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Marxism and history : twenty years of South African Marxist studies.

This thesis attempts to contextualize the emergence and development of South
African Marxist studies in terms of political and economic changes in South Africa,
the influence of overseas Marxist and related theories and internal and external
historiographical developments. The early Marxist approach was constituted by the
climate of political repression and economic growth in South Africa during the
1960's, by its antagonism to the dominant liberal analyses of the country, and by the
presence of indigenous Marxist theories of liberation. The unstable theoretical
foundations of this approach prompted a critique and reassessment, which led to the
coalescence of a stable Marxist paradigm and the start of the second phase of
Marxist studies. The debate on the nature of the state that characterized this
second phase was informed by the rival Marxist political theories of Nicos
Poulantzas and the West German Staatsableitung school, and proved to be largely
inconclusive. However, under circumstances of a resurgence of resistance and
economic decline in South Africa, the late-1970's debate focussed attention squarely
upon the revolutionary potential of the black working class.
The heightening of struggle and a growing awareness of crisis formed the basis for
the 1980's shift away from the reductionism and instrumentalism of the earlier
literature. Continuing research on the state highlighted issues of strategy, the spaces
for struggle opened up by the restructuring of the state and capital, and the degree
of state autonomy. The political and economic gains made by the oppressed also
combined with the influence of elements of British Marxist historiography and a
reaction to the 'structuralism' of the 1970's to produce Marxist social history,
emphasizing subjective human agency and 'history from below'. The social
historical perspective dominates Marxist studies in the 1980's, and has influenced
both the tradition of Marxist Africanism, focussing on pre-colonial African social
formations, and the related approach to agrarian history. It is argued in the .
conclusion that recent calls for a synthesis of structuralist Marxism and social history
within South African Marxist studies take for granted the dualist appearance of
Marxism and fails to reflect upon Marxism's essentially monistic presupposition. / Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 1988.
Date January 1988
CreatorsDeacon, Roger Alan.
Source SetsSouth African National ETD Portal
Detected LanguageEnglish

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