I will be speaking at a Sociology graduate conference in a couple of days, and this is the abstract that I prepared for the presentation.
To provide entry-points into the works of Henri Lefebvre and Erich Fromm, this presentation contextualizes their approaches to production, class, and wider economic issues. Lefebvre was a neo-Marxist who had ties to Nietzsche, the Situationists, and various other Parisian currents of thought. Fromm was, above all, a neo-Marxist and a neo-Freudian — with significant involvements in the initial formation of the Frankfurt School. Their wide-ranging critical theories include accounts of how economic systems intersect with governments, mainstream culture, and technologies. Fromm often highlights social psychology, and Lefebvre provides distinct insights into geographic and urban topics. Relative to other such attempts to build on and revise Karl Marx’s analysis, Lefebvre and Fromm offer relatively comprehensive accounts. These theorists responded to post-WW2 consumerism, and to various banal forms of conformity, which have extended well beyond the workplace. These contributions included extensions of Marx’s approach to alienation and culture. Their critical accounts of established systems are complemented by attention to social movements, and collective alternatives. Yet, their works stray from a Marxist focus on working class movements. Lefebvre and Fromm also look to locally-based opposition — more along the lines of Marx’s views to the Paris Commune.
The plan for the presentation has been adjusted since I prepared that, but the abstracts for this conference aren’t circulated, so I’m not going to revise this. Any of the points that aren’t covered in the presentation still will be part of my dissertation, so the entire abstract still covers aspects of my ongoing studies.
An earlier version of the title had the term “Western Marxist” in it, but I went with”Neo-Marxist” because I think it’s better for capturing how original the approaches of Lefebvre and Fromm are.
By using the term “revisionism” to describe theorists who I appreciate, I am mocking a history of Marxists and Stalinists who have claimed that revisions generally are bad. While I appreciate how many of those critiques have been directed toward compromise, opportunism, and totalitarianism, the tactic of making “revisionism” into a dirty wood is a dogmatic way of defending orthodoxy. Hence, Stalinists used the term in that same way — to defend their agenda.