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Marxism as a Methodology


Marxism as a Methodology

Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Karl Marx – 1818 – 1883

* ruthless radical materialism – derived from Aristotle and Spinoza

* imminent critique – the title of Capital – the critique of political economy

* no doctrine of political organisation, save the above

* no utopian vision of the future

Some quotes:

“But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”[1] (1843)

“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”[2] (1845)

“A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we take a closer look at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as “commodities”.”[3] (1861)

“While the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser.”[4]

“Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.”[5]



Etienne Balibar (1995) The Philosophy of Marx (Verso) – no index unfortunately

“I would also like to defend a somewhat paradoxical thesis: whatever may have been thought in the past, there is no Marxist philosophy and there never will be; on the other hand, Marx is more important for philosophy than ever before.”

Andrew Collier (2004) Marx (Oneworld Publications)

Peter Osborne (2005) How to read Marx (Granta Books)


Louis Althusser (2005) For Marx (Verso)

Alain Badiou (2007) The Century (Polity)

Alain Badiou (2010) The Communist Hypothesis (Verso)

Boris Groys (2010) The Communist Postscript (Verso)

Susan Marks (2000) The Riddle of all Constitutions: International Law, Democracy, and the Critique of Ideology (Oxford)

Susan Marks (2008) International Law on the Left: Re-examining Marxist Legacies (Cambridge); includes chapters by Martti Koskenniemi, B. S. Chimni; China Miéville; Bill Bowring; Anthony Carty; A. Claire Cutler; Brad R. Roth; Obiora Chinedu Okafor; Susan Marks.

Csaba Varga (ed) (1993) Marxian Legal Theory (New York University Press) – contains many Hungarian scholars, but also Eugene Kamenka “A Marxist Theory of Law?” (1983); Ronnie Warrington “Pashukanis and the Commodity Form Theory” (1981); Eugene Kamenka “Lukacs and Law” (1987); Richard Kinsey “Marxism and the Law: Preliminary Analyses” (1978); Peter Fitzpatrick “Marxism and Legal Pluralism” (1983); Alan Hunt “The Ideology of Law: Advances and Problems in Recent Applications of the Concept of Ideology to the Analysis of Law” (1985); Alan Stone “The Place of Law in the Marxisn strcture – Superstructure Archetype” (1985)

[1] Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, Marx to Ruge, Kreuznach, September 1843, at

[2] Karl Marx. The German Ideology. 1845, Pt I: Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook A. Idealism and Materialism at

[3] Marx’s Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63, Part 3) Relative Surplus Value, //Digression: (On Productive Labour)//, Volume 30, MECW, p. 306-318 at

[4] Karl Marx. Capital Volume One, Part II: The Transformation of Money into Capital, Chapter Four: The General Formula for Capital, at



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