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 "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sun 08 Jan 2012, 17:38

Ok - a slightly misleading quote out of context, but when Marx wrote to the French labour agitant Jules Guesde and his own son-in-law Paul Lefargue it was because he was alarmed that they were rabble-rousing using incendiary quotes from his books in order to stir French workers into action. "If that is Marxism," he wrote, "then I am not a Marxist". According to Engels this apparently was a common plaint from his friend in his latter years as he witnessed "Marxism" take root and found less and less in common with what the movement envisaged as its motivations and its aims.

Has there ever in fact been a "real" Marxist? If so, what would he or she have espoused which the hijackers of the term did not?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sat 21 Jan 2012, 15:26

I think a few of the Religious orders might actually live up to Marx principles, but I doubt if anyone else could.
Common ownership, to each his needs, from each his best efforts, all for one, one for all, etc.
Only the best monasteries live like that.

In the real world, if they distributed the wealth equally today, by the end of the week the unscrupulous 10% would have conned the money out of the gullible 90%, and we'd be back to normal!
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Thu 31 May 2012, 22:04

If Karl Marx himself disowned the adjective 'Marxist' then it's difficult to think of anyone who would qualify.

In the 1980s and 1990s it became popular in UK universities (and elsewhere) for some historians to call themselves 'Marxist historians' even if they were not ideologically Marxist. In other words being a Marxist historian did not necessarily mean that said academic was a paid up member of the Communist Revolutionary Party or of their sworn enemies the Party of Revolutionary Communists. It simply meant that they agreed with Marx that the prime factors shaping human history were economic. So an historian who, for example, might hold free market views on the economy would, nevertheless, not have minded the label ‘Marxist historian’. But now even that seems to have been just a passing fad.

That said - there were, of course, some Marxist historians who were indeed also Marxists. An example would be Oxford University’s Christopher Hill who had been a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain up until 1956 and the Soviet invasion of Hungary after which he quit.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 Jun 2012, 05:49

I suppose any idealist or philosophical ideal is likely to run into problems with reality. I think Lenin in the early days probably espoused Marxism, but it didn't take long to ran into the difficulties of personalities and control.

It would take a brave person to say they were a Marxist these days - there's a rather hysterical reaction to communism these days. The other night I was espousing perfecting ordinary sensible views at a brain-storming sort of meeting (which tends to be irritating in itself) and someone turned to their neighbour and said in horror, "She's a socialist", as if that was something to be deeply concerned about. (Mind you, his ideal for our town was that we should do something radical on our own and have nothing to do with central or council governance. Idiot, I thought.) But I live in country that tends to be somewhat left-wing, and still any suggestion of socialism is frowned on.

But I suppose people have seen the disasters attendant on communist governments and consequently favour capitalism, ignoring its disasters. These things go in cycles, so I am ever hopeful.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 20 Apr 2015, 15:50

@Giraffe wrote:
I think a few of the Religious orders might actually live up to Marx principles, but I doubt if anyone else could.
Common ownership, to each his needs, from each his best efforts, all for one, one for all, etc.
Only the best monasteries live like that.

Roland Joffe's 1986 film The Mission was on television the other nite which I haven't seen for at least 20 years. It has stood the test of time very well as a drama. This is no doubt helped by the superb screenplay by Robert Bolt. It’s a fictional story ostensibly set in the water-margins of the Paraguay/Brazil border during the 1750s but actually draws inspiration from historical events of over 100 years earlier in the 1640s. In one scene a Jesuit priest Father John (played by Liam Neeson) approaches mission leader Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) to discuss new recruit Captain Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert de Niro) a former slave-trader and murderer who is undergoing penance for his past crimes/sins:

Father John:- Father, he’s done this penance long enough. And, well, the other brothers think the same.

Father Gabriel:- But he doesn’t think so John. And until he does, neither do I. We’re not the members of a democracy Father. We are members of an order.


This is brilliant as drama but ironic as history because prior to the 19th century, members of religious orders were among the very few people in Western society who did actually routinely engage in democratic practices and procedures. When it came to agreeing resolutions requiring a  simple yes/no decision then a show of hands was normally enough or else a basic secret ballot was conducted in which separate black and white beads, beans or stones were used. For elections in which multiple candidates were eligible for the position, say, of abbot or prioress then the various orders, Augustinian, Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan, Gilbertine and Ursuline etc could employ a variety of sophisticated voting systems including the alternative vote and the single transferable vote etc.

That said - Karl Marx was never a great champion of democratic processes whether religious or secular. He was scathing of legislative elections and ‘bourgeois democracy’ and, for example, described the U.S. as being 'the model country of the democratic swindle'. He also dismissed the notion of the 'free state' and instead demanded that the state be 'completely subordinated' to 'the aim of the workers'. A problem for Marxists ever since, however, has been that Marx never actually outlined the mechanism by which 'the aim of the workers' should be determined exactly.

P.S. I can't think of any religious orders or religious communities which described themselves as 'Marxist'. An exception perhaps being that founded by James 'Jim' Jones who did indeed call himself a Marxist. He was the leader (unelected of course) of the People's Temple which co-incidentally also ended in bloodshed and mass killings in the jungles of South America.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 20 Apr 2015, 17:05

@nordmann wrote:
Ok - a slightly misleading quote out of context, but when Marx wrote to the French labour agitant Jules Guesde and his own son-in-law Paul Lefargue it was because he was alarmed that they were rabble-rousing using incendiary quotes from his books in order to stir French workers into action. "If that is Marxism," he wrote, "then I am not a Marxist". According to Engels this apparently was a common plaint from his friend in his latter years as he witnessed "Marxism" take root and found less and less in common with what the movement envisaged as its motivations and its aims.

Has there ever in fact been a "real" Marxist? If so, what would he or she have espoused which the hijackers of the term did not?



It could be argued that Jesus of Nazareth was a Marxist before Marx.



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-arel/sorry-republicans-but-jes_b_5916564.html



Quote :
If that is Marxism," he wrote, "then I am not a Marxist". According to Engels this apparently was a common plaint from his friend in his latter years as he witnessed "Marxism" take root and found less and less in common with what the movement envisaged as its motivations and its aims.



I sympathise greatly with KM: it's a bit like those of us who, in some despair these days, find ourselves saying:" If that is Christianity, then I am not a Christian."

But, as Caro has noted above, the great idealistic movements always seem to go pear-shaped. It's just people.

I don't think I've seen The Mission, unless it's a DVD I've slept through. Sounds like my sort of film, so that's unlikely (Bruce Willis isn't in it, is he?). Must see if the library has it.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 07:55

Just in case people - especially the Boss - think I'm starting on about religion again: I'm not. I think what prompted my comment (when I saw that Viz had resurrected this thread) was something I remembered from last Friday's programme, Sex and the Church, presented by Professor Diarmaid  MacCulloch.

In the first programme of the series, MacCulloch referred to Jesus of Nazareth as "a social radical".
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 09:33

Temp wrote:
MacCulloch referred to Jesus of Nazareth as "a social radical"

Radical my arse. Jesus was the enemy of the working class, in fact one of the working class's most evil foes - and still is. He not only supported the status quo and all its inequalities, he campaigned for its retention and threatened those who disagreed with him with exclusion from paradise. A bully playing on superstition. Some radical. The Reverend Doctor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt FBA FSA FRHistS is peddling an old yarn that has worn very thin indeed. In fact he's lying.

I could go on about this at length but Dick Gaughan does a much better job here ...



Vizzer, when you say "P.S. I can't think of any religious orders or religious communities which described themselves as 'Marxist'" this may indeed be true. However it is as recently as 1984 and again in 1986 that a Vatican committee (headed up by Ratzinger) threatened to excommunicate the whole of Central American Catholicism stating that "Liberation Theologists" (according to Ratzinger) had hijacked the faith and replaced it with thinly disguised Marxism. Horror of horrors. Especially bad, according to Ratzinger, was that the liberation theologians included the Catholic hierarchy amongst those fat cats who were bleeding the proletariat dry.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 18:29

@nordmann wrote:
Temp wrote:
MacCulloch referred to Jesus of Nazareth as "a social radical"

Radical my arse. Jesus was the enemy of the working class, in fact one of the working class's most evil foes - and still is. He not only supported the status quo and all its inequalities, he campaigned for its retention and threatened those who disagreed with him with exclusion from paradise. A bully playing on superstition. Some radical. The Reverend Doctor Diarmaid MacCulloch Kt FBA FSA FRHistS is peddling an old yarn that has worn very thin indeed. In fact he's lying.



Could it be that you are being unfair to MacCulloch, nordmann? He is no friend to the Church (if you had watched his programme, you would realise this), although he describes himself as "a candid friend of Christianity". A position with which I sympathise. Although a Deacon, he did not become a priest:


I was ordained Deacon. But, being a gay man, it was just impossible to proceed further, within the conditions of the Anglican set-up, because I was determined that I would make no bones about who I was; I was brought up to be truthful, and truth has always mattered to me. The Church couldn't cope and so we parted company. It was a miserable experience.

Your obvious anger at my suggestion that Christ was a Marxist baffles me: isn't that what the topic is all about - a great man, with great ideals, let down horribly, cynically, by those who claim to be his followers? Not all - but a heck of a lot of them. Perhaps Christ and Marx - and all the other great idealists -  were asking too much of us all. People are never what you think they are - or what you hope they could be.

You confuse Christ with the Christians. Please don't do that.

That singer is an angry young man, isn't he? Judas is an interesting character - in the story he obviously realised he'd got it all wrong - why else did he hang himself?

As for Christ's advice about rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's - advice which so infuriates Dick - wasn't the whole point that most of what Caesar holds dear is actually trash? If he wants it back - just give it him?

But I ramble.

I didn't mean to start a religious row - honest.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 22:52

It's interesting how people see things differently.  I have always thought of Jesus as left-wing and supportive of people without much.  But of course you can be left-wing and not at all radical.  You aren't necessarily an enemy of the working class to threaten people with exclusion from paradise.  That threat or its corollary, sending you to hell, seems a common reaction in the monothesistic religions, not necessarily connected to a lack of radicalism at all.  Probably the opposite.

Where are the biblical examples of Jesus being a foe of the working class and a supporter of the status quo?  It's too long since I read or heard the bible for me to know more than the obvious stories of healing and sharing.  Sharing the coat off your back, etc.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 23:07

I hazard guesses - There's 'Pay unto Caesar...'  Which sort of means don't rock the boat and just pay your taxes to the foreign boss. And then 'The poor are always with us .... so spend up on the ointment for me feet, luv.'
And I have always been perplexed about considering those lazy lilies of the field not doing a day's work. Probably you would be best get over to the Jigalu and Tim will thresh about and explain it all.

Those three bothered me when I was very young and were never explained - one did not ask at my church school because of fear of the headmaster rather than upsetting God.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 21 Apr 2015, 23:39

@Priscilla wrote:
Ione did not ask at my church school because of fear of the headmaster rather than upsetting God.

At my (nominally) secular school, it was generally understood that the Head WAS God.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 00:51

I liked the lazy lilies of the field - they suited my philosophy down to the ground!  Still do.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 07:45

Temp wrote:
Could it be that you are being unfair to MacCulloch, nordmann? 

No, I don't think so. Whatever his relationship with "the church" he makes a fine living out of talking about it all. If one of his utterances on the subject is "Jesus was a radical" then he's not above telling fibs either to keep the bank balance healthy. Dishonesty is disgusting.

In purely political terms Jesus was about as conservative as one can get - his recommendation that everyone simply accept their lot, put up with abuse, and substitute a properly motivated aspiration to improve society with a fanciful dream of reward in a fictional after-life was irresponsible to the point of being evil. If he was radical it was in the extent to which he advocated masochistic tolerance of a state-sponsored denial of basic human rights. As I said, dishonesty is disgusting.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 08:27

Perhaps I should stick to my resolution not to say any more about Jesus as a Marxist because I really do not want to get into a horrible row about religion with you, nordmann. As I said on the Art thread, I don't come here to score points (well, one or two now and again would be nice) or win intellectual battles - some hope - I just like discussing things with intelligent people. I will shut up about this if you wish, but please do not send me over to Tim's Jigaloo site - or whatever it's called - as Priscilla suggests. I could move on to Sir Thomas More as a proto-Communist and introduce ideas from Utopia - or there's Ollie Cromwell as well, if you prefer. That might be wiser.

But, as I'm a bit distressed - no confused - by your use of such strong words as "dishonesty" and "disgusting" in relation to Christ's teaching (which is derived from Plato, isn't it?), may I just quote a bit from the Huffington Post article? I gave the link above, but nobody ever bothers to read links, I know. Just quoting - I'd be interested in your opinion - honestly.


According to CJ Werleman, writing for AlterNet:


The Bible makes it clear Jesus was a Marxist before Marxism had a name. He distrusted the rich. "It's easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter Heaven," forewarned Jesus. The credo of the Beatitudes demonstrated Jesus saw the world in terms of class struggle. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth."



Marxism, of course, is an economic system that puts people first. Unlike capitalism, which is profit-based, Marxism would attempt to create an egalitarian society in which everyone can be prosperous -- a goal that is not unlike that of Jesus.

Reza Aslan, an author and religious scholar who also shares this similar view when discussing "prosperity preachers" like Joel Osteen (who own an $11 million home) told The Huffington Post:


"If there's one thing you can really zero in on when it comes to Jesus' preachings -- I mean the historical Jesus -- was his absolute hatred of wealth," Aslan said. "This wasn't a man who was neutral about it. Jesus wasn't about equality. His preaching wasn't that the rich and the poor should meet in the middle. That's not what he preached. What he preached was that those who have wealth, that wealth will be taken away. Those who are poor, they shall be the inheritors of the earth."



He followed this up by saying that Jesus' teachings are "as close to Marxism as it gets."


PS Aslan's book, which caused such a stir/outrage when it came out, is called Zealot: Aslan (the writer, not the lion) argues that, far from being the meek and mild Jesus, the man was actually a revolutionary. If Christ were dishonest, as you suggest, he certainly, like Caesar, answered grievously for a grievous fault.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 08:41

The Jesus approach to wealth is neither Platonic nor unequivocal. It is so ambivalent that just about any political interpretation can be construed to fit, and many have. The comment that Jesus wanted an egalitarian society is counter to the man's own statements regarding relative worth of individuals based on the rather spurious precept of belief in his weird claims regarding impending divine intervention.

The comment that Jesus distrusted rich people makes sense based on his reported comments on the subject. However it is disingenuous if it is not expanded to include Jesus's distrust of the poor too, a sector of society which he felt required special attention and guidance lest they form ideas of their own which might run contrary to his fanciful salvation notions and veer into practical attempts at self-improvement.

Whatever he was, a Marxist he was not.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 13:27

I'm not getting involved, but I do observe that this discussion is becoming a bit like the medieval debate between Pope John XXII and the 'Spirituals'.

This 14th century "debate" was never just an academic point about whether Christ owned the clothes he stood in, because if he owned those then he could own a purse ... and the implication of that was ultimately not about whether Christ was poor but rather whether the Church should accordingly be poor. And the papacy was firmly against any suggestion to the latter.

The Spirituals, particularly those of the Franciscan Order, held that Christ and his apostles had possessed absolutely nothing, their clothes and food were only "owned" by virtue of being freely donated and were then held in commonwealth. The Franciscans in Chapter at Perugia in May 1322  openly declared: "To say or assert that Christ, in showing the way of perfection, and the Apostles, in following that way and setting an example to others who wished to lead the perfect life, possessed nothing either severally or in common, either by right of ownership and dominium or by personal right, we corporately and unanimously declare to be not heretical, but true and catholic."

In direct conflict with this, pope John XXII, by the bull Ad conditorem canonum of 8 December 1322, declared it ridiculous to pretend that every scrap of food given to the friars and eaten by them belonged to the pope, refused to accept ownership over the goods of the Franciscans, and in future granted them exemption from their own rule that absolutely forbade ownership of anything even in common, thus forcing them to accept the 'ownership'. To back this up, in 12 November 1323, he issued the bull Quum inter nonnullos, which declared "erroneous and heretical" the doctrine that Christ and his apostles had no possessions whatever. And to clarify further, on 10 November 1324, he issued the bull Quia quorundam, in which he declared that it could not be inferred that Christ and the apostles had nothing, adding: "Indeed, it can be inferred rather that the Gospel life lived by Christ and the Apostles did not exclude some possessions in common, since living 'without property' does not require that those living thus should have nothing in common."

Faced with accusations of heresy if they did not submit to the Papal ruling most Franciscans thereafter knuckled under .... those that didn't suffered under the inquisition for their contrary opinions.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 14:33

MM wrote:
I'm not getting involved...


Very wise - I'm not either. God stuff always ends in silliness or tears, or both. But I did think your post was jolly interesting...

I feel silly anyway for mentioning Oliver Cromwell now, thinking that he maybe started out as a proto-Marxist. I said that because I had read this:

On the one hand, here was a leader who ended monarchy, created a Commonwealth, abolished the House of Lords and the established church, and, in his better moments, was a genuine advocate for radical egalitarianism and religious pluralism... (from a review of Marxist historian Christopher Hill's famous biography "God's Englishman").
.
The review goes on, however, to point out that the Civil War was, in Hill's words, "a bourgeois revolution".

What about the Levellers? Were they Marxists before Marx? And was Cromwell perhaps a proto-Stalinist?

Here's how Cromwell dealt with those irksome Levellers: "I tell you, sir, you have no other way to deal with these men but to break them or they will break you; yea and bring all the guilt of the blood and treasure shed and spent in this kingdom upon your heads and shoulders, and frustrate and make void all that work that … you have done." Infamously, Cromwell followed up his own advice to the Council of State by crushing the Levellers at Burford church in Oxfordshire and executing the ringleaders. As Hill cynically notes, "Property had been saved." This is the beginning of the revolution betrayed...

PS I actually know nothing about all this - I've only read a couple of books about (Oliver) Cromwell, and that was ages ago. Just trying to keep some kind of discussion going around here.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 15:42

Some critics consider William Blake to have been a Marxist before Marx. Here is his superb poem from Songs of Experience . It is simply called London.

Arthur Miller said of this short work: "There is more understanding of the nature of a capitalist society in a poem like 'I wander through each charter'd street' than in the whole of the Socialist literature."  


I wander through each chartered street,
    Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
    Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
    In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
    The mind-forged manacles I hear:  

How the chimney-sweeper's cry
    Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
    Runs in blood down palace-walls.  

But most, through midnight streets I hear
    How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
    And blights with plagues the marriage hearse.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 22:20

@nordmann wrote:
as recently as 1984 and again in 1986 that a Vatican committee (headed up by Ratzinger) threatened to excommunicate the whole of Central American Catholicism stating that "Liberation Theologists" (according to Ratzinger) had hijacked the faith and replaced it with thinly disguised Marxism. Horror of horrors. Especially bad, according to Ratzinger, was that the liberation theologians included the Catholic hierarchy amongst those fat cats who were bleeding the proletariat dry.

Surely this is the main problem with the term ‘Marxist’. It’s an ill-defined term which has come to mean almost anything the speaker wishes it to mean – whether that be affirmative or pejorative.

In the latter case (i.e as a pejorative) then the case of Joseph Ratzinger is intriguing. It's noteworthy that none of the proponents of liberation theology in South or Central America prior to the 1980s described themselves as ‘Marxist’. Ratzinger’s counter-Marxist meta-language used at that time, however, was seemingly instinctive and more a product of his University of Munich education and training than anything else. He probably thought this also had the added benefit of coying and brow-beating the Americans with complex and heavyweight European academic concepts and terminology about which they hadn’t a clue. A classic cultural cringe perhaps. What is significant is that just as none of the liberation theologists described themselves as Marxist before the 1980s, crucially neither have any done so since. In other words the labeling was all one-way traffic.

And even if we look at the term ‘Marxist’ when used as an affirmative or positive or complimentary adjective, such as by the British political party which famously included actress Vanessa Redgrave among its members, then there too one wonders just how much of the works of Karl Marx the members of that party had actually read. For example the party’s constitution claimed that ‘our theory is the theory of Marxism’ but (and you’ve guessed it) it didn’t outline in any way what that theory (or what they thought that theory) actually was. This is because Marxism has become a vague idea or a feeling or even a fashion statement. People want to perceive Marx as being some sort of ‘political scientist’ rather than the economic historian and social theorist he was.

In my student days I used to take delight when confronted by a self-proclaimed ‘Marxist’ in asking them such mischievous questions as “Do you think Marx’ conclusions on relative surplus value are as robust as his work on absolute surplus value?” or “The Gotha Programme stated that ‘labour is the source of all wealth and all culture’ – would you agree?”.

Marx is one of the most unread of famous writers. And my experience is that many (and perhaps most) of those who call themselves (or call others) ‘Marxist’ or who casually refer to ‘Marxism’ have in fact read little or none of his works.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Wed 22 Apr 2015, 23:38

Isn't much the same true of the Bible? Owned by many, read by few? What about the Qur'an - with the added problem of "you must read it in the original Arabic"? Same for the Guru Granth Sahib too?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Thu 23 Apr 2015, 09:52

Mmm. Does anyone actually read anything these days? The internet has made bull*******s of us all.

Who's really read Marx, let alone the Socratic Dialogues, Machiavelli's The Prince? More's Utopia? All that stuff by Derrida/Lyotard/Foucault?

And, thanks to those French chaps, who now is going to give a hoot about any of it? Certainly not about Marxism or Christianity. Just two out-of-date metanarratives among all the others consigned to the bin? But I did find this quite interesting. I read it while eating my Oatibix:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2011/03/in-defense-of-grand-narratives/


Postmodernists oppose “grand narratives,” and perhaps the “grandest” of all “narratives” was authored by Karl Marx, that of the proletariat taking power and creating a society in which all individuals can develop their talents to their fullest. For postmodernists, this is mere verbiage which masks an extension of Enlightenment rationality that serves to legitimize political power and oppression. Where Marxists (critically) defend science, rationality, the idea of an objective, knowable world, and human subjectivity, postmodernists proclaim the impossibility of objective truth, the absence of a pregiven human subject, and that all social movements or societies which seek scientific knowledge or objective truth lead to yet more oppression. The class struggle and socialism are particular examples of such “metanarratives,” and in any event have become outmoded.

I once read three pages of Das Kapital (in English). It was really boring.

There's an abridged version available on Amazon which gets 2 and a half stars and this review:

This is a heavily abridged version of Das Kapital which on top of that has no references and no footnotes. Given that this piece of information is not available in the description of the item which is supposed to be a 'Collector's Edition' I felt cheated when I got this book for which I paid an unreasonable sum of money.  Smile

Back to the real world now and the ongoing struggle with my shed.


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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Thu 23 Apr 2015, 12:07

@Temperance wrote:
Mmm. Does anyone actually read anything these days? The internet has made bull*******s of us all.

Who's really read Marx, let alone the Socratic Dialogues, Machiavelli's The Prince? More's Utopia? All that stuff by Derrida/Lyotard/Foucault?
4 out of 7. Only in translation, so do they count?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Thu 23 Apr 2015, 14:34

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
@Temperance wrote:
Mmm. Does anyone actually read anything these days? The internet has made bull*******s of us all.

Who's really read Marx, let alone the Socratic Dialogues, Machiavelli's The Prince? More's Utopia? All that stuff by Derrida/Lyotard/Foucault?

4 out of 7. Only in translation, so do they count?



I'm a little disappointed you haven't read Plato in the original Greek, Gil. Smile

I have started all of them, finished 2/7. I managed three pages of Marx, but was suicidal after only two pages of the French guys. I don't think anyone really understands them. And they bitch about one another. Here's a quote from Noam Chomsky:

“With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, "He says so and so," he always says, "You misunderstood me." But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, "What the hell do you mean by that?" And he said, "He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, 'You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.' That’s the terrorism part." And I like that. So I wrote an article about Derrida. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quoted that passage, and he said yes.”


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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Thu 23 Apr 2015, 14:57

After a caving trip to the Alpi Apuane (just north of Lucca) I found myself adrift in Tuscany in the summer of 1986 and, whilst doing all the art 'n' architecture, etc, I tackled Machiavelli's 'Il Principe', as a bit of background reading, though in translation I admit. A slim volume it took only a few hours from cover to cover (whilst sat on a park bench in Pisa) ... I thought it mostly just obvious common-sense and could never see what all the fuss was ever about.

I started 'Das Kapital' when at University (it was sort of de rigeur then) ... but soon abandoned it as tedious, pretentious, hypocrytical twaddle. Similarly at school I was forced to read More's 'Utopia', but the subtelties were never explained and I can hardly remember any of it.

... so much for my "fully rounded" education.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Fri 24 Apr 2015, 06:58

@Meles meles wrote:
After a caving trip to the Alpi Apuane (just north of Lucca) I found myself adrift in Tuscany in the summer of 1986 and, whilst doing all the art 'n' architecture, etc, I tackled Machiavelli's 'Il Principe', as a bit of background reading, though in translation I admit. A slim volume it took only a few hours from cover to cover (whilst sat on a park bench in Pisa) ... I thought it mostly just obvious common-sense and could never see what all the fuss was ever about.

I started 'Das Kapital' when at University (it was sort of de rigeur then) ... but soon abandoned it as tedious, pretentious, hypocrytical twaddle. Similarly at school I was forced to read More's 'Utopia', but the subtelties were never explained and I can hardly remember any of it.

... so much for my "fully rounded" education.


Reading Il Principe on a park bench in Pisa.

Sounds like an ideal education to me...

Some of the comments here about Derrida are very funny (well, I think they are). The Guardian asked about twenty "key thinkers" what they thought of him and his philosophy.  I have found them a great comfort, especially this one:



Ivan Massow, former chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts:

Who? I don't know who you are talking about? I'm in a meeting with a group of City luminaries and none of them has heard of him. I can Google him for you if you are having difficulties.



http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/oct/12/philosophy


But most people have heard of Marx and his ideas. Derrida wrote a book called Spectres of Marx (1993). I haven't read it, but I have read about it. Here's a bit from Wiki, plus a quotation from the book:

The title "Spectres of Marx" is an allusion to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' statement at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto that a "spectre [is] haunting Europe." For Derrida, the spirit of Marx is even more relevant now since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism. With its death the spectre of communism begins to make visits on the Earth. Derrida seeks to do the work of inheriting from Marx, that is, not communism, but of the philosophy of responsibility, and of Marx's spirit of radical critique. Derrida first notes that, in the wake of the fall of communism, many in the west had become triumphalist, as is evidenced in the formation of a Neo-con grouping and the displacement of the left in third way political formations. At the intellectual level, it is apparent in Francis Fukuyama's proclamation of the end of ideology. Derrida commented on the reasons for that spectre of Marx:

"For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelise in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realised itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth."



Now that quotation I do understand. So is the usually baffling Derrida Marx's true disciple?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Fri 24 Apr 2015, 08:17

What is it about Machiavelli and park benches? I remember well being accosted by what turned out to be a professor of English Literature in nearby Trinity College when she noticed that I was reading the Penguin abridged paperback version of The Prince while enjoying a moment of rare sunshine in St Stephen's Green.

She was right. The abridged version has a different ending - it all ends horribly for everyone. Apparently Cardinal Newman was to blame.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Fri 24 Apr 2015, 18:54

@nordmann wrote:
What is it about Machiavelli and park benches? I remember well being accosted by what turned out to be a professor of English Literature in nearby Trinity College when she noticed that I was reading the Penguin abridged paperback version of The Prince while enjoying a moment of rare sunshine in St Stephen's Green.

She was right. The abridged version has a different ending - it all ends horribly for everyone. Apparently Cardinal Newman was to blame.
I used to read "The Prince" etc. on long trips when I was a bus conductor - except when on the University run. Then the choice was Asterix (in French, natch) or "Mad". Best reaction was evinced by reading the last-named upside-down. BTW - I think you have the wrong culprit there, it was actually Alfred E. Neuman.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sat 25 Apr 2015, 06:44

Are you talking about footnotes here, nordmann?  Burd's edition of The Prince?


... Burd comments: " Machiavelli's doctrine of ends and means has often been brought into relation with the tenets of the Jesuits: in the Constitution of the Society of Jesus there is not explicitly anything to warrant the statement that the end justifies the means, but there is the admission that sin may be allowed for a special purpose. . . ."

We should compare that with the famous declaration of Cardinal Newman that "the Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fall, and for the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul . . . should commit one single venial sin. . . ."

Oh dear - not good.

Difficult googling for info on this - keep getting stuff about Prince suing fans over posting his gig videos on the internet.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sat 25 Apr 2015, 07:15

The redacted edition approved for use by the Catholic University had been issued first in Spain (for Jesuit colleges). It contained not so much "footnotes" as "handnotes", "headnotes", "legnotes", "torsonotes" and "arsenotes" so that it was the book itself that became their pedal extremities, and missing quite a few toes too. Penguin's abridged edition was based on this bowdlerised version. God won in the end of this version in a special extra chapter, proving himself even more dangerous than the most conniving princely bastard and not someone to mess with.

Do they still make such literary park benches any more? I also recall a Douglas Adams convention bench in the same park.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 27 Apr 2015, 08:48

@nordmann wrote:
The redacted edition approved for use by the Catholic University had been issued first in Spain (for Jesuit colleges). It contained not so much "footnotes" as "handnotes", "headnotes", "legnotes", "torsonotes" and "arsenotes" so that it was the book itself that became their pedal extremities, and missing quite a few toes too...

...Do they still make such literary park benches any more? I also recall a Douglas Adams convention bench in the same park.



Smile I like the idea of "arsenotes" to a text.

Perhaps we should have a park bench around here - outside the Tumbleweed, perhaps. There are so few of us discussing anything these days: we could all just sit on it in companionable silence. The Res Hiss Park Bench should have a blue plaque on it - saying what, though, I'm not quite sure.


But back to the OP.

Does Fidel Castro qualify as a "proper" Marxist? I hadn't thought about Castro - who is an obvious candidate - and I ask because I came across this on Saturday. It's from, of all things, a book about the Princes in the Tower: The Mystery of the Princes by Audrey Williamson. It was published in 1978, so it is very out-of-date, but I'm still finding it very interesting. In the Prologue, Williamson mentions Thomas More (whom I asked about above) and says this:

"It is more interesting to conjecture why More abandoned the History (of TD), leaving gaps for names and unaltered errors in these and other details. It was certainly not...because of pressure of his civic duties, as immediately on abandoning it he must have begun his work on 'Utopia', a description of a republican state which was  enormously to influence political thought in the future. Some of its ideas are still potent (in the agrarian society of Cuba, for instance, which under the Castro regime has a number of points of contact with More's 'Utopia').

I know very little about Castro - but I still offer him as a possibility. Or was he just another dictator (like Cromwell?)?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 27 Apr 2015, 09:11

I would suggest that all ideologies which announce a radical departure from the status quo require dictatorship to implement. The alternative is everyone suddenly arriving at the alternative conclusions at the same time and with the same notions of how to implement things. Even your pal Jesus wasn't going to wait for that to happen.

Castro, like other candidates for the names, was therefore both Marxist and a dictator. Except of course to be really a Marxist in the Karl Marx sense requires positioning within a relatively industrialised society before implementation of anything - and in that sense the world has seen precious few of these Marxist fellows indeed, at least in charge of anything.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sat 02 May 2015, 19:54

Deleted - off-topic.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sun 03 May 2015, 17:21

Decided to delete above - trying to bait His Ursine Munificence is never a good idea and I was well off-topic.

Back to Marx.

I mentioned Che Guevara over on the "What Is Art?" thread. Anyone who was young during the 1960s and 1970s will remember how popular and influential this Marxist revolutionary was - even amongst teenagers who hadn't really got a clue about Marx. A trendy Marxist was the thing to be back then, so much so that it all got ridiculous, hence the Marxist peasant in Monty Python's Holy Grail (we've had the clip before, but it still makes me laugh, so I'll post it below) and series such as the BBC's Citizen Smith which was broadcast during the late 1970s. Here's Wiki's assessment of "Wolfie" Smith:



Citizen Smith starred Robert Lindsay as "Wolfie" Smith, a young Marxist "urban guerrilla" in Tooting, South London, who is attempting to emulate his hero Che Guevara. Wolfie is a reference to the Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone who used the pseudonym Citizen Smith in order to evade capture by the British. Wolfie is the self-proclaimed leader of the revolutionary Tooting Popular Front (the TPF, merely a small bunch of his friends), the goals of which are "Power to the People" and "Freedom for Tooting". In reality, he is an unemployed dreamer and petty criminal whose plans fall through because of laziness and disorganisation.


But it was all deadly serious in the universities back then, and even today anyone studying English Literature has to be aware of what is called "Marxist Criticism" (along with the mass of other literary and cultural theories out there that make up what is referred to simply as "Theory"). Terry Eagleton, the Oxford Marxist critic, was hugely influential. You had to read Eagleton, and it seemed that everything had to have a Marxist interpretation. It was awful. I remember struggling through Eagleton's Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës and then producing an essay on Wuthering Heights. I think I presented Heathcliff as a sort of Yorkshire rural guerrilla à la Che who betrayed the class struggle and turned capitalist landlord: complete garbage, but I got quite a good mark for it. I was actually utterly bewildered by it all, and I remember being in tears trying to write something on how the conflicts in King Lear might be read as as a conflict of class interest between the rising class (the bourgeoisie) and the falling class (the feudal overlords). I thought Shakespeare was exploring in Lear far more important ideas and I said so. Didn't get a good mark for that.

Eagleton has mellowed a lot apparently. Perhaps owning three houses, including a beautiful Georgian property in Dublin has helped.


William Deresiewicz wrote of "After Theory", Eagleton's 2003 book, as follows:


"Is it that hard to explain what Eagleton's up to? The prolificness, the self-plagiarism, the snappy, highly consumable prose and, of course, the sales figures: Eagleton wishes for capitalism's demise, but as long as it's here, he plans to do as well as he can out of it. Someone who owns three homes shouldn't be preaching self-sacrifice, and someone whose careerism at Oxbridge was legendary shouldn't be telling interviewers of his longstanding regret at having turned down a job at the Open University."

Eagleton was a genuine Marxist in his day, I suppose.

He thinks football is the opium of the people - he could be right about that.





PS Guardian review of Eagleton's 2011 book, Why Marx Was Right:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/may/29/why-marx-was-right-eagleton-review


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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Sun 03 May 2015, 18:36

But it was all deadly serious in the universities back then.......

Remember Howard?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 06:58

@ferval wrote:
Remember Howard?


Smile

Unfortunately, yes. There are some things one would prefer to forget.

Interesting 2012 interview with Eagleton here:

http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/an-interview-with-terry-eagleton/


You say somewhere, I think it’s in The Gatekeeper (2002), your autobiography and memoir, that it’s of great consolation to you that you’ve avoided the typical trajectory of going from being a youthful radical to being an old Tory. But there has been a kind of a movement towards dealing with big metaphysical themes in your recent work, I think: tragedy, evil, religion, love, death. Have you been conscious of that shift?


Oh, the delicious irony - tragedy, evil, religion, love, death. Just what I put in my Lear essay back in 1975. I want it remarked.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 10:12

Temp wrote:
I remember being in tears trying to write something on how the conflicts in King Lear might be read as as a conflict of class interest between the rising class (the bourgeoisie) and the falling class (the feudal overlords).

If you were asked to do this then it was not by a Marxist but by a pseudo-Marxist, or at least someone who didn't care about what Marx actually wrote. In "The Communist Manifesto" the definition of "bourgeoisie" is the very first thing tackled in the very first chapter. It amounts to nothing more nor less than those in society controlling the means of production. In the Dark Ages, albeit in Lear's fictional land and time alluding to this era, these would have been the overlords (it would be premature to call them feudal). It is therefore simply stupid - as Karl Marx would also have pointed out - to insinuate that the controllers of production were rising while the controllers of production were falling. The controllers of production, like the poor, are forever with us and it doesn't really matter a fig which class they belong to, pretend to belong to, or are accused of belonging to.

Whoever set the question was making the oft-repeated and incorrect presumption that the bourgeoisie had to be middle class. Even in Marx's time that was not a requirement to fit the definition - in fact hence the requirement for a new phrase to cover the concept he and Engels had envisaged.

You were Howarded, obviously.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 11:59

Oh, I'm sure I was. Not that it matters now.

I suppose we were expected to consider that the "fictional land and time" of Lear was actually the land and time of James I: the play was first presented before the King in 1606, although WS probably wrote it around 1603 after the death of the old Queen. The play, like Macbeth, was a warning shot  across the bows to James I - about a lot of things.

Weren't the members of the "rising class", the "bourgeoisie" of the time, the up-and-coming Puritans?

There's been a lot of stuff written about a Marxist interpretation of the play - Lear and the decline of feudalism. But I can't be doing with it. To be honest, I simply don't know enough about feudalism or Marxism to be able to make an intelligent comment. Didn't then and still don't. I think it's all "New Historicism" Lit. Crit. now anyway, rather than the old Marxist criticism. The former grew out of the latter. This is the point where I go and cultivate my garden.

This was written in 1936. Is it nonsense?

https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/lit_crit/works/shakes.htm

Toward the year 1590, Puritanism, which was only a religious screen for the class-consciousness of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against feudalism and absolutism, gained ground. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the political program of the Puritans was still moderate, since the leading force of the class was the big bourgeoisie, always ready to compromise with the aristocracy and the king. This leading group, which called itself Presbyterian, aimed only at the confiscation of the property of the Church of England, and at the abolition of all privileges which hindered bourgeois development. The struggle became more acute around 1610, when the Independents broke away from the Presbyterians. This group demanded the complete liquidation of the church hierarchy, the revocation of all special privileges, and the establishment of a bourgeois-democratic system.

Not until this time, some thirty or forty years prior to the revolution, did the decisive mass of the English bourgeoisie take a resolute stand against the ruling class and the entire system of absolutism. This movement brought forth Milton, the great poet of the English bourgeois revolution, who was born in 1608. Only the very last years of Shakespeare's creative work correspond to this period, for he reached maturity during the epoch of peaceful collaboration of the ruling nobility with the big bourgeoisie under the protection of the then progressive royal power.



But I was always more interested in the Fool and his "handy-dandy" question - who's the wise man and who's the fool? Didn't Henry IV (or more likely the Duc de Sully) call James I "the wisest fool in Christendom"?


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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 12:41

Temp wrote:
Weren't the members of the "rising class", the "bourgeoisie" of the time, the up-and-coming Puritans?

Yes indeed - some of them were. Though of course there were also those bourgeoisie, even then, who had that tenacious classless dingleberry quality of hanging tight to the arse-end of capitalism regardless of which crapology might be in vogue or which others see themselves as going "up" or "down" within society.

The quote you cited above is all over the place. I especially like the class-conscious bourgeoisie called Puritans being led by the Presbyterians and in the end being delivered of a baby called Milton. Ian Paisley would be rolling in his grave if he hadn't been hung drawn and quartered.

What - you mean he wasn't?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 13:29

Well, I did say I hadn't got a clue about this.

Is this any better? Probably not.  study I don't know what he's on about.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3194867?uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21106695796473

Oh dear, I feel a Duke of Norfolk moment coming on.

I'd better stick with my geraniums.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Mon 04 May 2015, 13:52

I'm actually hoping for a Duke of Gloucester moment having read that link ....

How does Lear as a play "idolise" the bourgeoisie, I wonder? Maybe he means that Lear has a stab at redistribution of wealth which goes all pear-shaped and is only fixed when attritional demise amongst the affected parties brings the transfer of wealth back into more linear and controllable channels - a much easier inheritance plan for the purposes of taxation and banking? I don't really buy it as Lear was still only redistributing amongst his bourgeoisie peers.

At least, I don't remember the fool being promised a cut (though he ended up the only character with a profession and unblemished proof or productivity throughout the entire doomed experiment).
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 08:33

The author of the Jstor essay, Julian Markels (he's not a historian, but a Professor of English at the University of Ohio) published a book called The Marxian Imagination: representing Class in Literature in 2003:


http://sdonline.org/37/the-marxian-imagination-representing-class-in-literature/


In the sphere of literary criticism the debate about class has for a long time gone out of fashion altogether. This is also due to the fact that class in literature raises questions about class-consciousness, the social function of writing and the ideology of the text, hardly favourite postmodern issues. It is therefore a brave and bold venture of Julian Markels to defy the postmodern hegemony and place the representation of class at the heart of a discussion about the Marxian imagination in both literature and society. This is also a timely intervention since some of the most recent critical debate is in fact shifting under the pressure of world events towards what is often tentatively called the ethical turn, which acknowledges a moral dimension to the literary text. Markels not only faces this new-found ethical awareness head on, he reasserts the much more audacious and long-lasting claim of Marxism as a master narrative of class and class conflict, one which also provides us with a most powerful instrument for dissecting the central moral issues in literature.

It is perhaps somewhat less of a surprising critical move that Markels chooses to focus primarily on the 19th- and 20th-century realist novel as the genre most accommodating to a discussion of class as a point of entry to the literary text. Realism has been a favoured mode of writing among radicals ever since Marx himself celebrated the work of Victorian writers like Dickens, Thackeray, Mrs. Gaskell and the Brontës, ‘whose graphic and eloquent pages have issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.’



That highlighted bit of the last sentence is a quotation from Marx himself about the great Victorian novelists. So yes, applying a Marxist perspective to the 19th century novel is fair enough. But to Shakespeare and Chaucer? There is even a Marxist interpretation of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale - "All is for to selle" - Breeding Capital in the Wife of Bath's Tale.  Its author argues that Chaucer was concerned in this tale with what she calls "fading feudalism". Suspect

I actually feel hopelessly out-of-date and woolly writing about all this, but I must admit, especially after several years posting on history sites like the BBC and here, that I am a little concerned about how Literature is now being approached, especially by those literary critics who push what is called new historicism (that's the American name for it), or cultural materialism, as it is called in the UK.

The British critic, Graham Holderness, describes cultural materialism as "a politicised form of historiography". I suppose you explain this as meaning the study of historical material - including literary texts - within a politicised framework, "this framework including the present which those literary texts have in some way helped to shape". The term "cultural materialism" was made fashionable by Dollimore and Sinfield as the subject of their edited collection of essays, Political Shakespeare . I struggled back in 1985 (when Political Shakespeare was published) to keep up-to-date with this, the latest thinking, but I was uneasy...

They define the term in the foreword as designating a critical method which has four characteristics:

1 - historical context
2 - theoretical method
3 - political commitment
4 - textual analysis

This is an approach to teaching literature! Textual analysis is last on the list! Interesting - and of course "historical context" is very important, always has been - but isn't this a worrying development for historians: non-specialists - the Eng. Lit. mob - let loose on history and political philosophy? I certainly wouldn't feel qualified to teach English Literature A-level  this way - I'm glad I no longer have to.

PS The emphasis on political commitment you would probably approve of, nordmann - it "signifies the influence of Marxist and feminist perspectives and the break from the conservative-Christian framework which hitherto dominated Shakespeare criticism". I thought the "Christian framework" was pretty important back in the 16th century.


PPS http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/the-canon-political-shakespeare-essays-in-cultural-materialism/414086.article


Political Shakespeare helped show me the way out of the impasse. It helped set me on a career path as a Renaissance scholar. I could now, I believed, be not only an expert in a body of texts I loved, but also a human being, or at least a political being. (For Aristotle, it will be recalled, the two are pretty much the same.)

The arguments of Political Shakespeare have all been absorbed into the profession of Shakespeare studies; they are taken for granted. But it almost seems a shame. "Cultural materialism" was supposed to be an extension of Marxism, and Marxism a project for the emancipation of humanity. Nowadays we get plenty of historicisation in Shakespeare studies, but little of it seems emancipatory. It just seems comme il faut.


PPPS What a jumble. This post is all over the place - sorry about that, but will still send.

PPPPS But then I was quoting Blake above...


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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:04

Temp wrote:
PS The emphasis on political commitment you would probably approve of, nordmann - it "signifies the influence of Marxist and feminist perspectives and the break from the conservative-Christian framework which hitherto dominated Shakespeare criticism". I thought the "Christian framework" was pretty important back in the 16th century.

Personally I don't think literary criticism (which after all is simply an analysis of a text's value in terms of usefulness or enjoyability - or both - for the reader) can really benefit at all if it is conducted through the extra strainer of an -ism, especially given the subjectivity involved in defining and applying any -ism you care to mention.

Criticism within a "Christian framework", for example, can mean anything from an extremely moralistic approach within very strict Christian theological guidelines to extremely liberal criticism conducted in a society that just happens to be ostensibly Christian but which has also evolved to include a value placed on liberalism. Both could be said to have been true and non-exlusive, even in the 16th century.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:17

@nordmann wrote:
Personally I don't think literary criticism (which after all is simply an analysis of a text's value in terms of usefulness or enjoyability - or both - for the reader)...



Good grief, don't let anyone at the University of East Anglia hear you saying that. People have ended up in the Lollards' Pit for less.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:27

I know, there are whole academic careers and huge academic reputations carved out of nothing more than complicating things unnecessarily. "Educating Rita" is one of my favourite plays/films but the bit I like probably best of all is the debunking of assonance by the naive Rita. At the time it just about summed up my own attitude towards up-your-own-arsehole academia too.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:32

Getting the rhyme wrong. Smile

My favourite line is: "Did you b*gger the Bursar?"


Rita: Have they sacked you?

Dr. Frank Bryant: I made rather a night of it last night so they're giving me a holiday. Two years in Australia.

Rita: Did you bugger the Bursar?

Dr. Frank Bryant: Metaphorically.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:40

Right, so much for Marx and trying to be intellectual for today.

I'm off to smear mouldy yoghurt on my geranium pots now - Priscilla's advice is always sound.
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 10:52

PS Actually Rita's assessment of Lady Macbeth: "Wasn't his wife a cow?" is probably my favourite line. Excellent starting point for a discussion of Macbeth and the metaphysics of evil.

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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 13:39

So little wrong with that screenplay, was there? From Lipman's "I'd simply DIE for Mahler!" (and then almost did) to Rita's father's "What's wrong with you? Here's your sister, married six minutes, and she's already four months pregnant!"

Rita's mother's "there must be better songs to sing than this ..." is a theme for a whole other play. Isn't Willy Russell clever?
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PostSubject: Re: "I am not a Marxist" - Karl Marx. So who was?   Tue 05 May 2015, 14:12

Yes, it is an excellent play/film. When I had a difficult class for GCSE English, I always started with Rita - then led them into Macbeth when they weren't looking: it always worked a treat. That was back in the days when English teachers had some freedom - you couldn't do that today.

I like the idea of a "better song" as the theme for a play. But whose song, what song should we be offering? Freedom to choose her own life was the song Rita learned. That's the best song, I think.

I've just been reading about Louis Althusser who is apparently the latest must-study theorist for Eng. Lit. undergraduates. He went out of fashion after the 1970s, but is now being "rediscovered". An Algerian-born French Marxist philosopher who is responsible for "re-inventing Marxism", the poor chap didn't have a better song to sing, for all his brilliant intellect.

He ended up in a mental hospital, having murdered his wife - he strangled her.


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/althusser/
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