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New Left Review I/215, January-February 1996


Göran Therborn

Dialectrics of Modernity: on Critical Theory and the Legacy of Twentieth-Century Marxism

Students of parliamentary history are familiar with the idea of ‘Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’. Marxism, as a social-historical phenomenon, has been Her Modern Majesty’s Opposition to modernity. [1] A longer version of this text forms a contribution to the forthcoming collection, Bryan Turner, ed., A Companion to Social Theory, Blackwell, Oxford. Uncited classical texts, which exist in a number of editions and translations, are referred to only in the text with the publication year of the original edition. Always critical of and fighting against her predominant regimes, but never questioning the legitimate majesty of modernity and, when needed, explicitly defending it. Like many oppositions, Marxism has also had its stints in power, but its spells of government have been short-lived in their attractiveness and creativity, rather prone to produce doubt and disillusion, and only through the exercise of the pragmatics of power have they persisted.

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