Differentiating Between Orthodox Marxism and Neo- Marxism and the Role of Social and Educational Research

On this page, we will differentiate between orthodox Marxism and Neo- Marxism and also indicate the role of social and educational research in influencing forms of social life

Orthodox Marxism vs. Neo-Marxism: A Conceptual Difference

Orthodox Marxism and Neo-Marxism are two distinctive schools of thought that emerged from the foundational ideas of Karl Marx. However, both these strands approach Marxist theory with unique perspectives that have contributed to the evolution of Marxist philosophy.

Orthodox Marxism: The Classic Interpretation

Orthodox Marxism, also known as classical Marxism, refers to the interpretation of Karl Marx’s original theories as found in ‘Capital’ and ‘The Communist Manifesto’ (Marx & Engels, 1848). It emphasizes the objective analysis of capitalism’s economic structure, considering class struggle and the dialectics of historical materialism as the driving force behind societal change (Postone, 1996).

The core tenet of orthodox Marxism is the labor theory of value, which posits that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labor required for its production. It further establishes that the exploitation of workers by capitalists, who appropriate the surplus value produced by labor, leads to class conflict (Marx, 1867). Orthodox Marxism argues for the inevitability of this conflict leading to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a communist society.

Neo-Marxism: An Evolutionary Perspective

Neo-Marxism emerged as a response to perceived inadequacies in orthodox Marxism, incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions like psychoanalysis, Weberian sociology, and existential philosophy. Its objective was to revitalize Marxist theory in light of changes in the capitalist system and developments in sociological and philosophical thought (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985).

Neo-Marxists extend the Marxist critique of capitalism beyond economic factors, placing emphasis on culture, ideology, and politics. They argue that these superstructural elements are not mere reflections of the economic base, as orthodox Marxists assert, but have an autonomous existence and influence (Jessop, 2017). For example, the Neo-Marxist perspective of the Frankfurt School stressed the role of culture and mass media in perpetuating capitalist ideologies (Marcuse, 1964).

Neo-Marxism also acknowledges the relevance of other forms of social inequality such as race, gender, and nationality, thereby broadening the scope of Marxist analysis. This divergence acknowledges that class struggle is not the only conflict within society, paving the way for intersectional analysis (Wood, 2019).

The Role of Social and Educational Research in Influencing Forms of Social Life

The relationship between social and educational research and forms of social life is a complex interplay. Such research provides insights into the social processes that shape human behaviors, identities, relationships, and societal structures.

Social and educational research, informed by theoretical perspectives like Marxism, shapes policy and practice in various domains of social life, such as education, health, work, and family. For example, Marxist-inspired educational research has contributed to our understanding of how educational systems reproduce social inequalities, revealing the role of schooling in maintaining the capitalist status quo (Apple, 1979).

Social research also guides the development of social interventions aimed at addressing social issues like poverty, inequality, discrimination, and violence. It plays a crucial role in informing policies to mitigate the adverse effects of such issues and in promoting social justice and change.

Moreover, educational research can influence the pedagogical approaches and curriculum design in educational institutions, thereby shaping the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values imparted to students. It can contribute to the development of critical consciousness among students, empowering them to challenge and transform oppressive social structures (Freire, 1970).

Overall, social and educational research is integral in shaping our understanding of social life and in informing strategies for social transformation. It embodies a commitment to social justice, highlighting the need for ongoing critique and transformation of existing social structures.


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