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Why Marx Was Right

Why Marx Was Right

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Why Marx Was Right
    Book Description:

    In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism-that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on-he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own thought these assumptions are. In a world in which capitalism has been shaken to its roots by some major crises,Why Marx Was Rightis as urgent and timely as it is brave and candid. Written with Eagleton's familiar wit, humor, and clarity, it will attract an audience far beyond the confines of academia.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17181-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter One
    (pp. 1-11)

    That Marxism is finished would be music to the ears of Marxists everywhere. They could pack in their marching and picketing, return to the bosom of their grieving families and enjoy an evening at home instead of yet another tedious committee meeting. Marxists want nothing more than to stop being Marxists. In this respect, being a Marxist is nothing like being a Buddhist or a billionaire. It is more like being a medic. Medics are perverse, self-thwarting creatures who do themselves out of a job by curing patients who then no longer need them. The task of political radicals, similarly,...

  5. Chapter Two
    (pp. 12-29)

    Lots of men and women in the West are fervent supporters of bloodstained setups. Christians, for example. Nor is it unknown for decent, compassionate types to support whole civilisations steeped in blood. Liberals and conservatives, among others. Modern capitalist nations are the fruit of a history of slavery, genocide, violence and exploitation every bit as abhorrent as Mao’s China or Stalin’s Soviet Union. Capitalism, too, was forged in blood and tears; it is just that it has survived long enough to forget about much of this horror, which is not the case with Stalinism and Maoism. If Marx was spared...

  6. Chapter Three
    (pp. 30-63)

    We may begin by asking what is distinctive about Marxism. What does Marxism have that no other political theory does? It is clearly not the idea of revolution, which long predates Marx’s work. Nor is it the notion of communism, which is of ancient provenance. Marx did not invent socialism or communism. The working-class movement in Europe had already arrived at socialist ideas while Marx himself was still a liberal. In fact, it is hard to think of any singlepoliticalfeature that is unique to his thought. It is certainly not the idea of the revolutionary party, which comes...

  7. Chapter Four
    (pp. 64-106)

    “So will there still be road accidents in this Marxist utopia of yours?” This is the kind of sardonic inquiry that Marxists have grown used to dealing with. In fact, the comment reveals more about the ignorance of the speaker than about the illusions of the Marxist. Because if utopia means a perfect society, then “Marxist utopia” is a contradiction in terms.

    There are, as it happens, far more interesting uses of the word “utopia” in the Marxist tradition.¹ One of the greatest of English Marxist revolutionaries, William Morris, produced an unforgettable work of utopia inNews from Nowhere, which...

  8. Chapter Five
    (pp. 107-127)

    In one sense, the claim that everything comes down to economics is surely a truism. In fact, it is so blindingly obvious that it is hard to see how anyone could doubt it. Before we can do anything else, we need to eat and drink. We also need clothing and shelter, at least if we are living in Sheffield rather than Samoa. The first historical act, Marx writes inThe German Ideology, is the production of the means to satisfy our material needs. Only then can we learn to play the banjo, write erotic poetry or paint the front porch....

  9. Chapter Six
    (pp. 128-159)

    Whether the world is made of matter, spirit or green cheese is not a question over which Marx lost much sleep. He was disdainful of such large metaphysical abstractions, and had a brisk way of dispatching them as idly speculative. As one of the most formidable minds of modernity, Marx was notably allergic to fancy ideas. Those who regard him as a bloodless theorist forget that he was among other things a Romantic thinker with a suspicion of the abstract and a passion for the concrete and specific. The abstract, he thought, was simple and featureless; it was the concrete...

  10. Chapter Seven
    (pp. 160-178)

    We have seen already that Marxists have a problem with the idea of utopia. This is one reason why they reject the illusion that, just because chief executives nowadays might sport sneakers, listen to Rage Against the Machine and beseech their employees to call them “Cuddlykins,” social class has been swept from the face of the earth. Marxism does not define class in terms of style, status, income, accent, occupation or whether you have ducks or Degas on the wall. Socialist men and women have not fought and sometimes died over the centuries simply to bring an end to snobbery....

  11. Chapter Eight
    (pp. 179-195)

    The idea of revolution usually evokes images of violence and chaos. In this, it can be contrasted with social reform, which we tend to think of as peaceful, moderate and gradual. This, however, is a false opposition. Many reforms have been anything but peaceful. Think of the United States civil rights movement, which was far from revolutionary yet which involved death, beatings, lynchings and brutal repression. In the colonial-dominated Latin America of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, every attempt at liberal reform sparked off violent social conflict.

    Some revolutions, by contrast, have been relatively peaceful. There are velvet revolutions as...

  12. Chapter Nine
    (pp. 196-210)

    Marx was an implacable opponent of the state. In fact, he famously looked forward to a time when it would wither away. His critics might find this hope absurdly utopian, but they cannot convict him at the same time of a zeal for despotic government.

    He was not, as it happens, being absurdly utopian. What Marx hoped would wither away in communist society was not the state in the sense of a central administration. Any complex modern culture would require this. In fact, Marx writes in the third volume ofCapital, with this point in mind, of “common activities arising...

  13. Chapter Ten
    (pp. 211-237)

    One of the most flourishing of the new political currents is known as the anticapitalist movement, so it is hard to see how there has been a decisive break with Marxism. However critical of Marxist ideas this movement might be, the shift from Marxism to anticapitalism is hardly a huge one. In fact, Marxism’s dealings with other radical trends have been largely to its credit. Take, for example, its relations with the women’s movement. These, to be sure, have proved fraught enough from time to time. Some male Marxists have contemptuously brushed aside the whole question of sexuality, or sought...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 238-240)

    So there we have it. Marx had a passionate faith in the individual and a deep suspicion of abstract dogma. He had no time for the concept of a perfect society, was wary of the notion of equality, and did not dream of a future in which we would all wear boiler suits with our National Insurance numbers stamped on our backs. It was diversity, not uniformity, that he hoped to see. Nor did he teach that men and women were the helpless playthings of history. He was even more hostile to the state than right-wing conservatives are, and saw...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 241-250)
  16. Index
    (pp. 251-258)