Jonathan Joseph: Marxism and Social Theory.

Author:Jessop, Bob
Position:Book review

Jonathan Joseph

Marxism and Social Theory

Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, 171 pp.

ISBN: 1-4039-1563-4 (hbk) 55 [pounds sterling]

ISBN: 1-4039-1564-1 (pbk) 18.99 [pounds sterling]

In this major textbook for the Palgrave Macmillan series 'Traditions in Social Thought', Jonathan Joseph provides an accessible, comprehensive and critical review of Marxism from both the viewpoint of its substantive contributions to social theory, and the meta-theoretical viewpoint of its current status as social theory. This dual perspective explains the book's structure and argumentation. Thus Joseph begins by noting the transdisciplinary nature of Marxism as a social-theoretical endeavour that spans philosophy, sociology, economics, politics, history, cultural studies and many other fields; then he adds, correctly, that Marx himself rejected disciplinary boundaries, working across any and all of the contemporary disciplines relevant to his grand theoretical and political project to understand all of social life in its interconnection--and to transform it. Joseph then introduces some basic Marxist categories that will be revisited in the light of different theoretical traditions in successive chapters: history, economy, ideology, class, state, and emancipation. These (and additional) themes are taken up in chapters on Marx and Engels, the classical Marxism of the Second and Third Internationals and the praxis Marxism of Gramsci, Lukacs, Korsch, and Sartre; on structuralism (Althusser, Poulantzas); and on critical theory (Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas). Next is a chapter that critically evaluates the way Marxism has been applied in five fields: feminism; the national question; class struggle, class formation, and state formation; the regulation approach to Fordism and post-Fordism; and the political economy of Thatcherism. Joseph then reviews the status of Marxism through dialogues with the 'post-Marxism' of Laclau and Mouffe, and with Bhaskar's critical realism. The book ends with a chapter on the continuing viability and vitality of Marxism as a totalising, materialist theory of history. Each of the chapters is based on solid scholarship. It is quite clear throughout that the author is writing from a Marxist position, has his own views on the different theorists, and is prepared to critique them; but he always does so on the basis of judicious, fair but brief presentations of their analyses so that readers can reach alternative conclusions. He also emphasises the point that there...

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