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Class in Itself and Class Against Capital: Karl Marx and His Classifiers

  • Edward Andrew (a1)

This note argues that, widespread opinion to the contrary, Marx did not make a distinction between a class in itself and a class for itself but between a class against capital and a class for itself. Marx's formulation of a “class against capital” exhibits a political dimension lacking in a “class in itself”; political institutions and arrangements are not simply the instrument or the expression of a pre-existing class structure but rather condition or shape the class structure. The implications of the erroneous attribution to the theoretical understanding of class formation as well as practical politics are explored.

Malgré les opinions largement répandues Marx n'a pas fait de distinction entre une classe en soi et une classe pour soi, mais plutôt il a fait une différence entre une classe contre le capital et une classe pour soi. La formulation marxienne d'une « classe contre le capital » a une dimension politique qui ne se retrouve pas dans une « classe en soi »; les institutions et compromis politiques ne sont pas simplement l'instrument ou l'expression d'une structure de classes pré-existente, mais plutôt ils façonnent ou conditionnent la structure de classes. Dans cet article l'auteur évalue les conséquences de la mauvaise interprétation de cet aspect du marxisme sur la compréhension théorique de la formation des classes ainsi que sur la pratique politique.

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1 Santos, T. Dos, “The Concept of Social Classes,” Science and Society 34(1970), 181; Draper, Hal, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution: The Politics of Social Classes (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978), 4041, 349; Cohen, G. A., Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), 7376.

2 Poulantzas, Nicos, Political Power and Social Classes (London: New Left Books, 1973), 7476, and Przeworski, Adam, “Proletariat into a Class: The Process of Class Formation from Karl Kautsky's The Class Struggle to Recent Controversies,” Politics and Society 7 (1977), 343, 367.

3 Zeitlin, Irving M., Marxism: A Re-Examination (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1967), 72, 103; Kolakowski, Leszek, Main Currents of Marxism, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 356; Tucker, Robert C., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton, 1978), 218; Z. Eisenstein, “Women as a Sexual Class,” paper delivered at the March 1983 Marx Centenary Conference, University of Winnipeg.

4 See supra, footnotes 1, 2 and 3.

5 See supra, footnotes 2 and 3.

6 See supra, footnote 3.

7 Draper, , Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, 41; Cohen, , Karl Marx's Theory of History, 76.

8 Ibid., 73. Emphasis in the original.

9 Przeworski, “Proletariat into a Class,” 343.

10 Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Collected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1976), Vol. II, 187.

11 Cohen, , Karl Marx's Theory of History, 76.

12 Marx, and Engels, , Collected Works, Vol. 6, 211.

13 Tucker, , The Marx-Engels Reader, 218.

14 Marx, Karl, Oeuvres, Economie, 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1963), 135; Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Werke, Bd. 4 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974), 181.

15 Cohen, , Karl Marx's Theory of History, 76. Emphasis in the original.

16 Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 6, 493.

17 Ibid., Vol. 5, 77.

18 Dos Santos, “The Concept of Social Classes,” 181. Emphasis in original.

19 Lenin, V. I, Collected Works, Vol. 5 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing, 1961), 375, 384–87; Lukács, György, History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin, 1971), 51.

20 Bottomore, T. B and Rubel, Maximilien, Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy (London: Watts, 1956), 203–12.

21 Przeworski, “Proletariat into a Class,” 367.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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