From Class to Culture: Ideological Landscapes of the Left Thought Collective in the West, 1950s–1980s


The paper explores the evolution of the political and ideological landscapes of the left thought collective in the West. Heavily influenced by the classical Marxian paradigm prior to the 1950s, it gradually shifted to the matters of culture and identity between the 1950s and the 1980s. In the left ideological paradigm, this transformation became known as the “cultural turn”; some early left authors also referred to this shift as “Cultural Marxism.” The latter became a favorite word of choice for scholars and writers on the right. Social scholarship on both sides of the political spectrum have frequently stressed the important role of the so-called Frankfurt School in pioneering the abovementioned transformation. This paper argues that, as far as the mainstreaming of the cultural turn, there were more important intellectual sources that not only came to privilege culture and identity but they also expanded the geography of the left thought collective beyond Europe. These sources included racialized Marxism of C.L.R James, William Dubois, and Frantz Fanon (1940s-1960s) and British Cultural Studies, which gradually phased out economic determinism and the class-based approach of classical Marxism by shifting attention to the Third World, race and gender minorities within Western countries, and identity matters in general.

Publication Title

Springer Geography