The Tradition of the Material Constitution in Western Marxism
Forthcoming in Marco Goldoni and Michael A. Wilkinson (eds) The Cambridge Handbook on the Material Constitution (Cambridge University Press, 2022)
26 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2022
Date Written: March 21, 2022
The aims of this paper are, first, to track the development of the notion of the material constitution in selected authors associated with Western Marxism and, second, to explain its intermittent presence in the Marxist canon. The paper focuses on four turning points in the social and intellectual history of the material constitution: its Marxist origins in the second half of the 19th century (Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle, who coined the term); the crucial years of the Soviet revolution and the First World War (Vladimir Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg); the interwar period (Antonio Gramsci); and the tail end of the 20th century (Étienne Balibar and Antonio Negri). At each turning point, a certain slack between the concrete constitutional order and the codified or written constitution has pushed scholars to revisit the material constitution. Although the paper registers the decline of interest in the material constitution after the Second World War, it also underscores the series of crises over the last two decades which have seen the notion return to the centre stage of constitutional enquiry. The paper thus highlights the insights offered by Marxist authors to grasp the material constitution in the 21st century.
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