Sally Gross wrote:
In the last half century we have had a few great German experts on Marx as well as a noted Italian but mainly a number of great French intellectuals who redefined what Marx said such as Louis Althusser, and they all disagreed with each other on a number of issues and their areas of interest too. They can not all be called Marxists as many did not call themselves that, but had insightful things to say. The only noted American theoretician has been Chomsky. Most of them are dead now but there is currently a consensus that Marx, primarily a historian/ideolog first and philosopher second, would have changed a lot of his ideas. This is more realistic as he was quite intelligent.
Like many involved in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, Marx and Marxism loomed large in my earlier history, and I continue to have a healthy respect for Marx. At the risk of going badly off-topic, I therefore feel bound to disagree with you. In Marxian terms, "ideology" is not a happy term; and Marx, who focused on an analysis of the capitalist mode of production and of the ideology associated with the bourgeoisie, was a counter-ideologist in his own terms. Much of his work -- the Grundrisse
, the three volumes of Capital
, and his notes for a fourth volume of Capital
, Theories of Surplus Value
, itself published posthumously in three formidable volumes, is on economics. He is an economist in the classical tradition, whose work develops the economic theories of David Ricardo in particular, and his analysis of simple reproduction, expanded reproduction and of the capitalist business cycle are all seminal. He has been much maligned since the vaunted "defeat of Communism", but the current obviously structural crisis of global capitalism suggests that his analysis of capitalism is not that far off the mark. Contrary to popular belief, he did not offer an analysis of socialist economics, and certainly offered no theory of communist economics. In strictly Marxist terms, it is questionable whether there has been a properly realised socialism in the world yet, and there most certainly has not been a realised post-capitalist communism.
I'm not sure who the experts on Marx to whom you refer were, apart from Althusser. The noted Italian of whom you are thinking was probably Gramsci, who died a lot longer than half a century ago. Given the timeframe you set, I'd guess that the German experts are the Frankfurt School. Your noted American theoretician of Marxism, Noam Chomsky, is actually not a Marxist as far as I know. An American theorist of Marxism who comes to mind is the late Paul Sweezy, who was an extremely competent economist and was probably the leading student of the late Joseph Schumpeter, a conservative economist who rightly admired Marx. Some of Schumpeter's most important work focuses on analysis of the capitalist business cycle in which Marx's work was seminal, as I have noted; and Schumpeter draws upon the work of others, such as the early Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratieff, whose long waves of capitalist development (called "Kondratiev Waves") may well shed significant light on the current plight of the global economy. For a sense of the economic heart of Marx's work and the way it was developed later, you could do worse than to read Paul Sweezy, The Theory of Capitalist Development
, which is probably still published by Monthly Review. I'd suggest that you spend time dipping into the Marxist Internet Library, at http://www.marxists.org
, for a better portrait of Marx's works, Marxian theorists and the many strands of Marxist theory.
Truth is truth is truth. Commitment to Dharma surely entails intellectual integrity in this regard as well -- not oversimplifying, and giving credit where credit is due.
Yes for me the Frankfurt school luminaries modernized Marx a great deal though many accuse them of selling out. Just as the Austrian school had to reinvent evil on the other side. On Chomsky you do not read carefully as I said many of these figures did not call themselves Marxists nor can we call them that just before mentioning Chomsky as a theoretician of note. He is labelled as a modern anarchist but I think that is not correct either. So please read carefully. I put in those two provisors, a pain, exactly as I could see someone might jump to conclusions. The fact that it still happened is sad.
On your other point, I did think about his wirtings on economy but decided against it and he is primarily a historian first and philosopher second. Marx had interesting ideas on economy for his time and indeed there is a great revival on his long term thoughts on economy but they are now examined as primarily a truly great historian's analysis first and a philosopher second. Further these ideas were mainly in the area of political economy. Even fifty or sixty years ago in modern universities and business schools his ideas were mainly studied as theoretical political economy while the real ideas of the left started way back then with John Maynard Keynes then Frankfurt school and recently the Third Way and so on. This is the reality of actual economic debate in terms of actual policy, not political economy, for a long time. Marx is not quoted when analyzing figures as much as Keynes-vs.-Hayek are to this day in terms of actual scientific economical studies. This is a long established fact. Just as many think in error all psychologists and clinical psycho-therapists just read Freud.
On your third point you are also wrong which is why he was turned into an all knowing prophet of a new religion. Like all major ideologues his school had two parts, the world view
of how things are or historic cosmology extending into future prophecies. Plus, and more importantly, his ideology of, as Lenin would say, what is to be done in praxis. This is why if he was alive today he would see many of his predictions had come true but also he would revise much of his forecasts as basically silly.
Your ideas really belong to third world Marxists of a bygone age in the last century before the Berlin wall crumbled. They were really started to be dismantled in the Paris of 1960s by their theorists then taken up first in England and then US in the seventies and eighties. This sanctification of Marx into an extra ordinary being is a well known process that occured mainly in right wing third world countries' dictatorships during the long cold war where his books and ideas were banned. This is why many third world MArxists once safe in exile in the west changed their ideas or even became reactionaries. This is why your lens is distorted when looking at Marx. We who grew up mainly in democracies look at him not as the biggest giant in history but as a genius who had a lot of great insights and ideas as well as errors and mistakes, not "the prophet" who mapped history and future as he claimed or more importantly his old religious followers claimed.
On your fifth minor point, I was not referring to Gramsci as you presumed wrongly again since he was before half a century ago as you said. The man I had in mind started as "the" secret revolutionary ideologue of Italy's Red Brigade though he always denies this. Then became a sort of Gramscian believing in taking over the enemy's bunkers in stealth over generations including cultural gates like Gramsci nd like him wrote most of his influential material while in jail for a short term as he was released in 2003. In my opinion he has moved on to a third stage which is even more mature. His name is Antonio Negri and his American protege is the academic Michael Hardt who is not in full agreement with him. He is the person that started the movement in western democracies' intellectual circles, since the demise of the great French theoreticians, to reappraise Marx as a great thinker while updating and adjusting (correcting) some of Marx's ideas in the light of the new order coming into effect mainly in his famous book "Empire" which even made many right wingers to start praising Marx.
All the best.