When I pointed out that the Marxist tradition is still alive in American academia, the most common response I got was: “But the Marxist tradition isn’t Marxist!” For example:
Overall, I’d liken the place of Marx in academic sociology to that of a senior citizen who everybody publicly respects, but nobody really listens to. Even the remaining self-professed Marxists seem more interested in in things like ecology and identitarianism these days, even though (as I’ve fruitlessly tried pointing out to them) all that is at radical cross purposes with the Marxist enterprise in both its theoretical and political aspect alike.
Over a quarter of academic sociologists are self-professed Marxists, but if their self-profession is wrong…
I’m not sure the quantitative surveys you quote do justice to the point Sandifer (may) have been making. The ‘old style’ Marxism where you do class analysis of a state, looking at what the interests of a class are, looking at how the material conditions of production affect ‘superstructures’ such as culture, ‘rights’, etc, is very rare in mainstream social science departments these days. I presume because such analysis might undermine some of the shibboleths of the ‘Cathedral’ – including ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘white privilege’, ‘patriarchy’, etc. Those who call themselves Marxists in the academy have mostly long since abandoned material conceptions of history for Judith Butler inspired charlatanry.
This charlatanry is better known as the New Left—or, if you prefer (and there’s no reason not to, since the term was used even before ’68), Cultural Marxism—or, if you’re Tom Wolfe, Rococo Marxism. “You proles aren’t down with us? It’s… it’s not like we ever thought you were the revolutionary agent of history anyway.” Or maybe the CIA made it, or maybe the CIA made Tom Wolfe. Whatever. But something is going on, and it’s been going on since 1931.
Marxism today isn’t a school of thought at all; it’s an idiom, a set of shibboleths. Imagined Communities decisively refuted Marxism—but it was written in the Marxist idiom, so nobody minded. Tom Whyman laments the loss of a grand unifying national myth and glorifies directionless, irrational mass violence, but he does it in the Marxist idiom, so he’s not a fascist (read: Sorelian), which he is. In fact, some ex-Communists tell me that their former circles were OK with anything, so long as it came from someone who’s very highly educated. Someone who knows words. Someone who has the best words.
Benedict Anderson’s decisive refutation of Marxism is that, to paraphrase, it served as an idiom for the expression of nationalism, or a strategic position for nationalists to adopt. Certainly this is true of Ho Chi Minh and Deng Xiaoping, but this could be generalized: it serves as an idiom for whatever the people who used it wanted to do anyway. In Vietnam, this was nationalism; in the USA, as we can see from true believers like Fredrik deBoer, it’s Menckenism.
Phil Sandifer complains in Neoreaction a Basilisk that Mencius Moldbug never engaged with Marxism, and writes that “there’s a confrontation that’s obviously waiting to happen that Moldbug endlessly deferred”. But, aside from deBoer, how many serious Marxists are there today? Moldbug may not engage with “the philosophical principles of Karl Marx”, but he does engage with the most popular use of the Marxist idiom today: the caste war.