The ‘Crisis of Marxism’

  • Alex Callinicos


If there is any one point at which the ‘crisis of marxism’ can be said to have gone public, it was on 13 November 1977. There had of course been many symptoms of the crisis before that moment — most notably, perhaps, the sudden prominence of a group of young Parisian intellectuals who in 1976–7 produced a series of books and articles in which they proclaimed marxism a machine for the construction of concentration camps. The nouveaux philosophes, as one of their number dubbed them, achieved rapid prominence in the French media (after all, France was then in the lead-up to the legislative elections of March 1978, which the Communist—Socialist Union of the Left was then expected to win). They even made the cover of Time, which solemnly announced that Marx was dead (when had it ever thought otherwise?). But despite all the fuss and the fact that the nouveaux philosophes had mostly been active members of maoist groupescules in the immediate aftermath of 1968, their message carried little authority with those who preferred to remain on the left rather than succumb to the eager embraces of President Giscard d’Estaing.


Communist Party Marxist Theory Student Movement Legislative Election Revolutionary Party 
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Notes and References

  1. 4.
    E. Altvater and O. Kallscheuer, ‘Socialist politics and the crisis of marxism’, in R. Miliband and J. Saville (eds), The Socialist Register 1979 (London: Merlin, 1979) p. 116.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    K. Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (Moscow: Progress, 1971) p. 791.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    P. Sweezy, ‘A crisis in marxian theory’, Monthly Review, vol. 31, no. 2, June 1979, p. 23.Google Scholar
  4. 23.
    See R. Challinor, The Origins of British Bolshevism (London: Croom Helm, 1978);Google Scholar
  5. 23.
    J. Hinton, The First Shop Stewards’ Movement (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1973);Google Scholar
  6. 23.
    D. Widgery, The Left in Britain 1956–68 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976);Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    S. Macintyre, A Proletarian Science (Cambridge University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  8. 26.
    A. Cutler, B. Hindess, P. Hirst and A. Hussain, Marx’s ‘Capital’ and Capitalism Today, vol. 1 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977) pp. 2, 10, 179, 222, 242.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    P. Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism (London: New Left Books, 1976) p. 29.Google Scholar
  10. 28.
    F. Parkin, Marxism and Class Theory (London: Tavistock, 1979) p. ix.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    E. P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays (London: Merlin, 1978) p. 383.Google Scholar
  12. 31.
    V. Descombes, La Même et l’Autre (Paris: Minuit, 1979), p. 152.Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    N. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism (London: New Left Books, 1978) p. 265.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. T. Callinicos 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Callinicos

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