Review by Don Milligan

Why Marx Was Right
Terry Eagleton

New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2011
ISBN 978-0-300-18153-1 Pbk

“Was ever a thinker so travestied?”


erry Eagleton ends Why Marx Was Right with this
rhetorical question: “Was ever a thinker so travestied?” This is a fitting end to a book which is a lament for the wicked ways of a world that has done so
much damage to the thought and legacy of Karl Marx, piling
misconception upon misconception, so that the emancipatory promise of the great man’s books and pamphlets has sunk under the weight of lies and half truths.
Over the course of ten chapters Eagleton discusses the
falsification of Marx’s approach to human nature, economic life, materialism, class, the state, and violent revolution. He challenges the notion that Marx’s ideas are outmoded and
that the ‘new social movements’ gathered around the banners of anti-capitalism and alter-globalization represent, in any essential sense, a departure from Marx’s struggle for a better future.
Marx’s utopianism was derived from the real world of the
present, from the way in which the antagonistic social relations characteristic of capitalism, contain the seeds of a communist future, which is always gleaned from the present.
Capitalism has produced untold wealth, the capacity to feed, house, clothe, and educate, everybody on the planet, from
this we can see that Marx’s belief that the future could be “a vast improvement on the present” (100) becomes an entirely plausible, even modest, aspiration, if only we could find a
way to overcome the barriers to achieving a fairer distribution of wealth.

© 2012 Don Milligan, Review of Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right, posted at www.donmilligan.net, April 23, 2012.

“Would everything be perfect in this communist paradise
of yours?”
“No, of course not”, replies Eagleton,
“[. . .] there would be plenty of problems, a host of
conflicts and a number of irreparable...
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