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Open Marxism is a school of thought which draws on libertarian socialist critiques of party communism and stresses the need for openness to praxis and history through an anti-positivist (dialectical) method grounded in the "practical reflexivity" of Karl Marx's own concepts. The "openness" in open Marxism also refers to a non-deterministic view of history in which the unpredictability of class struggle is foregrounded.
The sources of open Marxism are many, from György Lukács' return to the philosophical roots of Marx's thinking to council communism and from anarchism to elements of Autonomism and situationism. Intellectual affinities with autonomist Marxism were especially strong and led to the creation of the journal The Commoner (2001–2012) following in the wake of previous open Marxist journals Arguments (1958–1962) and Common Sense (1987–1999). In the 1970s and 1980s, state-derivationist debates around the separation of the economic and the political under capitalism unfolded in the San Francisco-based working group Kapitalistate and the Conference of Socialist Economists journal Capital & Class, involving many of the theorists of Open Marxism and significantly influencing its theoretical development.
Three volumes entitled Open Marxism were published by Pluto Press in the 1990s. Recent work by open Marxists has included a revaluation of Theodor W. Adorno. Those commonly associated with open Marxism include John Holloway, Simon Clarke, Werner Bonefeld, Ana C Dinerstein, Richard Gunn, Kosmas Psychopedis, Adrian Wilding, Peter Burnham, Mike Rooke, Hans-Georg Backhaus, Helmut Reichelt, Harry Cleaver, Johannes Agnoli, Kostas Axelos and Henri Lefebvre.
Kostas Axelos' variant of open Marxism makes explicit connections to the existentialist critique of systems theory. He uses Martin Heidegger's phenomenology to reveal an open system of relations (loosely rule-governed "play") rather than a closed and deterministic totality that could be known and predicted by Marxist theory. For example, Axelos critiques theories of globalization that assume a closed world picture,as opposed to an open-ended process of world-forming (mondialisation) in which the neoliberal project to restructure a crisis-ridden capitalism lacks a firm structural foundation. Axelos tries to maintain the unity of knowledge, even if he sees the world as multidimensional and unrepresentable (see world disclosure for the phenomenological concept of world). This was a departure from the Heideggerian Marxism of the early Herbert Marcuse which was, like others in the Frankfurt School, influenced by Hegelianism.
While most open Marxists have rejected Hegelian Marxist approaches, there is also a tendency to interpret the work of Antonio Gramsci as non-Hegelian, or a departure from orthodox theory and practice. Thus, open Marxism has served as the basis for neo-Gramscian research in international relations by Stephen Gill and Robert W. Cox, although some question the openness of metaphors such as "war of position" and "historic bloc" for analysis of micro-interactions and resistance within contemporary neoliberalism.
Some critics[who?] have alleged that open Marxism is too open and only loosely Marxist. Thus, there may be more conceptual dissonance between Marx's analysis of 19th century problems and 20–21st century problems of technoscience and the domination of nature by modern civilization.
Others claim that open Marxist accounts tend to treat the national capitalist state abstractly, without reference to uneven and combined development and international forms of class struggle in the capitalist "world-system".