Dr. Marx

Since the late German was invoked by Steve in the comments on this post, now seemd a fitting time to link to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and their current featured episode, which is a profile of Karl Marx. I doubt Steve would be interested, but anyone looking to understand the impact Karl Marx and the materialist dialectic have had on subseqent economic and political thought (from both left and right) may well find it fascinating listening.

For the record, I think this blog bears clear testament to the fact that I myself am not an economic determinist, but that economic determinism is certainly alive and well in our post-Reagan/Thatcher world, and all too common in the rhetoric of their disciples.


  1. Though I cannot deny Dr. Marx’ influence as a philosopher. And though I like to use economic determinist arguments against lefties, I don’t think economic determinism is something to build a philosophy upon. It is one thing to say that economic explanations are useful, it is another thing to say that they are ultimate.

    In terms of the “greatest philosopher,” I think we should look among the Greeks, not the Germans. However, the Christian philosopher is well advised to listen to the Dutch.

  2. On economic determinism, I’d have to agree, Steve, and the speed with which you jumped to the huge assumption that I am an economic determinist is probably the key reason I’ve found your comments rather offensive.

    In reality, I don’t actually think Karl Marx was purely an economic determinist. It’s a bit of a jump from the materialist dialectic to economic determinism, and Marx certainly seems to see the role of capital as being deeply affected by societal context.

  3. I heard the programme and, as expected from the consistently brilliant In Our Time, it’s fascinating. I would seriously question whether Marx could be described as the greatest philosopher. But perhaps the voters were answering a different question; which philosopher has had the greatest impact on recent history. And in that sense he is a contender, to be sure.

    I find some of his approaches, or at least what I understand of them, somewhat questionable. He does take an essentially materialistic line – and scattered seeds that are still leading to mistakes to this day. There are still many who assume a utopia will follow the right socio-economic conditions (whether to depose the oppressive self-seriving rich under the banner of revolution, or to spread free-market capiltalism under the banner of freedom). But he couldn’t have forseen this, I suppose, and was perhaps living in a time where it was a principle way to undercut the unjust status-quo (of which the Church would have been a part).

  4. For another interesting take on Marxism, John Grey’s review of the latest Thomas Friedman book (The World Is Flat) is worthy of some time: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18154