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Sociological Marxism in Jonathan Turner (ed), Handbook of Sociological Theory (Plenum: forthcoming)

Опубликовано на портале: 01-02-2003
We have argued in this paper that the main theoretical ideas of Marxism can be grouped into three broad clusters: a theory of dynamics and destiny of capitalism -- historical materialism; a theory of the contradictory reproduction of capitalism sociological Marxism; and a normative theory of emancipatory alternatives.

Classical Marxism developed during the early phases of industrial capitalism. It brilliantly captured the historical dynamics of that period the extraordinary power of capitalism to transform the world, to destroy preexisting class relations and forms of society, but also its inherent tendency to crisis and self-destruction. This dynamic self-destructive logic of capitalism was given theoretical coherence by historical materialism.

Sociological Marxism was present in embryonic form within classical Marxism, but only later did it become an elaborate, developed theoretical framework for understanding the new array of institutions built up around capitalism, counteracting its tendency towards selfdestruction.

Historical Materialism and Sociological Marxism complemented each other one explaining the trajectory and ultimate destiny of capitalism, the other the impediments towards movement along that trajectory. Together they provided a grounding for Marxist-inspired political parties who saw their mission to be overcoming these impediments particularly those embodied in the state and thus hastening the arrival at the destiny.

So long as historical materialism was accepted, there was little need for sociological Marxism to embrace a normative Marxism that went much beyond the critique of capitalism. If we abandon the pivotal theses of historical materialism the nonsustainability of capitalism thesis and the intensification of class struggle thesis then developing a normative theory becomes critical for building Marxism. Sociological Marxism demands that we now pay close attention to developing alternatives to capitalism since the end of capitalism is no longer given as an inherent tendency and the attempts at socialism have not been successful. The normative Marxism must examine state socialism for the lessons as to what should be avoided and imagination of what might have been. But even more important are developing real utopias based on real institutions of capitalism, exploring the idea that those flanking institutions themselves potentially contain seeds of alternative societies.

Sociological Marxism without normative Marxism degenerates into cynical, pessimistic critiques of capitalism, ultimately encouraging passivity in the face of capitalisms enormous capacity for reproduction. Normative Marxism without sociological Marxism falls into an unanchored utopianism that is ungrounded in the real contradictions of capitalism and is unable to capture the imagination of people. Only by building Marxist with a combination of the two can the apparent naturalness and inevitability of capitalism be prevented from turning all alternatives into far-fetched impossibilities.
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