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Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 55, Issue 3, 2018

Tom Rockmore
Pages 62-75

Is Marx a Materialist?

This paper examines the distinction between materialism (or realism) and idealism, which to the best of my knowledge all forms of Marxism regard as central to Marx as well as to Marxism. Materialism comes into ancient philosophy as a philosophical approach to philosophy of nature, which later becomes a philosophical alternative to idealism, and still later becomes a Marxist view of an extra-philosophical, scientific approach supposedly illustrated by Marx. The paper will review Marxist approaches to materialism in Marxism-Leninism and then in classical Marxism before turning to Marx, with special attention to the Paris Manuscripts. I will suggest that if “materialism” is understood in a standard manner as referring to the priority of matter as the main or even the sole explanatory element, then Marx’s alleged materialism is no more than a Marxist myth. I will further suggest that Marx is a materialist in another, non-standard sense of the term as concerns the focus on concrete, social problems.

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