• Alvin W. Gouldner
Part of the Critical Social Studies book series (CSOCS)


Having set out to change the world, rather than produce one more interpretation of it, Marxist theory must ultimately be weighed on the scales of history.


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  1. 1.
    Merle Fainsod, “Soviet Communism,” in the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, vol. 3, ed. David L. Sills, 17 vols. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1968), p. 105.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    V. I. Lenin, What Is to Be Done? (New York: International Publishers, 1929), cited on p. 27.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Perry Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 1.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Louis Althusser, Essays in Self-Criticism (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 110. It is notable that Althusser compares Marxism here with a formal discipline rather than an empirical science.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Indeed, in his Critique of Hegel’sPhilosophy of Right,” Marx calls the proletariat a passive element and the “heart” of revolution whose virgin ignorance needs to be pierced by the lightning bolt of theory, the “head” of the revolution. “Revolutions require a passive element, a material basis … just as philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, so the proletariat finds its spiritual weapons in philosophy; and once the lightning of thought has struck deeply into this naive soil of the people the emancipation of the Germans into men will be accomplished. … The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat.” See Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’sPhilosophy of Right,” ed. Joseph O’Malley. (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 138.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Thus Alan Blum holds that “every approach to a corpus is a re-view not of the corpus … but of our tradition of Rationality. We use Marx to once again put our tradition into view.” But if that is all we do then we never have the opportunity to put Marx’s tradition into view. There seems to be a certain confusion between reflexivity and narcissism here. Reflexivity means, among other things, that we are aware in scanning a text that we do so within the limits of our own tradition and the perspective it affords; but narcissism views the other, the text, simply as a mirror in which to see our own image. Given what he calls his “violent” reading of Marx, Blum thus concludes that “theory and practice are metaphors for speech that is historically reflexive and speech that is forgetful … capitalism and socialism are respective code names for the typification of inquiry guided by interest, body, impulse, and situation, and for the ideal of inquiry guided by the standard of the Good.” In the first instance, practice is reduced to speech and, in the second, socialism or capitalism to modes of inquiry. These are most imaginative readings. But one wonders why one should bother to bridle his imagination by confronting it with any text at all. See Alan Blum, “Reading Marx,” Sociological Inquiry, Spring 1973, pp. 23, 30–31.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Göran Therborn, Science, Class and Society (London: New Left Books, 1976), p. 38. My own efforts differ from Therborn’s in certain ways; among them that he commits himself to an Althusserian perspective which he does not appraise critically and thus launches himself upon a Marxism of Marxism in which “Marxism” has a taken-for-granted character. Indeed, we are not told how he understands the Marxism that he takes both as method and topic, and his work thus exhibits a lack of reflexivity inherently paradoxical in any effort at a “Marxism of Marxism.” Most critically, Therborn’s concept of Marxism, and his Marxism of Marxism, diverge from my own with respect to the different importance we each attribute to contradiction, I making it central to my conception of Marxism, while Therborn treats it as peripheral.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Quotations are from the interview with Lucio Colletti in New Left Review, July/August 1974.Google Scholar

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© Alvin W. Gouldner 1980

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  • Alvin W. Gouldner

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