Why Marx was not a Marxist

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Description
Marx once famously stated that if he was certain of anything, it was that he was not a Marxist. This
seems a rather peculiar sentiment from Greybeard himself. Why would he utter such a phrase? This
is the question that informs our interrogation of Marxian political economy since Marx. This seminar
seeks to broach a few of the key streams of Marxist political economy that have emerged since Marx’s
own lifetime. These debates are numerous and significant with regard to the contemporary terrain of
Marxian political economy. As I suggested in the previous seminar, the function of the state in
capitalist society is a useful way to broach these debates. The lecture will canvass strategic
interventions in Marxian political economy and suggest useful avenues of enquiry for future
engagements with this fertile and contentious discourse. The seminar discussion will seek to engage
contemporary issues in Marxian political economy within the context of the totality of core concepts
in political economy we have surveyed throughout the semester. Let us pose a ruthless critique of
everything we have surveyed thus far.
I have posted a plethora of readings but they barely scratch the surface of what has transpired in
Marxian political economy since Marx’s time. The selection on offer also reflects my own interests and
prejudices. I will elaborate these as best I can throughout the lecture in order to equip you with the
tools to formulate your own positions. I strongly encourage you to disagree with me.
Read the Engels letter to Bernstein pp. 353-358 for an explanation of why Marx stated he was not a
Marxist. The context is relevant but the real significance of this statement is the reason Marx sought
to distance himself from the French ‘Marxists’. Consider this in relation to what we are confronted
with in the contemporary period as ‘Marxism’.
Aside from this, try to read the Bryan article in full and the Vilar piece if you have time. The Poulantzas
and Miliband articles constitute one of the most important debates on theories of the state in
capitalism. Read these at some point in your lives, if not this week. The rest I leave to your interest.
Questions
What is the function and character of the state in capitalist society? Elaborate in relation to your
readings of the offerings for this week and from what you took from Marx’s own work.
Why was Marx not a Marxist and what parallels, if any, can you identify in the contemporary period?
Be specific if possible.
What do you consider the fundamental problems within Marxian political economy and how do you
think they can be addressed? Consider in relation to Bryan’s remarks.
Is Marxian political economy since Marx relevant for addressing contemporary social issues? Discuss
in relation to at least two social issues that have an impact on our lives

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