crediting Marx's contribution

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

On the upcoming occasion of Marx's 200th birthday, the NYT features philosophy professor Jason Barker asking, "what lessons might we draw from his dangerous and delirious philosophical legacy? What precisely is Marx's lasting contribution?"

Today the legacy would appear to be alive and well. Since the turn of the millennium countless books have appeared, from scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx's reading of capitalism and its enduring relevance to our neoliberal age.

[I'm familiar with a few of them--but there is much studying yet to be done, given the verbosity of many Marxists.]

Social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, owe something of an unspoken debt to Marx through their unapologetic targeting of the "eternal truths" of our age. Such movements recognize, as did Marx, that the ideas that rule every society are those of its ruling class and that overturning those ideas is fundamental to true revolutionary progress.

"The transition to a new society where relations among people, rather than capital relations," Barker continues, "finally determine an individual's worth is arguably proving to be quite a task:"

Marx, as I have said, does not offer a one-size-fits-all formula for enacting social change. But he does offer a powerful intellectual acid test for that change. On that basis, we are destined to keep citing him and testing his ideas until the kind of society that he struggled to bring about, and that increasing numbers of us now desire, is finally realized.

The Federalist's Garret York considers Barker's piece to be beyond parody, but it appears instead to be beyond Garret York's understanding. Witness this witless rambling:

As so many have done before him, Barker labors under the false assumption that communism has never truly been attempted in its purest form, and thus the term as well as the definition cannot be ascribed to failed states such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the German Democratic Republic, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

More irony: Marxist dictatorships labeled themselves "republics."

So, if a dictatorship calls itself a "democratic republic"--like the former East Germany did--does that discredit the concept of democracy, or the notion of a democratic republic? Or, perhaps, should it indicate that those words are being misappropriated? It is just as easy to misuse economic terms such as communism and socialism, but I don't expect York to understand that--he's too busy citing the infamous Black Book of Communism. "It must have been someone else's concepts the Bolsheviks were touting," he continues, "as they slit the throats of the members of the provisional government in Saint Petersburg:"

Perhaps it was some other manifesto Guevara was reading as he summarily executed dissenters. Surely something was lost in translation from German to Xiang when 55 million people perished during Chairman Mao's "Great Leap Forward."

In hindsight, how could the Cuban people have trusted a mediocre Washington Senators pitcher if he couldn't correctly read his catcher's signs? Let the citizens of Venezuela feed themselves on the satisfaction of knowing their government got Marxism wrong. And North Koreans can warm themselves over the ashes of "incorrect implementation" when the heat is shut off by their neighborhood energy monitor every night next winter.

"Karl Marx's philosophy is the sandy foundation," he continues, "on which the most ruthless and brutal governing bodies of the modern era were established." I have one question, however: do we get to denigrate Adam Smith every time someone in a capitalist country becomes jobless, or homeless, or suffers from lack of medical care, or dies of starvation? Fair is fair. After that lapse, York almost gave the game away with this tidbit:

China embraced capitalism when they took possession of Hong Kong in 1997, and has since taken the first tentative steps toward dictatorship when earlier this year, the ruling legislative body eliminated term limits for President Xi Jinping.

If dictatorship and capitalism can coexist, then politics and economics might not necessarily determine each other. Therefore, democracy and communism...

(Go ahead, take your time...)

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 3, 2018 9:01 AM.

redistributing sex was the previous entry in this blog.

the "live intellectual tradition" of Marxism is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


  • About
  • Contact
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.031