Why Marx Was Right

Topics: Socialism, Capitalism, Marxism Pages: 173 (65778 words) Published: January 12, 2011
Why Marx Was Right

Why Marx Was Right

New Haven & London

Published with assistance from the Louis Stern Memorial Fund. Copyright ∫ 2011 by Yale University. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Yale University Press books may be purchased in quantity for educational, business, or promotional use. For information, please e-mail sales.press@ yale.edu (U.S. office) or sales@yaleup.co.uk (U.K. office). Designed by James J. Johnson and set in Granjon Roman type by Keystone Typesetting, Inc. Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Eagleton, Terry, 1943– Why Marx was right / Terry Eagleton. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978-0-300-16943-0 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Marx, Karl, 1818–1883. 2. Communism. 3. Capitalism. I. Title. hx39.5e234 2011 335.4—dc22 2010041471 A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48–1992 (Permanence of Paper). 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For Dom and Hadi


Preface ix Chapter One 1 Chapter Two 12 Chapter Three 30 Chapter Four 64 Chapter Five 107 Chapter Six 128

Chapter Seven 160 Chapter Eight 179 Chapter Nine 196 Chapter Ten 211 Conclusion 238 Notes 241 Index 251

terry eagleton



his book had its origin in a single, striking thought: What if all the most familiar objections to Marx’s work are mistaken? Or at least, if not totally wrongheaded, mostly so? This is not to suggest that Marx never put a foot wrong. I am not of that leftist breed that piously proclaims that everything is open to criticism, and then, when asked to produce three major criticisms of Marx, lapses into truculent silence. That I have my own doubts about some of his ideas should be clear enough from this book. But he was right enough of the time about enough important issues to make calling oneself a Marxist a reasonable self-description. No Freudian imagines that Freud never blundered, just as no fan of Alfred Hitchix

cock defends the master’s every shot and line of screenplay. I am out to present Marx’s ideas not as perfect but as plausible. To demonstrate this, I take in this book ten of the most standard criticisms of Marx, in no particular order of importance, and try to refute them one by one. In the process, I also aim to provide a clear, accessible introduction to his thought for those unfamiliar with his work. The Communist Manifesto has been described as ‘‘without doubt the single most influential text written in the nineteenth century.’’∞ Very few thinkers, as opposed to statesmen, scientists, soldiers, religious figures and the like, have changed the course of actual history as decisively as its author. There are no Cartesian governments, Platonist guerilla fighters or Hegelian trade unions. Not even Marx’s most implacable critics would deny that he transformed our understanding of human history. The antisocialist thinker Ludwig von Mises described socialism as ‘‘the most powerful reform movement that history has ever known, the first ideological trend not limited to a section of mankind but supported by people of all races, nations, religions and civilisations.’’≤ Yet there is a curious notion abroad that Marx and his theories can now be safely buried—and this in the wake of one of the most devastating crises of capitalism on historical record. Marxism, for long the most theoretically rich, politically uncompromising critique of that system, is now complacently consigned to the primeval past. terry eagleton


That crisis has at least meant that the word ‘‘capitalism,’’ usually disguised under some such coy pseudonym as ‘‘the modern age,’’...
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