---- by Stuart Sim
  Post-Marxism can be interpreted in two main ways: either as a rejection of Marxism as a body of thought, or as a continuation of that tradition in terms of its spirit rather than its letter. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe are the most influential figures in the latter category, as expressed most forcefully in their book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), whereas Baudrillard, along with such contemporaries as Jean-François Lyotard and Michel Foucault, fits into the former. In Laclau and Mouffe's (1985) reading, it was to be construed as the difference between being 'post-Marxist' and 'post-Marxist'. Laclau and Mouffe argued that Marxist thought had attempted to cover up the failure of its predictions, most importantly that capitalism would ultimately collapse under the weight of its internal contradictions, by the use of the concept of hegemony. Consistent recourse to that concept constituted a denial of Marxism's theoretical deficiencies for Laclau and Mouffe, and led them to press for a less dogmatic interpretation of Marx's work. For French thinkers of Baudrillard's generation, however, the critical event in their development of a post-Marxist outlook was 1968 and the événements in Paris. A generation of intellectuals who had been very sympathetic to Marxism, which had a high profile in French public life, were to turn against it in the aftermath of the événements, angered at what they took to be an act of betrayal by the French Communist Party in siding with the government against the combined forces of the strikers and students. Thereafter we are to note a definite drift away from official Marxism by intellectuals on the Left.
  Baudrillard launches a sustained attack on Marxism in The Mirror of Production (1975 [1973]), criticising in particular its obsession with exerting control over Nature, as well as with production: 'A specter haunts the revolutionary imagination: the phantom of production' (MP, 17). Marxism is held to be locked into the ideals of modernity, viewing Nature purely as a resource to be drawn into the production process, on the grounds that increased production will enable communism to outstrip capitalism. Baudrillard dismisses that assumption, complaining that 'the concept of production is never questioned' by Marxist theorists, and arguing that 'it will never radically overcome the influence of political economy . . . Can the quantitative development of productive forces lead to a revolution of social relations? Revolutionary hope is based "objectively" and hopelessly on this claim' (MP, 59-60). Production has become an end in itself, subordinating humankind to its dictates, and it cannot be seen as an agent of liberation. It is an argument against the totalising thrust of Marxist thought, exemplified by the communist system then in operation in the Soviet bloc and China, and Baudrillard's critique reflects a more general unease on this issue among the French Left post-1968 - Deleuze and Guattari and Lyotard are making very similar noises in Anti-Oedipus (1983) and Libidinal Economy (1993) respectively. It might be fairer to call such thinkers anti- rather than post-Marxist, and that was a criticism that did come to be made of the postMarxist movement in general by classical Marxists.
  Baudrillard regards Marxism as being in thrall to political economy, leading to a false interpretation of history: 'Marxism is the projection of the class struggle and the mode of production onto all previous history; it is the vision of a future "freedom" based on the conscious domination of nature. These are extrapolations of the economic' (MP, 67). Like all totalising belief systems Marxism is trying to erase difference, and Baudrillard's postmodern orientation comes through strongly at this point, the cultivation of difference being an abiding concern of the burgeoning postmodernistpoststructuralist movement of the time. Baudrillard may have rejected the label of postmodernist, but his defence of difference and critique of totalising thought in general aligns him with that movement in its broad sense.
  Marxism is rejected as a revolutionary force by Baudrillard, for whom it is a mirror image of capitalism rather than the ideological opposite it purports to be. Baudrillard is also critical of Marx's concept of value, arguing that the distinction he makes between use value and exchange value is largely illusory (SED, CPS). In the uncompromising quality of his critique of Marx Baudrillard reveals himself to be, in Laclau and Mouffe's terms of reference, very much a post-Marxist, who believes the theory is now irrelevant to our lives.
   § may 1968
   § mirror
   § postmodernism / postmodernity
   § production

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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