In Marxism and America: New appraisals, an accomplished group of scholars reconsiders the relationship of the history, political culture, and political economy of the United States to the theoretical tradition derived from Karl Marx. A dozen essays (an introduction and eleven chapters) offer fresh considerations arcing from the nineteenth century, when Marx wrote for American newspapers, to the present, when a millennial socialism has emerged inspired by the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Contributors take up topics ranging from memory of the Civil War to feminist debates over sexuality and pornography. Along the way, they clarify the relationship of race and democracy, the promise and perils of the American political tradition, and the prospects for class politics in the twenty-first century. Marxism and America sheds new light on old questions, helping to explain why socialism has been so difficult to establish in the United States even as it has exerted a notable influence in American thought.
Although America has had moments of sharp anti-communist hysteria, and although the pattern of American history has been declared “exceptional” in that its individualist culture and capitalist consensus resists the Marxian prognosis of class contestation and socialism, the United States of America has also had a vibrant Marxist tradition capable of great bursts of creativity and a certain degree of intellectual and political influence. Beginning by charting the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on the United States, this introduction to a book collection of eleven scholarly essays on Marxism and the United States posits a “Marx-America dialectic” generative both of frisson and productivity.