Marxism in IR: Condemned to a Realist Fate?

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Behind the recent discussions within Marxist IR theory concerning political multiplicity and uneven and combined development lies the larger, still unresolved, question of Marxism’s relation to Realism. Marxism in IR has never sufficiently recognized the seriousness of the challenge that the Realist conceptions of the intrinsic nature of the political and, therefore, of the international present to any Marxist ambition of human freedom. A review of the major approaches within IR Marxism shows that the question of the political remains a theoretical blind spot. Hence, they cannot convincingly grasp geopolitics and the international without falling prey to Realist essentializing. This theoretical deficit within IR Marxism is traceable back to the ambivalence of Marx’s own thinking concerning revolutionary social change. If it is to escape the Realist fate, Marxism in IR must engage with the central categories of political thought to produce a critical theory of the political.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date27 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • international relations theory
  • marxism
  • realism
  • the international
  • the political


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