Democracy  &  Nature, Vol. 6, No. 1


The Dynamics of Change: Class, Politics and Civil Society – from Marx to post-Marxism

George Lafferty


Abstract: This paper discusses how Marxist understandings of politics and civil society, particularly Marx’s own work, can contribute to understanding the dynamics of political change in contemporary capitalist democracies. While briefly exploring the conceptual problems contained in the political-philosophical agenda set out in Marx’s earliest works, the paper argues that his subsequent examinations of civil society and class relations are grounded in a political economy of capitalist development which retains considerable salience. The possibilities of a post-Marxist politics of civil society are assessed in this light, using the example of recent neo-liberal and neo-conservative assaults on the welfare state to indicate the ways in which membership of civil society is itself a critical focus of political contestation. A politics of civil society (for example, contemporary ‘third way’ strategies) lacks any substantive democratic potential, without the type of radical political economy  developed by Marx.