Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marx is all over the place. Christopher Hitchens wrote in The Atlantic (April 2009) that the overly bearded man religiously attended the library in Bloomsbury, UK from its opening to closing hours. Marx was undoubtedly a product of his times, living in frightful London where the poor labor worked for more than 16 hours; children slogged and cleaned chimneys, and were hang if found stealing; women working in mines as well—all in the most inhumane and unhygienic conditions.

So his disillusion with unbridled capitalism is natural. But does this still apply, when I work for only five days a week for not more than 10 hours a day. The humanist, Herbert Marcuse outlined how an “advanced industrial society” invents new ways of social control to curb human creativity and making people mass products through mass media, religious propaganda (my addition), etc. All this results in a “one-dimensional man” who acts “irrationally by working more than they are required to fulfill actual basic needs, ignoring the psychologically destructive effects”. Increasing specialization of work is a symptom of such a phenomena; hardly have I found anyone who can synthesize disciplines into a stream of connected thought. This “unfreedom” is what Marx couldn’t tolerate. On a broader level, Hitchens puts it nicely: “Marxism and capitalism are symbiotic, and that neither can expect to outlive the other, which is not quite what the prophet intended when he sat all those arduous days in that library in Bloomsbury…”

Marx’s prescient analysis in his Manifesto is pretty relevant to today’s world: “Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.” Don’t tag me as a Marxist; am just a freelancing wanderer of meaningful ideas.

Another awesome misrepresentation of Marx in The Atlantic again (asking "Can we be good without god?")...

Marx was incensed by the squalor in which the common people of his time were forced to live and by the harsh conditions and endless hours of their work. Marx sympathized deeply with the downtrodden and disinherited. But this expressed his personal qualities, not his philosophy or faith. His philosophy was a materialism that can be interpreted in differing ways but that implied, at the very least, that reality was not created by and is not governed by God; his faith was in science and human will. He provided no philosophical or religious grounds whatever for the idea that every person must be treated with care.

In spite of Marx's humanitarianism, therefore, there is a link between Marxist thought and the despotic regimes that have ruled in his name. It is perfectly true, as his defenders aver, that Marx adhered to political principles quite unlike those manifest in the purges and prison camps of the Soviet Union. That such practices should claim the authority of his name is thus outrageous in a sense. Nonetheless, the connection between Marx himself and modern Marxist despots is not entirely accidental. They share the principle that a single individual does not necessarily matter.

This is the audacity writers have, without having any empirical evidence to back up such grandiose claims and resting only on word play. In psychology, this is called the confirmation bias: "a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions."

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