The rise of semiotic marxism

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This paper identifies four distinct stages in the 20th century emergence of a new direction in Marxian theory. Called here “Semiotic Marxism,” its central assumption is a reversal of the classic base/superstructure logic of determinate relations between the economic base and the political and ideological superstructure. Each stage builds upon the theoretical reconstitutions of the previous stage. To illustrate this step-by-step transformation, the theoretical logic of a representative Marxist theorist is explicated. These four stages in the emergence of a Semiotic Marxism are: (1) the initial inversion of base/superstructure logic (Gramsci), (2) the expansion of the logic of the ideological downward to merge with the logic of the political (Althusser), (3) the further expansion downward of the logic of the now merged ideological/political sphere to absorb the logic of the economic sphere (Poulantzas), and finally, (4) the recasting of the once Marxian social formation comprised of social relations in production, into the new Semiotic Marxist “discursive formation” composed of linguistic relations between subject identities (Laclau and Mouffe).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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