Marxism was first theorized by Karl Marx, a German, and looks at everything through an economic viewpoint. It basically focuses on the economic realities of human culture (Tyson 53). According to Marxism, our primary goal as human beings is to obtain and keep economic power through all our social and political activities (Tyson 53). “Economics is the base on which the superstructure of social/political ideological realities is built” (Tyson 54). There are many key terms in Marxist theory. Economic conditions are called material circumstances and all the aspects of society and politics are called the historical situation (Tyson 54). A term also used is praxis which “dictates that theoretical ideas can be judged to have value only in terms of their concrete applications, that is, only in terms of their applicability to the real world” (Tyson 54). Marxism also has a lot to deal with divisions in society; there are “haves” and “have-nots” or the bourgeoisie and the proletariats (Tyson 54). Other interpretative theories and people in general will not admit to this difference and instead attribute divisions to racial, ethnic, or religious ideas (Tyson 54). To a Marxist, this is an ideology not a natural way of seeing the world (Tyson 58). Marxism often deals with the bad effects of capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. Marxism often correlates with human psychology in the way that it studies human behavior and motivation in psychological terms. Unlike psychoanalysis, Marxism deals with the material/historical forces that shape our psychology (Tyson 64). Marxists claim that family conflicts and psychological wounds are the result of ideological forces exemplified in the culture (Tyson 64). In literature, Marxists look at how psychological struggles are caused by material/historical realities (ideologies) within which a family operates (Tyson 65). Also literature does not exist in a timeless, aesthetic realm; rather it is the product of socioeconomic and ideological conditions of the time and place in which it was written (Tyson 66). Tyson discusses various questions that Marxism seeks to ask about literary texts. First, “does the work reinforce (intentionally or not) capitalist, imperialist, or classist values” (Tyson 68)? The second question is “how might the work be seen as a critique of capitalism, imperialism, or classism” (Tyson 68)? Third, does the work support a Marxist agenda in some ways but also support the other agendas as well (Tyson 68)? Fourth, how does the work reflect the socioeconomic tendencies of the time it was written (Tyson 68)? Finally, how might the work be seen as a critique of religion (Tyson 68)?
Stuart Hall is a proponent of British cultural theories and was deeply involved with Marxism. His article, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies”, is focused on the contest of cultural studies and Marxism. His desire in the article is to look at the “Now” and the “Future” of cultural studies in a retrospective sense (Leitch 1783). Cultural studies he says, is a “discursive formation, Foucault’s sense” (Leitch 1784). It has no simple origins since its work grew out of other studies (Leitch 1784). Cultural studies then has many facets and all of them point to different influences (Leitch 1784). Cultural studies is also open to other ideas (Leitch 1784). Hall declares that he originally came from the New Left, a movement which regards Marxism as a problem not a solution (Leitch 1785). His criticism of Marxism is that it is a “mode of thought, as an activity of critical practice” (Leitch 1786). He also states that Marxism is based on Eurocentrism (Leitch 1786). He denies the idea that Marxism and cultural studies are one (Leitch 1787). He also discusses Gramsci in the way that he “radically displaced some of the inheritances of Marxism in cultural studies” (Leitch 1787). Hall states that Marxism is “pure recognition—the production of what you already know” (1788). Hall then turns to talk about two movements that interrupted the work of cultural studies: feminism and questions of race (Leitch 1789). Feminism came in and the effect was specific and decisive (Leitch 1789). “It reorganized the field in quite concrete ways” (Leitch 1789). The opening of the question of the personal as political and its consequences were quite radical (Leitch 1789). Second, there was a radical expansion of the idea of power (Leitch 1789). Third, gender and sexuality became closely tied to the issues of power (Leitch 1789). Fourth, more questions erupted around the area of subjective and subject as being the center of cultural studies (Leitch 1789). Fifth, questions of psychoanalysis were also raised (Leitch 1789). These issues of feminism were raised especially when they tried to get women scholars to promote the studies of it in cultural studies; the plan backfired (Leitch 1790). There was also a major struggle for cultural studies to make up its mind on racial issues (Leitch 1790). It was only accomplished through a bitter struggle (Leitch 1790). He states that movements provoke theoretical moments (Leitch 1790). Furthermore, “historical conjunctures insist on theories” (Leitch 1790). He also talks about how structuralist, semiotic, and post-structuralist works within cultural studies; there is a crucial importance of language in regards to culture (Leitch 1791). “The metaphor of the discursive, of textuality, instantiates a necessary delay” which is always present in culture (Leitch 1791). In cultural studies, there is always displacement (Leitch 1791). The key thing to realize, as Hall puts it, is it “asks us to assume that culture will always work through its textualities” (1792). However, cultural studies needs to work within this tension (Leitch 1792). “If you lose hold of the tension, you can do extremely fine intellectual work, but you will have lost intellectual practice as a politics” (Leitch 1792). And that is what cultural studies is all about. He concludes the article by saying that there is a great difference between understanding the politics of intellectual work (cultural studies) and substituting intellectual work for politics (Leitch 1795).
The second theory to discuss is Post-Colonialism. Tyson states that post-colonialism is “particularly effective at helping us see connections among all the domains of our experience—the psychological, ideological, social, political, and aesthetic—in ways that show us just how inseparable these categories are in our lived experiences of ourselves and our world” (417). Tyson also states that because Post Colonialism defines formerly colonized peoples as any population that has been subjected to the political domination of another population, one may see Post-Colonial critics draw examples from literary works of African Americans as well as other post-colonial peoples (417). This theory emerged in the early 1900’s and is surprisingly a white dominated area of study, despite its theories and studies in third world countries (417). As a domain within literature studies, PC is both a subject matter and theoretical framework (418). As a subject matter post-colonial criticism analyzes literature produced by countries that developed in response to colonialism (from the first contact to the present) (418). As a theoretical framework post-colonialist criticism seeks to understand the operations—politically, socially, etc—of colonialist and anti-colonialist ideologies (418). Tyson also discusses PC identity. There are several key ideas in this area. They are the residual effect of colonial domination, which is essentially the prescence of the English language in former colonies; the dynamic psychological and social interplay between the native, cultures and the British culture that was imposed on them; and finally a merger and antagonism between the culture of colonized and that of the colonizer (419). There are few terms PC critics use that apply to this idea. The term “Left Behind” means the inculcation of a British system of government and education, British culture, and British value that denigrates the culture of morals and even physical appearance of formerly subjugated peoples (Tyson 419). Ex-colonials are often left with a psychological inheritance of negative self image and alienation from indigenous cultures (Tyson 419). Finally, Tyson discusses some questions that critics ask about the text. How does the literary text, explicitly or allegorically, represent various aspects of colonial oppression (Tyson 431)? What does the text reveal about the problems of postcolonial identity(Tyson 431)? What does the text reveal about the politics and/or psychology of anti-colonial resistance(Tyson 431)? What does the text reveal about the operations of cultural differences(Tyson 431)? How does the text respond to or comment on the characters, topics, or assumptions of a canonized (colonialist) work(Tyson 431)? Are there meaningful similarities among the literatures of different post-colonial populations(Tyson 431)? How does a literary text in the Western canon reinforce or undermine colonialist ideology through its representation of colonization and/or its inappropriate silence about colonized peoples(Tyson 431)? One of the articles of post-colonialism is the Fanon article discussed in Leitch. Fanon focused on the role of intellectuals to support and defend African nations against impending Colonialism. He was considered an “other” in France regardless of his time in the French service (Leitch 1437). He discussed colonial domination as it happens through 4 events. They are the “negation of national reality”, “new legal relations introduced by the occupying power”, “banishment of the natives and their customs to outlying districts by colonial society, by expropriation”, and “systematic enslaving of men and women” (Leitch 1440). He also discussed various reactions that natives had to colonialism. He found that the native is made to admit the inferior or unrealistic nature of his own biological structure (Leitch 1441). Thus there are two different reactions: some try to maintain cultural traditions while others try to acquire the culture of the occupying power (Leitch 1441). A change in national literature is seen: “While at the beginning the native intellectual used to produce his work to be read exclusively by the oppressor…now the native writer progressively takes on the habit of addressing his own people” (Leitch 1442). The effects of colonialism are further seen in the arts. This is particularly found in oral traditions, handiwork, and ceramics. Fanon states that when cultural traditions are modernized, “it is the colonialists who become the defenders of the native style” (1443). Fanon, interestingly enough discusses this with regard to American culture, especially with regard to be-bop jazz. There was the disparaging thought that with the introduction of Be-Bop Jazz: “their eyes jazz should only be the despairing, broken-down nostalgia of an old Negro who is trapped between five glasses of whiskey, the curse of his race, and the racial hatred of the white men” (Leitch 1443-4). However, “in fifty years’ time the type of jazz howl hiccupped by a poor misfortunate Negro will be upheld only by the whites who believe in it as an expression of Negritude, and who are faithful to this arrested image of a type of relationship” (Fanon 1444). Toward the end of his article, Fanon asks the question: “What are the relations between the struggle- whether political or military- and culture?” (1445). His reply is that “Culture is not put into cold storage during the conflict. The struggle itself in its development and in its internal progression sends culture along different paths and traces out entirely new ones for it” (1445). Finally, he states that after Colonialism is gone, “this new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others” (1445). And that “it is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows” (1446).
So how are these two theories similar and dissimilar? First how are they similar? Marxism and Post-Colonialism both deal with ideologies in a negative manner. Marxism looks at ideologies such as capitalism, patriotism, religion, communism, classism, even racism and shows how these things drive human beings in making economic and political decisions that are more than often repressive. Post-Colonialism also looks at ideologies but in a somewhat similar way. They look at how Western countries, controlled by their ideologies about certain peoples, races, and languages, repress other countries around the world. Such Western ideologies are racism, Orientalism, Eurocentrism, etc. These ideologies give the colonizers certain impressions about the indigenous peoples which they indoctrinate them with; such ideas that give the colonized low self esteem for themselves and their culture. Both theories of criticism are closely linked with psychoanalysis and both deal with that study in different ways. Both critical theories however are dissimilar in the way that Marxism looks at economic and political outcomes of people’s ideologies while Post-Colonialism looks at more of the cultural and psychological outcomes of Western colonialism. Also, Marxism generally looks at issues and literature confined to the Western world. I even think Hall called him Eurocentric. While those who use Post-colonialist theory to analyze literature are predominately in the West, they focus on literature in third world countries generally. Such are the similarities and differences between Marxism and Post-colonialism.