To what extent is Marxism still relevant today

To what extent is Marxism still relevant today?

As Fredric Jameson suggests inPostmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism( 1991: 61 ) , postmodernism and post-structuralism is inextricably linked to what hold been seen as the failures of Marxism. Ever since Gramsci’s constructs of hegemony in his Hagiographas of the 1920s and 30s ( Gramsci, 1957 ) , Marxist political minds have struggled with the cardinal inquiries of why dialectical philistinism has non produced the radical dismantlement of the oppressive province setups and why the labor non merely remains subjugated but seems of all time more complicit in their ain place.

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In this essay I would wish to look at some of these inquiries and to asses the extent that Marxism is still relevant today. In order to look at this country to the full, I will get down by a brief politico-historical exegesis of the failures of Marxism, concentrating chiefly on the work of the Frankfurt school ; so I will travel on to look three canonical minds who have attempted, non merely to reply the inquiries raised by Adorno, Horkheimer and others, but do so in unusually different ways: Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. In this manner I hope to non merely analyze Marxism’s relevancy but besides how poststructuralist and postmodernist minds have reinterpreted and re-evaluated Marx and how this fits into the larger sphere of political relations.

There are two chief countries posited for the failure of canonical or coarse Marxism: foremost, that, as Mark Poster ( 1975: 60 ) suggests, the labor has mostly failed to justify Marx’s dream of an inevitable revolution and, secondly, that this is itself based on a teleological position of history that, as Joan Alway ( 1995 ) asserts “is regarded as infected by the inclination toward totalization [ sic ] and is treated as a relic of a water under the bridge era.” ( Alway, 1995: 1 )

The first of these expostulations can be seen to be tainted with the doubly damming impression that non merely has the end of Socialist revolution failed to accomplish Marx’s aspirations but that it has invariably been linked with subjugation and deficiency of societal freedom ; a position that is compactly phrased by Pavel Campeanu ( 1986 ) :

“How did it come to go through that the first great anti-imperialist revolution of the modern epoch finally gave birth to but another imperialism of a new sort? One possible reply is that certain specifying features of neo-Stalinist imperialism were linked with certain specifying features of the 1917 Russian revolution.” ( Campeanu, 1986: 3 )

In other words, something built-in in Marx’s scheme: the really footing of his totalising system is besides the foundation of Stalinist subjugation and political tenet. Adorno and Horkheimer’s 1944 workDialectic of Enlightenment, for case, saw Marx’s over all scheme as being linked to the cardinal jobs of 18th century Modernist thought ; by asseverating the totalising forces of history, they suggest, Marxism besides ignores the humane and human [ 1 ] .

Along with scientific discipline, truth, beauty and history itself, Marxism, is one of the chief “metanarratives” that Lyotard ( 2000 ) suggests we have lost religion in, a state of affairs that can be seen to originate out of the failure to carry through its foundational ends. It would look from this that Marxism has lost its relevancy for modern-day political relations, non merely in footings of its material application but besides its superstructure ; the really philosophical model that forms its foundation.

However, as we shall see, minds such as Althusser and Baudrillard have utilised Marx’s thought in a figure of ways, revitalizing his doctrine and reinvigorating its relevancy.

The work of Louis Althusser, as Brudney ( 1998 ) provinces arose out of a specific political docket that sought to restore the work of Marx in the visible radiation of the sorts of issues we have been raising here. In his seminal essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus” ( 1994 ) , he fuses Gramscian impressions of hegemony with Lacanian constructs of symbolic designation and the formation of the subject/object duality ; a procedure he calls interpellation ( Althusser, 1994: 130 ) .

Althusser begins this essay with the impression that production involves an built-in reproduction:

“The ultimate status of production is hence the reproduction of the conditions of production. This may be ‘simple ‘ ( reproducing precisely the old conditions of production ) or ‘on an drawn-out graduated table ‘ ( spread outing them ) .” ( Althusser, 1994: 100 )

In order for capitalist production to be and to boom, it must besides reproduce itself, and for Althusser, this is a procedure carried out by the socio-political/economic strata instead single houses ( Althusser, 1994: 101 ) . A corollary to this impression is that non merely must the agencies of production be reproduced but besides what he called “the productive forces” ( Althusser, 1994: 102 ) or the labour force and, more significantly, the desire to work, the desire on the portion of the labor to actively affect themselves in their ain development.

The reply, harmonizing to Althusser was political orientation:

“Labour-power requires non merely a reproduction of its accomplishments, but besides, at the same clip, a reproduction of its entry to the regulations of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of entry to the opinion political orientation for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to pull strings the opinion political orientation right for the agents of development and repression, so that they, excessively, will supply for the domination of the opinion category ‘in words’.” ( Althusser, 1994: 103 )

It is the Ideological State Apparatuses ( ISA ) such as the church, the school and the media that facilitates the subjugation of Capitalism and these establishments are characterised by a figure of traits, for case they are non-violent, mostly in private owned and are distinguishable from the Repressive State Apparatuses of the constabulary, the legal system and the ground forces. ISAs up keep the province through proliferation of political orientation instead than violent action, they seek to reproduce the forces of production through a system of symbolic initiation that, efficaciously, means the worker is complicit in their ain development.

Unlike Adorno and Horkheimer or Gramsci’s impression of hegemony, Althusser does non see the creative activity of an exploited topic as a inactive procedure ; through a impression he footings interpellation, the Ideological State Apparatus calls to the topic who willing ( although possibly unwittingly ) replies. The consequence is, as Alcorn ( 2000 ) suggests the creative activity of the “subject of ideology” ( Alcorn, 2000: 34 ) .

This same basic scheme can be seen to be reflected in the work of Michel Foucault who, as Sara Mills ( 2003 ) inside informations, was influenced by Althusser whilst go toing theEcole Normale Superieure( Mills, 2003: 3 ) . Foucault’s work has been seen both as a review of Marx and as a Marxist statement of the subjugation that consequences from political power [ 2 ] , nevertheless his importance to our subject here is non so much in his specific political decisions but in his usage of Marx’s basic constructions and models. For Foucault ( as detailed in plants such asDiscipline and Punish( 1991 ) andMadness and Civilization( 2004 ) ) , there is so a system of development, of subjugation and of suppression but this is founded non so much on a bourgeoisie economic power as the subjective power of establishments to be and rule others, as C.G Prado ( 2000 ) inside informations:

“Foucault does non simply inventory covert manipulative devices. His impression of power would be otiose if he did merely that…What Foucault does is supply a new manner of stating something about how the immensely complex entirety of human actions regulates behaviorwithout that entirety holding ordinance as its aim.” ( Prado, 70 )

If Althusser attempted to explicate how the labour force could be complicit in its ain economic and political development, Foucault allows us to appreciate the complexness of those forces. In the Foucauldian sense, the power that consequences in development and subjugation does non simply rest with socio-economics but extends into all countries of life, from ontology to gender, from political relations to art and literature. Basically, nevertheless, Foucault uses Marxist/Althusserian manners of idea that are translated, through a mulitplicitous definition of power, into a poststructuralist reading.

The last of our minds, Jean Baudrillard is, ironically possibly, the most postmodern and yet the most closely allied to Marx. Baudrillard’s construct of the modern socio-political government is based, in portion at least on Marx’s impressions of usage and exchange value. In his essay “The Ecstasy of Communication” ( Baudrillard, 1983 ) , Baudrillard suggests that it is the creative activity of exchange value “beyond all use value” ( Baudrillard, 1983 ) that facilitates the subjugation of the labor force through the media cantered simulacrum:

“…the trade good signifier is the first great medium of the modern universe. But the message that the objects deliver through it is already highly simplified, and it is already extremelt simplified, and it is ever the same: their exchange value” ( Baudrillard, 1983: 131 )

For Baudrillard, the Marxist impression of excess value, itself evidently built-in in the development of Capitalism, is the really starting point of the modern simulacrum of non merely the media but the political sphere. The merchandising of politicians both to a domestic and a planetary audience, asserts Baudrillard, can merely be understood in footings of Marxist theory and is exemplified in the commixture of the cultural and political spheres that characterise early 20 first century political relations.

Baudrillard allows us to see how Marx’s thoughts ( on both political relations and economic sciences ) can be used to explicate and review constructions and societies that might be as seen antithetical to traditional Marxist exegesis.

As Lorraine Landry ( 2000 ) suggests, Marx can be seen to be inextricably linked to the undertaking of modernness both in his religion in Reason and his teleological position of history and patterned advance. As we have seen, nevertheless, through the work of minds such as Althusser, Foucault and Baudrillard, Marx can besides be reinterpreted and reapplied to different, postmodern and post-structuralist manners of idea that exchange development with interpellation ( Althusser ) , an all powerful middle class with epistemological systems of cognition ( Foucault ) and the opiate of the people with simulacra and simulations ( Baurillard ) .

Marx, so, the consummate Modern becomes the reinvented postmodern, nevertheless, of class we must inquire ourselves to what grade is this reinterpreted, revised Marx Marx at all and to what extent does postmodernism contradict his original doctrine and political relations?


Adorno, T and Horkheimer, M ( 1979 ) ,Dialectic of Enlightenment, London: Verso.

Alcorn, M. ( 2000 ) , “On Recognition and Interpellation in Althusser and Lacan” , published inJournal for Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society, Vol. 5, pp.32-35

Althusser, Louis ( 1994 ) , “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus ( Notes Towards and Investigation ) ” , published in S. Zizek ( erectile dysfunction ) ,Maping Political orientation, London: Verso, pp.100-140.

Alway, J. ( 1995 ) ,Critical Theory and Political Possibilities: Concepts of Emancipatory Politics in the Works of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas, London: Greenwood.

Baudrillard, J ( 1983 ) , “The Ecstasy of Communication” , published in Hal Foster ( erectile dysfunction ) ,The Anti-Aesthetic, Port Townsend, Bay Press, 126-133.

Brudney, D ( 1998 ) ,Marx’s Attempt to Leave Philosophy, Cambridge: Harvard.

Campeanu, Pavel ( 1990 ) ,Exit: Toward Post-Stalinism, London: M.E. Sharpe.

Foucault, M ( 1991 ) ,Discipline and Punish, London: Penguin.

Foucault, M ( 2004 ) ,Madness and Civilisation, London: Routledge.

Foucault. M ( 1984 ) , Interview with Paul Rabinow available online at hypertext transfer protocol: // [ accessed 10th Dec 2005 ]

Gramsci, A ( 1957 ) ,The Modern Prince and Other Hagiographas, London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Jameson, F ( 1991 ) ,Postmodernism, Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, London: Duke University.

Landry, L ( 2000 ) ,Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory, London: Prager.

Lyotard, J. F ( 2000 ) ,The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Manchester: Manchester University.

Mill, S. ( 2000 ) ,Michel Foucault, London: Routledge.

Poster, M ( 1975 ) ,Experiential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser, New Jersey: Princeton.

Prado, C.G ( 2000 ) ,Get downing with Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy, London: Westview.


Baudrillard, J ( 2004 ) ,Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbour: Michigan.

Foucault, M ( 1989 ) ,The Archaeology of Knowledge, London: Routledge.

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Brooding Statement

The beginnings utilised in this paper represent a figure of different strains of the usage of Marx in postmodern political relations and doctrine.

I begin my exegesis with mention to Adorno and Horkheimer’s surveyDialectic of Enlightenment( 1979 ) . This work impacts on my paper in two chief ways: foremost in its review of the Enlightenment and modernness undertaking of the eighteenth and 19th centuries, seeing in its burden on Reason and scientific discourse the prefiguring of the peculiar jobs of the Twentieth century and, secondly, in its impression of the ‘culture industry’ that aims to asseverate the importance of civilization and political orientation on the political field. I besides twin this with Antonio Gramsci’s impression of hegemony that is outlined in his workThe Modern Prince( Gramsci, 1957 ) .

Allied to this is the impression of political orientation and one of the chief beginnings I have used is Louis Althusser’s essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus ( Notes Towards and Investigation ) ” ( Althusser, 1994 ) . This develops a figure of cardinal thoughts, foremost, the construct of reproduction of the agencies and force of production, secondly, the Ideological State Apparatus and, thirdly, the interpellation of the ideological topic. At its bosom, Althusser’s essay efforts to reply the inquiries posed some old ages before by the Frankfurt school refering the go oning success of Capitalist development in the face of expounding by Marxism itself.

The other major beginning I have used is Jean Baudrillard’s “The Ecstacy of Communication” ( Baudrillard, 1983 ) , this takes Marx’s impressions of usage and exchange value and interprets them in footings of modern civilization and, we could asseverate, political relations. The modern matrimony of political relations and the media can be viewed, through a Baudrillardian reading of Marx, in such a manner that retains some of the original Marxist impressions and thoughts but relates them to more modern-day socio-political subjects and concerns such as media civilization and the airing of political political orientation.

In order explore the true diverseness of ways in which Marxism has been utilised by modern political relations and doctrine, I refer to Foucault’s plantsMadness and Civilisation( 2004 ) andDiscipline and Punish( 1991 ) . Both of these beginnings trade, basically with the same issues: the exercise of power over suppressed parts of society and it is here that I see the paras between the Foucauldian universe position and Marx. Foucault, particularly in these beginnings, nevertheless non merely displays his affinity with Marx but besides his differences ; the economic power of coarse Marxist political theory is replaced by a power-to-be, to be sane, or to be jurisprudence staying.

The interview I cite between Foucault and Paul Rabinow is an interesting illustration of how Foucault has been classified in the political field: at some times being derided as a Communist, at others accused of bewraying his Marxist roots. This, in many ways, is non unusual in poststructuralist/postmodernist idea.

All of these beginnings represent non merely how Marxism has been altered and changed by modern-day political theory but besides how this reveals a continued relevancy and how Marx, like Freud possibly, has been reinterpreted and revisited by consecutive minds who invariably strive to bring out new ways of looking at established texts.


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