Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory

Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory

Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory

Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory

Excerpt

It has become increasingly apparent to nondogmatic Marxist theorists that the Marxian class theory is in crisis. For many, the experiences of fascism, Stalinism, and the New Deal had already combined to crush the expectations of the classical version of the theory. With fascism, the world economic crisis occasioned the movement of social strata, consigned by Marxism to a peripheral role, to the center of the political stage, while those who were expected to act in a progressive, revolutionary manner "failed" to do so. With Stalinism, the so-called socialist revolution did not lead to a free, classless society. Instead, it entailed the destruction of three particular classes—nobility, bourgeoisie, and peasantry—and led to the creation of a new system of stratification and domination unthinkable within the Marxian framework. With the New Deal in the United States, the economic crisis heralded an explicit form of state intervention that seemed to enable the most advanced capitalist systems to integrate the implicit challenge of the workers' movement (unionism) into one of its constituent elements. The welfare state in ' its various postwar versions reconstructed the capitalist system, everywhere complicating its internal stratification. Moreover, social movements proliferating in the West in the 1960s signaled the emergence of a "New Left" politics that articulated radical needs of a variety of groups distinct from the working class. Recently, attacks on the welfare state from above and from below, to gether with new social movements on the right and on the left that traverse class lines, have occurred in every Western capitalist society. A reassessment of Marxian types of class theory is thus long overdue.

Within the existing range of neo-Marxism, the dogma of the industrial proletariat as the revolutionary class and the one and only revolutionary subject has, accordingly, been more or less abandoned. Elaborate conceptual schemes have been developed to account for . . .

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