Marx is alive and well and living in the Harvard Business Review*

Posted: 10 September 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

We do, in fact, living in interesting times. Especially in terms of interest in Marx. Even Harvard has now joined the bandwagon.

Soon after the crash of 2008, there was quite a bit of interest in Marx (and the idea that capitalism itself was in crisis). Then, as the recovery was declared (declared but, of course, not actually experienced, except for those at the top), interest in Marx receded (along with Keynes and everyone outside the mainstream). But, now, three years into the crisis, with little prospect of real recovery (or, alternatively, with real prospects of another downturn), Marx is hot again.

And, of all places, at the Harvard Business School. Umair Haque, author of The New Capitalist Manifesto, indicates that Marx got a good bit right in his critique of capitalism. After the now-usual throw-away lines about how communism can’t work (who said the Cold War was over?), Haque actually gives Marx high marks on a series of important issues: immiseration, crisis, stagnation, alienation, false consciousness, and commodity fetishism.

Haque’s interpretation of Marx may leave something to be desired (for example, class exploitation is not the same as relative immiseration, although the former may be a condition of the latter) but he is clear that Marx probably has more to offer in terms of understanding what is going on right now than the usual nostrums peddled at the Harvard Business School.

Marx’s critiques seem, today, more resonant than we might have guessed. Now, here’s what I’m not suggesting: that Marx’s prescriptions (you know the score: overthrow, communalize, high-five, live happily ever after) for what to do about the maladies above were desirable, good, or just. History, I’d argue, suggests they were anything but. Yet nothing’s black or white — and while Marx’s prescriptions were poor, perhaps, if we’re prepared to think subtly, it’s worthwhile separating his diagnoses from them.

Because the truth might just be that the global economy is in historic, generational trouble, plagued by problems the orthodoxy didn’t expect, didn’t see coming, and doesn’t quite know what to do with. Hence, it might just be that if we’re going to turn this crisis upside down, we’re going to have to think outside the big-box store, the McMansion, the dead-end McJob, the bailout, the super-bonus, and the share price.

* With apologies to Jacques Brel.

Comments
  1. This is no surprise. Marx was an enthusiastic penpal of Abraham Lincoln, the first anti-American Corporatist president. Harvard has long been a Global Socialist infestation in education. I’m sure that Marx has a summer home over at the State Department. Since the entire Communist Manifesto was installed in The New Deal, it could be said that Marx slept here, there and everywhere.

  2. […] Marx is alive and well and living in the Harvard Business Review We do, in fact, living in interesting times. Especially in terms of interest in Marx. Even Harvard has now joined the bandwagon. Soon after the crash of 2008, there was quite a bit of interest i… Source: anticap.wordpress.com […]

  3. […] Marx is alive and well and living in the Harvard Business Review We do, in fact, living in interesting times. Especially in terms of interest in Marx. Even Harvard has now joined the bandwagon. Soon after the crash of 2008, there was quite a bit of interest i… Source: anticap.wordpress.com […]

  4. […] crises of capitalism that a wide variety of mainstream publications, from Business Week to the Harvard Business Review, have found it necessary to publish articles on Marx and the continuing relevance of Marxian […]

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