In praise of Marx

The Chronicle of Higher Education

There is a sense in which the whole of Marx’s writing boils down to several embarrassing questions: Why is it that the capitalist West has accumulated more resources than human history has ever witnessed, yet appears powerless to overcome poverty, starvation, exploitation, and inequality? What are the mechanisms by which affluence for a minority seems to breed hardship and indignity for the many? Why does private wealth seem to go hand in hand with public squalor? Is it, as the good-hearted liberal reformist suggests, that we have simply not got around to mopping up these pockets of human misery, but shall do so in the fullness of time? Or is it more plausible to maintain that there is something in the nature of capitalism itself which generates deprivation and inequality?

Yes. (That was easy!)

Marx was the first thinker to talk in those terms.

He also famously once said, I am not a Marxist and no doubt would be appalled by those on the far left who squabble over their interpretations of what he wrote.

The article points out that Marx praised capitalism because of the power and force with which it destroyed feudalism (Anyone out there want to be a serf? Didn’t think so.) But he rightfully slams it for not letting most share in the advances capitalism brought. Instead, a few have hogged most of the resources.

The recent financial crashes have forced us once again to think of the setup under which we live as a whole, and it was Marx who first made it possible to do so.

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