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Dissent's Sheri Berman identifies Marxism's fatal flaw in the midst of Marxism's renaissance. "Marx ultimately neglected politics," writes Berman, "and this was his fatal flaw as well as the fatal flaw of movements claiming to work in his name:"

The irony is that the contemporary period resembles in important ways the one in which Marx came of age. Then as now, capitalism was bringing the world together and generating prosperity for some and economic and social dislocation for many. The neoliberal right's reaction has been to double down on the primacy of economics, calling for more leeway for markets, more limits on state regulation, and more welfare-state cutbacks. As in the past, such policies have generated economic inequality, social divisions, and political dissatisfaction and extremism.

As Berman continues, "it was only through a belief in the primacy of politics, as instantiated in the postwar social democratic settlement, that capitalism and democracy proved able to coexist amicably:"

Without the economic growth generated by capitalism, dramatic improvements of Western living standards would not have been possible. Without the social protections and limits on markets imposed by states, the benefits of capitalism would not have been distributed so widely, and economic, political, and social stability would have been impossible to achieve. A tragic irony is that the very success of this social-democratic compromise made it seem routine; we forget how transformative it actually was. Partially as a result, social movements were often slow to react when at the end of the twentieth century the West began abandoning this compromise. This has brought the reemergence of a form of capitalism Marx would have recognized: prone to crises, growing inequality, social conflict, and in tension with democracy.

Marx is just getting started, writes Andrew Hartman, also in the pages of Dissent. "In recent biographies of Marx," he writes, "historians such as Jonathan Sperber [Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life] and Gareth Stedman Jones [Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion] have argued that his ideas belong in the past:"

On the German philosopher's two-hundredth birthday, we are again witnessing a Marx revival. Against the biographers who think the old man is no longer relevant, Americans are reading and writing about Marx at levels not seen since the 1930s or 1960s. So, it's worth asking: Why Marx? Why now?

Part of the answer is that "Marx pinpointed its compulsion to exploit as well as its compulsion to rule:"

Capitalism not only stole labor value from workers, but also stripped them of their autonomy. For Marx, freedom required that people have autonomy over their work. Since the majority of people in a capitalist economy lack such self-rule, capitalism is incompatible with freedom.

Ever since Marx, one of the left's primary missions--one of the reasons for its existence--has been to expand the idea of political freedom to include economic freedom. Socialists argue that freedom requires autonomy over our work, our bodies, and our time. [...]

But, the fact that Marx is once again being taken up with enthusiasm demonstrates that perhaps more and more people are willing to do the hard work of thinking a new world into existence. At the very least, it shows that we should quit pronouncing Marx dead.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 5, 2018 8:17 PM.

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