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Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton

June 2, 2011

Tristram Hunt in The Observer:

As the IMF dishes out its medicine in Lisbon, Dublin and Athens, and the limitations of neo-liberalism become more apparent, the moment is surely right for a compelling account of Karl Marx’s relevance to the modern world. And in campus conferences, continuing sales of Das Kapital, and even the words of Pope Benedict XVI (moved to praise Marx’s “great analytical skill”), there is a growing appreciation for Marx’s predictions of globalisation, rampant capitalism, and the instability of international finance. As the Times put in the middle of the 2008 crash: “He’s back!”

But Marx also remains the target of any number of lazy slurs. The easiest way to kill off debate about Marxism is to jump straight to the Stalin show-trials, Soviet gulags, and Khmer Rouge Year Zero. The philosophical beliefs of a mid-19th-century denizen of the British Museum are all too quickly elided with the most terrible atrocities of the 20th century as an all-purpose intellectual get-out card.

So Terry Eagleton – literary critic, liberal-baiter, Marxist man of letters – has set himself the task of explaining why Marx was right. “What if all the most familiar objections to Marx’s works are mistaken?” he begins. His plan is to take on “10 of the most standard criticisms of Marx and try to refute them one by one”. He does so, he believes, at a time when capitalism is uniquely in crisis: “the system has ceased to be as natural as the air we breathe, and can be seen instead as the historically rather recent phenomenon it is”. [More]

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