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Thread: Marxism as a Powerful Descriptive Tool

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    Marxism as a Powerful Descriptive Tool

    In my own undereducated way, I've always thought that many of Karl Marx's insights were powerful ways of describing economic (and social) reality in a "capitalist" society. Frances Wheen on Normblog has an interesting post on this very topic:

    The fall of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat have not come to pass. But Marx's errors or unfulfilled prophecies about capitalism are eclipsed and transcended by the piercing accuracy with which he revealed the nature of the beast. While all that is solid still melts into air, Capital's vivid portrayal of the forces that govern our lives - and of the instability, alienation and exploitation they produce - will never lose its resonance, or its power to bring the world into focus.
    Interesting little essay here: http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog...s_choice_.html

    Not that I believe in his prescriptions, but the descriptions and analysis are fascinating to me

  2. #2
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    get ready

    I think it is very interesting and I enjoyed the college classes that I took that discussed or studied Marxism. More comments to come when I refresh myself.

    I have to laugh; however, I feel an impending fecal storm about to hit this thread.
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    It is possible that Marx actually coined the term "capital." Marx was a lot of things and though as "philosopher" he was both most influential and most wrong, it should not obscure the fact that he was also a groundbreaking economist.

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    Well, that's what's so fascinating about Marx. He (or more precisley, his followers) can be so wrong about many things-but his insights about the nature of capitalism are so interesting and perceptive.

    Does anyone doubt that we (the world in general) are in a time of "diminishing profits"?

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    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    I've got a truly great Karl Marx story I'm saving for a lae fest someday.

    Carry on, my red loving brothers.

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    Ever since Marx was proved by events to be "wrong" (in that the proletariat did not revolt in the advanced capitalist countries as he had predicted), efforts have been made to save his theory, at least those parts deemed salvageable. These efforts go back at least as far as Gramsci. It's similar to how medievalists tried to "save" Christianity in the face of the threat of Aristotleanism (or previously how Muslim scholars had saved Islam from Greek philosophy). True believers will always believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence, and maybe there's nothing wrong with this. Looked at from an entirely different perspective, even if you don't happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, you can certainly learn much from his teachings (or what was later accepted as his teachings in the New Testament). Just so, even if you don't accept that Capitalism will not necessary lead to Communism, you can still read (with profit, as it were) Marx for his insights into the nature of alienation and exploitation. Enough quasi-philosophy for one night...

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    What you have to understand about Marx though is that he was an incredibly prolific writer. If Marx were completly wrong then he'd have to be the most wrong person in human history because there isn't much he didn't write about.

    I don't subscribe at all to Marx's philosophy of materilism, but it's interesting that materialism drives the Reason Institute and Economist crouds just as much as it drives the Communists. Marx's belief in a communist revolution came from his combination of materialism with his economic theories.

    But the importance of his economic theories can not be understated. He defined capitalism. Yes he was a critic of it, but he was also its discoverer. Adam Smith didn't talk about capital, because he didn't know what it was. Nobody did, until Marx. Many things that capitalist economists take for granted were first described by Marx.

    Like I said, Marx was many things, including a groundbreaking economist. He was one of the greatest intellectuals in human history. And he was also one of the most influential political figures in recent human history, so that tends to obscure his intellectual contributions.

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    Quote Originally posted by Kovanovich
    Ever since Marx was proved by events to be "wrong" (in that the proletariat did not revolt in the advanced capitalist countries as he had predicted), efforts have been made to save his theory, at least those parts deemed salvageable. These efforts go back at least as far as Gramsci. It's similar to how medievalists tried to "save" Christianity in the face of the threat of Aristotleanism (or previously how Muslim scholars had saved Islam from Greek philosophy). True believers will always believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence, and maybe there's nothing wrong with this. Looked at from an entirely different perspective, even if you don't happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, you can certainly learn much from his teachings (or what was later accepted as his teachings in the New Testament). Just so, even if you don't accept that Capitalism will not necessary lead to Communism, you can still read (with profit, as it were) Marx for his insights into the nature of alienation and exploitation. Enough quasi-philosophy for one night...
    Well, I'm hardly a true believer. I think your last sentence sums up what I am interested in.

    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    What you have to understand about Marx though is that he was an incredibly prolific writer. If Marx were completly wrong then he'd have to be the most wrong person in human history because there isn't much he didn't write about.

    I don't subscribe at all to Marx's philosophy of materilism, but it's interesting that materialism drives the Reason Institute and Economist crouds just as much as it drives the Communists. Marx's belief in a communist revolution came from his combination of materialism with his economic theories.

    But the importance of his economic theories can not be understated. He defined capitalism. Yes he was a critic of it, but he was also its discoverer. Adam Smith didn't talk about capital, because he didn't know what it was. Nobody did, until Marx. Many things that capitalist economists take for granted were first described by Marx.

    Like I said, Marx was many things, including a groundbreaking economist. He was one of the greatest intellectuals in human history. And he was also one of the most influential political figures in recent human history, so that tends to obscure his intellectual contributions.
    It is interesting that many of the most fervent anticommunists have the same view of humanity as primarily an economic actor.
    Last edited by nerudite; 27 Jun 2005 at 3:08 PM. Reason: merge posts

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