Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fuzzy Marx

This is a discussion on Long Sunday about the same odd (it was from a MOD report) political economy post of a few days ago.

I liked this:

"There is Marx. Then there is fuzzy Marx. Fuzzy Marx is not a completely illegitimate way to think. It is distant from the full range of Marxists arguments. But it still employs important insights from Marx's work. So first let's take Marx. Why, according to him, is the proletariat the revolutionary class? It is not because workers are oppressed a lot. Lots of classes in history have been oppressed and had revolutions but have not produced all round liberation of humanity. Workers are the revolutionary class because the revolution they lead is not on behalf of a specific class interest. In Marx's account, the workers have been ground down almost to the level of the lumpenproletariat, and when they have a revolution it is not in order to promote a new, competing economic and political system but to destroy the class system root and branch, along with the state. The bit quoted above does not describe the middle class as propertyless. The report itself points out that the middle class has class interests. Thus any revolution a transnational middle class might take would not be the kind of action that Marx had in mind. But what if we think in a fuzzy Marx way? If we abstract from the mechanics of revolution that Marx predicted, we can still be interested in his overall claim that capitalism is ultimately headed for economic reefs. The question is, whether or not capitalism will finally produce a profound sociological split between the haves and the have-nots. But that split in itself is not enough. It must also be translated into a political force. This is a problem that Marx confronts: earlier class revolutions had been much more tactical and strategic precisely because the classes who led them had specific class interests they wanted to promote. To the extent that the workers had a class interest in 20th-century Europe it was reformist. To the extent that they didn't have a specific class interest to promote they were politically formless. The traditional Marxist picture of the middle class is of a group that flirts both with revolution and with reaction depending on what they are most afraid of at the moment -- workers who challenged private property or a dictatorial state that interfered in private life and the economy. But what might happen to the political thinking of a middle class confronted by globalization but not particularly worried about a workers movement? We don't know."

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