By Perry Anderson
This synoptic essay considers the character and evolution of the Marxist concept that built in Western Europe, after the defeat of the proletarian rebellions within the West and the isolation of the Russian Revolution within the East within the early Nineteen Twenties. It focuses relatively at the paintings of Lukács, Korsch and Gramsci; Adorno, Marcuse and Benjamin; Sartre and Althusser; and Della Volpe and Colletti, including different figures inside Western Marxism from 1920 to 1975. The theoretical construction of every of those thinkers is expounded concurrently to the sensible destiny of working-class struggles and to the cultural mutations of bourgeois notion of their time. The philosophical antecedents of a few of the college inside this tradition—Lukácsian, Gramscian, Frankfurt, Sartrean, Althusserian and Della Volpean—are in comparison, and the categorical ideas in their respective structures surveyed. The structural team spirit of 'Western Marxism', past the range of its person thinkers, is then assessed, in a balance-sheet that contrasts its history with the culture of 'classical' Marxism that preceded it, and with the commanding difficulties with a view to confront any old materialism to be triumphant it.
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Extra resources for Considerations on Western Marxism
Logically: for he alone embodied in his person a revolutionary unity of theory and practice, of the type that had defined the classical heritage. The experience of the Italian workers' insurgency 1 9 1 9-20, and of organizational leadership within the P C I from 1924 to 1926, remained the creative sources of his thought, during the of long imprisonment which sheltered him from the intellecrual con sequences of Stalinization outside Italy, while it slowly killed him. Even his writings, however, reveal the breakages and limits in the struggles of the class from which they were born, as well as the material circum stances of his captivity.
In fact, however, the first three important theoreticians of the post- I920 generation - the real originators of the whole pattern of Western Marxism - were all initially major political leaders within their own parties: Lu ka cs Korsch and Gramsci. Each, too, was a direct participant and organizer in the revolutionary mass upheavals of the time; the emergence of their theory cannot, indeed, be understood except against this political background. Lukacs was a Deputy People's Commissar for Education in the , of any major tradition of systematic philosophical thought - something that Spanish culture, for all the virtuosity of its literature, painting or music, had lacked from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.
It was in this altered universe that revolutionary theory completed the mutation which produced what can today retrospectively be called IWestern Marxism'. For the body of work composed by the authors with whom we shall now be concerned, in effect constituted an entirely new intellectual configuration within the development of historical materialism. In their hands, Marxism became a type of theory in certain critical respects quite distinct from anything that had preceded it. In particular, the characteristic themes and concerns of the whole ensemble of theorists who came to political maturity before the First WorId War were drastically displaced, in a shift that was at once generational and geographical.