Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Cyril Levitt


My thesis outlines the thought of Karl Korsch by examining the relation of Marxist theory to the historical movement which includes the development of the proletariat on a worldwide scale. This is a unified subjective and objective movement of the socialization of labor. The analysis demonstrates that the original Marxist theory is no longer applicable for todays' society, since it is an historical product itself. Marxism did not stand outside of the movement of history thus it underwent transformations and consequently became a bourgeois philosophy, a false consciousness, no longer the expression of the process of the socialization of labor. Theory was seen as having an independent existence apart from the social relations in the realm of pure thought. Korsch criticized the theorists who took this stance. He claimed that the theorists of the Second International, Lenin and Luxemburg, all drew a sharp line between consciousness and being. Consciousness was understood by them as an independent, static essence which was contrasted to being, as a reflection of an external object. Korsch maintained that together they form a moment in one unified social historical process. Korsch provided us with an original analysis of the counterrevolution. Yet he did not go far enough with it. He focused primarily on the political sphere instead of explaining this period as a time of the expansion of social labor within the relations of capital and wage labor. This gave rise to new political forms. Groups in control tried to change the distribution process but could not alter the process of production. Korsch demonstrated that Marxist theory still provided the framework which could be further developed into a social science. The framework includes; the primacy of the base, the analysis of value, a critical and non-dogmatic approach to Marxist theory, and the principle of historical specificity. This framework provides us with a way to understand the process of the socialization of labor. Korsch presented us with a new definition of revolution as the process of the socialization of labor and the means of production. The revolutionary potential lies with the forces of production, the real labor power of individuals who are bound within the relations of capital and wage-labor. Korsch criticized Marx for his emphasis on the bourgeois form of revolution which relied primarily on the political sphere of the superstructure.

McMaster University Library

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