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"The Real Karl Marx" by Jonathan Sperber - (Book Review)
New York Review of Books ^ | John Gray

Posted on 05/03/2013 11:22:55 AM PDT by re_tail20

In many ways, Jonathan Sperber suggests, Marx was “a backward-looking figure,” whose vision of the future was modeled on conditions quite different from any that prevail today:

The view of Marx as a contemporary whose ideas are shaping the modern world has run its course and it is time for a new understanding of him as a figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own: the age of the French Revolution, of Hegel’s philosophy, of the early years of English industrialization and the political economy stemming from it. Sperber’s aim is to present Marx as he actually was—a nineteenth-century thinker engaged with the ideas and events of his time. If you see Marx in this way, many of the disputes that raged around his legacy in the past century will seem unprofitable, even irrelevant. Claiming that Marx was in some way “intellectually responsible” for twentieth-century communism will appear thoroughly misguided; but so will the defense of Marx as a radical democrat, since both views “project back onto the nineteenth century controversies of later times.”

Certainly Marx understood crucial features of capitalism; but they were “those of the capitalism that existed in the early decades of the nineteenth century,” rather than the very different capitalism that exists at the start of the twenty-first century. Again, while he looked ahead to a new kind of human society that would come into being after capitalism had collapsed, Marx had no settled conception of what such a society would be like. Turning to him for a vision of our future, for Sperber, is as misconceived as blaming him for our past.

(Excerpt) Read more at nybooks.com ...


TOPICS: Books/Literature; Government; Politics
KEYWORDS: 100milliondead; communism; dystopia; karlmarx; marxism; pages; progressives; regressives

1 posted on 05/03/2013 11:22:55 AM PDT by re_tail20
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To: re_tail20

Marx thought that revolutions would happen first in countries with the most advanced capitalist development like England. But they happened in feudal backwaters like Russia and China.


2 posted on 05/03/2013 11:33:25 AM PDT by Borges
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To: re_tail20

Towards the end, the author characterizes World War I as an “accident of history”. But there are no accidents in history, for believers. Monstrous sociopolitical systems like Marxism (and its derivatives, e.g. Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Nazism) devised by the god of this world are destined to rise and try humanity until the Second Coming.


3 posted on 05/03/2013 11:34:51 AM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: re_tail20

Marxism is purely inane and illogical. It reminds me a lot of Obamacare.....Package it up in a few thousand pages of legalese and gobbldygook, make it sound like your helping the poor, put an intellectual twist on it.....but in the final analysis, it is a pile of crap which only succeeds in making matters much worse.


4 posted on 05/03/2013 11:35:15 AM PDT by Trapped Behind Enemy Lines
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To: Trapped Behind Enemy Lines

Marxism = Kill the rich.


5 posted on 05/03/2013 11:35:35 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: re_tail20

Yawn. Another dead white male in the dust bin of history.


6 posted on 05/03/2013 11:40:56 AM PDT by catnipman (Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)
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To: re_tail20
I heard on a radio show once that Marx's personal and family life were a disaster.

Typical.

7 posted on 05/03/2013 11:59:27 AM PDT by SkyPilot
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To: SkyPilot
I heard on a radio show once that Marx's personal and family life were a disaster.

It's true. He never worked a day in his life, either.

The iron law of liberal intellectuals: they're all low-lifes.

Intellectuals
Degenerate Moderns

8 posted on 05/03/2013 12:04:33 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas
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To: Trapped Behind Enemy Lines
Package it up in a few thousand pages of legalese and gobbldygook, make it sound like your helping the poor, put an intellectual twist on it...

He had one thing. Great slogans. The devil must have helped him with that.

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

Religion is the opium of the masses.

9 posted on 05/03/2013 12:09:00 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas
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To: dfwgator
Marxism = Kill the rich.

Beg to differ.

Marxism = Kill the middle class

10 posted on 05/03/2013 12:13:45 PM PDT by Robwin
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To: Robwin

That too.


11 posted on 05/03/2013 12:14:43 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: re_tail20
Marx spent a lot of time in the London libraries reading Adam Smith trying to figure out a way to smash capitalism out of existence.

He was also a satanist.

12 posted on 05/03/2013 12:27:27 PM PDT by Slyfox (The Key to Marxism is Medicine ~ Vladimir Lenin)
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To: Olog-hai
Since you mention the god of this world, you may be interested to know that Marx acknowledged him in verse:

"Why do I fiddle? Or the wild waves roar?
That they might pound the rocky shore,
That eye be blinded, that bosom swell,
That Soul’s cry carry down to Hell.”

“Fiddler, with scorn you rend your heart.
A radiant God lent you your art,
To dazzle with waves of melody,
To soar to the star-dance in the sky.”

“How so! I plunge, plunge without fail
My blood-black sabre into your soul.
That art God neither wants nor wists,
It leaps to the brain from Hell’s black mists.

“Till heart’s bewitched, till senses reel:
With Satan I have struck my deal.
He chalks the signs, beats time for me,
I play the death march fast and free."

from The Fiddler by Karl Marx, 1837

13 posted on 05/03/2013 12:56:13 PM PDT by Skepolitic
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To: re_tail20

“Certainly Marx understood crucial features of capitalism...”

As a businessman who has actually read Capital, I disagree completely. Marx had some genuine insights, but he only understood a caricature of capitalism.


14 posted on 05/03/2013 12:59:48 PM PDT by Skepolitic
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To: re_tail20

Thank you for this...bfl.


15 posted on 05/03/2013 1:01:09 PM PDT by frog in a pot (Will America do the sensible thing when it realizes a Marxist in the White House is not a good idea?)
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To: re_tail20

“Marx the anti-Communist is an unfamiliar figure”

Nonsense. Anyone who has studied the scientific history of Marxian theory knows that society must transition to communism via socialism with the dictatorship of the proletariat. Of course Marx criticized the Paris Commune and other naive communist advocacy. One of his most famous works, Critique of the Gotha Program, is quite clear about that.

John Gray knows this very well. I don’t know why he would write such nonsense.


16 posted on 05/03/2013 1:13:18 PM PDT by Skepolitic
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To: Skepolitic

That’s an overt confirmation of Marx’s inspiration, then. It’s plain by its fruits, of course, but for Marx to admit it in this fashion speaks volumes.


17 posted on 05/03/2013 1:21:18 PM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Skepolitic

Marx the anticommunist is an unfamiliar figure due to not existing. The Father of Communism will never deny his progeny.

The Big Lie of communism is that everything stops at totalitarian socialism. Once a state becomes all-powerful, it takes every step to forestall any “withering away” and looks to grow itself—if not economically then certainly geopolitically.


18 posted on 05/03/2013 1:24:39 PM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai; Skepolitic

Correction: The Big Lie of communism is the transition from totalitarian socialism to the undefined state of communism (via a “withering away” of the state); everything stops at totalitarian socialism, etc.


19 posted on 05/03/2013 1:26:11 PM PDT by Olog-hai
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To: Olog-hai

I think it goes without saying that Marx’s scientific history is an enormous fraud that ends in a totalitarian state and can never evolve to utopian communism.

The fact is that socialism itself can’t work either. Without markets, there no prices; and without prices, there is no reasonable means by which to make economic calculation.


20 posted on 05/03/2013 1:52:53 PM PDT by Skepolitic
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To: Skepolitic
John Gray knows this very well. I don’t know why he would write such nonsense.

Most likely you're right about Marx and the Paris Commune. Gray is also writing about an earlier period of Marx's life, though, when he was writing for a liberal paper against communism. Marx proved to be too liberal for the Prussian authorities who exiled him. Life among radical exiles radicalized Marx. If they hadn't exiled Marx, he might not have become what he became.

21 posted on 05/03/2013 2:17:06 PM PDT by x
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To: re_tail20
Marx's first entry into the field was written in 1848. From a modern perspective that's an eon ago - late Industrial Revolution, railroads only beginning to establish themselves, most armies still shooting muzzle-loaders, factories that really were slave pits staffed by illiterate ex-farmers come to the city for work. You can absolutely see why his model was constructed the way it was.

But it didn't work. For starters, it was only a descriptive model that failed at being a predictive model. His predictions, for example, that profit levels would fall and that the proletariat would become increasingly immiserated, increasingly illiterate; none of that came to pass, quite the contrary.

And there's a real problem when you try to take a failed predictive model and turn it into a normative model, which is what you do when you try to run an economy on its precepts. Failure is predictable, it followed, and what followed that was a scrambling to explain away the failures rather than simply discarding the model. The model is still with us, no longer an economic model but a religion.

I always smile a little when I hear the Constitution denigrated as the product of kept white males and Marx, who really was one, celebrated as some sort of liberator from all that. It isn't a laughing matter though - so much pain for so much time and still they believe.

22 posted on 05/03/2013 2:24:06 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Olog-hai; Skepolitic

Maybe Marx espoused the “withering away” of the state in order to try to curry support among naive Anarchists. you think that may be?


23 posted on 05/03/2013 6:21:32 PM PDT by Jacob Kell
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To: re_tail20; SkyPilot
A belated thank you for this post. I have just found my gift certificate for Indigo/Chapters Books from my liberal spouse. Hot foot tomorrow to order it. My about page indicates that I do order books on recommendation by Freepers.

I hope to be excused about my sort of sneaking sympathy for Marx. This is because my knowledge of what it was like to try to live in old London Town, during the Victorian era. Pretty extensive knowledge. I agree that Marx and his brilliant intellect did not allow him to face reality.

Today such as Marx would wallow in government grants. Perhaps if he was affluent he could not have written Das Kapital. I would use the great works of Henry Mayhew and Charles Booth on survival in Victorian London. "London Labour and London Poor is a classic work. Marx cursed "the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker". They were tradespeople who badgered him for their debts.

If one was poor in my native city of "foggy old London Town" it was an unmitigated hell. My own criticism of Marx, is that he had rejected the brutal fact that one HAD to earn money, the man HAD to provide. He lost children through lack of the necessary upkeep. He lived in squalor, as did many others and they worked.

Finally his friend Engels managed to give him a weekly stipend. Yet his friend was the son of a cotton manufacturer. The cotton operative had a life span expectancy of half of that of a middle class person. Another Victorian horror story, that of child labour in the cotton mills etc.

All this is a bit of a ramble, but the personal history is what fascinates me- what made the man? I shall find out more when I get that book.

24 posted on 05/03/2013 6:42:40 PM PDT by Peter Libra
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