File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 348


Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:25:40 -0400
Subject: M-I: The Next Thinker: The Return of Karl Marx (The New Yorker 





   These pages brought to you by:
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   The New Yorker
   10/20/97 & 10/27/97
   
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   JOHN CASSIDY
   
   
   Copyright The New Yorker 1997. All Rights Reserved.
   
   Which writer has the most to say about the future of capitalism? Karl
   Marx, argues John Cassidy in the "Next" Issue of The New Yorker.
   Although his ideas barely rate a mention in most current economics
   textbooks, Marx may have understood our economic syst em better than
   some of our leading economists. "In many ways, Marx's legacy has been
   obscured by the failure of Communism, which wasn't his primary
   interest," Cassidy writes. "Marx was a student of capitalism, and that
   is how he should be judged."
   
   In "The Return of Karl Marx," Cassidy continues, "Many of the
   contradictions that he saw in Victorian capitalism and that were
   subsequently addressed by reformist governments have begun reappearing
   in new guises, like mutant viruses.... He wrote riveting passages
   about globalization, inequality, political corruption, monopolization,
   technical progress, the decline of high culture, and the enervating
   nature of modern existence--issues that economists are now confronting
   anew, sometimes without realizing th at they are walking in Marx's
   footsteps."
   
   "Globalization is set to become the biggest political issue of the
   next century," Cassidy writes, "but Marx predicted most of its
   ramifications a hundred and fifty years ago." He also taught that
   capitalism tends toward monopoly unless strictly regulated. The
   unprecedented wave of mergers in the last decade has given new life to
   this observation. Taken together with the weakening of federal
   regulatory efforts, the merger wave will result in "more mergers,
   higher prices, and fewer choices for consumers," C assidy observes.
   
   He also notes that during the past two decades, "a systematic assault"
   has been carried out on reforms that were originally designed to
   improve the living standard of working people. "This right-wing
   backlash has produced a sharp upsurge in inequality, ju st as Marx
   would have predicted. Between 1980 and 1996," there took place,
   Cassidy reports, "an unprecedented redistribution of resources from
   poor to rich."
   
   Marx was clearly mistaken on several points, including his theory that
   labor is the source of value and his predictions about the demise of
   capitalism and the withering away of the state. Nevertheless, Cassidy
   concludes, "Despite his errors, he was a man for whom our economic
   system held few surprises. His books will be worth reading as long as
   capitalism endures."
   
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