Not available in 2021/22
GV4G7      Half Unit
Marx and Marxism

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Jan Kandiyali


This course is available on the MA in Modern History and MSc in Political Theory. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 2 groups.

Course content

This course will provide a detailed assessment of Karl Marx’s political philosophy. It is divided into three sections. The first will focus on Marx’s early writings, which contain his critique of liberalism, his analysis of religion, and his depiction of alienated labour under capitalism. The second will consider the materialist theory of history, the view that history is characterised by the development of productive power, as well as his theory of the state and ideology. The third will focus on Marx’s economics and ethics: his view that capitalism is inherently exploitative, the vexed debate about whether such exploitation constitutes an injustice, and his vision of the good life under communism. In addition to the writings of Marx, we will also read some contemporary writings in the Anglo-American tradition. The focus throughout will be on understanding and assessing Marx’s complex arguments. The course should be of interest to MSc students taking existing courses on liberalism and justice but also to students in Law, IR, Sociology, and International History.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Lent Term. This year some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and seminars. This course includes a reading week in LT Week 6.

Formative coursework

One formative essay of around 2,000 words.

Indicative reading

McLellan, D., Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000).

Cohen, G.A., Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000).

Elster, Jon, Making Sense of Marx (Oxford: OUP, 1985).

Kandiyali, Jan, “Historical Materialism: Marx”, in A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, John Shand (ed.) (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019).

Wolff, Jonathan, "Karl Marx", Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.): 

Wood, Allen, W.  Karl Marx, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).


Gareth Stedman-Jones, Anthony Grayling and Frances Wheen talking about Marx's life and ideas:

Jonathan Wolff on Marx on alienation: 


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 31.2
Merit 61.2
Pass 7.5
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2020/21: 37

Average class size 2020/21: 12

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication