American liberalism from the New Deal to the Cold War
The calamity of the Great Depression left millions of Americans wounded. Countless Americans discovered the name for the system that was to blame for their troubles: capitalism . Many also learned the name of the theorist who had prophesized capitalism’s demise: KarlMarx . For most left-wingers of the early 1930s, Marx became the key to answering some of the most pressing questions of the time. Was capitalism on the verge of ultimate collapse? Were the American people up to the task of socialist revolution? No matter where someone stood on these questions, almost
KarlMarx (1818–83) grew up in a reasonably well-to-do, caring and harmonious middle-class family in the Rhenish town of Trier, in the far west of Germany near the French border. His father was a lawyer, an enlightened man, and a moderate liberal. He had converted from Judaism to Protestantism only a short time before Marx was born. Trier had been conquered by Napoleon in 1794, bringing among other things Jewish emancipation. The French imperial government acted to reinforce the liberal traditions of the town before it fell to Prussia in 1815. The
In Marxism and America: New appraisals, an accomplished group of scholars reconsiders the relationship of the history, political culture, and political economy of the United States to the theoretical tradition derived from Karl Marx. A dozen essays (an introduction and eleven chapters) offer fresh considerations arcing from the nineteenth century, when Marx wrote for American newspapers, to the present, when a millennial socialism has emerged inspired by the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Contributors take up topics ranging from memory of the Civil War to feminist debates over sexuality and pornography. Along the way, they clarify the relationship of race and democracy, the promise and perils of the American political tradition, and the prospects for class politics in the twenty-first century. Marxism and America sheds new light on old questions, helping to explain why socialism has been so difficult to establish in the United States even as it has exerted a notable influence in American thought.
Money, Commerce, Language, and the Horror of Modernity in ‘The Isle of Voices’
Money, not merely as subject in literature but also in its very form and function, exhibits qualities of spectral evanescence, fetishised power over the imagination, and the uncontrollable transgression of boundaries and limits, which closely parallel the concerns and anxieties of Gothic literature. Yet it is in the writings of economic theorists and commentators on market society like Adam Smith and Karl Marx that these Gothic anxieties about money are most clearly articulated. Stevensons short story ‘The Isle of Voices’, read in the context of his comments on money in his other writings, is one of the few fictional texts which uses these properties of money to create what might be called a ‘financial Gothic’ narrative, which nevertheless has insights and implications for the narratives of capitalist modernity in general.
The structure/agency debate has been among the central issues in discussions of social theory. It has been widely assumed that the key theoretical task is to find a link between social structures and acting human beings to reconcile the macro with the micro, society and the individual. This book considers a general movement in which the collective concepts established by the early pioneers of modern sociological thought have been reconsidered in the light of both theoretical critique and empirical results. It argues that the contemporary sociological preoccupation with structure and agency has had disastrous effects on the understanding of Karl Marx's ideas. Through a critical evaluation of 'structuration theory' as a purported synthesis of 'structure and agency', the book also argues that the whole idea of a structure-and-agency 'problem' mythologises the fracture lines that do run through relatively recent sociological thought. Michel Foucault's ideas were used to both shore up existing positions in sociology and to instantiate (or solve) the 'new' structure-agency 'problem'. Foucault allowed sociologists to conduct 'business as usual' between the demise of structuralism and the contemporary consensus around Pierre Bourdieu-Anthony Giddens-Jurgen Habermas and the structure-agency dualisms. Habermas is one of the most prominent figures in contemporary social theory.
Since the Enlightenment, liberal democrat governments in Europe and North America have been compelled to secure the legitimacy of their authority by constructing rational states whose rationality is based on modern forms of law. The first serious challenge to liberal democratic practices of legal legitimacy comes in Karl Marx's early writings on Rousseau and Hegel. Marx discovers the limits of formal legal equality that does not address substantive relations of inequality in the workplace and in many other spheres of social life. This book investigates the authoritarianism and breakdown of those state socialist governments which claim to put Marx's ideas on democracy and equality into practice. It offers an immanent critique of liberalism, and discusses liberal hegemony, attacking on liberalism from supposedly post-liberal political positions. Liberalism protects all individuals by guaranteeing a universally enforceable form of negative liberty which they can exercise in accordance with their own individual will. Immanuel Kant's critical philosophy both affirms and limits human agency through the media of rationality and legality. The conditions of liberal reason lay the groundwork for the structure of individual experience inside the liberal machine. The book also shows how a materialist reformulation of idealist philosophy provides the broad outlines of a theory of critical idealism that bears directly upon the organisation of the labour process and the first condition of legitimate law concerning humanity and external nature. Mimetic forms of materialism suggest that the possibilities for non-oppressive syntheses and realities are bound up with a libertarian union of intellect.
, did not appear until 1887. This combination of circumstances meant that Dickens, who died in 1870 and did not read German, did not read Marx and had probably never heard of him. By contrast, Marx was an enthusiastic reader of Dickens. As S. S. Prawer argued in his important 1976 study, KarlMarx and World Literature , Dickens ‘increasingly joins Shakespeare in transforming, illuminating and caricaturing Marx’s world.’ 8
As the work of campaigning writers, the texts of Marx and Dickens converge and diverge in interesting ways. There is clearly in both a vivid
Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, American politics has seen a striking socialist revival. Perceptions of capitalism among young adults in the United States have deteriorated steadily, while socialism’s favorability has risen such that even Teen Vogue may now be found running favorable articles on KarlMarx. 1 The youthful interest in socialism began with the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, which succeeded in dramatizing economic inequality and the rapaciousness of the financial system but dispersed so rapidly
any of Marx and Engels' conception of human emancipation that was not
open to being read through the lens of the Jewish question, only that this reading
misconstrues the ‘real humanism’ they sought to nurture. As the
philosopher Karl Löwith puts it in his monograph Max Weber and KarlMarx , Marx sometimes appeared to identify human emancipation with
‘emancipation from every kind of particularity in human life as a whole;
from the specialisation of occupations
PEEL continuing any longer, in his capacity as Premier, the character of MR PECKSNIFF, as delineated in Martin Chuzzlewit , that character being copyright.’ 9
From a different political position, KarlMarx identified a number of public figures as Pecksniffs, including Bentham and Gladstone. Writing about the parliamentary debate on the 1853 Budget for the Chartist weekly, The People’s Paper , Marx reports that Gladstone:
astutely resolved to take the legislating Pecksniffs by what he knew to be their weakest side, adroitly screening his intended