Links between Marxism and Other Theories and Critiques

Emma Goldman und Alexander Berkman, Foto ca. 1917-1919
Emma Goldman und Alexander Berkman, Foto ca. 1917-1919 Foto: Wikipedia Public Domain

The three major historical and thematic/systematic categories we have employed to describe "theory and debate following Marx" fail to do justice to certain debates.

This is true of those debates that have involved criticism of the "blind spots" of Marx and Marxism (gender relations, nature and ecology, colonialism and slavery, everyday culture and civil society, culture and language, religion and ideology). It is also true of those cases in which Marxism has opened itself up to other, not explicitly Marxist currents of social critique. In both cases, certain couplings have emerged: Marxism's many flirts with art, literature and aesthetics, its marriage of convenience with psychoanalysis, its thorny liaison with existentialism, difficult relationship with feminism, its falling out with anarchism, alliance with national liberation and secret love with Christianity – to mention only the most well-known. Such couplings are discussed in this fourth section.

Marxism and Art, Literature and Aesthetics

Marx himself and the theories and debates that have emerged in his wake have influenced virtually every form of art, even if Marx had little to say about art. During the 20th century, various attempts were made to develop a Marxist theory of art.

Marxism and Feminism

Every feminist generation has had its own link to Marxism. While the first generation of feminism was already an international phenomenon, the link between Marxism and feminism has been especially evident in the USA, the UK, Australia and Germany. It goes back to the days of Marx, Engels and the socialist labour movement, continued in the women's movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, then was renewed by the new generation of feminists associated with "second wave of feminism" of the 1960s.

Marxism and Psychoanalysis

A link between Marx's critique of society and Freud's psychoanalysis was sought mainly in so-called Freudo-Marxism, in Critical Theory and its environs, and in the structuralist engagement with Marx. These, in some cases, very diverse efforts are united by their claim not only to combine two theories of radical social critique, but also to determine how capitalist socialisation is reflected – albeit in an inverted, alienated, decentred manner – in the subject.

Marxism and Anarchism

"Anarchism" is as heterogeneous as "Marxism," and yet the relationship between the two has consistently been a difficult one, in spite, or perhaps because of, their many commonalities. Marx was already at odds with Mikhail Bakunin, one of the most important exponents of revolutionary anarchism at the time.

Marxism, Christianity and Theology

Radically democratic, humanist and socialist notions can be found throughout the history of Christianity.

Marxism and Ecology

By 1972 at the latest – the year the Club of Rome published its celebrated study on the "Limits to Growth," raising broad awareness of environmental issues –, Marx-based critique has attempted to link the critique of economics with the "ecological question." As early as the 1960s and 1970s, there was a debate on "productivism," both in the capitalist West and in the East of real existing socialism; this debate involved a critique of prevailing concepts of progress, as well as of the manner in which societies are oriented to