It is frequently asserted that Marxism as an intellectual tradition is in a state of crisis. The many defeats and disappointments suffered by socialist movements in the West, and the absence of a working model of a fully achieved socialist society, have prompted much self-questioning. In recent times, various strands of 'post-Marxist' thought have developed which surrender the ideological initiative to the radical right.
This philosophical reinterpretation of Marxism seeks to explain the nature and historical origins of the current crisis, and to point a way forward to rebirth. McCarney argues that there are neglected truths about Marxism which need urgently to be restated. Rejecting the dominant interpretation that theory is essentially a critique of capitalist society, he reaffirms the classical Marxist model, in which socialist theory, uncovering a rational order emergent within existing society, reveals to the agents of socialist change their historical role.
McCarney's meticulous analysis systematically examines the relation-ship between theory, critique and social agency to be found in classical Marxism; in the work of such leading Western Marxists as Lukacs, Adorno and Althusser; and in recent analytic or realist accounts of Marxist theory.
The book concludes that theoretical, as well as social or political, advance depends upon the fate of new proletarian movements, and identifies the developments in philosophy and political economy which are needed to ensure that Marxism remains a living intellectual force in the contemporary world.