The New York Times certainly doesn’t feature Karl Marx. And, for the most part, it wouldn’t know Marx if he showed up at the editorial office without his sunglasses.
But today is a bit different, with not one but two discussions of Marx.
First, there’s Steven Erlanger’s discussion of Thomas Piketty’s new book, in which he claims that the French economist is returning to a tradition of analysis shared by both Adam Smith and Marx (forgetting, of course, that Marx’s critique of political economy represented a fundamental break from mainstream political economy, authored by Smith and many others). It seems we have sunk so low intellectually that to focus attention on capital and inequality and to worry that grotesque levels of inequality might imperil democracy necessarily puts someone somewhere in the Marxian tradition.
Then, we have the spectacle of Ross Douhat worrying that “Karl Marx is back from the dead” and, because “Marxist ideas are having an intellectual moment, . . .attention must be paid” (to which, like Erlanger, he subsumes the self-identified non-Marxist Piketty). In end, Douhat demonstrates the sorry state of contemporary conservative thinking, failing to note the traditional conservative critique of bourgeois society’s economization of social life and then expressing his admiration for such movements as the Tea Party, Britain’s UKIP, and France’s National Front, which in his view incorporate “some Piketty-esque arguments”—although his conveniently overlooks their racism (or simply hides it under the rubric of “cultural anxieties”).
In the end, then, there may be a lot of Marx on the minds of contributors to the New York Times but they certainly don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.