What is the neo-marxism theory

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5 neo-Marxism


Pottery production in Nepal. Photos: Elke Mader

In the center of a Political Economy from a Marxist Perspective stands the concept of Mode of production. On the one hand, this results in the Focus on production and on the other hand the emphasis on Importance of history. Political economy is part of a "broad enlightenment metanarrative of progress"(Robotham 2005: 41). Individual societies are examined in a broader context of social evolution.

Outside the communist countries one cannot speak of a Marxist anthropology until the 1960s. The main obstacle was the knowledge that the evolutionary scheme that Marx and Engels had adopted from Morgan is wrong and that no one wanted to get caught in the smell of writing nonsense. In addition, especially in the interwar period, Marxist approaches were frowned upon at Western universities (Graeber 2001: 24).

In France this changed due to the philosopher Louis Althusser in the 1960s. He pleaded for a more flexible terminology around Marx’s concept of modes of production. This was taken up and expanded by social anthropologists such as Meillassoux, Terray and Godelier.

From this Marxist perspective out they argued that eitherFormalists as well as nounistswould be wrong, since both see the starting point for economic action in exchange and distribution.

In order to understand a society, one must first and foremost understand how it manages to survive over time, how it reproduces itself. How is a society constantly being recreated through different kinds of productive actions, and how are the basic forms of exploitation and inequality anchored in the social relationships through which people reproduce?

These questions are very different from functionalist approaches that many formalists and nounists have in common. These started from "a society" and then asked the question of how this society is kept together. History meant little to them. Marxist approaches that deal with modes of production always want to trace the history of the modes of production, how certain forms of exploitation and domination have developed (see Graeber 2001: 24; Robotham 2005).

In the USA in particular pupils of the neoevolutionist and cultural ecologist went Julian Steward (link) the question of the history of non-industrial production methods. Anthropologists like Eric Wolf or Sidney Mintz emphasized the interdependence of capitalist and non-capitalist modes of production.