Marx: the return of the giant [The Japan Times Online]

July 19, 2012

Special to The Japan Times

TORONTO — If an author’s eternal youth consists of his capacity to keep stimulating new ideas, then it may be said that Karl Marx has without question remained young.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, conservatives and progressives, liberals and social democrats almost unanimously decreed Marx’s final disappearance, yet his theories have once again become highly topical — with a speed that is in many respects surprising. Since 2008, the ongoing economic crisis and the deep contradictions tearing capitalist society apart have aroused new interest in an author too hastily set aside after 1989, and hundreds of newspapers, magazines and TV or radio stations have featured Marx’s analyses in "Capital" and in the articles he wrote for "The New-York Tribune," while he was observing the panic of 1857, i.e., the first international financial crisis of history.

After 20 years of silence, people in many countries are again writing and talking about Marx. In the English-speaking world, conferences and university courses on his thought are back in fashion. "Capital" is once more a best-seller in Germany, while a manga version of it has been brought out in Japan. In China a huge new edition of his collected works is being published (with translations from German and not, as in the past, from Russian). In Latin America a new demand for Marx has made itself felt among people active in politics…

…To relegate Marx to the position of an embalmed classic suitable only for specialist academic research would be a mistake on a par with his transformation into the doctrinal source of "actually existing socialism." For in reality his analyses are more topical than ever. When Marx wrote "Capital," the capitalist mode of production was still in a relatively early period of its development. Today, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of capitalism to new areas of the planet (first and foremost China[!]), it has become a global system that is invading and shaping all (not only the economic) aspects of human existence. In these conditions, Marx’s ideas are proving to be more fertile than they were in his time…

…After 20 years in which paeans of praise for market society had to face only the vacuity of assorted postmodernisms, the new ability to survey the horizon from the shoulders of a giant such as Marx is a positive development not only for all the scholars interested in a serious understanding of our contemporary society, but also for anyone involved in the political and theoretical quest for a democratic alternative to capitalism.

[Excerpted by Zuo Shou]

Full article link here (The Japan Times Online)


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