Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Why Marx Was Right

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Why Marx Was Right

Article excerpt

Terry Eagleton 2011, Why Marx Was Right, Yale university Press, New Haven and London, ISBN 978030018153-1 by Jeff Archer.

Terry Eagleton, now based in Dublin and holding Chairs in Lancaster and Galway, has long resisted the relegation of Marxism in the academy. Over many years he has written sparkling prose that illuminates social contexts for the study of the humanities. Eagleton has given us a timely tour de force that reaffirms the contemporary relevance of Marxist analysis. More than this, he shows how most of the fallacious arguments that have been applied to Marxism are better directed at the imperfections of modern capitalism.

When I studied politics as an undergraduate in London in the 1960s, class and inequality were among the most important political concepts we considered. The nineteenth century revolutionary philosopher Karl Marx was then a major part of the social science and humanities curriculum. He was widely considered to be a highly relevant political theorist to any analysis of the times. His followers such as C Wright Mills, Raymond Williams, Ralph Miliband and others provided a powerful critique of the dominant versions of world history and social power. While the following decades did see some important work by neo-Marxists such as Chantal Mouffe, to a great extent the study of Marxism was relegated to the more obscure margins of academia, just as Marxism itself was attacked as being dated and irrelevant by a host of commentators and theorists. This was always a mistake, but in retrospect the enormity of this omission becomes ever more evident. In the richest countries the top one per cent have enriched themselves enormously at the expense of the large majority of the population, and private debt has been transformed into public austerity as the social gains of the last century are endangered.

In Why Marx Was Right Eagleton shows why so many of the attacks on Marx and Marxism are based on error or confusion. At the start of each of the ten chapters Eagleton summarises in a succinct paragraph an argument that has been widely used to condemn Marx, Marxists or Marxism, and he then commences a repudiation of the argument. …

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