About Missives from Marx
Missives from Marx is written by an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and covers a range of topics, including: religion, the academic study of religion, teaching in religious studies, popular culture, politics, ideology, discourse, etc. This blog is written pseudonymously and will remain as such at least until I get tenure.
Is this blog really Marxist? Although I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a socialist or communist party, I am theoretically informed by the writings of Marx, Gramsci, Althusser, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, Fredric Jameson, Bruce Lincoln, Nikolas Rose, Iris Marion Young, Elizabeth Kamark Minnich, Wendy Brown, and others. These thinkers (whether or not they explicitly self-identify as Marxist) share the following in common:
1) an interest in the importance and the influence of ideology or discourse on social arrangements and social power
2) an interest in studying elements of culture and society in relationship to society as a whole rather than in isolation
3) an interest in studying elements of culture and society that permit some individuals or some groups to dominate or exploit others, and
4) a belief that showing others how ideology, discourse, and social structures function will give those who are dominated some of the tools they need to overcome domination.
Insofar as I share these four things, which I believe are relatively central to the spirit of Marx’s corpus, I don’t think it is a stretch to identify as being a part of the Marxist tradition.
However, calling myself a Marxist is dangerous—lots of associations may spring to your mind, which don’t apply to me. Please note the following:
1) While I think that existing modes of production are relatively central to how our lives are ordered, I reject economic determinism—as has pretty much every Marxist since Weber published The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
2) I reject 20th century communisms (Soviet, Chinese, etc.) as viable options. I find the lack of human rights in these sorts of states to be abhorrent.
3) I reject, along with Althusser, Foucault, Judith Butler, and others, the humanist idea that there is some essential human subjectivity repressed by social conventions. On the contrary, I believe that social conventions create subjects.
4) I do not believe that religious ideologies always support the status quo, although they often do. Religious traditions can be used to maintain or challlenge the status quo.
I’ll probably add to this list every time someone says to me: “You’re a Marxist, so you must believe ….”