Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848): The Communist Manifesto https://tinyurl.com/dl20161210h: This piece by Marx and Engels stands at the head of two traditions:
- the political tradition of world communism that was the second-greatest political catastrophe to ever afflict the human race...
- the intellectual tradition of the analysis of history as driven by modern capitalism--a historical-economic process...
You cannot separate these two. You should not try.
Read with an eye toward what is going to flourish in later intellectual and political history.
On the positive intellectual side, Marx and Engels were:
- Among the very first to get the industrial revolution right and understand what it meant for human possibilities and human destiny.
- Got a lot about the economic history of the development of modern capitalism in England right--very much worth grappling with as an economic historian of 1500-1850.
- Believed, probably wrongly, that a capitaliist market economy with wage labor is an insult to humanity, delivered low utility, and was sociologically and psychologically unsustainable.
- Believed, certainly wrongly that a capitalist market economy with wage labor was incapable of delivering an acceptable distribution of income.
- Among the very first to recognize that the fever-fits of financial crisis and depression that afflict modern market economies were not a passing phase but rather a deep and chronic malady of the system.
On the more negative side, we have Marx (and Engels) as activist-prophets:
- Technological progress and capital accumulation would raise labor productivity but lower the market real wage--hence the necessity for revolution.
- Globalization would raise inequality--hence the necessity for revolution.
- Previous systems of hierarchy and domination had hypnotized the poor, but capitalism replaced masked exploitation by naked exploitation--hence the possibility of revolution
- The ruling class would never buy off the working class by sharing the fruits of economic growth----hence the necessity for revolution.
- Factory work would lead people to develop a sense of their common interest and of class solidarity--hence the possibility of revolution.
- Nationalism would succumb to cosmopolitanism as the working classes of different nations realized how much they had in common.
- What is needed is not argument and evolution, but rather revolution--the overthrow and punishment of the oppressors.
This is worth paying attention to for its role in 20th century history.
- 2009: Understanding Karl Marx
- 2016: Notebook: Discussion of "Communism" and Related Subjects
- 2009: Robert Waldmann Has an Interpretation of Karl Marx that Is New to Me...
- (2014): Prolegomenon to a Reading Course on Karl Marx
- (2016): Communism and Really Existing Socialism: A Reading List for Post-Millennials:
- George Boyer (1998): The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto
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