Thursday, October 20, 2016

Indelible Marx

"Marx was fanatically committed to finding empirical corroboration for his theory. That’s what it meant to put philosophy on its feet. And that’s why he spent all those hours alone in the British Museum, studying reports on factory conditions, data on industrial production, statistics about international trade. It was a heroic attempt to show that reality aligned with theory. No wonder he couldn’t finish his book. 

"Marx had very little to say about how the business of life would be conducted in a communist society, and this turned out to be a serious problem for regimes trying to put communism into practice. He had reasons for being vague. He thought that our concepts, values, and beliefs all arise out of the conditions of our own time, which means that it’s hard to know what lies on the other side of historical change. In theory, after the revolution, everything will be “up for grabs”—which has been the great dream of leftist radicalism ever since.

"...How useful is Marx for understanding this bubble of ferment in the advanced economies? I think we don’t yet know very well the precise demographic profile of Brexit voters and Trump and Sanders supporters—whether they are people who have been materially damaged by free trade and immigration or people who are hostile to the status quo for other reasons. That they are basically all the former may turn out to be a consoling belief of the better-off, who can more easily understand why people who have suffered economic damage would be angry than why people who have nothing to complain about financially might simply want to blow the whole thing up.

"Still, in the political confusion, we may feel that we are seeing something that has not been seen in countries like Britain and the United States since before 1945: people debating what Marx would call the real nature of social relations. The political earth is being somewhat scorched. And, as politics continues to shed its traditional restraints, ugly as it is to watch, we may get a clearer understanding of what those relations are."

-Louis Melnad, Karl Marx Yesterday and Today, The New Yorker 

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