Open Marxism and critical theory: negative critique and class as critical concept

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    The chapter reflects upon the Open Marxist tradition as critical social theory and identifies its distinctive character as negative critique of capitalist society. It argues that Open Marxism continues to advance the critical purpose of the early Frankfurt School, and of critical theory, in the direction of critical confrontation with traditional theory, and with the prevailing positivism and scientificism in the Marxist tradition of the second and third internationals. The chapter, first, discusses the historical background and theoretical development of Open Marxism from Axelos’s original use of the term (1950s), to the work of Agnoli (1980s), and that of Clarke, Bonefeld, Gunn and Holloway— developed within the framework of the Conference of Socialist Economists (CSE) — since the 1990s. The second section defines the distinctiveness of Open Marxism and argues that there is a discernable common foundation to the work of Open Marxist authors that relates to their radical rethinking and use of critique not as normative and constructive, but as negative and destructive. Finally, the chapter discusses Open Marxism`s distinctive conception of social practice as a critique of the notion of class. For Open Marxists, class is not an affirmative category, but is essentially both a critical concept, and a negative category.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe SAGE handbook of Frankfurt school critical theory
    EditorsBeverley Best, Werner Bonefeld, Chris O'Kane
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9781526455628, 9781526436122
    ISBN (Print)9781473953345
    Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2018

    Publication series

    NameSAGE reference


    • Open Marxism
    • Critical theory
    • Negative critique
    • Fetishism
    • Class
    • Class struggle


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