Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction

By Norman F. Cantor | Go to book overview

4 Marxism and the Left

American Marxism Today

Twenty-five years ago, Marxism would not have been treated as a topic sufficiently important to occupy a special place among the historical themes of Western twentieth-century culture. It would have been considered marginal. Within these twenty-five years, however, Marxism has emerged as a major intellectual movement in the American university and in Western culture in general, and there is every sign that it will become increasingly more so in the decades to come.

The Marxist theorist Bertell Ollman in the Department of Politics at New York University has recently said that there are ten thousand Marxists currently teaching at American universities. Strangely enough, Ollman's antagonist Reid Irvine, who runs the right-wing Accuracy in the Academia, cites a similar figure. Whatever the accuracy of such figures, it is a fact that in the last ten years Marxism and cognate leftist doctrines have become central in leading universities in the United States.

There are three prominent history departments in the United States--the departments at Princeton, Rochester and New York Universities--where Marxists and scholars of similar persuasion are highly visible. There are also several sociology departments, particularly the department at the State University of New York at Binghamton, which are deeply committed to Marxism. The eminently prestigious Harvard Law School as well as the Harvard art history department have strong components of Marxists on their faculties. At Duke University, the holder of the senior chair in humanities is Marxist, and at Columbia University this important chair is held by an apologist for PLO terrorism.

One, and perhaps the most important, reason why Marxism has become so important in American academe is that the commitment to Marxism continues the trends of the sixties. Academic Marxism is the grand heritage of the disorderly sixties. This can be understood in very concrete terms. A generation of graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, who were in the universities in the sixties and early seventies during the height of the public agitation over the Vietnam War, developed strong left-wing commitments which continued through their academic careers. In the meantime, this generation of scholars have become senior faculty and department chairmen, occupying powerful positions. Many of them are distinguished scholars indeed, occupying prominent places among the scholars of their generation.

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Twentieth-Century Culture: Modernism to Deconstruction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • 1 - The Nineteenth-Century Foundations of Twentieth-Century Culture 1
  • 2 - Modernism 35
  • 3 - Psychoanalysis 135
  • 4 - Marxism and the Left 183
  • 5 - Traditions on the Right 261
  • 6 - Structuralism, Deconstruction, and Post-Modernism 337
  • Conclusion 391
  • Cultural Analysis through Film 405
  • Select Bibliography 419
  • Index 429
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