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As neo-Marxism or neo-Marxism different theories are referred to in the work of Karl Marx tie, refer it to the respective present and reinterpret. Representatives of such theories are called neo-Marxists .


In 1901, Franz Mehring published the article Neo-Marxism in the social-democratic theory journal Die Neue Zeit . In it, he criticized certain theses of "bourgeois" Marx interpreters, which allowed Marx's individual genius, but not a revolutionary topicality. In relation to them, Mehring stated that Marx's theory had scientifically justified socialism with historical materialism and that this, as a valid worldview of the proletariat, was and must remain a practical weapon in the daily class struggle . Neo-Marxism was therefore understood as a contradiction to the “orthodox” Marxism of the social democracy of the time .


New interpretations of Marxism were initiated or forced by drastic political developments. The First World War marked a deep crisis for the 19th century belief in progress . The capitalism did not break as Marx expected along to his inner contradictions. Instead of the social revolution in the most developed industrial societies, there was a pan-European imperialist predatory war, which the social democracy supported, contrary to the pre-war decisions of the Socialist International . The October Revolution took place in poorly industrialized tsarist Russia; the November Revolution in Germany was violently ended. After that, fascism rose in some unstable parliamentary democracies in Western Europe , and Stalinism in the Soviet Union .

Various Marxist authors then tried to adapt Marx's theory to the situation. They proceeded further from the fundamental contradiction between capital and labor and from the humanistic impulse of Marx's early writings to abolish all degrading and inhuman social conditions. In doing so, however, they question Marx's philosophy of history, historical materialism, the theory of collapse and the determinism inferred from economic laws . Using Marxian methodology and central concepts, they particularly analyze the interaction between state power and the economy, its consequences for economic crises, the domination of all areas of society by capitalist ideologies, mass psychology and individual needs.

A new perspective on the work of Marx was also initiated by the publication of previously inaccessible early writings such as economic-philosophical manuscripts from 1844 (1932).

Basic ideas

Since there is no closed neo-Marxist movement, no organizations and only rarely people who call themselves neo-Marxist, it is difficult to clearly delimit membership of neo-Marxism, and the use of the term is sometimes arbitrary; In the current political debate, positions that are generally critical of society or capitalism are often referred to unspecifically - then usually meant as a negative assessment - as neo-Marxist. There is also no unified theory; one can only give general characteristics. A permanent current in the neo-Marxist circle is the practice-philosophical Marxism, whose name refers back to the Italian, Marxist philosopher Antonio Labriola .

Neo-Marxism rejects the historical image of "traditional Marxism", which is misunderstood as deterministic , according to which a development based on natural law leads to revolution and socialism . On the other hand, emphasis is placed on the importance of social action by real people ( subjects ), social practice and the special relationship to the philosophical legacy of German idealism, especially that of Hegel . This means that the view that all phenomena can be derived schematically from economic factors (“ economism ”) gives way to a more differentiated approach. Some neo-Marxist movements resort less to the results of Marx's analysis than to his methods to analyze the changed socio-economic conditions of developed capitalist societies.

Interwar period

Marxist authors of the 1920s and 1930s who did not call themselves neo-Marxists but demarcated their interpretation of Marx from the Marxism-Leninism of the early Soviet Union are also considered representatives of neo- Marxism . Above all, this included Antonio Gramsci in Italy, Georg Lukács in Hungary, Karl Korsch and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School in the Weimar Republic . Its representatives founded the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main in 1923 , which was particularly dedicated to the Marxist theory of fascism .

Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979)
Max Horkheimer (front left) and Theodor W. Adorno (front right)

New left

The Institute for Social Research was re-established in 1956. His main representatives Max Horkheimer , Theodor W. Adorno , Erich Fromm , Ernst Bloch , Alfred Sohn-Rethel and above all Herbert Marcuse then gained considerable influence on the New Left and the West German student movement of the 1960s . With his attempt to combine Marxism and existentialism , Jean-Paul Sartre also joined the neo-Marxist discourse .

There were also Marxist authors from the 1968 movement such as Johannes Agnoli , Rudi Dutschke , Hans-Jürgen Krahl and Alfred Schmidt in West Germany, Ernest Mandel in Belgium, Louis Althusser , Henri Lefebvre and André Gorz in France, Paul Sweezy in the USA and various authors Latin America.

In Great Britain, a group of Marxists who quit the Communist Party of Great Britain after the crackdown in the uprising in Hungary formed around the magazine New Left Review , including Edward P. Thompson and Perry Anderson .

Eastern bloc

Since the state parties claimed the monopoly on interpretation of Marx's work in the countries of “ actually existing socialism ”, neo-Marxism could initially only develop in western capitalist countries (“ Western Marxism ”), mainly as an academic discipline at universities outside the western communist parties . With the Yugoslav practice group , an openly neo-Marxist theory school was formed in a socialist country in the mid-1960s . Their international conferences and the magazine Praxis (1965–1974) became a focal point of unorthodox Marxism in Europe.

See also


  • Rainer Diederichs: The Third Industrial Revolution and the Crisis of Capitalism. Breakdown Theories in the Neo-Marxist Discussion. Tectum, 2004, ISBN 3828887503
  • Michael Kelpanides: The Failure of Marxian Theory and the Rise of Western Neo-Marxism: On the Causes of an Untimely Renaissance. Peter Lang, 1999, ISBN 3906763919
  • Horst Müller: Practice and Hope. Studies in the philosophy and science of social practice from Marx to Bloch and Lefebvre. Germinal, Bochum 1986, ISBN 3-88663-509-0
  • Albrecht Langner: Neo-Marxism, Reform Communism and Democracy. An introduction. JP Bachem, 1982, ISBN 3761601735
  • Bernd Guggenberger: The redefinition of the subjective factor in neo-Marxism. Karl Alber, 1982, ISBN 3495472851
  • Perry Anderson : About Western Marxism. Frankfurt am Main 1978, ISBN 3-8108-0074-0
  • Karl Kühne: Neo-Marxism and common economy. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1978
  • Walter Euchner: Positions of modern Marxism: Neo-Marxism. Klett, 1972, ISBN 3124281004
  • Hans Heinz wood: currents and tendencies in neo-Marxism. Carl Hanser, Munich 1972, ISBN 3-446-11650-8
  • Wolfgang Fikentscher: On the political criticism of Marxism and neo-Marxism as the ideological basis of the student unrest in 1965/69. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1971, ISBN 3165320012
  • Andreas von Weiss: Neo-Marxism. The problem discussion in the following Marxism from 1945 to 1970. Karl Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1970, ISBN 3-495-47212-6

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Josef Schleifstein (ed.): Franz Mehring: Philosophical essays (collected writings, volume 13). 2nd edition, Dietz, Berlin 1977, pp. 222-226
  2. Wolfgang Röd: Dialectical Philosophy of the Modern Age. 2nd edition, Beck, Munich 1986, ISBN 3406315712 , p. 287
  3. Elke Weik, Rainhart Lang (ed.): Modern organizational theories 2: Structure- oriented approaches. Springer, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 978-3-322-87011-7 , pp. 2-4
  4. Helmut Holzhey, Wolfgang Röd: History of Philosophy Volume 12: Philosophy of the late 19th and 20th centuries 2: Neo-Kantianism, idealism, realism, phenomenology. Beck, Munich 2017, p. 315f.
  5. Gerhard Hanloser: Reading and Revolt. Unrast, Münster 2017, pp. 9–60