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New Left Review I/189, September-October 1991

Joseph McCarney

The True Realm of Freedom: Marxist Philosophy after Communism

This article is an attempt to consider the implications for Marxist philosophy of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It would be well to start by saying what Marxist philosophy is taken to be here. A convenient map of the field is provided by Alex Callinicos in his Introduction to a recent collection of essays. Confining himself to tendencies which have had a living presence in the West, he distinguishes between Hegelian, Althusserian or structuralist and analytical Marxism. [1] Alex Callinicos, ed., Marxist Theory, Oxford 1989, pp. 2–6. This corresponds pretty closely, one suspects, to the sort of picture most people interested in the matter carry in their heads. Moreover, Callinicos’s view of the relations between the various tendencies would have widespread assent. According to it, Hegelian modes of thought, dominant since the nineteen-twenties, were expelled from Marxist theory by Althusser, thereby creating the conditions for analytical Marxism. It is plain that Callinicos sees this as a progressive development, as being, if he would allow the use of the term, a kind of dialectic. It is for him a movement from the Hegelian mists through the cleansing gales of Althusserianism into the sunlight of analysis. Against this background it may seem merely perverse to seek to undo the verdict of time by returning to the first stage of the triad. For Hegelian Marxism is surely well and truly dead, dead twice over, as it were. Adapting a metaphor from Callinicos, we have, it appears, to accept that its ancient groves have been felled and cleared away by Althusser, leaving the site to be redeveloped by the enterprise of the analytical school. Yet it is just on behalf of this apparently superseded doctrine that the present paper will speak. Indeed, it will seek to represent it as the best theoretical framework for understanding the complexities of the contemporary world.

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Joseph McCarney, ‘The True Realm of Freedom: Marxist Philosophy after Communism’, NLR I/189: £3

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