Why write an article on the anniversary of The Communist Manifesto when the article has nothing to do with... The Communist Manifesto but instead just recaps the standard arguments you can find in all quarters of society about the rich and the poor and that have been kicking around since the days of the Bible? After all, Marx himself once explained to a friend that what made him (Marx) different from other critics of capitalism was not that he had discovered the classes and the gross injustice and misery that system creates. Rather, what Marx prided himself on was his discovery that every society had specific historical roots and end; that capitalism would also have an end; and that the end would be the beginning of a better form of society that would eventually abolish classes and all the other contradictions of society.
In other words, what was distinctive about Marx's work was his scientific understanding of social transformation and his humanistic optimism based in the unlimited potential of humanity.
That's a far cry from the stuff we're getting in this article (the over-consumption argument, also anathema to Marx, sounds pretty "right-wing" to me). Ironically, it is precisely in an age when Marx's revolutionary relevance seems hard to detect that many commentators love to drag him out as a down-in-the-mouth doom-monger. It wasn't the misery of capitalism that interested Marx; nor did he discover it. What he was interested in was the productive potential it released and the groundwork it laid for a revolutionary abolition of capitalist society.
The point about the current crisis isn't so much that there was some deadly marriage of needy over-spenders and greedy lenders. It's that Western capitalism is unable (not simply unwilling) to invest the great wash of capital productively. The current bubble that burst happens to have come in a very delicate industry. But despite the lessons that will supposedly be learnt, there will inevitably be another bubble to replace this one, just as the housing/credit bubble replaced the dot.com bubble. Who knows? Astute investors may already be identifying the next big investment thing as the rest of us worry about our savings and jobs.
Oct 2 2008 - 7:16am