Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory

Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory

Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory

Marx and the Postmodernism Debates: An Agenda for Critical Theory


This book is a meticulous argument for the contemporary value of Marx's democratic theory as an interpretive key for the postmodernism debates. Landry uses the works of Derrida, Foucault, and Lyotard to represent the poststructuralist camp and the writings of Habermas to represent the rationalist camp. Viable social critique, argues Landry, mediates between "pure social constructivist" and "pure realist" metaphysics. Postmodernism, although critical of Marx, aided the broader project of critical social theory, particularly Marx's critique of social-material contexts of oppression. Indeed, significant positive affiliations among Marx, Habermas, and the poststructuralists are found in their commitment to criticizing ideological aspects of bourgeois Enlightenment rationality and modernity.


There are implicit and explicit references in the literature to Karl Marx's work as relevant, and possibly central, to the postmodernism debates. According to one commentator, for example:

Behind the Hegelian paradigm [of Habermas's work] lies Kant, the Kant of the first and particularly second critiques. In this view, the problem of democracy is definitely not a problem of communities or of history; the problem of democracy is essentially one of justification to be explicated by the logic of argumentation. Perhaps the reason for this move lies neither in the texts of Kant nor of Hegel, but in those of Marx. The [Habermasian] task has been to reconstruct the unfinished project of modernity by this wedding of the best of Marxism and democratic theory in such a manner that the problem of democracy, as the problem of language, as the problem of morality, as the problem of law, becomes a problem of justification.

Another commentator asserts that in the postmodernism debates between the poststructuralists (Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard) and Jürgen Habermas, "the fixing of a range of postmodern issues should not be taken as implying that traditional modern issues relating to ethics and politics thereby somehow lose their importance. Struggles between labor and capital and familiar controversies over civil liberties, for example, should not drop below the threshold of theoretical attention." The suggestion is that the postmodernism debates need reconceptualization in order to address the new problems they present, as well as to be able to draw connections with the old problems cited.

Few sources provide hints broader than ones previously quoted as to Marx's implication in these debates. Prior to my research of the debates . . .

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