[OPE-L:5613] Karl Marx in _The New Yorker_

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 16 Oct 1997 10:18:17 -0400 (EDT)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: James Farmelant <farmelantj@juno.com>
Subject: [OPE-L:5613] M-TH: The Next Thinker: The Return of Karl Marx (The New Yorker
-Oct. 20&27)
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10/20/97 & 10/27/97



Copyright The New Yorker 1997. All Rights Reserved.

Which writer has the most to say about the future of capitalism? Karl
Marx, argues John Cassidy in the "Next" Issue of The New Yorker.
Although his ideas barely rate a mention in most current economics
textbooks, Marx may have understood our economic syst em better than
some of our leading economists. "In many ways, Marx's legacy has been
obscured by the failure of Communism, which wasn't his primary
interest," Cassidy writes. "Marx was a student of capitalism, and that
is how he should be judged."

In "The Return of Karl Marx," Cassidy continues, "Many of the
contradictions that he saw in Victorian capitalism and that were
subsequently addressed by reformist governments have begun reappearing
in new guises, like mutant viruses.... He wrote riveting passages
about globalization, inequality, political corruption, monopolization,
technical progress, the decline of high culture, and the enervating
nature of modern existence--issues that economists are now confronting
anew, sometimes without realizing th at they are walking in Marx's

"Globalization is set to become the biggest political issue of the
next century," Cassidy writes, "but Marx predicted most of its
ramifications a hundred and fifty years ago." He also taught that
capitalism tends toward monopoly unless strictly regulated. The
unprecedented wave of mergers in the last decade has given new life to
this observation. Taken together with the weakening of federal
regulatory efforts, the merger wave will result in "more mergers,
higher prices, and fewer choices for consumers," C assidy observes.

He also notes that during the past two decades, "a systematic assault"
has been carried out on reforms that were originally designed to
improve the living standard of working people. "This right-wing
backlash has produced a sharp upsurge in inequality, ju st as Marx
would have predicted. Between 1980 and 1996," there took place,
Cassidy reports, "an unprecedented redistribution of resources from
poor to rich."

Marx was clearly mistaken on several points, including his theory that
labor is the source of value and his predictions about the demise of
capitalism and the withering away of the state. Nevertheless, Cassidy
concludes, "Despite his errors, he was a man for whom our economic
system held few surprises. His books will be worth reading as long as
capitalism endures."

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