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November 14, 2013 6:10 PM   Subscribe

A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin

LARB: Geoff Eley on Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life - Exile to the Ages (or, Returning Karl Marx To Our Time)
The Nation: Citizen Marx - "By refusing to treat Marx as our contemporary, Jonathan Sperber has brought him back to life."
Berfrois: The Life of Karl Marx: Berfrois Interviews Jonathan Sperber

Can Marx Retake The Academy?
Before the Daily Mail began to take an interest, the academic writing of Ralph Miliband was, for the most part, sitting neglected on some of the more obscure shelves of our university libraries. However, thanks to the newspaper’s notorious depiction of him earlier this month as “The man who hated Britain”, the distributors of his books in the UK are now reporting that they have sold out of his oeuvre.

This might not be quite the outcome the Mail had in mind when it published its article as a way to attack his son, the Labour leader Ed Miliband, during the party’s conference. But now that the media circus has moved on, how likely is it that the spike in readership posthumously enjoyed by the former University of Leeds and London School of Economics academic will spell a sustainable resurgence in the Marxist sociology of which he was a leading light in the 1960s and 1970s?
Tablet Magazine: Karl Marx: The Greatest Intellectual Fraud of the 19th and 20th Centuries

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posted by the man of twists and turns (62 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does that mean the marxist cells will have to set up out in plumstead or croydon? or farther yet?

because for damn sure nobody's setting up shop in central london, all the plutocrats have bought up every scrap.
posted by EricGjerde at 6:43 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]




I am right there with the kids as Jacobin, et al., but I don't agree with the notion that there's no longer any need to engage in "a lot of anti-Stalinist throat-clearing" before discussing Marx. The mere mention of socialism sends two-fifths of the electorate in the U.S. into apoplexy. That this is because they've been maliciously misled about Marx, communism, and socialism — not to mention science, religion, culture, economics, politics, et cetera, ad nauseam — is beside the point. I don't think a meaningful conversation about a reasonable and just society and government can be had as long as a sizable voting bloc continues to believe the lies of the rich.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:53 PM on November 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


"I don't think a meaningful conversation about a reasonable and just society and government can be had as long as a sizable voting bloc continues to believe the lies of the rich."

False Consciousness in Sunnydale: Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


What the left really needs is ideological diversity: we need a broader array of socialist, communist, and Communist positions being publicly argued and campaigned for. Focusing on Marx and "Marxism" as if it meant one agreed-upon doctrine rather than a minefield of contested issues seems like a dangerous distraction at this point in the triumph of the austerian right; why should leftists of any stripe even be engaging with the red-baiting of Cold War ideological zombies? (And ugh, is that Mikics piece ever one of them.) And of course we should remember who was the first to declare, against the nascent cult of his own personality, "I am not a Marxist."
posted by RogerB at 6:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Marx is fine.

Marxism, however, belongs in the dustbin.
posted by ocschwar at 7:00 PM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I feel like the author's overselling leftism as youth zietgiest. I like the publications listed well enough, but they don't represent some kind of mass millennial trend so much as one tone (of a few) of young and young-ish people who were socialized in higher education.

She's right that it doesn't feel beholden to Cold War postures, though.
posted by postcommunism at 7:19 PM on November 14, 2013


This article seems like wishful thinking based on a handful of tiny progressive magazines. There's a far stronger libertarian current among young people than there is a Marxist one. And an even larger segment somehow wants technology to finesse away the whole problem of ideology.
posted by shivohum at 7:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is this where we point out that we've been reading Marx since before the crisis? Because he's never really been in the dustbin, so he didn't need rescuing.

Ironically, the crisis got me reading the Financial Times, which yes kind of does belong in a bin of some sort.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:22 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Marx is a terrible model for socialist organization. Literally, a guy working off of economists decades out of date in his own time. But because the primary revolution of the 20th century was lead by one of his disciples, Marx is given far more credit and people attempt to grab his mantle just because Lenin was big into him. Its a huge mistake.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:44 PM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Is this where we point out that we've been reading Marx since before the crisis? Because he's never really been in the dustbin, so he didn't need rescuing.

I came here to say the very same thing. The framing of that article is just fucking stupid and insults the serious scholars who never stopped reading and working on Marx.
posted by jayder at 7:47 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, if that's the case, surely we could find some modern exemplars to take his place. Zizek? David Harvey?
posted by sneebler at 7:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


If there were a Republican president, they might see hope in electing a Democrat. But Barack Obama already won, and it didn’t help. “If you win something and you are disappointed with the results, in a way that’s more politicizing than just losing and losing and losing over again,” says Sunkara.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:00 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can we have Henry George back instead?
posted by Anything at 8:13 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or Max Weber?
posted by ethansr at 8:17 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What happens if, in a globalized world, the workers, who own the means of production and manufacture everything from iPhones to shower curtains, already reside in a Marxist state? Does that mean the revolution has succeeded?

'Cause back in the USA I don't know how you can stage a revolution by occupying fast food joints.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


We need a new Eugene Debs. That blue collar American strain of Socialism.

(Also, I want a real liberal Hollywood media elite so I can have an awesome Debs biopic)
posted by jason_steakums at 8:33 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


What happens if, in a globalized world, the workers, who own the means of production and manufacture everything from iPhones to shower curtains, already reside in a Marxist state? Does that mean the revolution has succeeded?

Is this some bullshit about China being "communist"?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:44 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


That politico article made me want to vomit, oneswellfoop. I can't even tell if the author is looking forward to that awful future or not.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:57 PM on November 14, 2013


Is this some bullshit about China being "communist"?

It is a communist country. Or it was. There were a number of communist countries until the early 90's.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:07 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or Max Weber?

A perfect martini: Pour some Marx into the shaker. Swirl, dump out. Add equal parts Max Weber and crushed ice; stir. Serve in a chilled Émile Durkheim.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "That politico article made me want to vomit, oneswellfoop. I can't even tell if the author is looking forward to that awful future or not."

Seriously, Politico, stick to the Tiger Beat on the Potomac (tm) schtick and leave the thumb-sucking techno-forecasting work to Wired. They've written that same "robots are coming for your job" article six times, and the seventh iteration definitely did not need an injection of warmed-over claptrap like "Americans will be more conservative because we'll be living longer", which, as it turns out, is unadulterated bullshit that just happens to fit into their preconceived notion that America is a center-right country.

Christ, Politico is the fucking worst.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


We need a new Eugene Debs. That blue collar American strain of Socialism.

Too rough around the edges. He'd say something politically unforgivable and end up subjected to an endless deluge of twee Twitter spassing. In order to survive the withering Sauronic gaze of the Internet, you either need a team of brand management people working 24/7 to keep your facade intact, or to be a goofy tame nerd who doesn't step on any important toes. This is a subset of a larger issue, which is that the opinions and beliefs of the lower classes are largely repugnant to Correct Internet People, "I worked as a nurse for a year after getting my Latin degree" bonafides aside.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


This seems to get it completely backwards. It is libertarian ideals which have become so popular with young Americans, not communism. They are quoting Hayek and Mises, not Marx.
posted by sophist at 9:43 PM on November 14, 2013


also, that Politico article: "Americans will also become more politically conservative", sure, but they won't call it conservatism
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:47 PM on November 14, 2013


Too rough around the edges. He'd say something politically unforgivable and end up subjected to an endless deluge of twee Twitter spassing.

Unless he was a conservative. They pull that off these days, and I think the trick has a lot to do with not apologizing.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:18 PM on November 14, 2013


This seems to get it completely backwards. It is libertarian ideals which have become so popular with young Americans, not communism. They are quoting Hayek and Mises, not Marx.

Nah, it's only a very small sliver of younger people who do this, but they're over-represented online so it seems like more. It's why Ron Paul won President of the Internet but failed yet again to make any real dent in the real deal.

Online libertarians tend to be very noisy.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ngram viewer charts end in 2008, so not post-crisis helpful, but while ol' Karl has certainly been on a continuous tumble since the era of Reagan and Thatcher, he has a pretty comfortable margin on a lot of other folks.
posted by dhartung at 10:33 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nah, it's only a very small sliver of younger people who do this

It'd be nice to believe that, but it's not true in my experience. It's pretty hard to explain to someone how communism will prevent the government from spying on my browser history or taking down the sites I buy drugs from.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:35 PM on November 14, 2013


It'd be nice to believe that, but it's not true in my experience. It's pretty hard to explain to someone how communism will prevent the government from spying on my browser history or taking down the sites I buy drugs from.

Not sure what you mean here. You seem to be conflating communism (whose vision of a classless society without government would surely help there) with Stalinism or some other authoritarian regime.

It's like asking how eliminating food safety regulations or the Fed would achieve either of those goals.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


They are quoting Hayek and Mises, not Marx.

Certain middle class young'uns and Gen Xers do that. It's a minority (and I doubt survey numbers would show otherwise). They might quote Ron Paul, meanwhile, but Hayek and Mises? Only the hardcore people do that.
posted by raysmj at 10:46 PM on November 14, 2013


Actually, I wish more young libertarians would quote Mises and Hayek, because that meant they had to have read SOMETHING by them. Most "libertarians" I engage with haven't even heard of them, their knowledge of Libertarianism being filtered through a Paultard website or the local chapter of the Tea Party.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:14 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marx belongs in the dustheap. There are better strains in socialism, and better thinkers on offer. All Marx really offers is name recognition, and I've noticed his 'revival' is most popular among those who believe that what's wrong with "The Left" today is that it doesn't have a unifying orthodoxy (they're often the same people who identify "identity politics" as the cause of some terrible downfall of the Left after 1965 or so).
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:36 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, interesting conversation, folks. I'd never heard of Mises or Hayek; the Wikipedia pages on those guys are fascinating.

I like Hayek's idea the quality of government being more important than it's size and the list of things it needs to achieve including a guaranteed minimum income.

That Mises is a scary bastard, though; secession down to the level of the individual and the government being nothing save jackbooted thugs who you only have yourself to blame for. Scary character.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:55 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect you have not in fact read Marx, AdamCSnider. There are very few better thinkers on offer; _Capital_ remains a brilliant and still relevant analysis of the system and its flaws, and in fact has seemed ever _more_ relevant in recent years, as the poisonous nature of late-stage capitalism has screwed us all.
posted by tavella at 4:05 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


What bugs me is lumping all pre-Milton Friedman economists, like Marx and Keynes, together under the category of “superstitious ancients who are now thoroughly debunked”. That needs to go in the dustbin.

Marx had some sociological insights, but parts of his theory (such as the surplus value theory of labour) fell apart even before the Russian Revolution.
posted by acb at 4:48 AM on November 15, 2013


Can I just poke my head in here and say that I have an irrational grudge against Marx? It's entirely due to the fact that my two main professors in my master's program were old Marxists, and apparently hated my writing because it wasn't turgid and near-incomprehensible.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:12 AM on November 15, 2013


This seems to get it completely backwards. It is libertarian ideals which have become so popular with young Americans, not communism. They are quoting Hayek and Mises, not Marx.

Nothing like being worse than Marx economically. People built on Ricardo. The Austrian school was literally proven wrong by subsequent events.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:21 AM on November 15, 2013


It is a communist country. Or it was.

"The workers" don't own jack shit in China and you know it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:24 AM on November 15, 2013


The Austrian school was literally proven wrong by subsequent events.

That is not a problem for a school of thought that rejects empiricism .
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you for introducing me to Tablet! Raised by uber-leftist parents, I've been a socialist forever, and I agree still many people just have a knee-jerk anti reaction and the libertarian strain is strong, but damn if that wasn't a brief but thoughtful article.
posted by dame at 8:38 AM on November 15, 2013


Also, I think the Tablet article is correct in defining the lack of interest in / need to address Stalinism and other forms of 20th century communism as a defining feature for many younger leftists. For me, I am old and was alive, if young, during the 80s, and I remember my parents drawing a very stark line between theoretical communism as an economic system with worthy and socially just goals and Communism, the authoritarian perversion. And just as no one seems to need to sit around throat-clearing about the depredations of the industrial revolution before they can advocate for capitalism, I fail to see how it is my duty to do the reverse. Obviously authoritarianism is bad, whether it is capitalist or otherwise.

Likewise, for many younger Americans, socialism is very Scandinavian. When I think socialist paradise, I think Denmark (and the part about PUAs also failing makes me like that place a little more). I do maintain some hope that given the changes of time: the fading of the 20th century and the jealousy we possess for more supportive states, a type of economic progression will eventually come to the US. Lately both my lefty friends and the libertarians I know have been getting excited over the minimum income, so maybe a tiny sliver of hope?
posted by dame at 8:51 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


How American millennials view socialism is very much less important and interesting to me than how socialism is being practiced right now all over the world.

Post-Soviet socialism is fascinating and growing rapidly. We have many examples of developed (wealthy) nation socialism in Scandinavia and developing countries in Latin America have taken a rapid turn to the left after centuries of colonial domination and recent neo-liberal exploitation.

If one is interested in Marx in the 21st century I'd surely look there instead of here.
posted by willie11 at 9:08 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


the government being nothing save jackbooted thugs who you only have yourself to blame for

Try explaining how this is not the case to someone who's up on the latest NSA shenanigans. Round 2: try that with anyone who knows anything about the history of the FBI and the shit they do. Round 3: try that with anyone who keeps up with police misdeeds.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try explaining how this is not the case

It's the framing of government versus "liberty" as the central problem of politics that is the problem, of course. Young US/Western right-libertarians in my experience can be surprisingly easily convertible into fledgling anarchists: sometimes all it takes is getting them to think about how state power isn't the only important kind of social power. This is really a key problem with the narrowing of the political spectrum in the US specifically — since one major party is technocratic and the other is ideologically anti-government and militarist, the commonplace meaning of "politics" has shrunk and been ideologized to the point where a lot of important social power relations seem outside its bounds. To me a lot of the current fad appeal of right-libertarianism is that it appears to address this question (by making a central issue of it, rejecting governmental power's "intrusion" into spheres where it "doesn't belong") — so the left answer has to be to re-expand the field of political struggle outside of just governmental policy, re-embiggening politics, rather than just playing back into the false framing by more or less embracing the idea of "big government." And this is actually something that a reading of Marx is terrifically useful in helping to reframe, since he spent so much time explicitly arguing for a broader definition of political struggle in which the state itself is far from neutral terrain. But if we let the Internet right-libertarian noise-o-sphere define the terms of the discussion according to its ideology, then we've already lost.
posted by RogerB at 10:59 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually, RogerB, we must remember that Marx holds out the prospect of a post-political future:
Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a Gattungswesen [genus being] in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his “own powers” as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.--"On The Jewish Question"
posted by No Robots at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2013


--"On The Jewish Question"

Don't even get me started on the young Marx and how he relates to "Marxist" politics.
posted by RogerB at 11:24 AM on November 15, 2013


Don't even get me started on the young Marx and how he relates to "Marxist" politics.

This kind of snooty dismissal is something that Thomas Nagel warns about:
Postmodernism's specifically academic appeal comes from its being another in the sequence of all-purpose "unmasking" strategies that offer a way to criticize the intellectual efforts of others not by engaging with them on the ground, but by diagnosing them from a superior vantage point and charging them with inadequate self-awareness. Logical positivism and Marxism were used by academics in this way, and postmodernist relativism is a natural successor in the role. It may now be on the way out, but I suspect there will continue to be a market in the huge American academy for a quick fix of some kind. If it is not social constructionism, it will be something else -- Darwinian explanations of practically everything, perhaps.--"The Sleep of Reason"
If this new intellectual Marxism is full of "smarter-than-thou" attitude, it will not help the cause of human emancipation.
posted by No Robots at 11:36 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]




This kind of snooty dismissal

Dude. Joking. Point is, "Marxism" is itself hotly contested terrain, not a single obvious and universally agreed doctrine resolved by quoting a few lines of dear old Karl, and it'd be nice if the world of Internet political debate were broadened enough to appreciate that there's a broad spectrum of ideas and positions there.
posted by RogerB at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2013


"Try explaining how this is not the case to someone who's up on the latest NSA shenanigans. Round 2: try that with anyone who knows anything about the history of the FBI and the shit they do. Round 3: try that with anyone who keeps up with police misdeeds."

That's pretty easy: If you think that the NSA surveillance is anything like Stalin or legitimately jackbooted thugs, you're a moron with no sense of perspective. That doesn't mean that NSA spying isn't an overreach or corrosive to freedom here, but even with the FBI in full COINTELPRO, they murdered handfuls versus thousands. Likewise, police in the U.S. on balance are pretty professional and it really is rotten apples spoiling the whole bunch when they get viewed as inexorably tyrannical.

Basically, Americans are provincial and prone to hyperbole, and default to some pretty incoherent hyper-individualism that ends up causing things they'd be against if they thought them out.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Calling people you're trying to convert to your philosophy "morons with no sense of perspective" will not convert them to your philosophy.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:41 PM on November 15, 2013


No, but it will get them to stop spouting off ignorant bullshit in public, at least around me.
posted by klangklangston at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


they murdered handfuls versus thousands.

For many people, including myself, this isn't as meaningful a distinction as it is to you. I see a meaningful difference between a society where dissenters can be disappeared by authorities, and one in which that is extremely difficult and risky for those authorities to pull off. I see less of a distinction between societies that both enable disappearings with perpetrators safely shielded by the state, even if one society is using that option a lot more often.
Part of why I don't think your distinction is as meaningful as you do, is that a distinction of scale rather than of type relies on continued benevolence, and history shows that current benevolence in authorities doesn't ensure future benevolence in authorities - it's better that authorities not have too much unchecked power over life and death, even if you trust them not to abuse it... today.
posted by anonymisc at 8:50 PM on November 15, 2013


"For many people, including myself, this isn't as meaningful a distinction as it is to you. I see a meaningful difference between a society where dissenters can be disappeared by authorities, and one in which that is extremely difficult and risky for those authorities to pull off. I see less of a distinction between societies that both enable disappearings with perpetrators safely shielded by the state, even if one society is using that option a lot more often."

There are a couple problems with this formulation, first being the "prove a negative." In a society where dissenters are effectively disappeared, there'd be no evidence of their disappearance. Secondly, the number of states that do not have an apparatus where dissenters could be disappeared is very low. Third, the prevalence of disappearing dissenters in America is what?

Part of why I don't think your distinction is as meaningful as you do, is that a distinction of scale rather than of type relies on continued benevolence, and history shows that current benevolence in authorities doesn't ensure future benevolence in authorities - it's better that authorities not have too much unchecked power over life and death, even if you trust them not to abuse it... today.

While I share the perspective that it's better for states to not have power over life and death outside of some pretty circumscribed areas — e.g. I think it's fine to arm police — the distinction doesn't simply rely on benevolence. That's a weirdly naive view of the USSR and Stalin, and the institutional and practical realities of running gulags and mass executions. It's the sort of false equivalency on the level of seriously comparing Chicago to Syria because there's gun crime in each.

And, frankly, the idea that laws protect from abuses of power is given the lie by the many lofty constitutions around the world that haven't prevented disappearances and murders.
posted by klangklangston at 9:16 PM on November 15, 2013


In a society where dissenters are effectively disappeared, there'd be no evidence of their disappearance.

This is a bizarre objection. People know that they haven't seen someone in years, even if they don't know why. Close family members are often quite aware that something terrible happened. People can often eventually figure out that authorities were involved - track down evidence, whistleblowers, etc, but are powerless to obtain justice or accountability, because what happened is either legal, extra-legal, or shielded by something such as corruption or "national security"

Secondly, the number of states that do not have an apparatus where dissenters could be disappeared is very low.

That is not an argument for having the apparatus. It's an observation that a lot of systems are really sucky.

Third, the prevalence of disappearing dissenters in America is what?

We know it's a non-zero number since 9/11, though the scale is hard to determine because it's all shielded from view. I tend to give the USA more of a pass on this sort of thing simply because it's a very large nation, population-wise, so a one-in-a-million accident is an everyday thing, and I prefer to hope that these were one-time excesses rather than an ongoing system, yet the perps remain shielded, and that casts more danger (in my view) than any gain that shielding offers us in the fight against terrorism. (Though I also think the erosion of due process hinders rather than helps counter-terrorism, because it promotes sloppiness and incompetence)

BTW it's not laws that protect people from abuses of power, it's having strong institutions. This is why democratic reform has collapsed into repression so often in so many countries - freedom doesn't come from democracy, democracy builds on strong institutions, so it works best when they are developed ahead of reform. Of course. strong institutions can be corrupted or weakened over time. A lot of American institutions seem weakened and/or corrupt to me, compared to other places I've lived, but still stronger than other places I've been.
posted by anonymisc at 12:54 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We know it's a non-zero number since 9/11, though the scale is hard to determine because it's all shielded from view."

In America, not just abductions of foreigners in foreign places, e.g. those taken to Guantanamo? And the shielding from view is the first objection I made — arguing about the prevalence does require proving a negative. Similar to the problem with evaluating how effective these security measures have been in general — how many attacks have not occurred?

And again, this ignores the sheer scale of abuse of power in the USSR or DPRK or GDR.

"BTW it's not laws that protect people from abuses of power, it's having strong institutions."

Yes, that's what I was arguing.

"A lot of American institutions seem weakened and/or corrupt to me, compared to other places I've lived, but still stronger than other places I've been."

But again, the comparison was in the context of ostensibly Marxist states like Stalin's USSR. (Hell, even the Russian state now, with its authoritarian lean, is vastly more likely to murder citizens, journalists especially.) The comparison is as shallow as those who called Bush "Hitler."

The protests against the Iraq War were some of the largest civil demonstrations in history. Under Stalin, there were effectively zero mass protests, and dissidents were shipped off to gulags or simply murdered. Comparing the NSA reading emails to the security apparatus of the former Communist Bloc is shallow at best, idiotic at worst, and that's true even while our own security apparatus is too often abusive or over-reaching. It's like comparing pizza with anchovies to a mouthful of human shit.
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 AM on November 16, 2013


> Comparing the NSA reading emails to the security apparatus of the former Communist Bloc is shallow at best, idiotic at worst, and that's true even while our own security apparatus is too often abusive or over-reaching.

I feel like you're conflating the infrastructure needed to spy on citizens vs. actually using that infrastructure to abuse the citizenry. There may not be any similarities in the latter, but having really impressive infrastructure in place and available for domestic spying is a commonality. No, I as a US citizen don't fear a US Siberia, nor worry who will inform on me, but, at least across the internet and phones, there's a sense in previously private arenas that the state is watching and remembering. Even if non-humans end up sorting the vast majority that data, and even if the state does not care to act on what it knows (or does not even know what it knows), it's still a weird thing to have in a democracy.
posted by postcommunism at 6:36 PM on November 16, 2013


"I feel like you're conflating the infrastructure needed to spy on citizens vs. actually using that infrastructure to abuse the citizenry."

The original comment was made in reference to Mises' view that any socialism in government would be inexorably followed by literal, Soviet-style jackbooted thugs. The next comment replied, "Try explaining how this is not the case to someone who's up on the latest NSA shenanigans."

That's not conflating infrastructure with action, that's pointing out a ridiculous bit of hyperbole. Mises was ludicrously wrong, and the "latest NSA shenanigans" have not been widespread violent property seizure or murder.

The next comment was that this distinction wasn't meaningful, and tried to posit that this is because any disappearances are more than none. While any is obviously worse than none, that still isn't an argument that Mises' visions of tyranny have anything to do with the NSA — who, as far as I know, hasn't been disappearing anyone anyway.

I agree that it's uncomfortable to have the feeling of being surveilled, even passively, in such a pervasive manner, that's bad on its own without it being a sign that we're on our way to the Mises apocalypse.
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who are the new socialist wunderkinds of America?
Every time I’ve come home to the US from my home abroad over the past four years, I notice a trend among people of my demographic: they have become increasingly politicised – and increasingly radical. The stereotype of the apathetic hipster has given way to a new kind of well-educated, middle-class twentysomething who rails against the prison-industrial complex, who talks about wages for housework, who throws around words like “imperialism” and “exploitation” with a growing sense of comfort. Occupy Wall Street may have something to do with it, but what is happening now in America feels more like a moment than a movement.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:52 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marx After Marxism
Even more important, of course, is the shift of perspective that has come with the fall of communism. Sperber’s is among the first major Marx biographies of the post-1989 era. This may help to explain its occasionally unimpressed tone, and its perpetual refrain that Marx now belongs to a bygone age. “The view of Marx as a contemporary whose ideas are shaping the modern world has run its course,” Sperber writes, “and it is time for a new understanding of him as a figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own.” Although Marx is often credited with some measure of foresight into the political revolutions and economic crises of the twentieth century, Sperber enjoins us to recognize that Marx was just “a mortal human being, and not a wizard—Karl Marx, and not Gandalf the Grey.” But this is a non-sequitur. The fact that Marx lived in the nineteenth century should not prompt us to see him as the inhabitant of a foreign world. Was the nineteenth century really that long ago? Historians are faced with a special challenge in an accelerating society that dispenses with the past like a used paper cup. All things are evanescent, but that does not make them obsolete.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:48 PM on November 20, 2013


Marx bequeathed to the proletariat many very valuable legacies but few of the legacies can compare in their grandeur and sublimity with the wonderful truths and sublime prophecy embodied in the 32nd chapter of the first volume of Capital. Nothing known in human literature can compare with this. It is the most marvellous achievement of the human mind. This places Marx far above all prophets and seers of all times.--The Philosophy of Marx / Harry Waton
posted by No Robots at 8:44 AM on November 21, 2013


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