postmarxism and postmodernism

Jon Beasley-Murray jpb8 at
Sat May 25 13:06:47 MDT 1996

On Sat, 25 May 1996 owner-marxism-digest at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU wrote:

> From: Louis N Proyect <lnp3 at>
> Date: Sat, 25 May 1996 09:14:20 -0400 (EDT)
> Subject: Re: postmarxism and postmodernism
> Postmarxism as a general trend rejects the approach that Marx used and
> replaces it with a blend of Marxism and whatever other philosophical
> current the thinker finds congenial (Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche--take your
> pick.) It produces something that is Marxish, but not Marxist.

I'll agree with this more or less, and so would someone who would call
themselves postmarxist.  So?  In itself this statement is (again) merely
banal.  It would be more interesting to see why the various people who
call themselves postmarxist (or, alternatively, those who try to use
other intellectual traditions along with marxism) do this in particular
circumstances and for particular reasons.... I wouldn't say that those
reasons are a priori right or wrong, still less pronounce upon or ignore the
circumstances in advance.

The point stands that making and understanding differentiations seems
important, and that anything else produces an idealist stew, the very
worst form of intellectual history.

> You have committed yourself to postmarxism.

No.  I wouldn't see the point.  At present I have committed myself to
trying to understand the relations between state, culture and civil
society, especially in Latin America, and trying to work through the
various ways in which these relations have been viewed in other
intellectual and political, for what purposes and in response to what
other considerations.

I see no reason to defend or attack postmarxism (I'm not sure what that
would mean).  In fact, I happen to disagree with most of those who call
themselves postmarxist--which is mainly those associated with or
influenced by Laclau and Mouffe (and this includes, for example, Florencia
Mallon, whatever her wealth of detail on stuff such as the caloric intake
of Chiapan peasants).  However, I don't disagree with them on the basis
that they are no longer marxist, rather on (to me) more interesting and
important grounds.

> That's fine. Just don't kid
> yourself into thinking that Deleuze's writings on fascism, for example,
> are in the same intellectual galaxy as Trotsky's.

Similarly, I am utterly unconcerned by this question of intellectual
galaxy.  Do you mean that Trotsky was smarter than Deleuze?  I'm not
particularly interested in some kind of comparison between intellectual
stars: this matter of placing people in particular heavenly galaxies
seems among the most insidious of academic traits.

> The Marxism list used to
> operate on this bogus notion that we "Marxists" are all in one big happy
> family.

No, not at all.  As you will know it has never even operated on the
assumption that we are all "marxists."  Rather that those on the list
have something of mutual interest to discuss.

> On account of the bungled efforts of the Spoon Collective we no longer
> entertain such illusions. Marxism 1 is a rather sharp-edged and "orthodox"
> place nowadays where postmarxism gets short shrift. Jon, you've gotten
> exactly what you asked for.

Thanks for the morality tale.  As I have (as I said above) no particular
interest in giving postmarxism any more generous shrift, I really don't
mind.  If you (or anyone else, for that matter) wishes to attach the
label postmarxism to me, and berate me on account of your own manoever,
then so be it.

Take care


Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at

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