Marxism and Social Movements

Buy hardcover (Brill)
Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004211759

Edited by Colin Barker, Manchester Metropolitan University, Laurence Cox, National University of Ireland Maynooth, John Krinsky, The City College of New York, and Alf Gunvald Nilsen, University of Bergen

Marxism and Social Movements is the first sustained engagement between social movement theory and Marxist approaches to collective action. The chapters collected here, by leading figures in both fields, discuss the potential for a Marxist theory of social movements; explore the developmental processes and political tensions within movements; set the question in a long historical perspective; and analyse contemporary movements against neo-liberalism and austerity.

Exploring struggles on six continents over 150 years, this collection shows the power of Marxist analysis in relation not only to class politics, labour movements and revolutions but also anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles, community activism and environmental justice, indigenous struggles and anti-austerity protest. It sets a new agenda both for Marxist theory and for movement research.

Contributors include: Paul Blackledge, Marc Blecher, Patrick Bond,Chik Collins, Ralph Darlington, Neil Davidson, Ashwin Desai, Jeff Goodwin, Chris Hesketh, Gabriel Hetland, Elizabeth Humphrys, Christian Høgsbjerg, David McNally, Trevor Ngwane, Heike Schaumberg and Hira Singh.

Biographical note

Colin Barker is honorary lecturer in sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University. He co-organizes the annual international conferences on Alternative Futures and Popular Protest. He has published many books and articles on social movements and revolutions and is an active socialist.

Laurence Cox, Ph.D. (1999, Trinity College Dublin), co-directs the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth. He co-edits the social movement journal Interface and has also published Understanding European Movements (Routledge, 2013, with Cristina Flesher Fominaya).

John Krinsky, Ph.D. (2002, Columbia University), is associate professor of political science at The City College of New York. He co-edits the journal Social Movement Studies, and published Free Labor: Workfare and the Contested Language of Neoliberalism (Chicago 2007).

Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Ph.D. (2006, Bergen) is associate professor of sociology at the University of Bergen. He co-edits the journal Interface and has published widely on social movements. He is the author of Dispossession and Resistance in India (Routledge, 2010).


Researchers and postgraduates studying social movements or Marxism within sociology, history, anthropology and political science, as well as social movement activists and laypeople interested in popular politics.


“The Financial Times positively dissects Marx’s ideas in their weekend edition, while today’s radical movements such as Climate Camp, Slutwalk, or Occupy treat Marx with suspicion or even contempt. These contradictory phenomena make Barker et al.’s Marxism and Social Movements all the more important. The essays in this collection aim to develop both the tools necessary to understand today’s social movements, and an analysis that can explain the marginality of Marxism within them. More fundamentally, the book also sets out to establish a Marxist framework for social movement research and practice, where otherwise one has been absent.
Mark Bergfeld, the Oxford Left Review

“Given the dearth of politically judicious and penetrating analyses of contemporary popular mobilisations, Marxism and Social Movements is a timely and refreshing contribution to social movement studies. Though the subject matter examined in each chapter is diverse— spanning, in total, struggles across six continents and over 150 years—the edited volume as a whole presents a compelling case for reviving Marxist analytical frameworks to examine social movements.”
Puneet Dhaliwal , Ceasefire, published on October 17th, 2013

“Men det Marxism and Social Movements demonstrerer, er at det er større sjanse for å vinne en annen verden hvis du ser at kapitalismen er kjerneproblemet, og satser på at arbeiderklassens kamp for å frigjøre seg selv fra dette systemet også gir de beste forutsetningene for å gjøre slutt på undertrykkingen, utbyttingen og ødeleggelsen av livsgrunnlaget vårt på moder jord.”
Andreas Ytterstad,

Table of contents

Marxism and Social Movements: An Introduction, Colin Barker, Laurence Cox, John Krinsky and Alf Gunvald Nilsen


Marxism and Social Movements

1. Class-Struggle and Social Movements, Colin Barker
2. What Would a Marxist Theory of Social Movements Look Like?, Alf Gunvald Nilsen and Laurence Cox

Social-Movements Studies and its Discontents

3. The Strange Disappearance of Capitalism from Social-Movement Studies, Gabriel Hetland and Jeff Goodwin
4. Marxism and the Politics of Possibility: Beyond Academic Boundaries, John Krinsky


Developmental Perspectives on Social Movements

1. Eppur Si Muove: Thinking ‘The Social Movement’, Laurence Cox
2. Class-Formation and the Labour-Movement in Revolutionary China, Marc Blecher
3. Contesting the Postcolonial Development-Project: A Marxist Perspective on Popular Resistance in the Narmada Valley, Alf Gunvald Nilsen

The Politics of Social Movements

4. The Marxist Rank-And-File/Bureaucracy Analysis of Trade-Unionism: Some Implications for the Study of Social-Movement Organisations, Ralph Darlington
5. Defending Place, Remaking Space: Social Movements in Oaxaca and Chiapas, Chris Hesketh
6. Uneven and Combined Marxism within South Africa’s Urban Social Movements, Patrick Bond, Ashwin Desai and Trevor Ngwane


Comparative-Historical Perspective

1. Thinking About (New) Social Movements: Some Insights from the British Marxist Historians, Paul Blackledge
2. Right-Wing Social Movements: The Political Indeterminacy Of Mass Mobilisation, Neil Davidson
3. Class, Caste, Colonial Rule, And Resistance: The Revolt of 1857 In India, Hira Singh
4. The Black International as Social-Movement Wave: C.L.R. James’s History of Pan-African Revolt, Christian Høgsbjerg

Social Movements against Neoliberalism

5. Language, Marxism and the Grasping of Policy-Agendas: Neoliberalism and Political Voice in Scotland’s Poorest Communities, Chik Collins
6. Organic Intellectuals in the Australian Global-Justice Movement: The Weight of 9/11, Elizabeth Humphrys
7. ‘Disorganisation’ as Social-Movement Tactic: Reappropriating Politics During the Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism, Heike Schaumberg
8. ‘Unity of The Diverse’: Working-Class Formations and Popular Uprisings From Cochabamba to Cairo, David McNally