Liberalism and critical Marxism: a reply to Glasman and Rutherford

  • Matt Bolton
  • Frederick Harry PittsEmail author
Original Article


In this reply to Maurice Glasman and Jonathan Rutherford’s response to the authors’ earlier critical comparison of Corbynism and Blue Labour, the authors clarify and further develop three core components of the original critique, covering, respectively, (1) identity politics and identity liberalism; (2) agonism and abstraction; and (3) Marxism and liberalism. First, the authors reconceptualise the forms of left identity politics and ‘identity liberalism’ criticised by Glasman and Rutherford as struggles ‘in and against’ identification, the fluidity of which is not found in the forms of national belonging prioritised by Blue Labour. Second, the authors suggest that there is an absence of any notion of mediation in the agonistic mode of politics espoused by Glasman and Rutherford, and that this precludes an accurate conceptualisation of capitalism as a global system of abstract and indirect social domination to which a simple restoration of national or popular sovereignty around issues such as Brexit and immigration poses no solution. Third, the authors clarify the claim that the liberal centre must be pessimistically defended at a time of its crisis, drawing upon the ‘articles of reconciliation’ between Marxism and liberalism proposed in the work of the late Norman Geras.


Blue Labour Corbynism Marxism Liberalism Populism Identity politics 



  1. Bastani, A. 2019. Fully Automated Luxury Communism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  2. Baumann, C. 2011. Adorno, Hegel and the Concrete Universal. Philosophy & Social Criticism 37 (1): 73–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolton, M., and F.H. Pitts. 2018. Corbynism: A Critical Approach. Emerald: Bingley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolton, M., and Pitts, F. H. 2018b. Corbyn Must Shake Off His Ideological Shackles and Tackle Brexit as it Actually is, not How He Wishes it Might Be. Huffington Post, 28th November. Accessed 28th Nov 2018.
  5. Cruddas, J., and A. Nahles. 2009. Building the Good Society: The Project of the Democratic Left. London: Compass.Google Scholar
  6. Eaton, G. 2018. Who is the Real John McDonnell? New Statesman, 5th September. Accessed 29th Nov 2018.
  7. Eichengreen, B. 2018. The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Geras, N. (2017) The Norman Geras Reader: What’s There is There, eds. Eve Garrard and Ben Cohen. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Glasman, M. 2016. Things Don’t Only Get Better: Why the Working-Class Fell Out of Love with Labour. New Statesman. 3rd November. Accessed 30th November 2018
  10. Glasman, M. 2018. Brexit Offers the Possibility for Socialists to Lead a Political Transformation. Morning Star, 22nd December. Accessed 27th December 2018.
  11. Goodhart, D. 2017. The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics. London: Hurst.Google Scholar
  12. Goulard, H. 2016. Britain’s Youth Voted Remain. Politico, 24th June. Accessed 28th December 2018.
  13. Hirsh, D. 2017. Contemporary Left Antisemitism. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hirsh, D. 2015. The Corbyn Left: The Politics of Position and the Politics of Reason. Fathom Journal, Autumn 2015. Accessed 27th November 2018.
  15. Holloway, J. 2002. Class and Classification. In The Labour Debate: An Investigation into the Theory and Reality of Capitalist Work, ed. A.C. Dinerstein and M. Neary, 27–40. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  16. Holloway, J. 2009. Negative and Positive Autonomism. Or Why Adorno? Part 2. In Negativity and Revolution: Adorno and Political Activism, ed. J. Holloway, F. Matamoros, and S. Tischler, 95–100. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  17. Labour Party. 2018a. Build it in Britain, YouTube, 4th September. Accessed 29th November 2018.
  18. Labour Party. 2018b. We’re Rebuilding Britain, YouTube, 27th September. Accessed 29th November 2018.
  19. Lilla, M. 2016. The End of Identity Liberalism. New York Times, 18th November. Accessed 26th November 2018.
  20. Mouffe, C. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  21. Mouffe, C. 2018. Jeremy Corbyn’s Left Populism. Verso Books Blog, 16th April. Accessed 27th November 2018.
  22. Oltermann, P. 2018. Germany’s Left and Right Vie to Turn Politics Upside Down. The Guardian, 22nd July. Accessed 26th November 2018.
  23. Rampen, J. 2016. John McDonnell: Labour will Use “Moral Pressure” to get a Better Deal on Brexit. New Statesman, 15th November. Accessed 29th November 2018.
  24. Sohn-Rethel, A. 1978. Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stoetzler, M. 2009. Adorno, Non-Identity, Sexuality. In Negativity and Revolution: Adorno and Political Activism, ed. J. Holloway, F. Matamoros, and S. Tischler, 151–188. London: Pluto.Google Scholar
  26. Williams, R. 2015. Preface. In Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics, eds. Geary, I., and Pabst, A., pp. ix–xii. London: I. B. Taurus.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HumanitiesUniversity of RoehamptonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of ManagementUniversity of BristolBristolUK

Personalised recommendations