IV. Marxisms and Neo-Marxisms

This broad category is meant to encompass a variety of Marxist theories which have in common their rejection of economic or class determinism, and a concomitant belief in at least the semi-autonomy of the cultural sphere. They also have in common the claim that most empirical social science, history, and literary analysis works from within capitalist categories, and thus neo-marxists offer an interdisciplinary critique based on analysis of the total political-economic-cultural system. In the US and in AS, neo-marxism first becomes a significant force in the late 1960s and early 70s, primarily through the work of the Frankfurt school (Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Leo Lowenthal, Max Horkheimer, and, more tangentially, Walter Benjamin, and later, Jurgen Habermas). This school of emigre intellectuals forced to leave Nazi Germany in the 1930s had an impact on American mass media studies even before the 60s, but was brought into prominence by a generation of New Left intellectuals influenced especially via the social theory of Marcuse.

A bit later, other important works of "Western marxism," especially those of Antonio Gramsci with his concept of cultural "hegemony," and Georg Lukacs, with his concept of "reification" are rediscovered in the US. Other important schools of neo-marxism acknowledged below include the structural marxism of Louis Althusser, the cultural materialism of Raymond Williams, the eclectic semiotic marxism of Mikhail Bakhtin, Fredric Jameson\'s literary theoretical approaches, marxist- or materialist-feminisms, Third World marxisms (Mao, Castro/Guevara, etc.), and the surrealist-anarcho-marxism of the Situationists. Parts of this tradition are carried on, and parts are immolated, in the works of Lacanian Leninist, Slavoj Zizek. The intellectual terrain of "post-Marxism," pioneered by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, and including such figures as Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, also continues Marxism since, as with other "post" theories, the post in post-Marxism does not claim to fully surpass that which it posts.

All citations in this bibliography are arranged chrono-topically, not alphabetically, to give a sense of theoretical developments emerging over time.

Introductions and Overviews

Denning, Michael. "'The Special American Conditions:' Marxism and American Studies." American Quarterly 38 (1986): 356-380.
In the course of arguing brilliantly against American "exceptionalism" (our alleged lack of class struggle etc.), Denning introduces main currents in neo-marxism and surveys marxian studies of American culture. He argues that AS theory and practice has often been a weak alternative to marxian thought and has suffered from lack of a full encounter with it. Footnotes constitute an important bibliography on marxisms and AS up through the mid-1980s, the period of greatest mutual impact.
Lears, T.J. Jackson. "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony." American Historical Review 90 (1985): 567-593.
Important early effort to make the case for the usefulness of Gramsci's theory of hegemony for work in American cultural studies. (For a critique of Lears as watering down Gramsci revolutionary position, see the essay by Denning above.)
Eagleton, Terry. Marxism and Literary Criticism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976.
Good, brief survey of major 20th century marxist literary theorists, including several neglect in this bibliography.
Jameson, Fredric. Ideologies of Theory. London: Verso, 2009.
Collection of brilliant essays that provides one excellent entry point into Jameson\'s wide-ranging neo-marxist body of work.

---. Marxism and Form. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Inspiring set of studies of various neo-marxist theorists (Adorno, Benjamin, Bloch, Lukacs, and Sartre) that did much to bring these critics to the attention of American scholars.
McLellan, David. Marxism After Marx. London: Macmillan, 3rd edition, 1998.
An encyclopedic, very lucid introduction to the major schools of 20th century marxism, including many I not fully represented here, including Trotskyism, council communism, and various Third World marxisms.
Anderson, Perry. Considerations on Western Marxism. London : New Left Books, 1976.
---. In the Tracks of Historical Materialism. London: Verso, 1983.
These two crucially important books by Anderson (co-founder of the key neo-marxist journal New Left Review) argue the need to return political economy to the center of Marxist cultural thought in the wake of its displacement by the important work of "Western" Marxists.
Jay, Martin. The Dialectical Imagination.Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Co., 1973.
Both an important work of American intellectual history (as a narrative account of the rise of the Frankfurt school in thirties Germany and their migration to the US in late 30s), and a good point of entry into this school of theory.
Held, David. Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980.
Less historical but more richly theoretical than Jay's book, this is another good way to become introduced to the Frankfurt school, including its contemporary disciple, Jurgen Habermas.

Key Texts


Antonio Gramsci
Gramsci, Antonio. An Antonio Gramsci Reader. David Forgacs, ed. Boston, MA: Schocken, 1988.
---. Selections from Cultural Writings.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.
---. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. NY: International Books, 1971.
Each of these three collections provides entry into Gramsci\'s never neatly codified work. Of particular importance is his immensely influential notion of "hegemony" -- a negotiated but uneven relationship between social groups in which subordinate classes are brought to consent to their own domination without overt force. The Forgacs collection includes a useful glossary.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogical Imagination. Austin, TX: U of Texas P, 1981.
Bakhtin was a Soviet literary theorist and semiotician who conceived of culture as a multi-faceted "dialogical" struggle over the meaning of "signs," offering a more socio-historical alternative to the Saussurean view of language as an essentially ahistorical (synchronic) system. This collection of essays is still the best place to enter Bakhtin\'s carnival of thought; it will introduce you to his unique universe of concepts, including, "dialogism," "polyphony," "chronotope,"and "carnivalization.", all of which add up to a brillaint anarcho-marxist theory of literature and culture.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The Dialogic Principle. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.
This is the best short introduction to Bakhtin\'s wide-ranging body of work.
Arato, Andrew, and Eike Gebhart, eds. The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. NY: Urizen, 1978.
Good collection of essays by various Frankfurt theorists. See especially the essays by Adorno and Marcuse (who was particularly influential on the US New Left in the late 1960s).

Walter Benjamin
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. NY: Schocken, 1969.
---. Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. NY: Schocken, 1986.
These two collections of essays provide a solid introduction to Benjamin\'s brilliantly eclectic strand of neo-marxist critical theory. See especially "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," "Author as Producer," and "Paris, Capitol of the 19th Century."
Lukacs, Georg. History and Class Consciousness. London: Cambridge U P, 1971.
This collection of essays became immensely influential on the whole of "Western Marxism" through its elaboration of "reification" -- the mistaken apprehension of relations between human beings as the relation between things, produced through capitalist commodity production/consumption.

Che Guevara
Guevara, Ernesto (Che). The Che Guevara Reader. Ocean Press, 2003.
Comprehensive collection introducing the Argentian intellectual who formulated much of the theory behind Latin American Marxism revolution, especially Cuba's.
Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. NY: Monthly Review Press, 1971.
Althusser's work was highly influential in Britain and on such American figures as Jameson, as well as on feminist film theory. See especially the essay, "Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses," which reconceptualizes ideology as a suturing of subjects into an illusory sense of individuality that enables the maintenance of existing inequalities of power.
Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. London: New Left Books, 1977.
Kedy argument for viewing literature as a material form of "cultural production," and an excellent reference text for examining the meaning of some keywords in cultural studies (e.g. "culture" "literature" "hegemony").
---. The Sociology of Culture. NY: Schocken, 1982.
Williams' attempt to synthesize the best elements of Western marxism, Anglo-US the sociology and the humanist traditions into what he called "cultural materialism."
Prendergast, Christopher, ed. Cultural Materialism: On Raymond Williams. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 1995.
A fine, wide-ranging collection of essays evaluating Williams' career and the concept of "cultural materialism."as it has evolved after his passing.
Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as as Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, NY: Cornell U P, 1981.
Jameson is the US's most influential marxist literary theorist; in this important work he attempts to synthesize a diverse body of critical literature from Northrop Frye and Kenneth Burke to Levi-Strauss, Lukacs and Althusser, into a view of ideology as a set of cultural narratives with a political unconscious that at once represses and symbolically acts out social conflict.
---.Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Raleigh, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.
Jameson presents his case for a cultural-politico-economic understanding of postmodernity as a socio-historical moment and postmodernism as an aesthetic.
Habermas, Jurgen. Jurgen Habermas on Society and Politics: A Reader. Boston, MA: Beacon, 1989. Edited by Steven Seidman.
This reader provides a good introduction to Habermas' highly abstract thought by focusing his theories on specific socio-political issues. Habermas is the major figure attempting to unify Anglo-American social science with critical theory.
Porter, Carolyn. Seeing and Being. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U P, 1981.
Uses Lukacs' conception of "reification" to illuminate four major American authors (Emerson, James, Adams, and Faulkner). The first two chapters of theoretical introduction, and the theoretical postscript offer a general critique of and assert an alternative to the allegedly "ahistorical" quality of most American literary criticism.

Cedric Robinson
Robinson, Cedric. Black Marxism. U North Carolina P, 2000 [1983].
Classic comprehesive study of the place of various marxisms in black radical thought and action.
Smith-Rosenberg Carroll. "Writing History: Language, Class and Gender." Teresa deLauretis, ed. Feminist Studies/Critical Studies. Bloomington, IN: Indiana U P, 1986.
Rethinks the emergence of a new middle class in 19th century America with help from Bakhtin's notion of cultural dialogism and polyphony.
Nelson, Cary, and Lawrence Grossberg, eds. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 1988.
A wide-ranging breakthrough collection of sophisticated essays on crucial issues in cultural theory then neglected by marxists, especially race, gender and the role of culture in imperialism and colonialism. See especially the essays by Hall, Spivak, West, and Pfeil, and Grossberg's overview of marxist cultural theories.
Bauer, Dale. Feminist Dialogics. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1988.
Applies a feminist version of Bakhtin to a variety of American authors including James, Hawthorne, Chopin, and Wharton.
Hansen, Karen V., and Ilene J. Philipson, eds. Women, Class and the Feminist Imagination. Philadelphia, PA: Temple U P, 1990.
This "socialist-feminist reader" collects many of the most significant essays from the 60s, 70s, and 80s in which feminist scholars use, critique and debate the relevance of various marxist concepts and positions.
Lowe, Lisa, and David Lloyd, eds. The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital. Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1997.
Rich collection of essays offering a variety of political economic critiques of colonialism sensitive to the dynamic between the specificity of local struggles and the determinations of global systems. Important synthesis of marxist, poststructuralist and postcolonial theorizing.

Rose Hennessy
Hennessy, Rosemary. Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism. NY: Routledge, 2000.
Brilliant marxist feminist analysis of the commodification of sexual identities and desires in contemporary capitalism
---, and Chrys Ingraham, eds. Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women\'s Lives. NY: Routledge, 1997.
Excellent collection of theoretical pieces exploring various intersections of political economy and feminisms.
Floyd, Kevin. The Reification of Desire: Marxism and Queer Theory.Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 2009.
Interrogates the uses of queer theory for understanding marxism and marxist categories like reification for understanding the dynamic of queer theory and politics.
Gibson-Graham, J.K. The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2006 [2nd edition]
Brilliantly imaginative critique of the ways in which Marxists have sometimes exaggerated the totalizing power of capital, and ignored feminized economic sectors that complicate monolithic structures of domination.
Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso, 2001 [2nd edition].
The foundational text of what came to be known as "post-Marxism," this text argues that the new social movements (feminist, anti-racist, environmental, etc) and new understandings of discourse, require a fundamentally new strategy that places class issues within a larger set of radically democratic concerns.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001.
Major, controversial post-Marxist rethinking of the concept of empire and imperialism in the wake of neo-liberal globalization and transnational cultural flows.
Fuchs, Christian, and Vince Mosco, eds. Marx Is Back special issue of Triple C: Cognition,Communication, Co-operation, Vol. 10: No. 2 (2012).
Reconsideration of Marx's contemporary importance by two dozen interesting theorists, with special reference to critical communication studies.
Zizek, Slavoj. The Essential Zizek. Edited by Elizabeth Wright and Edmund Wright. London: Blackwell, 1999.
There is no simple way to enter the world of the leading (and only?) Lacanian Leninist, but this collection is not a bad place to start.
---. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. London: Verso, 2009.
The prolific Zizek's take on contemporary capitalism as violent irrational drama.
Zizek videos.
Zizek is among other things a performer: "the Elvis of cultural theory," "the lost Marx brother," "the clown prince of philosophy," so these videos capture an essential performative aspect of Zizek.

Additional Web Resources

  • Marxist Internet Archive. Excellent resource, with beginner to expert levels of entry.
  • Marx/Engels Archive. Marx once remar(x)ed that he was "not a Marxist." Go directly to one of these sources to find out what that might have meant, or to otherwise explore the base for all of the subsequent "m-isms."
  • Marxist Media Theory.. Page by David Chandler. Useful introduction to schools of Marxism via a focus on popular culture.
  • Rethinking Marxism.A key contemporary Marxist journal, and host of an important annual conference of the same name..