Orthodox Marxism
Orthodox Marxism is the term used to describe the version of Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 which emerged after the death of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and acted as the official philosophy of the Second International
Second International
The Second International , the original Socialist International, was an organization of socialist and labour parties formed in Paris on July 14, 1889. At the Paris meeting delegations from 20 countries participated...

 up to the First World War and of the Third International thereafter. Orthodox Marxism seeks to simplify, codify and systematise Marxist thought, ironing out perceived ambiguities and contradictions in Classical Marxism
Classical Marxism
Classical Marxism refers to the social theory expounded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as contrasted with later developments in Marxism.-Karl Marx:...


The emergence of orthodox Marxism can be associated with the late works of Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, such as Dialectics of Nature
Dialectics of Nature
Dialectics of Nature, by Friedrich Engels , is an unfinished work which applies Marxist ideas, and in particular the principles of Dialectical Materialism, to science....

and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
In the year 1878, Friedrich Engels published Anti-Dühring, a polemic against philosopher Eugen Dühring.In 1880, a booklet composed of the introduction and Part 3, Chapter 2 of the work was published in French...

, which were efforts to popularise Marx's work, make it more systematic, and apply it to the fundamental questions of philosophy. Daniel De Leon
Daniel De Leon
Daniel DeLeon was an American socialist newspaper editor, politician, Marxist theoretician, and trade union organizer. He is regarded as the forefather of the idea of revolutionary industrial unionism and was the leading figure in the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until the time of...

, one of the early American socialist leaders, contributed much during the last years of the 19th century and early 20th century. Orthodox Marxism was further developed during the Second International by thinkers such as George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky
Karl Kautsky
Karl Johann Kautsky was a Czech-German philosopher, journalist, and Marxist theoretician. Kautsky was recognized as among the most authoritative promulgators of Orthodox Marxism after the death of Friedrich Engels in 1895 until the coming of World War I in 1914 and was called by some the "Pope of...

. Kautsky, and to a lesser extent, Plekhanov, were in turn major influences on Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

, whose version of orthodox Marxism was known as Leninism
In Marxist philosophy, Leninism is the body of political theory for the democratic organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party, and the achievement of a direct-democracy dictatorship of the proletariat, as political prelude to the establishment of socialism...

 by its contemporaries. The official ideology of the Third International was based in Orthodox Marxism. The terms dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

 and historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

 are associated with this phase of orthodox Marxism.

Some characteristics of orthodox Marxism are:
  • A strong version of the theory that the economic base determines the cultural and political superstructure (see also economic determinism
    Economic determinism
    Economic determinism is the theory which attributes primacy to the economic structure over politics in the development of human history. It is usually associated with the theories of Karl Marx, although many Marxist thinkers have dismissed plain and unilateral economic determinism as a form of...

    , economism
    Economism is a term used to describe economic reductionism, that is the reduction of all social facts to economical dimensions. It is also used to criticize economics as an ideology, in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions, and outstrip or permit ignoring literally...

     and vulgar materialism).
  • The claim that Marxism is a science.
  • The attempt to make Marxism a total system, adapting it to changes within the realm of current events and knowledge.
  • An understanding of ideology
    An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

     in terms of false consciousness.
  • That every open class struggle is a political struggle, as opposed to economist claims.
  • A pre-crisis emphasis on organizing an independent, mass workers' movement (in the form of welfare, recreational, educational, and cultural organizations) and especially its political party, combining reform struggles and mass strikes without overreliance on either.
  • The socialist revolution is necessarily the act of the majority.

Critics of orthodox Marxism

There have been a number of criticisms of orthodox Marxism from within the Marxist movement. During the Second International, Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein was a German social democratic theoretician and politician, a member of the SPD, and the founder of evolutionary socialism and revisionism.- Life :...

 and others developed a position known as revisionism, which sought to revise Marx's views based on the idea that the progressive development of capitalism and the extension of democracy meant that peaceful, parliamentary reform could achieve socialism. This view was contested by orthodox Marxists such as Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

. (See anti-revisionism.)

Western Marxism
Western Marxism
Western Marxism is a term used to describe a wide variety of Marxist theoreticians based in Western and Central Europe, in contrast with philosophy in the Soviet Union...

, the intellectual Marxism which developed in Western Europe from the 1920s onwards, sought to make Marxism more sophisticated, open and flexible, examining issues like culture that were outside the field of orthodox Marxism. Western Marxists, such as Georg Lukács
Georg Lukács
György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the concept of reification to Marxist philosophy and theory and expanded Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. Lukács' was also an influential literary...

, Karl Korsch
Karl Korsch
-Biography:Korsch was born in Tostedt, near Hamburg, to Carl August Korsch, a secretary at the cantonal court and his wife Therese. In 1898 the family moved to Meiningen, Thuringia and Korsch senior attained the position of a managing clerk in a bank...

, Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime...

 and the Frankfurt School
Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main...

, have tended to be open to influences orthodox Marxists consider bourgeois, such as psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 and the sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 of Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

. In parallel to this, Cedric Robinson
Cedric Robinson
For the Morecambe Bay sand pilot, see Queen's Guide to the SandsCedric Robinson is a professor in the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara...

 has identified a Black Marxist tradition, including people like C.L.R. James and W. E. B. Du Bois, who have opened Marxism to the study of race.

In the postwar period, the New Left
New Left
The New Left was a term used mainly in the United Kingdom and United States in reference to activists, educators, agitators and others in the 1960s and 1970s who sought to implement a broad range of reforms, in contrast to earlier leftist or Marxist movements that had taken a more vanguardist...

 and new social movements
New social movements
The term new social movements is a theory of social movements that attempts to explain the plethora of new movements that have come up in various western societies roughly since the mid-1960s which are claimed to depart significantly from the conventional social movement paradigm.There are two...

 gave rise to intellectual and political currents which challenged orthodox Marxism. These include Italian autonomism
Autonomism refers to a set of left-wing political and social movements and theories close to the socialist movement. As an identifiable theoretical system it first emerged in Italy in the 1960s from workerist communism...

, French Situationism, the Yugoslavian Praxis School
Praxis School
The Praxis school was a Marxist humanist philosophical movement. It originated in Zagreb and Belgrade in the SFR Yugoslavia, during the 1960s.Prominent figures among the school's founders include Gajo Petrović and Milan Kangrga of Zagreb and Mihailo Marković of Belgrade...

, British cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

, Marxist feminism
Marxist feminism
Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way of liberating women. Marxist feminism states that private property, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion, and ultimately unhealthy social relations between...

, Marxist humanism
Marxist humanism
Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx's earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx espoused his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural...

, analytical Marxism
Analytical Marxism
Analytical Marxism refers to a particular Marxist approach that was prominent amongst English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because of their biennial September meetings to discuss common...

 and critical realism
Critical realism
In the philosophy of perception, critical realism is the theory that some of our sense-data can and do accurately represent external objects, properties, and events, while other of our sense-data do not accurately represent any external objects, properties, and events...


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