Marxism, Structuralism and Humanism

  • Matt Perry
Part of the Theory and History book series (THHI)


If, for Marxist history, the 1950s and 1960s might be seen as a heroic age of discovery, the 1970s brought more uncertainty and less coherence to the project. Partly, Marxist history had become victim of its own success. Large numbers of academics were drawn under its influence and the tight spirit of comradeship and a common past in the CPHG no longer ensured the cohesion that it formerly did. Events of the late 1960s had radicalised a generation of students who enthusiastically took up history from below but also transcended it. Naturally enough, areas of inquiry widened and history from below helped to spawn new types of history: women’s history, gay history and the history of sexuality, cultural history and historical sociology. In some cases Marxists were at the forefront of these new histories as with Sheila Rowbotham’s Hidden from History (1973), Tim Mason’s work on women in Nazi Germany and Marian Ramelson’s Petticoat Rebellion (1967). In others these developments emerged via a sharp rupture with Marxism: for instance, Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality (1976). Some of these areas potentially reinforced Marxism but some discarded it, searching for alternative attitudes towards knowledge, social totalities and power. These fragmentary forces grew ever stronger as the character of the New Left — increasingly constituted in the late 1960s by specific social movements (the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation movement, the black movement and the student movement) — had intellectual consequences. So even before the ideological climate changed in the mid- to late 1970s with the growing confidence of the New Right, Marxist history was facing a serious external challenge.


Historical Materialism Class Struggle Historical Knowledge Marxist Theory Frankfurt School 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    B. Hindess and P. Hirst, Pre-Capitalist Modes of Production (1975), p. 312.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    G. Eley and D. Blackbourn, The Peculiarities of German History (Oxford, 1984). In part this was written as a critique, using the German example, of the French model of bourgeois revolution used by Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    E.P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays (1978), p. 225.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    E.P. Thompson, ‘The politics of theory’, R. Samuel (ed.), People’s History and Socialist Theory (1981), p. 398.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    C. Hill, England’s Turning Point: Essays on Seventeenth-Century English History (1998) p. 294.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    E.P. Thompson, Customs in Common (1993), p. 73Google Scholar
  7. quoting K. Marx, Grundrisse (Harmondsworth, 1973 ), pp. 106–7.Google Scholar
  8. R.S. Neale, Writing Marxist History: British Society, Economy and Culture since 1700 (1985);Google Scholar
  9. K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology (student’s edn, 1991), pp. 48–50. Roughly speaking the ‘four moments’ are: (1) the need to produce in order to live; (2) the consequent development of the forces of production; (3) the social relations that this implies; (4) the historical development that these relations go through. These moments are the premises of human history and consciousness.Google Scholar
  10. G. Hening, ‘R.S. Neale 1927–85’, Australian Economic History Review, 26 (2) (1986).Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    A. Prinz, ‘Background and ulterior motive of Marx’s “Preface” of 1859’, Journal of History of Ideas, 30 (3) (1969).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 17.
    E. Hobsbawm, On History (1997), p. 201.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    V. Kiernan, ‘Problems of Marxist history’, New Left Review, 161 (1987), p. 107.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    D. Blackbourn, Populists and Patricians: Essays on Modern German History (1997), p. 72.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    P. Anderson, Arguments within English Marxism (1980), p. 33.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer, The Dialectic of the Enlightenment (1979; 1st edn 1944 ), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    C. Hill, ‘Marxism and history’, Modern Quarterly, 3 (2) (1948), p. 57.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    C.L.R. James, Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1980; 1st edn 1938), p. xi.Google Scholar
  19. 27.
    G. De Ste Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (1981), p. 43Google Scholar
  20. 28.
    B. Palmer, E.P. Thompson: Objections and Oppositions (1994), pp. 85 and 107.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Matt Perry 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Perry

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations