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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Conservative Marxists?

I have very limited exposure to research in the Humanities. From a distance, I have simply heard some of the words describing popular theoretical perspectives: Marxism, Structuralism, Ethnic Studies, Postcolonial Criticism, Gender Studies, Queer Theory, etc. I have always assumed that these terms mean what they appear to mean to the uninitiated. A colleague of mine from the social sciences, however, recently told me that she suspected that, with respect to Marxism, this is no longer completely true. I have been told that Marxist analysis is somewhat old fashioned. So, who does Marxist analysis now? My social science colleague told me that in addition to being the home of a gaggle of ancient Marxists, Marxism seems to have become a refuge for the politically conservative in the Humanities. If you are a politically conservative Humanities prof, then you can label any economic analysis as Marxist, no matter how far removed from the class struggle. The Marxist label protects you from being outed as politically conservative, and you may pursue your studies unmolested.

This is outside my expertise; so, I may be guilty of posting an inaccurate, third hand report. Perhaps I will not be the first blogger to be guilty of this sin. Nonetheless, the possibility that Marxism has become the conservatives' refuge in the Humanities is a joke too amusing to keep locked in the ivory tower.