How did the articles come about?

The articles in the Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus (Historical Critical Dictionary of Marxism; HKWM) are produced through a very particular working method. Due to the basic historical-critical impulse to be suspicious of all certainties of tradition, work on the articles is necessarily conducted as an open research process. The path to be pursued is not fixed at the beginning, it must be chartered along the way. To this end, collective forms of intellectual production were developed and are at the heart of the dictionary’s activities. Instead of authors competing to make a name for themselves, as is often the case in existing academic institutions and universities – albeit in part due to the prevalent scarcity of resources and the unequal distribution of research funds both globally and within national research landscapes –, the working method developed for the HKWM is intended to promote collective research. Contrary to the peer-review-process which is customary in academia, criticism on the work for the HKWM is not carried out anonymously. Authors working on articles receive feedback that they can attribute to names – and usually also to faces – that are familiar to them.

Exposé and first draft

The individual articles of the dictionary are signed by their authors. At the same time, each HKWM article is the product of a discursive, collective working method. The process begins with an exposé on one of the available keywords, which authors interested in contributing to the dictionary are invited to submit at any given time. The exposé should be a two-to-three-page outline of the problem, its relevant topics and the material to be covered. To avoid overlap, authors are advised to consult the articles in the dictionary that have already been written on keywords related to this topic. If the proposal is accepted by the editors of the dictionary, the author then prepares a first draft of the article, having already received an initial round of feedback from the editorial board.

At the annual InkriT conferences, the draft articles are discussed with their authors in individual workshops, such as happened here in May 2018 with the keyword “Populism” at the ver.di education and meeting centre Clara Sahlberg (Berlin-Wannsee).

Dictionary workshops

“Workshops” have become established as the preferred form of collective work on the dictionary. These “workshops” exist in two forms, which differ in their degree of publicity. At the annual InkriT conferences (which usually take place in May in Berlin), individual drafts of articles are discussed with their authors. This takes place in several, sometimes simultaneous, 90-minute workshops during the conference, each of which is dedicated to a particular keyword or draft of an article. Anyone interested in taking part in the conference is cordially invited to join the InkriT fellows and participate in these discussions. To register for these discussions, those interested should write a short request to

The second form of collective work is the workshops of the dictionary editorial board, which take place approximately every two to three months throughout the year. In these workshops, the entire editorial team discusses the latest drafts of several different articles. Both workshop forms use individually written “votes” on entries as a basis for discussion, with editors in charge of a given entry – and on occasion external experts invited to weigh in on a certain topic – providing assessments and longer commentaries on article drafts.

Editorial work and communication with the authors

The fact that the authors are present at the InkriT conference allows them to enter into direct exchange with all project participants. To enable the authors to continue working on their articles after the conferences, the editor responsible for each article summarises the results of the workshop discussion and communicates these to the author. Further suggestions for additions, elaborations and changes are communicated on the basis of the minutes from the discussions that take place in subsequent months in the editorial workshops on the article. Each individual article is assigned to an editor who is made responsible for mediating between the discussion groups and the authors and for communicating the interim results. There are four lead editors who divide the final say for all the articles between them: Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Frigga Haug, Wolfgang Küttler and Peter Jehle. The agreements between the editorial board and the editors of the HKWM as a whole state that the interests of all participants should be reflected in the course of this work process. Grounded in the historical material, the historical-critical quality of the articles is fostered by their multi-perspectival as well as emancipatory critical and interdisciplinary mode of creation.

Based on the previous discussions, the authors create a subsequent, i.e. second, or third draft of the article. These new versions are in turn discussed at the workshops and go through an additional round of feedback. This can take place over a longer period of time, ranging from one to three years. Finally, the finished article is put into its final form and once the editorial, stylistic and formal criteria have been taken into account, is ready for print.

Each article begins with a so-called trailer, an introductory segment that summarises the problem addressed by the article and the structure of its argument. This trailer is based on the compiled history of the keyword and serves to contextualise the keyword’s relevance. This provides an introductory orientation point for the questions posed by the article, which are further developed through the analysis of the material.

Making controversies productive

Our effort to support each other in the work on the dictionary is an important part of fulfilling the historical-critical approach. The discussions we have with one another necessarily entail processes of understanding and negotiation which consider many different, controversial perspectives so that they can be formulated and delineated as precisely as possible for the dictionary. For this reason, articles are often divided into sections in which different authors address individual aspects of the keyword, each focusing on a form of critique, for example, an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, feminist or ecological perspective.

These collective working strategies are also intended to ensure that the dictionary does not represent only one school of thought. The articles are written by representatives of different theoretical traditions and Marxisms, which come from different regions around the world.

“It has become a fixed tradition at the […] annual InkriT conferences to let the “Dictionary Workshop” become a site of international discussion among the authors and addressees beyond the limits of the editorial body.” [1]

[1] Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Vol. 3. Hamburg: Argument Verlag 1998, p. III.