Western Marxism is a current of Marxist theory that arose from Western and Central Europe in the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the ascent of Leninism. The term denotes a loose collection of theorists who advanced an interpretation of Marxism distinct from both classical and Orthodox Marxism and the Marxism-Leninism of the Soviet Union.
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Less concerned with economic analysis than earlier schools of Marxist thought, Western Marxism placed greater emphasis on the study of the cultural trends of capitalist society, deploying the more philosophical and subjective aspects of Marxism, and incorporating non-Marxist approaches to investigating culture and historical development. An important theme was the origins of Karl Marx's thought in the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the recovery of what they called the "Young Marx" (the more humanistic early works of Marx). Although some early figures such as György Lukács and Antonio Gramsci were prominent in political activities, Western Marxism mainly found its adherents in academia, especially after the Second World War. Prominent figures included Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse.
Since the 1960s, the concept has been closely associated with the New Left. While many Western Marxists were adherents of Marxist humanism, the term also encompasses figures and schools of thought that were strongly critical of Hegelianism and humanism.