As early as the 1980s, highly diverse authors were occasionally described as "post-Marxist" – including Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno and Jürgen Habermas. Today, the term usually refers to a theoretical current whose engagement with Marx has been strongly informed by poststructuralist and post-operaist readings.

The origins of post-Marxism lie in the late-1970s French philosophies of (post-) structuralism and deconstructivism. An important impetus was provided by the writings of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuzes and Félix Guattari; later, Jacques Derrida's writings also played an important role. It began by taking a strongly “anti-economic” turn, with a study of Antonio Gramsci and a critical analysis of Althusser. Post-Marxism is characterised by a policy and democratic-theoretical approach that no longer makes use of a class theoretical basis, at last not in the classical sense. Today, the term "post-Marxism" is used to describe texts by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri and Slavoj Žižek, as well as by Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Rancière and Étienne Balibar.

An Introductory text on post-Marxism have been written by Philip Goldstein. Further reading is provided by Gregory Meyerson’s Post-Marxism as Compromise Formation. A history of post-Marxism has been compiled by Stuart Sim.