Salon Magazine diatribe against Marxism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Aug 30 09:35:52 MDT 1999

Misadventures in Marxism

How can well-meaning American academics continue their romance with Karl
Marx? European scholars can only guess.

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By Lawrence Osborne

Aug. 30, 1999 | Of all the 19th century prophets, Karl Marx is the most
stubbornly resistant to the ravages of age. The ideologies he spawned may
have tumbled along with the watchtowers and barbed-wire walls that
accompanied them, but something about the Old Man proves irresistible to
the sensitively academic and to the affluently dissatisfied.

In an age of corporate tyranny, his extravagant Old Testament beard, gimlet
eyes and air of apocalyptic indignation seem to satisfy a desperate
nostalgia for moral fire. Boredom with what C. Wright Mills described as
the drab vacuity of America's white-collar "boutique" breeds a yearning
among the bookish for redemption with an identifiable name -- and whose
better than Marx's? Like most academics who march under his flag, Marx
never set foot in a real factory or mine, but this lack of relevant
experience only seems to make his condemnations of industrial alienation
all the more appealing and lyrically impervious to criticism. In a strange
way, with his neuroses and his journalistic violence, he is psychologically
tailor-made for us.

Two new books appearing this fall, one American, one European, ask us to
reconsider the credibility of Marxism in the modern university. From CUNY's
Marshall Berman, author of "All That Is Solid Melts Into Air," comes a
collection of essays called "Adventures in Marxism," to be published by
Verso in September. From the other side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, comes
the massive, somber "Black Book of Communism," edited by French historian
Stephane Courtois of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris
and editor of the Journal Communisme...

(Complete article at

Louis Proyect


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