Historical materialism at its strongest has always been defined by its supersession of the antithesis between Romanticism and Utilitarianism which News from Nowhere, for all its splendour, reiterates. Marx wrote in the Grundrisse: "It is as ridiculous to yearn for a return to an original fullness as it is to believe that with this present emptiness history has come to a standstill. The bourgeois viewpoint has never advanced beyond this antithesis between itself and the romantic viewpoint and therefore the latter will accompany it as its legitimate antithesis up to its blessed end." This sense of the dialectical complementarity of Utilitarianism and Romanticism is what distinguishes classical Marxism from the many attempts by socialists at one time or another to construct an opposition to capitalism from either standpoint: denunciation of its irrationality or inhumanity alone. For each is capable of either progressive or reactionary "derivations" — Mill or Zola can be set against Carlyle or Barres, just as much as Shelley or Ruskin can be set against Ure or Spencer. There is no one "logic" of either tradition, each of which has proved capable of a rainbow of political metamorphoses. The duty of socialists today is not to pit one against the other yet again, but to set both intellectually in their changing historical settings and to prepare practically the conditions for the long-awaited blessing of their mutual end.
Western Marxism as a whole, when it proceeded beyond questions of method to matters of substance, came to concentrate overwhelmingly on study of superstructures. Moreover, the specific superstructural orders with which it showed the most constant and close concern were those ranking "highest" in the hierarchy of distance from the economic infrastructure, in Engels’s phrase. In other words, it was not the State or Law which provided the typical objects of its research. It was culture that held the central focus of its attention.
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The capture of the postmodern by Jameson has set the terms of subsequent debate. It is no surprise that the most significant interventions since his entry into the field have likewise been Marxist in origin. The three leading contributions can be read as attempts to supplement or correct, each in its own way, Jameson's original account. Alex Callinicos’s Against Postmodernism (1989) advances a closer analysis of the political background to the postmodern. David Harvey's Condition of Postmodernity (1990) offers a much fuller theory of its economic presuppositions. Terry Eagleton's Illusions of Postmodernism (1996) tackles the impact of its ideological diffusion. All these works pose problems of demarcation. How is the postmodern to be best periodized?
It is the contradictions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as it was beginning to develop in Russia, that form the object of Lenin's analysis and of his arguments. If you forget this fact, you can easily fall into dogmatism and formalism: Leninism can be represented as a finished theory, a closed system — which it has been, for too long, by Communist parties. But if on the other hand you remain content with a superficial view of these contradictions and of their historical causes, if you remain content with the simplistic and false idea according to which you have to "choose" between the standpoint of theory and that of history, real life and practice, if you interpret Lenin's arguments simply as a reflection of ever changing circumstances, less applicable the further away they are in history, then the real causes of these historical contradictions become unintelligible, and our own relation to them becomes invisible. You fall into the domain of subjective fantasy