Marxism and political economy

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Sun Jun 4 11:02:12 MDT 1995

On Sun, 4 Jun 1995, Michael Hesemann wrote:

> Michael:
> The team of Marx+Engels (ME) can hardly be reduced to political economy.
> Their new theory about history and their dialectic way of philosophical
> thinking are mayor contributions. There are several minor subjects like
> political theory, sociology, philosophy of science and art .... Think of
> books by Engels like "Origin of the family, state and nation", "dialectic=
> the nature", "Anti-D=FChring" ...

Jesus, does a guy have to spell everything out? I said that Marxism can=20
be applied to the study of culture and society, but for something in=20
these fields to be Marxist, or Marxian, or even Marxish, it has to look=20
at these phenomena in relation to social and material life. Not=20
deterination and all that vulgar stuff, of course, but it can't be purely=
aesthetic/formal either. Didn't Engels explanation of the family, for=20
example, have something to do with property?

> Today marxist thoughts can be found in almost any sphere of human thought=
> Is e.g. Brecht "mush" ?

Hell no. Brecht is not mush. Brecht's plays were about=20
social/material/political life, weren't they? Even someone as=20
orthodox as Lukacs was willing to cut Thomas Mann some slack for=20
asking the right questions. "Radical democracy" and "post-Marxism" are=20
what I described as mush.=20

> Another obstacle for this economic reductionism of ME is, that the
> capitalist world changed in it`s structure. State-interventions and
> monpolistic markets characterize western economies and new theories about=
> were soon=20
> needed. Lenin was one of the first mayor revisionists.=20

This monopoly stuff is also in need of revision. It might have been=20
appropriate for central Europe in the time of Lenin & Hilferding, or the=20
USA in the time of Steindel, Baran, and Sweezey, but it's sort of=20
inapppropriate in the days of privatization, deregulation, and global=20

And why is it reductionist to say that for something to be Marxian, it=20
has to have at least one foot in PE?


Doug Henwood [dhenwood at]
Left Business Observer
212-874-4020 (voice)
212-874-3137 (fax)

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