Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Refreshing Marxist Outburst

It's not often that someone identifying himself as a Marxist can write something so entertaining. In fact, this essay is a joy partly because its tone is so representative in ways of the parts of The Communist Manifesto that I can remember. The whole thing is worth a read. A couple of teasers:

On anti-globalization:

Marx quite admired the internationalising tendencies of the capitalist system. He argued that, ‘to the chagrin of reactionists’, capitalism dislodges local and national industries and turns production into a global phenomenon. ‘The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation’, he and Engels wrote. Now, if you will forgive their 19th-century language, ‘inappropriate’ and un-PC, I know, their point is clear: globalisation at least has the benefit of smashing down silly local practices and ‘civilising’ formerly backward societies.

(I am especially gratified to see the adjective 'silly' appear!)

On consumerism:

Marx loved the consumer society. Indeed he described it as a ‘civilising moment’ of capital. In the Grundrisse, he wrote: ‘In spite of all his “pious” speeches, [the capitalist] searches for means to spur [the workers] on to consumption, to give his wares new charms, to inspire them with new needs by constant chatter, etc. It is precisely this side of the relation of capital and labour which is an essential civilising moment.’ It is striking that what a bearded communist described as ‘civilising’ 150 years ago — the chatter and charms of consumerism — is now written off by anti-capitalists as dangerous and corrupting.

(h/t Division of Labour)



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