The author begins with a polemical attack on ''conformist'' or orthodox Marxism, in which he includes structuralist schools. He argues that a cult of success and science drained this Marxism of its critical impulse and that the successes of the Russian and Chinese revolutions encouraged a mechanical and fruitless mimicry. He then turns to a Western alternative that neither succumbed to the spell of success nor obliterated the individual in the name of science. In the nineteenth century, this Western Marxism already diverged from Russian Marxism in its interpretation of Hegel and its evaluation of Engels'' orthodox Marxism. The author follows the evolution of this minority tradition and its opposition to authoritarian forms of political theory and practice.
Russell Jacoby's Dialectic of Defeat is one of those books that is excellent in what it critiques but confused in what it advocates. A history of alternate traditions of "Western Marxism," particularly focusing on Left Communism and Marxist Humanism varieties, as well as a critique of the idea that "Victory makes right" in the Marxist-Leninist models, particularly of the Soviet Union. While his critique is strong, he particularly dissects Althusser's claims a..