Marxism is not as alive today as it was during the two preceding centuries. But even now ideas of Karl Marx continue to engage intellect, imagination and conscience of human minds across the world from perspectives that are understandably very diverse. Thus, as we approach 2018, the bicentenary of the great scholar, it is certainly an apt moment not just to remember him, but to rethink and interrogate all that is sourced to him, both academically and in terms of political practice. Sharing this perspective, the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna would organize an International Conference entitled on 'Karl Marx-Life, Ideas and Influence: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary' during June 16-20, 2018 in Patna (Bihar), India.
The theme of the conference is indeed broad and its deliberations could encompass many strands - his life struggles; he and his lifelong collaborator Engels; enormous span of his writings covering economics, history, sociology, political theory, literature and other social issues; his political activities starting from, say, First International; or the continuation of his academic and political legacy by scholars and political leaders, opening new frontiers of Marxism. With a futuristic perspective, it would also be interesting to speculate what would have been the international political scenario now had the USSR not imploded in 1991. From this wide canvas, it is expected that the participants in the Conference would choose their own themes, matching their interest and expertise and weave their own pattern, keeping Marx at the centre.
The objective of the Conference, however, would be best attained if the participants appreciate that a critical examination of Marx should be divided first into two broad spheres - ideas and praxis, each having a wide span. In the realm of ideas, it is well known that much more is known of Marx's work today than was the case while he lived. He published only a fraction of his work in his lifetime and left it to Engels and some other scholars to clean up the manuscripts, decipher them and then finally publish them. Apart from the Communist Manifesto, written jointly with Engels (1848), he had published only two books during his life time - A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) and Capital, Volume 1 (1967). Thanks to the patient efforts of concerned friends and scholars, there are now 49 volumes of collected work and many more texts are yet to be published. Secondly, the sphere of Marxian ideas now also contain the contributions of those who, utilizing the Marxian framework of social analysis, have investigated some economic and political phenomena that was absent from Marx's own writings. Some of these important scholars are Lenin, Trotsky and Mao. Finally, one may note that Marxian ideas touch nearly every discipline of social science and in an inter-disciplinary framework. But four disciplines that jointly dominate the Marxian ideas are probably - Sociology, Feminism, Philosophy and Arts/Literature. This leads to 6 sub-themes of the Conference under the broad sphere of Marxian ideas - (i) Laws of Social and Economic Dynamics; Mode of Production and Historical/Dialectical Materialism, (ii) Marx and Variants of Marxism, (iii) Marxism and Sociology : Theory of Class and Social Formation, (iv) Marxian and Feminism, (v) Marxism and Philosophical Issues, and (vi) Marxism and Arts & Literature.
In the sphere of praxis, the canvas is as wide as the world itself. It is difficult to think of a country whose economic and political trajectory in the last century or so have escaped the influence of Marxian ideas, though the extent of such influence is indeed varied. The countries that draw immediate attention in the context of Marxian influence are those where communists have held power, starting from the USSR. At one point of time, these communist countries had covered nearly one-third of the world. Since 1991 with the imploding of USSR, the scenario has changed, but the political experience of those communist countries provides us with enough materials to critically examine the Marxian thoughts. One should also remember here the experience of those countries where Marxism had implied the worst forms of dictatorship. The influence of Marxism, however, has not been limited to the communist countries alone. The idea of 'social democracy' which many countries of the world are now trying to establish as the most desired form of governance can be easily traced to the Marxian critique of a capitalist order, at least the way it functioned in the nineteenth century Europe. This indeed is an indirect appreciation of the ideas of Marx not just in words but in practice. The world under is not as unfair today as it would have been in the absence of Marx. An examination of the Marxian praxis should cover all these aspects. Although one can identify certain global commonalities the way Marxism has influenced economic and political treads in different countries, it will probably be analytically advantageous to analyse these influences, using a geographical grouping. These groups could be - (i) Marxism in the Indian Context, (ii) Marxism in Asia, (iii) Russian and European Experience, (iv) Latin American Scenario and (v) Broad Global Trends.
Topics include, but are not limited to:
- Laws of Social and Economic Dynamics: Mode of Production; Historical/Dialectical Materialism
- Marx and Variants of Marxism
- Marxism and Sociology: Theory of Class and Social Formation
- Marxism and Feminism
- Marxism and Philosophical Issues
- Marxism and Arts & Literature
- Marxism in the Indian context
- Russian Experience
- Marxism across Asia
- Latin American Scenario
- Broad Global Trends