Dr Kieran Durkin
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Experienced Individual Fellowship



Supervisor at York: Professor Werner Bonefeld (Department of Politics)

Supervisor at the University of California, Santa Barbara: Professor Kevin Anderson (Department of Sociology)

Project: The Humanist Marxist Tradition: The Humanist Legacy of Marx's 1844 Manuscripts

Brief Description:

The publication of Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 changed the course of critical theory. Appearing first in Russian in 1927, then in the original German in 1932, and then in French in 1933-4, the 1844 Manuscripts circulated in Central and Western European intellectual circles at a time when the European continent was increasingly falling under the sway of despotism. What was most revolutionary about these writings was the incontrovertible evidence they offered of a ‘humanist’ Marx: a Marx for whom communism consisted not in the mere abolition of private property in its negative sense, as pursued in the USSR under Stalin, but in the wholesale re-arrangement of socio-economic life in a manner that would enable the maximal positive fulfilment of the ‘all-round individual’. Through this timely insight into the humanist underpinnings of the young Marx’s thinking, the 1844 Manuscripts helped to usher in a series of heterodox forms of Marxism, in Western Europe and beyond, that challenged the then prevalent understanding of Marx’s writings as economistic and deterministic. Variously described as ‘Hegelian Marxism’, ‘Western Marxism’, or ‘Humanist Marxism’, these emerging forms of Marxism opened up new vistas in social struggle and intellectual engagement as the twentieth century progressed, helping to push back against Stalinism and other totalitarian forms of government as well as to reinvigorate Marxist criticism of the pernicious effects of capitalism. Whilst much has been written on Hegelian and Western Marxism, much less has been written on Humanist Marxism. The proposed research will rectify this situation. It will provide the first detailed consideration of the Humanist Marxist tradition – a tradition which springs from the reception of the 1844 Manuscripts and from the recovery of the concept of ‘the human’ that publication of the manuscripts heralded –which has been obscured by the labels ‘Hegelian’ and ‘Western’ Marxist.


A Report from California

The end of the first of my two outbound years at UC Santa Barbara is fast approaching. It has been a great experience of sun, seminars, public engagements, not to mention many conference and archival visits. The staff and students at UC Santa Barbara (a place where they have skateboard lanes and students go surfing on their lunchbreak!) have been incredibly helpful and welcoming. Professor Kevin Anderson and Lisa Blanco, and the entire support staff in the Sociology Department deserve especial mention, but the wider department, from graduate students to professors and the attendees at the regular Social Movements workshop have been part of what has been an inspiring experience.


As Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow researching the Humanist Marxist Tradition, I travelled to Trinidad and Tobago to vist the C.L.R James Collections at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and the Oil Workers Trades Union, San Fernando, as well as to the C.L.R. James Papers at Columbia University. I also visited the New York Public Library, where they store part of Erich Fromm's literary estate, and Chicago, where the Raya Dunayevskaya Papers are held. The opportunity to explore the history of these central figures to the Humanist Marxist Tradition has been a real privilege, one that reminds me of the breadth of what Dunayevskaya spoke of as 'the dialectics of liberation.' This issue is something that will be explored at greater length in Raya Dunayevskaya's Intersectional Marxism: Race, Gender, and the Dialectics of Liberation (Palgrave Macmillan, Forthcoming), edited by Kevin B. Anderson, Kieran Durkin, and Heather A. Brown.
The last few months have been particularly busy, including talks at the Science Studies Colloqiuem at UC San Diego, the Carribean Philosophical Association Conference at Brown University, and the Left Forum Conference at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Interspersed between these talks, have been regular presentations at the Poetic Research Bureau in Chinatown, on the edge of downtown LA, a place where academics and the general populace congregate to attempt to transcend the division between the sacred realm of the academy and the profane realm of the everyday world.

Kieran Durkin image

Contact details

Dr Kieran Durkin
Department of Politics
University of York
YO10 5DD