Hist 309/chid 309: Marx and the Marxist Tradition in Western Thought: The Foundations of Modern Cultural Criticism I

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HIST 309/CHID 309: Marx and the Marxist Tradition in Western Thought: The Foundations of Modern Cultural Criticism I.
Spring 2011 Professor John E. Toews

Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 CDH 110

Friday sections. 12:30 and 1:30
Instructor: Professor John Toews

Smith 312A 543-9855 toews@u.washington.edu

Office Hours: Tuesday: 2-3:30

Teaching Assistant: Matthias Scheiblehner: hias@u.washington.edu

Class Description: A consideration of critical issues in the formation of modern Western culture and society through an historical analysis of the texts of Karl Marx and his 20th century disciples in Europe and America. The class will focus on the relationship between texts and historical contexts of the writings of Marx and various individual Marxists and schools of Marxists that appropriated and transformed his theories in the century after his death. How can a historical reconstruction of the situation within which Marx and Marxists wrote and acted help us to grasp the specific relevance their thought might have for the way we think now? We hope to conjure up their voices from the past so they can enter into our conversations in the present.

Required Readings available at the University Bookstore

The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Tucker (2nd ed.)

COURSE READER: The course readings are available on the course website or for purchase. They include biographical readings on Marx, selections from young Marx, G.W.F. Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach, Rosa Luxemburg, Eduard Bernstein, Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse, Juergen Habermas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault , Dipesh Chakrabarty and David Harvey

Selections from Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukacs to Habermas , will also be posted on the Course Website and a limited number of copies of will be ordered into the University Bookstore. Even the pb version is pretty expensive($31.95) Used copies are available on Amazon.com for $17 and up.
Some standard works you may wish to consult :

Isaiah Berlin, Karl Marx, his Life and Environment.

David McLellan: Karl Marx, his Life and Thought

Jerrold Seigel, Marx's Fate: The Shape of a Life

George Lichtheim, Marxism, A Critical and historical Study

Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism ( 3 vols.)

S.Avineri:The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx

Tom Rockmore, Marx after Marxism

Peter Osborne, How to Read Marx

Mark Poster:Existential Marxism in Modern France

Dick Howard: The Marxian Legacy

Marxism: A Critical Reader, edited by the New Left review


  1. Participation: This involves : 1) attentive attendance and engagement at lecture/discussion classes and active participation in Section discussions. If you cannot attend a lecture or section you should excuse yourself in advance via e-mail There will be a sign-in class list at every scheduled class.. 2) I will occasionally (3-5 times in the course of the term) ask for written responses to questions in class.

3) If you must miss a class you will be expected to post at least one message that week on the course message board.

Participation will count 10% toward your final grade.

2) Weekly Response papers or other variable weekly assignments (such as Questions and Quotations for Discussion). These are due at the Friday section each week.. Late submissions will be penalized (i.e. they will receive 2 out of 4 points). The most important function of the weekly written assignment is to prepare for the section discussions. The first response will be due on Friday of the first week of class. There will be a total of 9 Response Papers or other weekly assignments (The Midterm will replace the weekly assignment in Week V) The Response Papers will be graded as satisfactory, satisfactory plus and unsatisfactory. Satisfactory gets you 4 pts, Satisfactory-plus adds a bonus point that can be applied to final calculations of your course grade. An unsatisfactory response must be redone. Grade differentials in this part of the course are based on your ability to complete and submit your assignment by the time of your Friday section. (i.e. hard work and self-discipline can produce a perfect score in this part of the course)

Response papers should be 2-3 double-spaced typed pages in length.

Guidelines for the response papers (you will receive more advice at the first section meeting):

The response papers should have three components:

        1. A brief summary of the general contents of the week’s reading. What is the

reading about? (1 paragraph—at most ½ of a page)

        1. An analysis of one theme or argument in the readings that you found particularly striking, disturbing or confusing. i.e. Why does productive labor alienate the worker from “nature”? or How does the emergence of Global Finance Capital change the historical prospects for class revolution? (2 paragraphs- the heart of your response paper and the basis for questions you may want to bring to section on Thursdays). Make sure you provide evidence for your assertions with specific references to the text(s).

        2. Critical reflection: Attempt a brief assessment of the ideas or problems analyzed in section 2. Think about the ways in which Marx’s or later Marxians’ statements might be peculiarly bound to their own time and culture…or not. (1 paragraph)

The Questions and Quotations assignment should be structured in this fashion: 1) Formulate 3 questions that arose from the reading that you would like to discuss in the Friday section. The questions should raise issues that genuinely puzzle you and you should provide a brief comment about why you think the question is important for understanding the reading. 2) Cite three short passages from the readings that you found difficult and/or puzzling. Briefly comment on why the passages seemed difficult and/or puzzling to you.

Response Papers and Q and Qs or other weekly assignments will constitute 25% of your final grade.

On occasion the weekly assignment might involve a request to analyze a particular section of the text or to a respond to a specific question raised by the instructor or T.A. It could also take the form of a research assignment- a web search on a specific issue for example.
3 ) Research/Writing Project. 7-8 page paper or its equivalent

(25% of grade)

Topics should be approved by the instructor or teaching assistant. You should use your response papers and QandQs in part to examine questions you might think of pursuing in a research paper.


A typed proposal of one or two paragraphs is due at the beginning of the 8th week of term ( May 17))

Update via e-mail of your research project due at beginning of Week 10. i.e. May 31)

Final draft of paper is due on Wednesday of Finals week (June 8)

Possible Types of Topics.

1) Relations between text and context. You might want to pursue questions that attempt to illuminate the texts by relating certain elements in them to conditions or events outside the text. e.g. What impact did Marx’s Jewish Heritage have on his critique of liberalism? Or, How did Marx’s experience during the Revolutions of 1848 change the views of revolution presented in The Communist Manifesto? Or: How was the unification of Germany in the wars of 1866-1871 and the emergence of democratic party politics a factor in Engel’s adaptations of Marxian theory in the 1880- and 1890s?

2) Take up a controversial theme treated in the texts of Marx or later Marxists that has a strong contemporary resonance (e.g. views of women and femininity, the impact of global markets on class divisions, the commodification of everyday life) and assess their claims in historical context.

3) Analyze a later historical interpretation of Marx (i. e. Feminist readings of Marx in late 19th century Germany or existentialist adaptations in mid-20th Century France or Germany), and provide a critical historical assessment in the light of your own reading of the texts.

Other kinds of questions and topics will be suggested throughout the terms.

Please be sure to talk with Professor Toews or Matthias Scheiblehner if you have any questions about various assignments. Don’t begin your research paper without having your topic approved.

Midterm and Final Exams—One hour short-answer tests based on the material provided in the lectures (20% each) The mid-term Quiz ill be given at the Friday Sections in Week V (April 29). The Final Quiz will be based on material of the 2nd half of the course and will be given at the listed time of the Final Exam (June 10)

Schedule of Meetings and Readings:
Part I: Marx: The Origin, Context, and Implications of the Marxian Critique of Modern Culture

Week I: Introducing Marx as an Historical Figure. Marx in His time and for our Time.

Class I : (March 29) Marx and the Problems of Modern Cultural Critique

Distribution of syllabi. In-class writing assignment: write a brief summary of assumptions about Marx and Marxist thought that you bring with you into this class (based on previous encounters with their writings or simply on hear-say). How might these assumptions be connected to your own social or cultural perspective?

Class II: (March 31)Marx's Starting Point: Trier, Germany and the Post-revolutionary World Order

Required Reading: McLellan: "Trier, Bonn and Berlin." In Course Reader

Friday Section: (January 8) The Tensions and connections between the historical situation in which you are reading Marx and the cultural world in which Marx composed his writings.

Friday Sections ( April 1) Assignment: Revised version of your “Marx and Me” narrative from Tuesday’s in-class assignment and Three questions arising from the McLellan Reading.
Week II: Marx as Heir

Class I: (April 5): Marx’s Ideological Inheritance: Enlightenment, Christian Humanism, Romanticism,

Required Reading:

Marx: "Reflections of a Young man on a Choice of Profession", "The Union of

Believers in Christ" and Romantic Poems ; in Course Reader

Class II: (April 7): Intellectual Mentors: Hegel and Feuerbach

Selections From Hegel: “Lectures on the Philosophy of History” and Feuerbach’s “Principles of a Philosophy of the Future”, Course Reader

“Letter to his Father” in Marx-Engels Reader, pp 7-8

Friday sections (April 8): Hegel and Hegelianism as the intellectual context for Young Marx (Assignment: Response Paper)
Week III: The Young Marx and “Humanist” Marxism

Class I: (April 12) Making Philosophy Real in the World: Marx as a Philosophic Radical: The Critique of Post-revolutionary Liberalism

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader; pp. 12-15 (Ruthless Criticism) pp. 26-65 ("On the Jewish Question" and "Contribution to the Critique") Suggested for further reading: pp.16-25.

Class II: (April 14) Alienated Labor: The First Crystallization of Marxism

Reading, Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 67-93.
Friday Sections (April 15): Marx’s early Philosophical Writings: The Critique of Liberalism and the Theory of labor. (Q and Q)
Week IV: Historical Materialism and the Test of Revolution

Class I: (April 19): Beyond Humanism: Marx's Construction of Historical Materialism

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 143-200: "Theses on Feuerbach" and

Selections from "The German Ideology"

Class II: (April 21): Theory and Reality: The Revolutionary Tradition, the Revolutions of 1848 and the Lessons of Defeat

Reading: "The Communist Manifesto" Marx-Engels Reader, 473-511, and also

Marx-Engels Reader, pp.587-617
Friday sections (April 22): The German Ideology and the Foundations of Marx’s Historical Theory (Response Paper)
Week V: Mature Marxism

Class I: (April 26): The Internal Contradictions of Capital

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader, pp.295-361 (from "Capital”) Pay special attention

to the “Fetishism of Commodities” chapter ( pp.319-329)

Class II: (April 28) Theory of Practice: Freedom and Necessity in Marx's Theory of Revolution:

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader, 522-549.

Friday Sections (April 29) Mid-Term Quiz on Marx lectures and readings
Part II: The Assimilation and Transformation of Marx: From Engels to the New Left, Post-structuralism and David Harvey
Week VI: Orthodox and Revisionist Marxism before World War I: Assimilation, Reform and Revolution

Class I: (May 3): Friedrich Engels: Orthodox Marxism and the Institutionalization of Marxism

Reading: Marx-Engels Reader, 549-556, 681-769

Class II: (May 5)): The Revisionist Controversy Bernstein versus Luxemburg

Selected readings from, Eduard Bernstein’s Revolutionary Socialism and Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? in Course Reader

Friday Sections (May 6): The Liberal Reformist and Radical Critiques of Orthodox Marxism. (Q and Q)
Week VII: The Impact of War and Revolution: The Emergence of “Western” Marxism after 1918

Class I: (May 10) Georg Lukacs: Cultural Revolution and the Return of Philosophical Marxism

Reading: Lukacs: selections from History and Class-Consciousness in Course Reader

Class II (May 12): Antonio Gramsci and Marxism as a Theory of Praxis

Reading: Gramsci:, Selections from the Prison Notebooks. in Course Reader

Friday Sections (May 13): Assignment- On the basis of your reading of the assigned texts, compose a list of similarities and differences in Lukacs’ and Gramsci’s postwar interpretations of Marx.

Week VIII: The Fascist era and the Dilemmas of Existentialist Marxism

Class I: (May 17): Herbert Marcuse: the Attempt to Make Marx speak like Heidegger.

Readings: “Contributions to a Phenomenology of Historical materialism” (1928) and “Postscript: My disillusionment with Heidegger” (1977) in Course Reader

Class II: (May 19): Sartre and the The post war dilemmas of Existential Marxism: Between Stalinism and Imperialism

Reading: Sartre: Introduction to Critique of Dialectical Reason, in Course


Friday Sections (May 20) Response Paper focused on either Marcuse’s text or Sartre’s text.

Week IX: Marxism after 1968: The New Left Split between Frankfurters and French Fries

Class I: (May 24) The Transformation of Critical Theory from Adorno to Habermas Readings: Marcuse, selections from One-Dimensional Man (1964); Habermas, Selections from Toward a Rational Society (1968)

Recommended: Martin Jay, Marxism and Totality, Chapters 8 and 15: In On-line Course reader.

Class II: (May 26) Postmodern Marx: From Structuralism to Post-Structuralism

. Readings, Louis Althusser:“Marxism and Humanism” (1964)from For Marx in Course Reader

Recommended: Jay, Marxism and Totality, Chapter 13 (On-line Course Reader)

Friday Sections: (May 27): Q and Q on Humanist and Post-humanist Marxism in the 1960s)
Week X: Marxism and Marx after the Cold War: Marx after Marxism?

Class I (May 31) : Post-Colonialism, Feminism and Marxism’s Relation to Identity Politics. Reading, Juliet Mitchell: from “Woman’s Estate” (1971) in Course Reader

Class II (June 2): The New Structures of Global Capitalism and the Specter of Marx after the Fall of the Iron Curtain

Reading : Selections from Dipesh Chakrabarty: Provincializing Europe and David Harvey: The New Imperialism

Friday Sections (March 12): Discussion of Mitchell, Chakrabarty and Harvey ( Q and Q)

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