althusserian) Marxism and, like the Frankfurt School, developed an attention to cultural experience and an emphasis on human agency while growing increasingly distant from determinist views of materialism. A circle of historians inside the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) formed the Communist Party Historians Group in 1946. They shared a common interest in 'history from below' and class structure in early capitalist society. Important members of the group included E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill and Raphael Samuel.

While some members of the group (most notably E.P. Thompson) left the CPGB after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the common points of British Marxist historiography continued in their works. They placed a great emphasis on the subjective determination of history. E. P. Thompson famously engaged Althusser in The Poverty of Theory,[24] arguing that Althusser's theory overdetermined history, and left no space for historical revolt by the oppressed.

Post Marxism

Post-Marxism represents the theoretical work of philosophers and social theorists who have built their theories upon those of Marx and Marxists but exceeded the limits of those theories in ways that puts them outside of Marxism. It begins with the basic tenets of Marxism but moves away from the Mode of Production as the starting point for analysis and includes factors other than class, such as gender, ethnicity etc, and a reflexive relationship between the base and superstructure.

Marxism remains a powerful theory in some unexpected and relatively obscure places, and is not always properly labeled as "Marxism". For example, many Mexican and some American archaeologists still employ a Marxist model to explain the Classic Maya Collapse[citation needed] (c. 900 A.D.) - without mentioning Marxism by name.

Marxist Feminism

Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way to liberate women. Marxist feminism states that private property, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion and ultimately unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women's oppression.

According to Marxist theory, in capitalist societies the individual is shaped by class relations; that is, people's capacities, needs and interests are seen to be determined by the mode of production that characterises the society they inhabit. Marxist feminists see gender inequality as determined ultimately by the capitalist mode of production. Gender oppression is class oppression and women's subordination is seen as a form of class oppression which is maintained (like racism) because it serves the interests of capital and the ruling class. Marxist feminists have extended traditional Marxist analysis by looking at domestic labour as well as wage work in order to support their position.

Marxism as a political practice

Since Marx's death in 1883, various groups around the world have appealed to Marxism as the theoretical basis for their politics and policies, which have often proved to be dramatically different and conflicting. One of the first major political splits occurred between the advocates of 'reformism', who argued that the transition to socialism could occur within existing bourgeois parliamentarian frameworks, and communists, who argued that the transition to a socialist society required a revolution and the dissolution of the capitalist state. The 'reformist' tendency, later known as social democracy, came to be dominant in most of the parties affiliated to the Second International and these parties supported their own governments in the First World War. This issue caused the communists to break away, forming their own parties which became members of the Third International.

The following countries had governments at some point in the twentieth century who at least nominally adhered to Marxism: Albania, Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Republic of Congo, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia, Grenada, Hungary, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, the USSR and its republics, South Yemen, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Vietnam. In addition, the Indian states of Kerala and West Bengal have had Marxist governments. Some of these governments such as in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile, Moldova and parts of India have been democratic in nature and maintained regular multiparty elections, while most governments claiming to be Marxist in nature have established authoritarian governments.

Marxist political parties and movements have significantly declined since the fall of the Soviet Union, with some exceptions, perhaps most notably Nepal.


The 1917 October Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin, was the first large scale attempt to put Marxist ideas about a workers' state into practice. The new government faced counter-revolution, civil war and foreign intervention. Many, both inside and outside the revolution, worried that the revolution came too early in Russia's economic development. Consequently, the major Socialist Party in the UK decried the revolution as anti-Marxist within twenty-four hours, according to Jonathan Wolff.[citation needed] Lenin consistently explained "this elementary truth of Marxism, that the victory of socialism requires the joint efforts of workers in a number of advanced countries" (Lenin, Sochineniya (Works), 5th ed Vol XLIV p418.) It could not be developed in Russia in isolation, he argued, but needed to be spread internationally. The 1917 October Revolution did help inspire a revolutionary wave over the years that followed, with the development of Communist Parties worldwide, but without success in the vital advanced capitalist countries of Western Europe. Socialist revolution in Germany and other western countries failed, leaving the Soviet Union on its own. An intense period of debate and stopgap solutions ensued, war communism and the New Economic Policy (NEP). Lenin died and Joseph Stalin gradually assumed control, eliminating rivals and consolidating power as the Soviet Union faced the events of the 1930s and its global crisis-tendencies. Amidst the geopolitical threats which defined the period and included the probability of invasion, he instituted a ruthless program of industrialization which, while successful, was executed at great cost in human suffering, including millions of deaths, along with long-term environmental devastation.

Modern followers of Leon Trotsky maintain that as predicted by Lenin, Trotsky, and others already in the 1920s, Stalin's "socialism in one country" was unable to maintain itself, and according to some Marxist critics, the USSR ceased to show the characteristics of a socialist state long before its formal dissolution.

In the 1920s the economic calculation debate between Austrian Economists and Marxist economists took place. The Austrians claimed that Marxism is flawed because prices could not be set to recognize opportunity costs of factors of production, and so socialism could not make rational decisions.

Following World War II, Marxist ideology, often with Soviet military backing, spawned a rise in revolutionary communist parties all over the world. Some of these parties were eventually able to gain power, and establish their own version of a Marxist state. Such nations included the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Romania, East Germany, Albania, Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and others. In some cases, these nations did not get along. The most notable examples were rifts that occurred between the Soviet Union and China, as well as Soviet Union and Yugoslavia (in 1948), whose leaders disagreed on certain elements of Marxism and how it should be implemented into society.

Many of these self-proclaimed Marxist nations (often styled People's Republics) eventually became authoritarian states, with stagnating economies. This caused some debate about whether Marxism was doomed in practise or these nations were in fact not led by "true Marxists". Critics of Marxism speculated that perhaps Marxist ideology itself was to blame for the nations' various problems. Followers of the currents within Marxism which opposed Stalin, principally cohered around Leon Trotsky, tended to locate the failure at the level of the failure of world revolution: for communism to have succeeded, they argue, it needed to encompass all the international trading relationships that capitalism had previously developed.

The Chinese experience seems to be unique. Rather than falling under a single family's self-serving and dynastic interpretation of Marxism as happened in North Korea and before 1989 in Eastern Europe, the Chinese government - after the end of the struggles over the Mao legacy in 1980 and the ascent of Deng Xiaoping - seems to have solved the succession crises that have plagued self-proclaimed Leninist governments since the death of Lenin himself. Key to this success is another Leninism which is a NEP (New Economic Policy) writ very large; Lenin's own NEP of the 1920s was the "permission" given to markets including speculation to operate by the Party which retained final control. The Russian experience in Perestroika was that markets under socialism were so opaque as to be both inefficient and corrupt but especially after China's application to join the WTO this does not seem to apply universally.

The death of "Marxism" in China has been prematurely announced but since the Hong Kong handover in 1997, the Beijing leadership has clearly retained final say over both commercial and political affairs. Questions remain however as to whether the Chinese Party has opened its markets to such a degree as to be no longer classified as a true Marxist party.[citation needed] A sort of tacit consent, and a desire in China's case to escape the chaos of pre-1949 memory, probably plays a role.

In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and the new Russian state ceased to identify itself with Marxism. Other nations around the world followed suit. Since then, radical Marxism or Communism has generally ceased to be a prominent political force in global politics, and has largely been replaced by more moderate versions of democratic socialism—or, more commonly, by neoliberal capitalism. Marxism has also had to engage with the rise in the Environmental movement. A merging of Marxism, socialism, ecology and environmentalism has been achieved, and is often referred to as Eco-socialism.

Social Democracy

Social democracy is a political ideology that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many parties in the second half of the 19th century described themselves as social democratic, such as the British Social Democratic Federation, and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. In most cases these were revolutionary socialist or Marxist groups, who were not only seeking to introduce socialism, but also democracy in un-democratic countries.

The modern social democratic current came into being through a break within the socialist movement in the early 20th century, between two groups holding different views on the ideas of Karl Marx. Many related movements, including pacifism, anarchism, and syndicalism, arose at the same time (often by splitting from the main socialist movement, but also by emerging of new theories.) and had various quite different objections to Marxism. The social democrats, who were the majority of socialists at this time, did not reject Marxism (and in fact claimed to uphold it), but wanted to reform it in certain ways and tone down their criticism of capitalism. They argued that socialism should be achieved through evolution rather than revolution. Such views were strongly opposed by the revolutionary socialists, who argued that any attempt to reform capitalism was doomed to fail, because the reformists would be gradually corrupted and eventually turn into capitalists themselves.

Despite their differences, the reformist and revolutionary branches of socialism remained united until the outbreak of World War I. The war proved to be the final straw that pushed the tensions between them to breaking point. The reformist socialists supported their respective national governments in the war, a fact that was seen by the revolutionary socialists as outright treason against the working class (Since it betrayed the principle that the workers "have no nation", and the fact that usually the lowest classes are the ones sent into the war to fight, and die, putting the cause at the side). Bitter arguments ensued within socialist parties, as for example between Eduard Bernstein (reformist socialist) and Rosa Luxemburg (revolutionary socialist) within the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Eventually, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, most of the world's socialist parties fractured. The reformist socialists kept the name "Social democrats", while the revolutionary socialists began calling themselves "Communists", and soon formed the modern Communist movement. (See also Comintern)

Since the 1920s, doctrinal differences have been constantly growing between social democrats and Communists (who themselves are not unified on the way to achieve socialism), and Social Democracy is mostly used as a specifically Central European label for Labour Parties since then, especially in Germany and the Netherlands and especially since the 1959 Godesberg Program of the German SPD that rejected the praxis of class struggle altogether.


The term socialism could be used to describe two fundamentally different ideologies - democratic socialism and Marxist-Leninist socialism. While Marxist-Leninists (Trotskyists, Stalinists, and Maoists) are often described as communists in the contemporary media, they are not recognized as such academically or by themselves. The Marxist-Leninists sought to work towards the workers' utopia in Marxist ideology by first creating a socialist state, which historically had almost always been a single-party dictatorship. On the other hand, democratic socialists attempt to worked towards an ideal state by social reform and are often little different from social democrats, with the democratic socialists having a more leftist stance.

The Marxist-Leninist form of government has been in decline since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Very few countries have governments which describe themselves as socialist. As of 2007, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China had governments in power which describe themselves as socialist in the Marxist sense.

On the contrary, electoral parties which describe themselves as socialist or democratic socialist are on the rise, joined together by international organizations such as the Socialist International and the Fourth International. Parties described as socialist are currently dominant in Third World democracies and serve as the ruling party or the main opposition party in all European democracies. Eco-socialism, and Green politics with a strong leftist tinge, are on the rise in European democracies.

The characterization of a party or government often has little to do with its actual economical and social platform. The government of mainland China, which describes itself as socialist, allows a large private sector to flourish and is socially conservative compared to most Western democracies. A more specific example is universal health-care, which is a trademark issue of many European socialist parties but does not exist in mainland China. Therefore, the historical and cultural aspects of a movement must be taken into context in order for one to arrive at an accurate conclusion of its political ideology from its nominal characterization.


A number of states declared an allegiance to the principles of Marxism and have been ruled by self-described Communist Parties, either as a single-party state or a single list, which includes formally several parties, as was the case in the German Democratic Republic. Due to the dominance of the Communist Party in their governments, these states are often called "communist states" by Western political scientists. However, they have described themselves as "socialist", reserving the term "communism" for a future classless society, in which the state would no longer be necessary (on this understanding of communism, "communist state" would be an oxymoron) – for instance, the USSR was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Marxists contend that, historically, there has never been any communist country.

Communist governments have historically been characterized by state ownership of productive resources in a planned economy and sweeping campaigns of economic restructuring such as nationalization of industry and land reform (often focusing on collective farming or state farms.) While they promote collective ownership of the means of production, Communist governments have been characterized by a strong state apparatus in which decisions are made by the ruling Communist Party. Dissident 'authentic' communists have characterized the Soviet model as state socialism or state capitalism.


Marxism-Leninism, strictly speaking, refers to the version of Marxism developed by Vladimir Lenin known as Leninism[citation needed]. However, in various contexts, different (and sometimes opposing) political groups have used the term "Marxism-Leninism" to describe the ideologies that they claimed to be upholding. The core ideological features of Marxism-Leninism are those of Marxism and Leninism, that is to say, belief in the necessity of a violent overthrow of capitalism through communist revolution, to be followed by a dictatorship of the proletariat as the first stage of moving towards communism, and the need for a vanguard party to lead the proletariat in this effort. It involves subscribing to the teachings and legacy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Marxism), and that of Lenin, as carried forward by Joseph Stalin. Those who view themselves as Marxist-Leninists, however, vary with regards to the leaders and thinkers that they choose to uphold as progressive (and to what extent). Maoists tend to downplay the importance of all other thinkers in favour of Mao Zedong, whereas Hoxhaists repudiate Mao.

Leninism holds that capitalism can only be overthrown by revolutionary means; that is, any attempts to reform capitalism from within, such as Fabianism and non-revolutionary forms of democratic socialism, are doomed to fail. The first goal of a Leninist party is to educate the proletariat, so as to remove the various modes of false consciousness the bourgeois have instilled in them, instilled in order to make them more docile and easier to exploit economically, such as religion and nationalism. Once the proletariat has gained class consciousness the party will coordinate the proletariat's total might to overthrow the existing government, thus the proletariat will seize all political and economic power. Lastly the proletariat (thanks to their education by the party) will implement a dictatorship of the proletariat which would bring upon them socialism, the lower phase of communism. After this, the party would essentially dissolve as the entire proletariat is elevated to the level of revolutionaries.

The dictatorship of the proletariat refers to the absolute power of the working class. It is governed by a system of proletarian direct democracy, in which workers hold political power through local councils known as soviets.


Trotskyism is the theory of Marxism as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky considered himself a Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party. He considered himself an advocate of orthodox Marxism. His politics differed sharply from those of Stalin or Mao, most importantly in declaring the need for an international "permanent revolution". Numerous groups around the world continue to describe themselves as Trotskyist and see themselves as standing in this tradition, although they have diverse interpretations of the conclusions to be drawn from this.

Trotsky advocated proletarian revolution as set out in his theory of "permanent revolution", and he argued that in countries where the bourgeois-democratic revolution had not triumphed already (in other words, in places that had not yet implemented a capitalist democracy, such as Russia before 1917), it was necessary that the proletariat make it permanent by carrying out the tasks of the social revolution (the "socialist" or "communist" revolution) at the same time, in an uninterrupted process. Trotsky believed that a new socialist state would not be able to hold out against the pressures of a hostile capitalist world unless socialist revolutions quickly took hold in other countries as well, especially in the industrial powers with a developed proletariat.

On the political spectrum of Marxism, Trotskyists are considered to be on the left. They fervently support democracy, oppose political deals with the imperialist powers, and advocate a spreading of the revolution until it becomes global.

Trotsky developed the theory that the Russian workers' state had become a "bureaucratically degenerated workers' state". Capitalist rule had not been restored, and nationalized industry and economic planning, instituted under Lenin, were still in effect. However, the state was controlled by a bureaucratic caste with interests hostile to those of the working class. Trotsky defended the Soviet Union against attack from imperialist powers and against internal counter-revolution, but called for a political revolution within the USSR to restore socialist democracy. He argued that if the working class did not take power away from the Stalinist bureaucracy, the bureaucracy would restore capitalism in order to enrich itself. In the view of many Trotskyists, this is exactly what has happened since the beginning of Glasnost and Perestroika in the USSR. Some argue that the adoption of market socialism by the People's Republic of China has also led to capitalist counter-revolution.


Maoism or Mao Zedong Thought (simplified Chinese: 毛泽东思想traditional Chinese: 毛澤東思想pinyin: Máo Zédōng Sīxiǎng), is a variant of Marxism-Leninism derived from the teachings of the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong (Wade-Giles transliteration: "Mao Tse-tung").

The term "Mao Zedong Thought" has always been the preferred term by the Communist Party of China, and the word "Maoism" has never been used in its English-language publications except pejoratively. Likewise, Maoist groups outside China have usually called themselves Marxist-Leninist rather than Maoist, a reflection of Mao's view that he did not change, but only developed, Marxism-Leninism. However, some Maoist groups, believing Mao's theories to have been sufficiently substantial additions to the basics of the Marxist canon, call themselves "Marxist-Leninist-Maoist" (MLM) or simply "Maoist".

In the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong Thought is part of the official doctrine of the Communist Party of China, but since the 1978 beginning of Deng Xiaoping's market economy-oriented reforms, the concept of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" has come to the forefront of Chinese politics, Chinese economic reform has taken hold, and the official definition and role of Mao's original ideology in the PRC has been radically altered and reduced (see History of China).

Unlike the earlier forms of Marxism-Leninism in which the urban proletariat was seen as the main source of revolution, and the countryside was largely ignored, Mao believed that peasantry could be the main force behind a revolution, led by the proletariat and a vanguard Communist party. The model for this was of course the Chinese communist rural Protracted People's War of the 1920s and 1930s, which eventually brought the Communist Party of China to power. Furthermore, unlike other forms of Marxism-Leninism in which large-scale industrial development was seen as a positive force, Maoism made all-round rural development the priority. Mao felt that this strategy made sense during the early stages of socialism in a country in which most of the people were peasants. Unlike most other political ideologies, including other socialist and Marxist ones, Maoism contains an integral military doctrine and explicitly connects its political ideology with military strategy. In Maoist thought, "political power grows from the barrel of the gun" (a famous quote by Mao), and the peasantry can be mobilized to undertake a "people's war" of armed struggle involving guerrilla warfare in three stages.

Left communism

Left communism is the range of communist viewpoints held by the Communist Left, which criticizes the political ideas of the Bolsheviks from a position that is asserted to be more authentically Marxist and proletarian than the views of Leninism held by the Communist International after its first two Congresses.

Two major traditions can be observed within Left communism: the Dutch-German tradition; and the Italian tradition. The political positions those traditions have in common are a shared opposition to what is termed frontism, nationalism, all kinds of national liberation movements and parliamentarianism and there is an underlying commonality at a level of abstract theory. Crucially, Left Communist groups from both traditions tend to identify elements of commonality in each other.

The historical origins of Left Communism can be traced to the period before the First World War, but it only came into focus after 1918 . All Left Communists were supportive of the October Revolution in Russia, but retained a critical view of its development. Some, however, would in later years come to reject the idea that the revolution had a proletarian or socialist nature, asserting that it had simply carried out the tasks of the bourgeois revolution by creating a state capitalist system.

Left Communism first came into being as a clear movement in or around 1918. Its essential features were: a stress on the need to build a Communist Party entirely separate from the reformist and centrist elements who were seen as having betrayed socialism in 1914, opposition to all but the most restricted participation in elections, and an emphasis on the need for revolutionaries to move on the offensive. Apart from that, there was little in common between the various wings. Only the Italians accepted the need for electoral work at all for a very short period of time, and the German-Dutch, Italian and Russian wings opposed the "right of nations to self-determination", which they denounced as a form of bourgeois nationalism.

Disputing these claims

Some academics dispute the claim that the above political movements are Marxist. Communist governments have historically been characterized by state ownership of productive resources in a planned economy and sweeping campaigns of economic restructuring such as nationalization of industry and land reform (often focusing on collective farming or state farms.) While they promote collective ownership of the means of production, Communist governments have been characterized by a strong state apparatus in which decisions are made by the ruling Communist Party. Dissident communists have characterized the Soviet model as state socialism or state capitalism. Further, critics such as Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg have often claimed that a Stalinist or Maoist system of government creates a new ruling class, usually called the nomenklatura.

Marx defined "communism" as a classless, egalitarian and stateless society. To Marx, the notion of a communist state would have seemed an oxymoron, as he defined communism as the phase reached when class society and the state had already been abolished. Once the lower stage towards communism, commonly referred to as socialism, had been established, society would develop new social relations over the course of several generations, reaching what Marx called the higher phase of communism when not only bourgeois relations but every class social relations had been abandoned. Such a development has yet to occur in any historical self-claimed socialist state.

Some argue that socialist states have contained two new distinct classes: those who are in government and therefore have power, and those who are not in government and do not have power. Sometimes, this is taken to be a different form of capitalism, in which the government, as owner of the means of production, takes on the role formerly played by the bourgeois class; this arrangement is referred to as "State capitalism". These statist regimes have generally followed a command economy model without making a transition to this hypothetical final stage.


Criticisms of Marxism are many and varied. They concern both the theory itself, and its later interpretations and implementations.


Marx and Engels never dedicated much work to show how exactly a communist economy would function, leaving Marxism, at least in its classical form, a "negative ideology," concerned primarily with criticism of the status quo. Later generations of Marxists have attempted to fill in the gap, resulting in several different and competing Marxist views of the way a communist society should be organized.

Prominent economist Milton Friedman was of the opinion that free markets are the best and most efficient way of running the economy for the benefit of all.[25] In the economic calculation debate between Austrian Economists and Marxist economists, the Austrians claimed that Marxism is flawed because without a market for productive factors, which Marxism would abolish, productive factors could not be labeled with market prices and therefore, so the Austrians say, Marxism makes rational economic calculation impossible and would lead to social collapse. This criticism could also be seen as part of the Austrian School's general criticism of command-control-type mathematical modelling and Keynesian "fine-tuning" of the economy generally, which Austrian economists believe is not possible due to the inherent complexity of market participants' ever-evolving subjective choices.

Individualists disagree with the basic approach of Marxism, that of viewing all people as acting under the influence of socio-economic forces, and instead focus on the differences and unpredictable actions of individuals.


Criticisms of Marxism have come from the political left as well:

Marxism in Soviet popular culture

All students in Soviet Universities were forced to study Marxism, even if their future work had nothing to do with social sciences. The amount of time spent to study Marxism, History of the CPSU, Scientific Communism and other similar subjects frequently exceeded time spent to study some of their main scientific disciplines. This gave rise to numerous political jokes. A typical example[26]:

Two skeletons are laying on a desk during an exam in Medical College. Teacher asks students: "What can you tell about them?" - A silence... - "Think about this! What did we teach you all these five years?" - A student: "Are they ... Marx and Engels?".

See also


  1. ^ Bridget O'Laughlin (1975) Marxist Approaches in Anthropology Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 4: pp. 341–70 (October 1975) (doi:10.1146/
    William Roseberry (1997) Marx and Anthropology Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 26: pp. 25–46 (October 1997) (doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.25)
  2. ^ S. L. Becker (1984) “Marxist Approaches to Media Studies: The British Experience”, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 1(1): pp. 66–80.
  3. ^ See Manuel Alvarado, Robin Gutch, and Tana Wollen (1987) Learning the Media: Introduction to Media Teaching, Palgrave Macmillan.
  4. ^ See MIA introduction at “The Programme of the Parti Ouvrier”
  5. ^ Not found in search function at Draper Arkiv
  6. ^ Elster, pp. 79–80.
  7. ^ “Alienation” entry, A Dictionary of Sociology
  8. ^ Evans, p. 53; Marx’s account of the theory is the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859). [1]. Another exposition of th theory is in The German Ideology. It, too, is available online from
  9. ^ See A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), Preface, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, with some notes by R. Rojas, and Engels: Anti-Dühring (1877), Introduction General
  10. ^ Marx does not claim to have produced a master-key to history. Historical materialism is not “an historico-philosophic theory of the marche generale, imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself”, K. Marx, Letter to editor of the Russian newspaper paper Otetchestvennye Zapiskym, 1877) He explains that his ideas are based upon a concrete study of the actual conditions in Europe.
  11. ^ Joseph McCarney: Ideology and False Consciousness, April 2005
  12. ^ Engels: Letter to Franz Mehring, (London 14 July 1893), Donna Torr, translator, in Marx and Engels Correspondence, International Publishers, 1968
  13. ^ Karl Marx, The German Ideology
  14. ^ For example, the Communist Party of China alone has more than 66 million members. See
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Marxist Theology" in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, p. 352.
  19. ^ [2] Marxist Roots of Black Liberation Theology
  20. ^ Karl Korsch (1950) Ten Theses on Marxism Today
  21. ^ [ Jean-Paul Sartre on Stanford Encyclopedia.]
  22. ^ Anderson, Jon. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. 1997 p.468
  23. ^ Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Toward an Investigation is available in several English volumes including Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays
  24. ^ Thompson, E. P., (1978). The Poverty of Theory & other essays Merlin, 1978. ISBN 085036-231-8.
  25. ^ Free to Choose, Milton Friedman
  26. ^ Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., Moscow: 2002, ISBN 5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)


  • Avineri, Shlomo (1968). The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Dahrendorf, Ralf (1959). Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society.  Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Jon Elster, An Introduction to Karl Marx. Cambridge, England, 1986.
  • Michael Evans, Karl Marx. London, 1975.
  • Robinson, Cedric J. : Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, 1983, Reissue: Univ North Carolina Press, 2000
  • Screpanti, E; S. Zamagna (1993). An Outline of the History of Economic Thought. 
  • McLellan, David (2007). Marxism After Marx. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

External links

General resources

Introductory articles

Marxist websites

Specific topics


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Marxism is a political and social philosophy derived from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.


  • It is not the truth of Marxism that explains the willingness of intellectuals to believe it, but the power that it confers on intellectuals, in their attempts to control the world. And since, as Swift says, it is futile to reason someone out of a thing that he was not reasoned into, we can conclude that Marxism owes its remarkable power to survive every criticism to the fact that it is not a truth-directed but a power-directed system of thought.
    • Roger Scruton, Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism (Continuum International Publishing Group 2006).
  • Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion — how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.
  • With the demise of Marxism, the illusion that we can finally dispense with the notion of antagonism has become widespread. This belief is fraught with danger, since it leaves us unprepared in the face of unrecognized manifestations of antagonism.
  • Marx and Engels themselves can never be taken simply at their word: the errors of their writings on the past should not be evaded or ignored, but identified and criticized. To do so is not to depart from historical materialism, but to rejoin it. (...) To take 'liberties' with the signature of Marx is in this sense merely to enter into the freedom of Marxism.
    • Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (Verso, 1996), p. 9.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up Marxism in Wiktionary, the free dictionary


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Karl Marx + -ism.


Marxism (uncountable)

  1. The socialist philosophy and political program founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; scientific socialism.
  2. The socialist ideology of the followers of Karl Marx; a radical, revolutionary political philosophy that aims to capture state power, introduce a dictatorship of the proletariat, and then progress to communism.


See also

Simple English

Marxism is the name for a set of political and economic ideas. The base of these ideas comes from the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They have had a lot of influence in many countries. Very often, both authors are named, as it is difficult to say which of the two wrote what piece of the theory.

From Marxist thought, other political views came to be, such as Social Democracy and Reformist Socialism (both believe that the ideas that Marx and Engels portrayed can be achieved through what Marx called 'Bourgeois Democracy.')

Many Marxists say that modern "Communism" is not Communism at all. That nations such as Russia, The People's Republic of China, Venezuela, Cuba, and Vietnam are different forms of Capitalism, often with heavily "nationalized" industries. One of the biggest proponents of these ideas in Marxist thought was Tony Cliff, who wrote that states like the U.S.S.R and Communist China (before 1980) were "State-Capitalist." Not all Communists, Socialists or Marxists agree on this question, but many hardened Marxists generally agree that Socialism is workers' democratic control over economic decisions and social justice, while production is based on what people need, and that Socialism will wither away into Communism when Capitalism is defeated. With that idea in mind, Marxists have a tendency to discredit most of the listed regimes.

Modern Communism claims to be based on Marxist ideas, but many Marxists disagree about whether Communist countries have understood Marxism correctly.

The working class and the capitalist class

Marxism says that people in the world are organized into different groups or classes based on their relationship to how things are made. Most people are called "workers" because they work in factories or offices or farms for money. They belong to the "working class" (or "proletariat"). Another group, who are not as big as the working class are "capitalists", because they own the factories, land and buildings that the workers have to work in and also own all of the tools the workers have to use. Marx calls Capitalists the "Ruling Class" because they live off of the work of all the workers. He also says that the Capitalists own the government, army and courts. In Marxist views, Capital is the "means of production" and money which the Capitalist can invest in different places of business so that they can "profit" or gain more Capital.

Most workers work for companies owned by Capitalists or "Petite-bourgeois" (small business owners). The capitalist pays a wage to the worker in exchange for the worker's time. The capitalist has bought a period of time from the worker which the worker must then use to labor for the Capitalist, which according to marxist economic thinking is the only thing that can create value in a commodity, and then exploits the time of the worker as much as they can. The capitalist amasses capital by paying the worker less wealth than they make for the Capitalist. Marx says that commodities (pieces of merchandise) have a twofold nature. On the one hand, they are "use-value". Use-value means they are useful, that is, they have the capacity of satisfying a human need. On the other hand, they are "exchange-value", because someone could trade a quantity of them for a determined quantity of another commodity. For example: if a nail is traded for 2 boot laces, the exchange value of a single nail is 2 boot laces. Finally, "Labor Value" or Value, is determined by the amount of labor needed to create a product. Value is created by adding work to something. A product's value is determined by the average work needed to create the product for the market. Value can be described as the amount of labor time used to create a commodity.

As an example: Peter and Bob and Carl are all shoe makers. It takes Peter half a day to make 20 shoes, and it takes Bob half a day to make 20 shoes and it takes Carl half a day to make 20 shoes. The average labor-time to make the shoes is half a day, and that means each shoe contains half a day's labor value.

Peter, Bob and Carl now work for James. James owns a shoe factory that can make 60 shoes in half a day. Between Peter, Bob and Carl, 60 shoes are made. Peter, Bob and Carl are paid only as much as they need to live at socially accepted standards. Peter, Bob and Carl each get 20 dollars a day in wages, however James sells the shoes for 2 dollars each. 120$ is made and James pays the workers (Peter, Bob and Carl) their wages. The remaining wealth is called "Profit" or "Surplus Value." In other words, Peter, Bob and Carl earn enough to provide for themselves within half of their working day. The rest of the day they are creating profit for their boss, James, which is called Surplus Value.

It is this Surplus Value, or Profit, which Marxism thinks as an exploitation of labor. This exploitation allows the smaller class (Capitalists) to live without laboring, while the bigger class (Workers) have to work for the Capitalists to survive.

Marxism says that Factories, tools and work places cannot create new value on their own. Similar to how a blue berry bush has no value on its own. That value can only be created with the use of labor. For example, someone spends a day picking blue berries. Those blue berries are now able to be traded or eaten because of the invested labor time to pick them.

Marxist thinking claims that Capitalists and Workers are in a constant state of struggle, which they call "Materialist Dialectic." Marxism says that in order for Capitalists to generate profit quickly, and to maximise their rate of profit, they have to exploit the workers as much as possible, and lower their wages as much as possible. Workers, on the other hand, have to struggle to keep their wages up, to keep the "rate of exploitation" low, so that they can live more peaceful lives. This is what Marxism calls "Class Struggle" where Workers and their Bosses fight against each other to gain for themselves.

Marxists think that all of written human history has been divided by economic classes. They think that the progression of history has been pushed forward by class struggle. Marxism says that it is from this struggle that Capitalism was born and that it is from this struggle that Communism (or Socialism) will be born. For example: Feudal Society (a society controlled by feudal Lords and Nobles) rested its Ruling Class on the labor of peasants (farmers). But, as peasants demanded more and more for themselves small shopkeepers and tradespeople began to appear. Many of these people appeared in Guilds as well, and eventually began to employ workers to independently accumulate wealth. It was this historical progression that created Capitalists/Capitalism.

In the same way, Marxism says that Capitalism will give way to Communism, as the struggle of the workers becomes more and more revolutionary.


The core of Marxist thinking is called Materialism. Materialism is a philosophical view that says that communities develop from the "ground up": that the "higher" qualities of culture (Art, Manners, Customs, Religions, etc.) are actually founded on the "lower" or simpler qualities of life (abundance of resources like food and shelter, who has money and what they have to do to get it, who is allowed to work and who is forced to work, etc.).

Changes in the higher qualities of culture (sometimes called the "Superstructure") are often linked to changes in the lower qualities of life (sometimes called the "Base"). One example is that in the Medieval period, "honor" or duty to one's superiors was seen as very important; today, in Western countries, ambition or being someone who works hard for his own goals is seen as more important—this is because in the Medieval period, people worked their entire lives under lords who depended on them not only for work but for war; today, people work on a more individual basis, and our society operates by letting some people move up from being poor to rich (though this is still very hard). In this case, what is seen as good depends on how the rulers get value out of their workers.

Marxism recognizes that in earlier time periods, we lived first under rulers who owned everything, then we lived under lords who owned land with workers who lived on them, and that we currently live under governments that allow many people to own property (though still organized in a way that robs many people of their labor and rights). Eventually, Marxists believe that we will move to a society where everyone owns everything in common—this will be known as Socialism.

In other words, human progression has been based on genetic evolution and social evolution, that human society has always been based on the economic forces that human beings can control. For Marxism, this means that the "mode of production" dictates the form each society will take. It is this idea that brings Marxists to believe that the current capacity to produce means human beings can move beyond the conflicts of Class society.

Dialectic. A dialectic is an argument or conflict between different groups. The different groups or classes have their own objective/material interests and needs.

Dialectical materialism is the idea that the history of humans is the history of conflict between classes. Different classes with different interests argue or fight each other. Social change is the result.

Many Marxists believe that there will always be revolts and, with the right conditions, revolutions. In these revolutions, the workers will fight the capitalists and will (eventually) win. During this process, they will set up a Socialist "workers' state" (a form of government that is the workers' themselves organised as the rulers of society) that will serve as a temporary state (the state, Marxists believe, is an organisation of one class to suppress another class, the Socialist state is created to suppress the Capitalist Class or what they call the exploiting class) until all capitalist-countries have been defeated and all classes have been abolished. Marxists believe that if the working class makes itself the ruling class and destroys the objective basis for class society (private property, or what Marx called "Bourgeois Property," relations) there will be a "classless society" - a society where no social groups are in conflict and there is no government anymore, and the state will be dismantled, organically, and it will be a borderless world with world-wide communes and worker-organisation of production based on needs instead of profits.


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