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Introduction: Sociology and the Crisis of Marxism

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Abstract

In the decade from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, sociology developed from a marginal discipline limited to a handful of British universities to a core social-science subject established in virtually all centres of further and higher education. In the same decade, however, it was widely believed that sociology was ‘in crisis’. The crisis was not merely a birth-pang: analyses of it were borrowed, as were the main concepts of the discipline itself, from writers in continental Europe and North America where sociology was long-established. It was widely believed that the crisis reflected contradictions in the theoretical premises of the subject, which were highlighted by the emerging social conflicts of Western industrial society.

Keywords

  • Political Economy
  • Capitalist Society
  • Social Thought
  • Thematic Shift
  • Core Project

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Notes and References

  1. C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1970

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  2. Alvin W. Gouldner, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, London, Heinemann, 1971.

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  3. For parallel but distinct versions of this argument, see Paul Q. Hirst, ‘Recent Tendencies in Sociological Theory’, Economy and Society 1 1, May 1972

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  4. Paul Q. Hirst, ‘The Coming Crisis of Radical Sociology’, in Robin Blackburn (ed.), Ideology in Social Science, London, Fontana, 1972.

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  5. Not least because the department at Hull has always combined sociology and social anthropology, and our anthropological colleagues remained much more immune to Marxism: although there have always been areas of joint concern (see Talal Asad, ed., Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter, London, Ithaca Press, 1973

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  6. and Ivar Oxaal, David Booth and Anthony Barnett (eds), Beyond the Sociology of Development, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975 ).

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  7. Martin Shaw, Marxism and Social Science, London, Pluto Press, 1975.

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  8. As recent discussion of the state has suggested: see e.g. Ralph Miliband, ‘State Power and Class Interests’ in his Class Power and State Power London, Verso 1983; and comments in ch. by Martin Shaw in this volume.

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  9. Perry Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism, London, New Left Books, 1976.

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  10. Gouldner, ‘Marxism and sociology’ in his For Sociology, London, Heinemann, 1973

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  11. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms, London, Macmillan, 1980 (see also review of latter by present writer, Theory, Culture and Society 1, 2, Autumn 1982).

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  12. Anderson, op. cit. The concept of ‘Western Marxism’ has now entered into common usage: while Anderson’s is the most accessible overview, an alternative survey and definition is offered by Russell Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat, Cambridge University Press 1982 (my review in Theory, Culture and Society op. cit.).

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  13. Perry Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, London, Verso, 1983, p. 79.

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  14. Ronald Aronson, The Dialectics of Disaster, London, Verso, 1983, esp. ch. 3.

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  15. See e.g. Chris Harman et al., Education, Capitalism and the Student Revolt, London, International Socialism, 1968.

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  16. The critique of orthodox Marxism’s treatment of women runs through virtually the entire European feminist literature, but for an extension of this to the political theory of the left, see Sheila Rowbotham et al., Beyond the Fragments, London, Merlin, 1979.

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  17. For the peace movement, see E.P. Thompson, ‘Notes on Exterminism, the Last Stage of Civilization’, in Thompson et al., Exterminism and Cold War, London, Verso, 1982;

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  18. also Martin Shaw, ‘War, Imperialism and the State-System: a Critique of Orthodox Marxism for the 1980s’, in Shaw (ed.), War, State and Society, London, Macmillan, 1984.

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  19. John Westergaard, ‘Class of 84’, New Socialist, Jan.—Feb. 1984.

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© 1985 Martin Shaw

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Shaw, M. (1985). Introduction: Sociology and the Crisis of Marxism. In: Shaw, M. (eds) Marxist Sociology Revisited. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-17912-1_1

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