Friday, September 23, 2016

"Marx Has a Larger Epistemological Claim on Our Attention as Well"

"Marx has a larger epistemological claim on our attention as well. Just as one cannot discuss human psychology intelligently without coming to grips with Freud's work, despite its flaws, Marx's historical analysis of class relations remains a powerful way to understand the enduring economic inequalities of his time and ours. As a prophet of socialism, he was a bust. He drew only vague sketches of what an egalitarian order should look like. This made it possible for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and their ilk to use his words to justify the horrors they committed in peasant societies quite different from the industrial ones where Marx had expected socialism to triumph.
"Still, he captured some basic truths about the capitalism he believed was doomed to expire. Perhaps the most lasting of these truths is the relentless destruction of traditions—whether oppressive or comforting—that is the hallmark of modernity. In 1848, when Marx described capitalism as a revolutionary force, he did not realize how it would not just endure but grow."

Michael Kazin at The New Republic reviews Gareth Stedman Jones's Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion.

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