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Marx and the Marxists


Tags Philosophy and MethodologyPolitical Theory


The founders of social movements and schools of thought often try to distance themselves from their followers. (Or their later interpreters do this for them). Thus one can ask if Freud was a Freudian, Ricardo a Ricardian, Walras a Walrasian, Keynes a Keynesian (chapter 5 Keynesian? chapter 12 Keynesian?), and so on.

What about Marx? Murray Rothbard wrote that the key to understanding Marx was one simple truth: "Karl Marx was a Communist. A seemingly trite and banal statement set alongside Marxism's myriad of jargon-ridden concepts in philosophy, economics, and culture, yet Marx's devotion to communism was his crucial focus, far more central than the class struggle, the dialectic, the theory of surplus value, and all the rest." But was Marx a Marxist?

Andrew Kliman is a True Marxist and argues, in his new book, that fellow Marxists have gone off track by accepting what Kliman calls "the myth of inconsistency." In other words, contrary to both Marx's critics and his disciples, there are no internal inconsistencies in Das Capital. "It had to be done," states one dust-jacket endorsement: "someone has finally rescued Marx from the Marxists." Bertell Ollman, perhaps today's most famous living Marxist, says Kliman's arguments "operate like a buzz saw clearing away the underbrush of misplaced criticisms that have kept the real Capital hidden from most of its potential readers." Given how many college students have been forced to slog through at least one volume of Marx's lengthy tome -- with little or no exposure to Marx's critics -- it's hard to believe that Marx's true message has remained hidden for so long. Nonetheless, devotees of the secondary literature on Marx will surely wish to add this volume to their collections.

(Cross-posted at Organizations and Markets.)

Update: Kliman emails me some corrections: "Actually, I'd be foolish to say that there aren't inconsistencies in Capital, so I don't. My argument is restricted to the allegations of inconsistency that are extant. Also, in regard to 'True Marxist,' which sounds a bit like Hoffer's 'True Believer,' I point out several times in the book that 'logically consistent' doesn't mean correct or true."

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