Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? (To Escape the Bourgeois Middle-Class Struggle.)

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Yes, this is the man that launched a thousand academics. Source: dirklie65 hide caption

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There's a reason Alex P. Keaton is a fictional character — it's virtually impossible not to be swayed at some point by Marxism, or some version of it. Even if you aren't tempted by the intellectual framework itself, there's all of the permutations of it — Lenin, Trotsky, Mao — the list marches on. It's almost a cliche — Marxist loses faith, abandons the revolution, and shelves her copy of Das Kapital. You would be forgiven if you were stifling a yawn at this well-trod tale of de-radicalization. (I remember a time when the phrase "materialist feminism" regularly escaped my lips. Go ahead, roll your eyes.) Even Ayn Rand — the consummate capitalist philosopher (educated at the University of Leningrad) — would have had to read Marx on dialectical materialism at some point in her career. Who knows if she fell for Marx briefly — on her way to Howard Roark?* If you still yearn for revolution, or you curse the revolutions he wrought, there's no denying that Marx changed the world. And whether or not you've read Das Kapital or merely quoted it, today we'll give you the cheat sheet — with author, satirist, and Marx biographer Francis Wheen. We don't care whether you're bourgeoisie or proletariat: let's get radical.

*If only Marx would have had the sense to have wrapped his theory in a romance novel, it probably would have caught on even quicker. As it is, the most interesting character in Das Kapital is... um... the commodity?



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Hi Neal!
I took an undergraduate course in Marx & Marxism last year and read a significant amount of Das Capital. One of the primary things we discussed was the relevance of the work and the meaning of it today. We ended up deciding much of what you recently said: that Marx's book as a critique is still extremely relevant, while using it as revolutionary document, predictor of the future, etc is much less useful.

The critique of the current system for example of the worker's inherent alienation from the products of his labor is certainly echoed in the literature of the 20th century OR for another example, of the excesses of capitalism and its need to continually grow to sustain itself are directly relevant to situations such as global warming or excessive consumption.

Sent by Brent | 3:28 PM | 11-28-2007

isn't it a strength of capitalism that it both creates and destroys, a natural force.

Sent by ann wright | 3:29 PM | 11-28-2007

When I was in my 20s in the 1950s I subscribed to the ideas of Marx-Engels --and actually read their works! When discussing these theories it is essential to include Frederick Engels. Marx, for example, was not concerned with colonialism. Engels persuaded him to examaine the implications for capitalism. In Das Kapital Mark uses the expression "the Capitalist World System." Immanuel Wallerstein expropriated the concept, without crediting Marx.

Sent by Patricia A. McKnight | 4:24 PM | 11-28-2007

This was a delightful and refreshing broadcast. Mr. Wheen and those who posed questions showed Marx's ideas are alive and well, perhaps centuries ahead of their time. It was a powerful refutation of the well-worn canard that Communism shows the failure of Marx's ideas.

Sent by Jon | 1:02 PM | 11-30-2007

It seems to me that Capitalism is much like fire or other kinds of energy. It is useful when it is harnessed, kept under control. If allowed to get out of control, it can be very destructive. Because of this, I think that the wholesale dismantling of the New Deal, which has been the policy of most Republican politicians in the last 30 years is a bad idea. It's as if we were to decide that since fire is a good thing, what could be better than to let wildfires rage out of control and burn down our neighborhoods.

Sent by Steven Sechrest | 10:58 PM | 12-1-2007

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