Eric Hobsbawm on Marx’s and Marxist theory

From Eric Hobsbawm’s How to Change the World, Reflections on Marx and Marxism (2011):
p. 379

“it might be held that [Marx’s own theory] consisted both of an analysis of capitalism and its tendencies, and simultaneously of a historic hope, expressed with enormous prophetic passion and in terms of a philosophy derived from Hegel, of the perennial human desire for a perfect society, which is to be achieved through the proletariat. In Marx’s own intellectual development, the second of these preceded the first, and cannot be intellectually derived from it. In other words there is a qualitative difference between e.g. the proposition that capitalism by its nature generates insuperable contradictions which must inevitably produce the conditions of its supersession as soon as a centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with capitalist development’, and the proposition that the post-capitalist society will lead to the end of human alienation and the full development of all individuals’ human faculties. They belong to different forms of discourse, though both may eventually prove to be true.”

p. 393

“…the clash inherent in the revolutionary versions of Marxism between automatic  historical evolution and the role of revolutionary action.  If historical development inevitably led to the end of capitalism, and hence, it was assumed, inevitable triumph for socialism, then there could be no decisive role for voluntary action, except when the apple was ripe enough to fall off the tree of history.  Even then, could revolutionary action do more than pick it up.”

Hobsbawm addresses these tensions in Marxism by drawing attention to Gramsci’s work as a political theorist. And by noting (p.418) that “Economic and political liberalism, singly or in combination, cannot provide the solution to the problems of the twenty-first century.” There is, I believe, room for deeper critique of history told and future projected in terms of Big Categories such as capitalism and the working class.

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One thought on “Eric Hobsbawm on Marx’s and Marxist theory

  1. Pingback: Feminism, Science & Materialism « Intersecting Processes

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