Marxist Class Theory for a Skeptical World


Marxist Theory of Class for a Skeptical World is a critique of some of the influential radical theories of class, and presents an alternative approach to it.

This book critically discusses Analytical Marxist and Post-structuralist Marxist theories of class, and offers an alternative approach that is rooted in the ideas of Marx and Engels as well as Lenin and Trotsky.

It presents a materialist-dialectical foundation for class theory, and conceptualizes class at the trans-historical level and at the level of capitalism. It shows that capitalism is an objectively-existing articulation of exchange, property and value relations, between capital and labour, at multiple geographical scales, and that the state is an arm of class relation. It draws out implications of class relations for consciousness and political power of the proletariat.

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Raju J. Das, Ph.D., Ohio State University, is an Associate Professor at York University. He has published the monograph A Contribution to the Critique of Contemporary Capitalism (Nova Publishers, 2014), and articles in many journals, including Capital and Class and Science and Society.
"This large 13-chapter book is easy to read and, in a sense, can be considered an extensive and profound manual of the Marxist conception of class and related issues." - Jan Lust, University of Ricardo Palma, Peru, in: Capital and Class 44/3 (2020)

"... in general Das offers a convincing and compelling antidote to contemporary attitudes to class and class struggle, including those across much of the radical left. He removes many of the obstacles to others trying to understand and develop class analysis in order to get to grips with the current situation in which the working class finds itself. The book deserves to be read, digested, debated and taken as a starting point for a broader revival of the classical Marxist account of class." - Joseph Choonara, in: [International Socialism 160] (2018)

"In the present work, [Das] has already established himself as a leading thinker of Marxism and class theory. Marxist Class Theory for a Skeptical World is the first persuasive defense of classical Marxism since the turn of the millenium, which Milton Friedman and Eric Hobsbawn would have equally admired for its intellectual merits." – Tarique Niazi, Univeristy of Wisconson-Eau Claire, in Journal of International and Global Studies, Volume 10, No. 1

"While most of the 'Left' seems to have forgotten about class, class has not forgotten about us. For it continues to divide all of us in ways that lead to our worst problems, but also - when properly understood - to their only adequate solution. Enter Raju Das, who makes the most impressive case I've seen for why this assault on class misrepresents Marx, but, even more important, badly distorts the workings of the oppressive system in which we live, voiding any serious attempt to replace it with a better one. The subject of this book could not be more important, particularly now, and both Das' scholarship and his politics in dealing with it receive highest Marx from this reader." – Professor Bertell Ollman, Department of Politics, NYU, author of Alienation & Dance of the Dialectic

"This book is a tour de force. It offers a bold, detailed, compelling, and historically grounded examination of the Marxian concepts of class, class relations and class exploitation, and the different ways in which they have been understood in the literature. In doing this, Raju Das demonstrates the relevance of Marxist political economy, the centrality of class for understanding economic, social and political outcomes in the current age of neoliberal capitalism, and the continuing necessity of class analysis and class activity for social transformation." – Alfredo Saad-Filho, SOAS University of London

"An extensive and thorough exposition of the Marxist theory of class that answers criticisms, especially post-structuralist, while offering its own alternative based firmly in Marxism." – Professor Richard Peet, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University

"Offering a careful immanent critique of Analytical and Post-Structuralist Marxisms, Raju Das persuasively argues that orthodox Marxist class analysis supplies the best framework for understanding the rapacity of contemporary capitalism, as well as the best—indeed, the only—strategy for revolutionary social transformation. Of particular value are his insistent yoking of class theory to political economy; his view of class as both a relation and a process; and his skillful deployment of such fundamental concepts as materialism, dialectics, and totality. Amidst the plethora of recent approaches to social and cultural theory that purport to decenter or marginalize class struggle as the fundamental contradiction shaping the world today, or that substitute a focus upon neoliberalism for an examination of capitalism itself, Das’s book stands out for its rigor and eloquence. This book is just what our “skeptical world” needs to hear." – Barbara Foley, Distinguished Professor of English, Rutgers University, Newark
List of Figures and Tables ... viii
Acknowledgements ... ix

1 Introduction ... 1

2 Analytical Marxist Theory of Class ... 22
1 Main Concepts in Analytical Marxist Theory of Class ... 24
2 Connecting Core Class-Concepts, and Levels of Class-Analysis ... 51
3 Class Analysis, Struggle for Socialism, and Socialist Strategies ... 54
4 Conceptual Advantages of Wright’s Theory of Class ... 60
5 Wright’s Class Theory in Relation to His Marxist Social Theory ... 65
6 Conclusion ... 70

3 Anti-essentialist (Post-structuralist) Marxist Theory of Class ... 74
1 Post-structuralist Marxist Notion of Class Relation ... 76
2 Class Agency/Struggle and Geography of Capitalism ... 83
3 Class Theory as a Part of Marxist Social Theory in Anti-essentialist Marxism: The Principle of Non-dominance ... 89
4 The Politics of Anti-essentialist Marxism or Class Politics of Distribution ... 98
5 Semiotic/Linguistic/Emotional Resistance and Intervention ... 106
6 Conclusion ... 109

4 A Critique of Theories of Class in Analytical and Anti-essentialist Marxisms ... 111
1 Class and Property ... 112
2 Class, Surplus, and Exploitation ... 118
3 The Primacy of Class and of Capitalist Class Relations ... 125
4 Problematic Conception of Class-Agency and Anti-capitalism ... 134
5 A Reformist View of Post-capitalist Politics ... 145
6 Class Character of Revisions to the Marxist Theory of Class: Theories and Interests ... 159
7 Conclusion ... 164

5 Philosophical Foundations of Class Theory ... 175
1 Marxist Philosophy: A Brief Statement of Basic Principles ... 175
2 Philosophy and Class Theory ... 199
3 Conclusion ... 208

6 Class Theory at a Trans-historical Scale ... 212
1 Class in All Class Societies: Class, Property, and Exploitation ... 213
2 Historically Specific Form of Class: Class in Pre-capitalist Society ... 228
3 Objective Conditions, Class Struggle, Class Consciousenss and Transition in Class Form of Society ... 233
4 Class and the State: Political Oppression as a Part of Class Relation ... 239
5 Conclusion ... 243

7 Marxist Theory of Capitalism as Class: A Dialectics of Exchange, Property and Value Relations ... 249
1 Capitalist Class Relation as Exchange/Money Relation ... 252
2 Capitalist Class Relation as Property Relation ... 258
3 Capitalist Class Relation as a Relation of Value ... 262
4 Money Relation, Property Relation, and Value Relation all Internally Connected ... 273
5 Concrete Map of Class Relations in Capitalist Social Formation ... 288
6 Objective Effects of Class Relations on the Working Class: Suffering and Immiserization ... 306
7 Conclusion ... 313

8 Subsumptions of Labour by Capital: Theory of Capitalist Class Relation from an International Perspective ... 340
1 How is Capitalism Conceptualized? ... 342
2 Formal and Real Subsumptions of Labour as Forms of Capitalist Class Relation ... 345
3 Transition from Formal Subsumption, and the Mediation of Class Struggle ... 353
4 Imperialism, Subsumption of Labour under Capital, and Class ... 359
5 Misconceptions about Subsumption of Labour and Dominant Contradiction in Modern Society ... 367
6 Summary, and Theoretical and Political Implications ... 376

9 The Capitalist State as Constitutive of Capitalist Class Relation: Class Exploitation and Political Oppression ... 391
1 The Capitalist State and the Capitalist Class Relation ... 392
2 Democratic State Form and the Capitalist Class Relation ... 399
3 Capitalist Class Relations and Barrier to Working Class Access to State Power ... 402
4 Conclusion ... 409

10 Dialectics of Class Consciousness ... 415
1 Consciousness of the Bourgeoisie ... 417
2 Consciousness of the Working Class and Its Multiple Forms ... 428
3 Capitalist Class Relation and Working Class Consciousness ... 438
4 Class Consciousness, Objectivism and Workers’ Struggle: Somegeneral Considerations ... 453
5 ‘Marxist Elitism’ and Class Consciousness ... 462
6 Conclusion ... 471

11 Trade Unionist Struggle and the Proletariat ... 483
1 Struggle from Above and Struggle from Below ... 484
2 ‘Primitive’ Revolts of the Working Class ... 487
3 Trade Union Struggle ... 489
4 What Makes (Spontaneous or Trade Unionist) Struggle Necessaryand Possible? ... 493

12 Class Struggle and the Proletariat ... 509
1 A Marxist Critique of Spontaneous Trade Unionist Struggle ... 510
2 Trade Union Struggle is a (Subordinate) Part of Class Struggle ... 514
3 Revolution as the Ultimate Form of Class Struggle ... 525
4 Revolutionary Role of the Proletariat ... 535
5 Political Hegemony of the Proletariat ... 545
6 Political Vehicles for Class Struggle ... 550
7 Conclusion ... 556

13 Conclusions, and Further Reflections on the Political Implications of Class Theory ... 566
1 Marxist Philosophy and Class Theory at a Trans-historical Level ... 579
2 The Totality of the Capitalist Class Relation ... 586
3 The Capitalist Class Relation, Internationally Speaking ... 605
4 The State and the (Capitalist) Class Relation ... 613
5 (Working) Class Consciousness and (Working) Class Power ... 616

Works Cited ... 635
Index ... 662
All interested in class, inequality, capitalism, Marxist theory, state theory, the working class issues, labour geography/sociology/history.
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