The Uses and Abuses of 'Civil Society'

Ellen Meiksins Wood

Abstract


We live in curious times. Just when intellectuals of the Left in the West have a rare opportunity to do something useful, if not actually world-historic, they - or large sections of them - are in full retreat. Just when reformers in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are looking to Western capitalism for paradigms of economic and political success, many of us appear to be abdicating the traditional role of the Western left as critic of capitalism. Just when more than ever we need a Karl Marx to reveal the inner workings of the capitalist system, or a Friedrich Engels to expose its ugly realities 'on the ground', what we are getting is an army of 'post-Marxists' one of whose principal functions is apparently to conceptualize away the problem of capitalism.

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