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The ‘two marxisms’ revisited: Humanism, structuralism and realism in marxist social theory

Creaven, Sean; Creaven, S.M.


Sean Creaven

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Dr Sean Creaven
Senior Lecturer & Programme Leader for Sociology


© W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2015. The ontological and analytical status of Marxian social theory has been a matter of fierce controversy since Marx’s death, both within and without Marxist circles. A particular source of contention has been over whether Marxism should be construed as an objective science of the capitalist mode of production or as an ethico-philosophical critique of bourgeois society. This is paralleled by the dispute over whether Marxism ought to be considered a humanism (or critical theory of human agency) or a structuralism (or science of social systems). This article addresses both sides of this debate. The argument is that, rather than Marx’s own social thought being split into incompatible poles, giving rise to ‘two Marxisms’, it forms a coherent unity. Marx’s social theory is neither humanist philosophy, nor structural science, but is in fact realist science, which synthesizes these apparent antinomies, and thereby transcends both.


Creaven, S., & Creaven, S. (2015). The ‘two marxisms’ revisited: Humanism, structuralism and realism in marxist social theory. Journal of Critical Realism, 14(1), 7-53.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 24, 2014
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Dec 20, 2017
Journal Journal of Critical Realism
Print ISSN 1476-7430
Electronic ISSN 1572-5138
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 1
Pages 7-53
Public URL
Publisher URL