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Education Crisis

Education Crisis


Looking for the Proletariat : Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Problem of Worker Writing

By Stephen Hastings-King

Looking for the Proletariat is a contribution to understanding the implosion of the Marxist Imaginary. The implosion is staged in terms of the first English-language history of the French revolutionary group Socialisme ou Barbarie from 1949 to 1957. It explains why Socialisme ou Barbarie was the only Marxist organization interested by worker experience and how the group’s anti-Leninist position on organization led it to privilege first-person worker narratives in order to understand worker experience and its revolutionary possibilities. Using the only first-person accounts of working-class experience in French industry of the 1950s, the book explores the disintegration of collective investment in the Marxist Imaginary that unfolded at Renault’s Billancourt factory in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution and the contexts that shaped it.


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Karl Marx




“A landmark in comparative literature in Britain.”  — George Steiner

“One of the most important books about Marx yet written in English” –- TRIBUNE

“A learned, useful and entertaining book” –- TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT


“Very few men”, said Bakunin, “have read as much, and, it may be added, have read as intelligently, as M. Marx.” Indeed, Moses Hess encouraged followers to ‘‘Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel fused into one person – I say fused, not juxtaposed – and you have Dr. Marx’.

S. S. Prawer’s highly influential work explores the overlooked ways in which the world of imaginative literature—poems, novels, plays—infused and shaped Marx’s writings, from his unpublished correspondence, to his pamphlets and major works.

In exploring Marx’s use of literary texts, from Aeschylus to Balzac, and the central role of art and literature in the development of his critical vision, KARL MARX AND WORLD LITERATURE is a forensic masterpiece of critical analysis. Illuminating Marx’s dealings with literature, Prawer makes an incomparable contribution to the understanding of a mind that has helped to shape our world.

Beginning with Marx’s engagement with poetry and myth in his early education, Prawer traces Marx’s life-long relationship to literature to uncover how his early allegiances to Romantic modes of writing and thinking and a late adoption of Hegelian philosophy merged to create his critical vision. Arguing that Marx’s most famous political concepts, particularly that of ‘alienation’ and ‘reification,’ have poetic, literary origins, Prawer delves into Marx’s writings in order to demonstrate Marx’s understanding of metaphor, inspiration, and conflict inherent in the world literary tradition.

Arguing that Marx’s political writings, in particular THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, are in fact deeply influenced by literature, Prawer attests that Marx built on Goethe’s concept of ‘Weltliteratur’. Affirming that Marx held a view that literature is to be sent into the world to be taken into the hearts of well-disposed readers around the world, Prawer illuminates Marx’s understanding of literature as a tool to raise understanding of continuity and difference:

The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature. -Marx

Liberally quoting from Marx’s own writings and the literary texts he engaged with to provide a well-rounded history of the formulation of the ideas and expressions that shaped Marx’s later social criticism, Prawer’s text creates an impeccably balanced cultural history. Blending history, literary criticism and cultural theory, Prawer’s ground-breaking work provides astonishing insight into the imaginary life of one of the most influential figures of the nineteenth century, and remains highly unique and relevant 35 years after it was originally published.


Professor S. S. Prawer is Taylor Emeritus Professor of German Language and Literature at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. He is the author of over 20 books, including CALIGARI’S CHILDREN, A CULTURAL CITIZEN OF THE WORLD: SIGMUND FREUD’S KNOWLEDGE AND USE OF BRITISH AND AMERICAN WRITING, and KARL MARX AND WORLD LITERATURE.


ISBN: 978 1 84467 710 8 / $29.95 / £16.99 / $37.50 CAN / Paperback / 480 pages


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Marxism and Culture



Monday, June 20

Spencer Leonard: Marx’s Critique of Political Economy: Proletarian Socialism Continuing the Bourgeois Revolution?
Pamela Nogales: Marx on the U.S. Civil War as the 2nd American Revolution
Jeremy Cohan: Lukács on Marx’s Hegelianism and the Dialectic of Marxism

Pat Keeton: “Class, War, and Class War: Changing Ideology in American Films from Vietnam to Post-9/11
Peter Scheckner: “End of Empire: How American Cinema since Vietnam Narrates the Erosion of American Global Power.


Eric Vazquez: Counterinsurgency’s Suppositions
Joel Nickels: From Spontaneity to Self-government: Imagining Self-Organization in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
Gino Signoracci: Marxism and Eastern Thought: Toward a Philosophy of Perpetual Revolution?

3:15-4:45: COMMODITIES
Ariane Pasternak: Commodity Fetishism and the Feminized Sphere of Non-Value
Ericka Beckman: Seeing the World System: The Latin American “Commodity Novel”
Sina Rahmani: Einwaggonieren: Containerization, Displacement, and the “Forbidden Commodities”
Max Haiven: Abject Finance: Wal-Mart and the Unbankables


Tuesday, June 21

Eldon Birthwright: Caribbean Literature and the Sanitizing of History
Sheshalatha Reddy: Bodies in Bondage, Bodies in Labor: Class Consciousness and the “Oppressed Natives” in the Morant Bay Uprising
Aisha Karim: Literature and Revolution

Julie Fiorelli: Recurrent Revolutions? Arna Bontemps’s Conception of Time and African American Race-War Novels of the Late 1960s
LaRose Parris: The African Diasporic Proletariat
Henry Schwarz: Marxism and Postcolonial Studies

Led by Jaafar Aksikas

Kanishka Chowdhury: Revolution and the “Hidden Abode of Production”
Barbara Foley: Event, Non-Event, and “Arrested Dialectic”: The Aftermath of 1919.
Neil Larsen: Revolution as Event and the Temporality of Crisis

Laura Martin: Colonial Servitude in the Transition to Capitalism.
Joe Ramsey: Learning from Failures, and from Afar: The Problem of Revolutionary Subjectivity in the US of A, Today

Oded Nir: Waltz With Bashir: Mediating Class In and Out of Globalized Israeli Culture
Niamh Mulcahy: Class Struggle and the Possibility of a Science of Aleatory History
Andrew Culp: Three Theses for Marxist Politics Today
Joshua Kurz, respondent

Wednesday, June 22

Vin Adiutori: Appearance and Phantasm: Reconfiguring Misrecognition
Anthony Squiers: Rethinking Brecht’s Split Character: Dialectics, Social Ontology and Literary Technique
Eleanor Kaufman: Revolution and the Question of Party in Sartre, Brecht, and Badiou

Joe Hughes: Ethico-Aesthetics and the Politics of the Cliché
Christian Haines: “It is you who give the life”: On Walt Whitman, Cultural Revolution, and Biopolitics
Hyeryung Hwang: “I prefer not to”: Embodied Subjectivity as the Site of Resistance

Led by Ann Mattis and Susan Comfort)

Chris Cutrone: Vladmir Lenin
Greg Gabrellas: Rosa Luxemburg
Ian Morrison: Leon Trotsky
Spencer Leonard, respondent

4:15-5:30:  END TIMES
Mathias Nilges: The Tenses of Form or, Literature at the End of Time
Brent Bellamy: Foreclosing Revolution, or the Apocalyptic Contradiction of Late Capitalism
Eui Kang: Apocalyptic Marx


Thursday, June 23

9:00-10:15: HISTORY I
Lucas Johnson: Measuring History in the Post-National
Jackson Petsche: Marxism, Posthumanism, and the Future of Animal Liberation
Nathaniel Boyd: Re-thinking the Contingent Political Sequence of Revolutionary Class Struggle

10:30-11:45: HISTORY II
Grover Furr: Why Is It Vital To All of Us To Get the Stalin Period Right?
Ryan Culpepper: 5 Years After the 1929 Economic Collapse
Justin Sully: Population Decline and the Historical Lateness of Capitalism

Led by Joel Woller

Jefferson Agostini Mello: Desiring the World: A New Brazilian Culture?
Maria Elisa Cevasco: Misplaced Ideas: What We Can Learn from How Ideas Fare in Brazil



Friday, June 24

8:45-10:15: LITERATURE I
Emilio Sauri: Cognitive Mapping, Then and Now
David Aitchison: Literature and Revolution: Radical Politics and the Novel in the U.S.A.
Jen Hammond: The Lyric Moment and Revolution
Madeleine Monson-Rosen: The Structure of Media Revolution: Thomas Pynchon and the Politics of Paradigm Shift

10:30-12:00: LITERATURE II
Jonathan Poore: John Steinbeck and the Proletarian Aesthetic
Carolyn Lesjak: Realism and Revolution
Peter Gardner: The Political Unconscious of A Farewell to Arms
Kristin Bergen: Gertrude Stein and the Relation of Political Periodization to Aesthetic Form

Led by Joe Ramsey and Rich Daniels

2:45-4:00: GUY DEBORD
Sarah Hamblin: Repetition as a Revolutionary Aesthetic in the Cinema of Guy Debord
Jane Winston: Revolution in Debord
Vanessa R. S. Cavalcanti and Antonio Carlos Silva: The Society of the Spectacle to the Beat of the Capital: a Contribution to the Criticism of Modernity’s Ritual


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Raya Dunayevskaya

Women of a Red Decade: Women Writers of the Left in the 1930s


Professor Mary Joannou


37a Clerkenwell Green,
London EC1R 0DU

Monday 4th April

6.30pm £2.50/£1 concessions

Women writers of the left made an important contribution to the radical thinking of the day but the extent of their contribution has not been fully recognised. This lecture will discuss the achievement of some of the most politically committed authors whose work shaped and made a difference to the ‘red decade’.  These include Winifred Holtby, Storm Jameson, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Ellen Wilkinson, Virginia Woolf, Vera Brittain, Naomi Mitchison, and Nancy Cunard.

Mary Joannou is Professor of Literary History and Women’s Writing at Anglia Ruskin University.  Her research interests are the women’s suffrage movement, the 1930s, and late Victorian and early twentieth-century writing.  Her publications include “Ladies, Please Don’t Smash These Windows: Women’s Writing, Feminism and Social Change 1918-1938” and “Contemporary Women’s Writing: From the Golden Notebook to the Color Purple”.

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Alternative Culture


Call for Papers
2011 Marxist Literary Group Institute on Culture and Society
Special Topic: “What Is Revolution?”
Deadline for Proposals: March 1, 2011.

The Marxist Literary Group´s 2011 Institute on Culture and Society (2011 MLG-ICS) will convene this summer (June 20-24) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. As always, any submission that engages seriously with Marxist thought will be considered, including, but not limited to, Marxist considerations of literature or literary considerations of Marxism.

This year’s special topic will be “What is Revolution?” What is class struggle? Can there be one without the other, as horizon or precondition? How does radical social change take place? Is it necessary to have a theory of revolution, or is it better to pursue an intelligent opportunism? Does Marxism require revolution? Does revolution require class? What would a plausible political subject, or a plausible subject of history, look like today? Does our present moment hold any revolutionary possibility? What contemporary movements, possibilities, and practices hold promise (or do not)? Is there a plausible relationship today between aesthetic practices and the end of capitalism (as we know it)? How does one represent what is only possible, not actual? Is “struggle” another name for the possible? What is the relationship between politics as such and the economic as such? What is the relationship between politics and thinking, between revolution and philosophy? These questions and others will be the focus of this year’s Institute. Selected papers will be invited for submission to Mediations (

Recent years´ programs can be accessed at

The Institute on Culture and Society is run in consecutive sessions, and the discussion is most fruitful when participants stay for the entire Institute. Housing is available on campus, and every effort is made to keep the cost of attendance low. Graduate student participation is subsidized by the Marxist Literary Group. Proposals are welcome for:

Traditional panels
Individual presentations
Film Screenings
Reading Groups

All proposals except panel proposals should be a maximum of 250 words in length, and should include title, author, and author’s affiliation. Panel proposals should include for each proposed paper a 250-word abstract, including title and affiliation, as well as a title and 100-word rationale for the session itself. Please send submissions (plain text or commonly used file format) by March 1, 2011 to:

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Marxism and Art


Call for Papers

AAG 2011 – Seattle, USA, 12-16 April

Session organisers – Alex Loftus (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Erik Swyngedouw (University of Manchester)

Liberating ourselves from the horrors of the present requires an artistic and sensuous imagination that will be transformed in the coming of a future society. Sensuous experience is the raw material from which a revolutionary project might be realised. Equally, sensuous experience provokes new forms of political subjectivity. This is at the heart of Ranciere’s understanding of “the distribution of the sensible” and the relationship he theorises between politics and aesthetics. It might also be traced to other threads of Marxist thought. In part inspired by Epicurus, Marx thought deeply about sensuousness. He clearly also understood this through an artistic model (as Lefebvre claimed, Marx “imagines a society in which everyone would…perceive the world through the eyes of an artist, enjoy the sensuous through the eyes of a painter, the ears of a musician and the language of a poet”).

Discussions of affect and the affective within Geography have rarely included such considerations. Nevertheless, emerging practices within a relational and post-relational aesthetics have drawn significantly from new communist theory (Badiou, Zizek, Nancy) and reconnected with Marx’s theorisation of the senses (Roberts 2009). For Toscano (2008), this places the question of a “communism of the senses” within an understanding of both aesthetic and Marxist thought. At the same time, with the publication of Merrifield’s (2011) Magical Marxism, we have been challenged to think more freely about the positive foundations on which we struggle for radical change. As Merrifield writes: “Politics more than anything needs the magical touch of dream and desire, needs the shock of the poetic”.

This session will explore the role of poetics and sensuousness within politics and the struggle for a future society. Possible topics are:

·         The role of the senses in an “inaugural communism”
·         Marxist thought and relational sensuousness
·         Politics, aesthetics and the new communist theory
·         Magical, sensational marxisms
·         The Politics of the Senses
·         The Communist Imaginary today
·         Sensuous communist geographies
·         Emerging Communist Geographies

If you are interested in participating, please contact either Alex Loftus ( or Erik Swyngedouw (

Erik Swyngedouw
Professor of Geography
School of Environment and Development
Manchester University

New books:
Heynen N, Kaika M, Swyngedouw E (Eds.) In the Nature of Cities, Routledge, London and New York, 2005.

Swyngedouw Erik, Social Power and the Urbanization of Water Flows of Power, Oxford University Press, 2004.
ISBN 0-19-823391-4


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Ilana Verdansky


By Ernst Fischer

With a new introduction by John Berger

“Fischer’s range is remarkable, his powers of evocation enviable. Here the magic of the word does not betray him. He enjoys art and helps you enjoy it with him … The non-Marxist reader will feel at home, though let us hope not too much so.”—Stephen Mitchell, New Left Review

Reissued with a new introduction, The Necessity of Art is one of the twentieth century’s most influential books on aesthetics. With its emphasis on the individual’s need to engage with society, its rejection of rampant consumerism and hypertechnology, and its ultimate hopefulness, this radical, affirmative and humane vision of the artistic endeavor remains as timely today as when it was first published sixty years ago.

A committed member of the Communist Party of Austria during the time when the reality of Stalinist Russia was first coming to light, Fischer was faced with a new crisis in Marxism, and chose to fight against the stale, archaic form it had taken on in his native country. By rejecting the ossified dogma of social realism in favor of a more generous consideration of humanity, valorizing Kafka, Baudelaire, and “decadent” art, Fischer was deemed a renegade and calls were made for his expulsion from the Party. More than Marxist criticism, Fischer’s work is relevant for all those who care about what it means to be human.

In his poignant introductory essay, John Berger (Ways of Seeing) describes the last day of Fischer’s life, an idyllic day spent together in the countryside with his wife and translator that ended, after dinner, with a sudden heart attack. An admiring reader of Fischer’s work as well as an old friend, Berger is the perfect author for capturing the concerns both intellectual and all too human around which his life revolved.

ERNST FISCHER (1899-1972) studied philosophy before working as a newspaper editor, radio commentator, and writer; in the years after World War II he became a leading cultural commentator. His books include Art against Ideology.

Storyteller, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, dramatist and critic, JOHN BERGER is one of the most internationally influential writers of the last fifty years. His many books include Ways of Seeing, the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours, Here Is Where We Meet, the Booker Prize-winning novel G, Hold Everything Dear, the Man Booker–longlisted From A to X, and A Seventh Man.                                                                                                                                                                                                   




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40 Years of Radical Publishing 1970 – 2010

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The editorial collective of Mediations, the journal of the Marxist Literary Group, is pleased to announce issue 24.2, a special issue that revisits the relationship between Marxism and literature. Mediations is published twice yearly. The Fall issues are dossiers of non-U.S. material of interest; the Spring issues are open submission and peer reviewed.

Mediations has circulated in various forms and formats since the early 1970s, and is now available free on the web. Both a web edition and a print edition, downloadable in pdf form, can be accessed at: Featured authors in the current issue include Gáspár Miklós Tamás, Imre Szeman, Neil Larsen, Mathias Nilges, Nicholas Brown, Aisha Karim, Leerom Medovoi, and Sarah Brouillette.

Volume 24, No. 2 || Marxism and Literature Revisited

Mathias Nilges and Emilio Sauri, guest editors


Editors’ Note

The Left and Marxism in Eastern Europe: An Interview with Gáspár Miklós Tamás – Imre Szeman interviews the political philosopher, journalist, and writer, Gáspár Miklós Tamás. Describing his own political move to the Left in relation to local post-Soviet politics in Hungary and global structures of contemporary capitalism, Tamás discusses the dangers of attaching hopes for greater rights and liberties to both free market structures and nostalgic forms of leftism. What answers can Marxism offer in response to the sociopolitical and philosophical pressures of the current conjuncture in which the free market agenda has become structurally and politically untenable? How must we re-think Marxism itself in a context in which solutions to the political impasses of the present can no longer be found in a return to Party politics of the past? How might Marxist political philosophy deal with pressing contradictions such as rising forms of ultranationalism? Addressing these and other questions, Tamás demonstrates how recent political developments in Hungary, and throughout Eastern Europe more generally, provide lessons for the Left throughout the globe.

Marxist Literary Criticism, Then and Now – Is there such a thing as a Marxist literary criticism? Imre Szeman argues that, despite the fact that Marxism has long privileged literature as an object of analysis and critique, there is no unitary methodology or set of considerations that distinguish a “Marxist” approach to literature from others. Here, Szeman provides a historicization and structural analysis of what he identifies as the three primary modes of Marxist literary criticism. At the same time, this essay also points to a fourth, as yet unnamed, possibility for Marxist literary critique that seeks to sublate the assumed “impasse” created by the limiting choice between “ideological” and “anti-ideological” culture, an impasse that, according to Szeman, bears witness to a profound historical shift.

Literature, Immanent Critique, and the Problem of Standpoint – What might a method for critical theory that advances beyond the tenets of “ideology-critique” look like? For Neil Larsen, the answer lies in Marxism’s own recourse to immanent critique. Yet, with the notable exceptions of Adorno and Lukács, immanent critique has bothered little with the problem of standpoint in relation to cultural, and, in particular, literary objects. Larsen, then, attempts to specify an immanent critical standpoint of literature that allows for the articulation of a dialectical critique that dispenses with what he identifies as the “fallacy of application.” Demonstrating how any literary theory – Marxist and otherwise – is, of necessity, immanent to the text, this essay turns to the question of method as a means of grasping the relationship between the literary text as “subject/object” and the social totality.

Marxism and Form Now – Contemporary literary criticism is everywhere marked by what appears to a revival of foundational questions: what is literature now? How do we argue now? What is form now? Rather than signal a new direction for literary criticism, this now-ness, Mathias Nilges maintains, points to a discipline in the midst of a crisis of futurity. Extending the French Regulation School’s suggestion that the history of capitalism is the history of the struggle between capital and its social regulation, Nilges argues that the current disciplinary crisis is best evaluated in the context of capitalism’s cultural regulation. Dialectically linking the (crisis-driven) movement of structural, epistemological and cultural forms, Nilges maintains that the study of the formal(istic) history of cultural regulation must replace cultural critique based on the assumed possibility of the subsumption of culture under capital, which, in turn, creates the conditions of possibility for an emergent Marxist literary criticism.

One, Two, Many Ends of Literature – What if we looked at the notion of the end of literature as a truism, only lacking in plurality and logical rigor? Nicholas Brown explains that one of these “ends” can be regarded as internal to the functioning of literature itself, and as such, the point of departure for a more complete formulation of a Marxist literary criticism. For Brown, this formulation reveals that both literary criticism and Marxism are to be regarded as what he calls “formal materialisms,” a mode of analysis that must be completed and revised every time in light of an object it cannot posit beforehand. What this means for a Marxist literary-critical project subsequently becomes all the more apparent in Brown’s reading of another end of literature – postmodernism.

Crisis of Representation in Wole Soyinka’s Season of Anomy – Perhaps one of the more consistent elements of Wole Soyinka’s work has been a commitment to an individual will that refuses collective mobilization. Aisha Karim argues that Soyinka’s novel Season of Anomy marks a departure from any commitment as such, opening his work to new political possibilities. But while Season of Anomy presents us with an alternative to the politics and poetics that underlie Soyinka’s dramatic output, Karim maintains that it does so only insofar as it imagines itself as a “failed text.” What emerges as a crisis of representation within the text consequently allows the reader to recognize herself as the agent of change on the level of the social.

The Biopolitical Unconscious: Toward an Eco-Marxist Literary Theory – If ecocriticism can and should be dialectically assimilated to the project of a Marxist literary and cultural criticism, how do we have to rethink both ecocritical and Marxist literary critical praxis? What can a Marxist ecocriticism lend to interrogations of the relation between literature and ecocriticism´s most undertheorized category: the environment? Leerom Medovoi illustrates that Marxism not only can, but must play a central role in the formulation of an ecocritical 
approach to literature capable of transcending the inability to think beyond thematic criticism and ethical critique.

Creative Labor – Sarah Brouillette suggests that literary studies can help de-naturalize contemporary capitalism by accounting for the rise of the pervasive vocabulary that imagines work as a form of self-exploration, self-expression, and self-realization. She discusses two manifestations of this vocabulary. One is the notion of a “creative class” branded by Richard Florida, management professor and guru consultant to government and industry. The other is the theory of “immaterial labor” assembled within autonomist Marxism. Despite their obvious differences, Brouillette demonstrates that both conceptions are more symptoms than diagnoses of a now dominant tendency to fathom creativity both ahistorically – as the essence of experimentation emanating from an internal natural source – and contradictorily – as newly valuable to capitalism but romantically honorable and free.


It’s Dialectical!
Nicholas Brown reviews Fredric Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic. To say that Jameson’s most recent contribution to dialectical thought is monumental in scope is perhaps an understatement. What, then, might this reengagement with the dialectic mean both in the context of Jameson´s work and for Marxism today?

A New Direction for Marxism
Jen Hedler Hammond reviews Kevin Floyd´s The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism. Floyd’s book succeeds in producing a dialogue between Judith Butler and Fredric Jameson that will no doubt have far-reaching consequences for both queer and Marxist theory. But what insight does this dialogue provide into the undertheorized position of women in Marxism and Queer Studies alike?

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