Marxist or Marxian

Is there a difference?

Can someone tell me what the difference is between being a Marxist vs. being a Marxian, or whether there even is a difference? For a long time, I assumed there was no difference, and no distinction was needed. But the more Marx I read, the more value I see in having terminology to differentiate positions that areĀ  “actually” Marx’s (i.e. for which there is relatively agreed-upon textual evidence) from those to which “Marxists” subsequently adhered, or promulgated.

Thoroughly aware of the potential problems involved in this approach, I propose using “Marxist” to refer to subsequent developments of Marx’s thought which can be shown to deviate significantly from Marx’s own writings (taking into consideration the question of Engels vs. Marx), and “Marxian” to refer to concepts, ideas, arguments which are properly those of Marx. I am guessing that some people may already be using the terms in this way, and indeed it fits with common usage (e.g. we talk about ideas or concepts being Husserlian, or Arendtian insofar as they were espoused by those authors).

To take what may be the most obvious example, the base/superstructure distinction as formulated in the Second International would qualify as Marxist, but not Marxian, while we could speak of the Marxian distinction between absolute and relative surplus value. Again, the way the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was developed by Lenin and subsequent theorists/militants would likewise qualify as Marxian, though not Marxist.

1 thought on “Marxist or Marxian”

  1. Eh, I see it the other way around. If you’re really a Marxist, you are one who subscribes to the ideas of Marx. If you’re Marxian, you are influenced by his work but don’t accept the whole bill of goods of his conclusions.

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