Marxist sociologyapproaches within academic sociology which utilize MARXISM. These grew in importance particularly in the 1960s in Europe and the US as a reaction to the perceived dominance of STRUCTURAL-FUNCTIONALISM and the political conservatism of established sociology In the 20th century, the intellectual development of Marxism had taken place mainly outside academic institutions and was of limited direct influence in the social sciences. In the 1960s, there was wider questioning of the consensus models of society and of the presumed evolutionary nature of social change. Marxist sociology developed not just around conflict models of society and revolutionary models of social change (see CONFLICT THEORY), but also around methodological challenges.
The assumed VALUE NEUTRALITY of orthodox social science was seen to be undermined by its privileged position within society and its practitioners’ roles as advisors to large organizations and governments: ‘The professional eyes of the sociologists are on the down people, and the professional palm of the sociologist is stretched towards the up people’ (Nicolaus, 1972).
For some critics, the logic of this argument meant that Marxist sociology was a contradiction in terms: the academic pursuit of abstract knowledge divorced from the class struggle could only hinder socialist political ends. Others argued that Marxist academics had a political role through counteracting ‘bourgeois ideology’ within academic institutions and influencing future generations of students. The predominant approach, however, has been to utilize Marxist theory to develop a more adequate social science and to make that knowledge available to political groups.
During the 1970s and 80s, Marxist work had a wide influence within, first, sociology and historical studies, and then the other social sciences and literary studies. Often the debates were taken up in an eclectic fashion, so that the widespread use of Marxian concepts and ideas no longer necessarily reflected a political commitment to socialism or any identification of the user as a Marxist. See also AUSTRO-MARXISM, ANDERSON.