[Marxism] Fwd: Marx’s Revenge | The Nation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 9 12:22:49 MST 2017

Benjamin Kunkel reviews:

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion
By Gareth Stedman Jones

Marx’s so-far mistaken expectation of working-class revolution is the 
tragic flaw in his outline. (E.M. Cioran once described Marxism as “the 
sin of optimism.”) But the rest of his sketch of history remains 
remarkably prescient, and from Robert Brenner and Giovanni Arrighi to 
Jason W. Moore and Nancy Fraser, it has grounded many of the most 
persuasive visions of our own moment.

In light of this, Stedman Jones’s assessment of Capital is 
extraordinarily ungenerous. Appreciative of the “two thirds of the book” 
that are “devoted to a fact-based depiction of the development and 
current state of the relations between capital and labor, mainly in 
England,” he all but dismisses it as a work of economic or social 
analysis: “If Capital became a landmark in nineteenth-­century thought, 
it was not because it succeeded in identifying the ‘laws of motion’ of 
capital.” Allowing that Marx drew a “powerful picture” of the English 
working class, he asserts that Capital did not “succeed in establishing 
a logically compelling connection between the advance of capitalist 
production and the immiseration of producers.”

Two pervasive shortcomings of Stedman Jones’s approach are on display in 
these lines. The first is a tiresome habit of pleonasm: Here is an 
author who will never say “establish” when he might say “succeed in 
establishing” or “logical” instead of “logically compelling.” A graver 
fault is tendentiousness. The lines above furnish one small example. 
 From Stedman Jones’s biography, you wouldn’t know that Marx’s argument 
that capitalism has a tendency to reduce the share of labor income 
relative to capital income has nothing to do with any absolute 
“immiseration” or impoverishment of workers. Over recent decades, Marx’s 
thesis has been sufficiently reinforced both by statistics on income 
distribution and by non-Marxian theoretical work (e.g., Piketty) that it 
won’t do to present it, without explanation, as a gaping hole in his case.

full: https://www.thenation.com/article/marxs-revenge/

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