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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Socialist and Marxist thought

On socialism in general, and on Marx and Marxism in particular, literally millions of words have been written, and out of this vast pot pourri and kitchen-midden I can only select those readings and sources which have proved most helpful. For an overall analysis and critique of socialism, the premier work is Ludwig von Mises, Socialism (3rd English ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1981).
By far the most useful history of socialist thought is the brilliant, witty, perceptive, and properly mordant work by Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition (London: Longmans, Green, 1947). Also indispensable is the massive, enormously researched, and exciting work by James H. Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (New York: Basic Books, 1980). While not as strong in analysis of theories as Gray, Billington in unique in tracing all the interrelations of a large number of revolutionary and socialist figures, as well as revealing and stressing the numerous irrationalities of their positions. So deep is Billington's contempt for his subjects, however, that once in a while he mistakenly lumps all radical advocates of social change in with socialists, such as his big mistake of treating the laissez-faire radical J.B. Say as a socialist. These are minor flaws, however, in a monumental book. Also helpful is Igor Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).
On the other hand, the highly touted, multi-volume history of socialist thought by G.D.H. Cole, in particular Vol. I, Socialist Thought: The Forerunners 1789–1850 (London: Macmillan, 1959), and Vol. II, Socialist Thought: Marxism and Anarchism 1850–1890 (London: Macmillan, 1957), is woefully inadequate, both as history and as analysis.
Unfortunately, Alexander Gray's work omits the vital theme of apocalyptic millennialism in socialist and Marxist thought. On this theme see the amillennial Christian critique in Thomas Molnar, Utopia: The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967), and in the brief but profound article by Molnar, ‘Marxism and the Utopian Theme’, Marxist Perspectives (Winter 1978), pp. 144–58. Also see Molnar's mentor Eric Voegelin, ‘The Formation of the Marxian Revolutionary Idea’, Review of Politics, 12 (July 1950), pp. 275–302; and J.L. Talmon, Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase (New York: Praeger, 1960). See also the brief treatment of ‘Socialistic Chiliasm’, in von Mises, Socialism, pp. 249–55.
On the various radical groups during the English Civil War, see the good, up-to-date survey by F.D. Dow, Radicalism in the English Revolution, 1640–1660 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985). The Dow book is marred by his taking the egalitarian communist Winstanley as the touchstone for evaluation of the other radical groups.
Theocratic millennialists such as the Rosicrucians are treated in Paul Gottfried, ‘Utopianism of the Right: Maistre and Schlegel’, Modern Age, 24 (Spring 1980), pp. 150–60. See also Gottfried, Conservative Millenarians; the Romantic Experience in Bavaria (New York: Fordham University Press, 1979).
The fascinating work by C. Patrides and J. Wittreich (eds.), The Apocalypse: in English Renaissance Thought and Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), far broader than its subtitle, includes two important articles directly relevant to Marxism: Ernest L. Tuveson, ‘The Millenarian Structure of The Communist Manifesto’, pp. 323^41; and M.H. Abrams, ‘Apocalypse: Theme and Variations’, pp. 342–68.
M.H. Abrams's brilliant book, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: WW Norton, 1971), demonstrates that Marx's thought is an atheist variant of a pantheistic determinist view of human history. In this view, the collective organism, man, separated and alienated from God-nature-himself by the dialectical act of creation of the universe, is destined some day to return in a mighty cosmic merger into unity with God-nature-himself, thereby putting an end to history. Abrams demonstrates that this bizarre world-view permeated the entire Romantic period, not only in the poetic-philosophic system of Marx's spiritual mentor, Hegel, but also in Hegel's fellow German Romantics, such as Schlegel, Schiller, Schelling, Schleiermacher, Novalis, and in such English Romantics as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Abrams shows that this determined pantheistic-organicist ‘upward spiral home’ world-outlook continues down into such twentieth century Romantic figures as D.H. Lawrence.
Robert C. Tucker, Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1961) is the crucial, indispensable work in clarifying and illuminating the vital importance of millennial, apocalyptic communism in the Marxian system, as well as explicating Marx's path through Hegelianism to Marxian communism. Tucker's Philosophy and Myth is the most important single work on Marx's philosophy of communism, and therefore on Marxism as a whole. Tucker's second edition (Cambridge University Press, 1972), unfortunately adds nothing, even references. All it does is weaken a few of Tucker's anti-Marxian insights in a few passages. The monumental work of Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origins, Growth and Dissolution, I: The Founders (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), is particularly significant for its analysis of alienation and the Hegelian-and-Marxian dialectic in Plotinus and the heretical Christian mystics of the Middle Ages. Kolakowski brilliantly traces these concepts to the creatological heresy that God created man and the universe not out of an abundance of love but out of a felt need to remedy God's own imperfections.
The most complete collection of Marx and Engels's work in English is Marx and Engels, Collected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1975-), destined to be completed in 51 volumes.
There is also now available a three-volume labour of love by Hal Draper, The Marx-Engels Cyclopedia (New York: Schocken Books, 1985), giving every aspect of Marx's and Engels's lives in worshipful and even stupefying detail. Vol. I is the Marx-Engels Chronicle, an account of every day in the lives of the two heroes, Vol. II, the Marx-Engels Register, and Vol. Ill, the Marx-Engels Glossary (and Index). Unfortunately, Draper's hagiographical approach leads him to deny the recent but accepted revelation that Marx fathered an illegitimate son, Freddie Demuth, by his housemaid, and then pressured his friend, patron, and patsy Engels into acknowledging the child as his own.
Of the numerous anthologies of Marx-Engels's writing, the best and most penetrating is Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader (2nd ed., New York: W.W. Norton, 1972).
Particularly valuable is Dr David Gordon's splendid annotated bibliographical essay, Critics of Marxism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1986).
The best and most penetrating book on Marxism and Marxian economics is David Conway, A Farewell to Marx: An Outline and Appraisal of His Theories (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1987). On the other hand, the most spectacularly overrated work on Marxism is Thomas Sowell, Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1986), which for most of its length is more a work of Marxian apologetics than of critical analysis. For a devastating review of Sowell, see David Ramsay Steele, ‘Review of Thomas Sowell, Marxism: Philosophy and Economics’, International Philosophical Quarterly, 26 (June 1986), pp. 201–3.
There is no completely satisfactory biography of Marx. One of the great merits of the rather stodgy David McLellan, Karl Marx: His Life and Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1973) is that it has at last displaced as the standard life of Marx the outdated and hagiographical Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of His Life (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1962). Robert Payne's excellent but underrated Marx (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968), uncovered the sordid story of Marx's foisting of his illegitimate son upon the hapless Engels. Payne's work was the first time this important disclosure appeared in English. The original revelation was in the German work by Werner Blumenberg, Karl Marx...(Hamburg, 1962), but Payne added considerable new evidence, even tracking down the illegitimate son's birth certificate. Leopold Schwarzchild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx (New York: Scribner's, 1947), is refreshingly critical of someone who certainly deserves it, but the work is not only out of date, it is short on scholarship and long on fictional ‘thoughts’ and ‘statements’ allegedly and without evidence emitted by Marx.
Fortunately, there is now, at long last, an excellent biography available of Engels, the thorough and vivid W.O. Henderson, The Life of Friedrich Engels (2 vols, London: Frank Cass, 1976).
In addition to Tucker, extremely valuable on Marx as a philosophico-religious communist, as well as on Marx's youthful path to communism, is Bruce Mazlish, The Meaning of Karl Marx (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). In this work, Mazlish keeps his propensity toward psychoanalytical history under restraint. On Marx as communist, also see Murray N. Rothbard, ‘Karl Marx: Communist as Religious Eschatologist’, in Yuri Maltsev (ed.), Requiem for Marx (Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig von Mises Institute of Auburn University, 1993), pp. 221–94. Also indispensable on the young Marx, including the translated text of his revealing poetic drama, Oulanem, is Robert Payne, The Unknown Karl Marx (New York: New York University Press, 1971). For other translations of the poems, also see Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, Marx and Satan (Westchester, 111.: Crossway Press, 1986), although Wurmbrand goes beyond the evidence in claiming that Marx was actually a member of a Satanic cult. On Marx, also see Fritz J. Raddatz, Karl Marx: A Political Biography (Boston: Little, Brown, 1978). An excellent but grievously neglected work on Marx and on the Marxian system is Gary North, Marx's Religion of Revolution: Regeneration Through Chaos (1968, 2nd ed., Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989). North properly stresses the essence of Marxism as a ‘religion’, and he was also the first to puncture the myth of Marx as ‘poverty-stricken’ during his years in London. Instead, North demonstrates that Marx lived high off the hog supplied by Engels and other devoted followers, all the while whining about his money problems, demanding new subventions and constantly in debt. And all the time denouncing ‘money fetishism’ under capitalism! North also helps correct the common underestimation of Engels and overvaluation of Marx, which he shrewdly attributes to Engels's ‘traditional Germanic awe of the academic drudge, [which] colored his own self-evaluation right up until his death’. North, ‘Preface’, Religion of Revolution, p. xliii. For an excellent summation of North's findings about Marx's sponging and other unlovely aspects of his character, see Gary North, ‘The Marx Nobody Knows’, in Maltsev (ed.), Requiem for Marx, pp. 75–124.
On Hegel and on Marx's derivation of his world-outlook from Hegel, Tucker's Philosophy and Myth is excellent. Kolakowski's Main Currents is indispensable on the origins of the dialectic, and Raymond Plant's Hegel (Bloomington, Indiana: University of Indiana Press, 1973) has been particularly helpful and lucid in ploughing through the Hegelian morass, especially on his political philosophy. On Hegel's influence from Sir James Steuart see also Paul Chamley, ‘Les origines de la pensee economique de Hegel’, Hegel-Studien, Band 3 (1965), pp. 225–62. On Hegel's political philosophy, also see the anthology in Walter Kaufmann (ed.), Hegel's Political Philosophy (New York: Atherton Press, 1970), especially E.F. Carritt, ‘Reply’, (1940). For a blistering critique of Hegel, see Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), Volume II. On Left revolutionary Hegelianism, see Billington, Fire in the Minds, and David McLellan, The Young Hegelians and Karl Marx (London: Macmillan, 1969).
On historical materialism and the dialectic in Marx, see the lucid and powerful critique by Ludwig von Mises in Theory and History (1957, Auburn, Ala.: von Mises Institute, 1985), pp. 102–58; the detailed rebuttal to Marx by John Plamenatz, in German Marxism and Russian Communism (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1954), pp. 9–54, supplemented by Plamenatz, Man and Society, II (London: Longmans, 1963); and the classic work by M.M. Bober, Karl Marx's Interpretation of History (2nd rev. ed., Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1948).
On the Marxian concept of class and class struggle, see the profound critique by Ludwig von Mises, in Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (3rd ed., Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1981), pp. 292–313. Von Mises's brilliant juxtaposition of the concepts of ‘class’ vs ‘caste’ was introduced here, with the term ‘estate’ being used for the latter concept. ‘Caste’ was used, instead, in von Mises, Theory and History, pp. 112–47, which also critically analyses the Marxian doctrine of ‘ideology’. For an excellent discussion of class and caste, also see Walter Sulzbach, ‘“Class” and Class Struggle’, Journal of Social Philosophy and Jurisprudence, 6 (1940–41), pp. 22–34.
On Marx and Engels's occasional confused lapse into the libertarian caste notion of class, particularly in their analyses of contemporary French events, see the little gem of an article by Ralph Raico, ‘Classical Liberal Exploitation Theory: A Comment on Professor Liggio's Paper’, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1 (Summer 1977), pp. 179–83. And see in particular the expansion of Raico's analysis in his ‘Classical Liberal Roots of the Marxist Doctrine of Classes’, in Maltsev (ed.), Requiem for Marx, pp. 189–220. On the confusions in the concept of ‘bourgeois’ which aggravated this muddle, see Raico, ‘Classical Liberal Exploitation’, p. 179; and the illuminating discussion in Raymond Ruyer, ‘The New Bourgeois’ (unpublished MS, 8 pp., translated by R. Raico from Ruyer, Eloge de la societe de la consommation, Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1969).
On the Saint-Simonians as the carrier of the confused version of the class doctrine, and the relation between Saint-Simon and the libertarians Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer, see the locus classicus of this history in Élie Halévy, ‘Saint-Simonian Economic Doctrine’, (1907), in his The Era of Tyrannies (1938, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1965), pp. 21–104. Also see Leonard P. Liggio, ‘Charles Dunoyer and French Classical Liberalism’, Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1 (Summer 1977), pp. 153–78. Mark Weinburg, ‘The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th Century French Liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer’, 2 (Winter 1978), pp. 45–63; and James Bland Briscoe, ‘Saint-Simonianism and the Origins of Socialism in France’ (doctoral dissertation in history, Columbia University, 1980). For a modern translation of a work of a leading member of the Comte-Dunoyer school, see Augustin Thierry, Theory of Classical Liberal ‘Industrielisme’ (trans. Mark Weinburg, New York: Center for Libertarian Studies, Feb. 1978).
On the relationship, and contrast, between the laissez-faire liberal ideologues, and the scientistic and technocratic Saint-Simonians, see the important work of F.A. von Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science (Glencoe, 111.: The Free Press, 1952). A major work of the Saint-Simonians is translated as The Doctrine of Saint-Simon: An Exposition (trans. G.G. Iggers, Boston: Beacon Press, 1958). The totalitarianism of the Saint-Simonians is denounced in Georg G. Iggers, The Cult of Authority (2nd ed., The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970); and their follies wittily revealed by Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition, pp. 136–68; and sometimes hilariously portrayed in J.L. Talmon, Political Messianism: The Romantic Phase (New York: Praeger, 1960), pp. 35–124. The movements of the Saint-Simonians, and their influence on Marx, are traced in Billington, Fire in the Minds; and for the Kovalevsky revelation of his childhood mentor Baron Ludwig von Westphalen's Saint-Simonian influence on Marx, see Georges Gurvitch, ‘Saint-Simon et Karl Marx’, Revue Internationale de Philosophic, 14 (1960), p. 400.
The best discussion of the Ricardian socialists: William Thompson, John Gray, and John Francis Bray, is in the always scintillating Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition (London: Longmans, Green, 1947), pp. 269–96. On these three, and especially on Bray, also see G.D.H. Cole, Socialist Thought: The Forerunners, 1789–1850 (London: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 112–9, 132–9. Also on Bray, see Joseph Dorfman, The Economic Mind in American Civilization, 1606–1865 (New York: Viking Press, 1946), II, pp. 686–9, 961–2.
On Thomas Hodgskin, we are fortunate enough to have a superbly written biography, by the great Élie Halévy, Thomas Hodgskin (1903, London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1956). It is now all the more true what Alexander Gray first wrote in 1948: ‘It is rather extraordinary, and not wholly creditable to us, that we should be indebted to a Frenchman for the only biography of Hodgskin; it is even more extraordinary that we should have to rely for our knowledge of a large part of Hodgskin on such extracts from his unpublished papers as M. Halevy has elected to translate into French.’ Gray, Socialist Tradition, p. 278n. The great improvement, however, is that the Halevy book is now translated into English.
Also on Hodgskin, see Gray, Socialist Tradition, pp. 277–83; Gray, a hard taskmaster, is appreciative of Hodgskin's talents, praising his ‘intellectual eminence and distinction’, and adding that Hodgskin ‘leaves most acutely a feeling that here was one designed for greatness which, owing to the misfits of time and of life, was never attained’ (p. 277).
For a valuable article on Hodgskin and the Economist, which, however, overrates the influence of Hodgskin on Herbert Spencer, see Scott Gordon, ‘The London Economist and the High Tide of Laissez Faire’, The Journal of Political Economy, 63 (Dec. 1955), pp. 461–88.
On Marx and the economics of capitalism, see Conway, A Farewell to Marx; and the classic refutation of Marx's theory of value by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Karl Marx and the Close of His System (Sweezy ed., New York: Kelley, 1949). On Marx and the iron law of wages, see Ludwig von Mises, ‘The Marxian Theory of Wage Rates’, in Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, The Exploitation Theory of Socialism-Communism (3rd ed., South Holland, 111.: Libertarian Press, 1975), pp. 147–51. On Marx's concept of alienation as grounded in the division of labour, and not simply in the wage system, see Paul Craig Roberts, Alienation and the Soviet Economy (1971, 2nd ed., New York: Holmes & Meier, 1990); and Paul Craig Roberts and Matthew A. Stephenson, Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis (2nd ed., New York: Praeger, 1983). On Marx and impoverishment, see Gary North, Marx's Religion of Revolution (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1968), pp. 140–41; Bober, Karl Marx's Interpretation of History, pp. 213–21; Mises, Socialism, pp. 381–4; and Schumpeter, History, p. 686n. On Marx's cycle theory, see Bober, Marx's Interpretation. On Tugan-Baranowsky's non-monetary overinvestment, or disproportionality, variant of Marxian cycle theory, see Sergio Amato, ‘Tugan-Baranowsky...’, in I.S. Koropeckyj (ed.), Selected Contributions of Ukrainian Scholars to Economics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 1–59; and Gottfried Haberler, Prosperity and Depression (4th ed., Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958), pp. 72–85.
The latest group of ‘analytical Marxists’ in England, headed by John Roemer and Jon Elster, are highly fashionable, possibly because they have virtually abandoned Marxism altogether, having embraced methodological individualism. The analytical Marxists have abandoned the labour theory of value, redefining ‘exploitation’ as consisting only in income and wealth inequality – a leftist but most un-Marxian doctrine. For a critique of this school by an orthodox Marxist, see Michael A. Lebowitz, ‘Is “Analytical Marxism” Marxism?’, Science and Society, 52 (Summer 1988), pp. 191–214. For a definitive demolition of analytical Marxism, see David Gordon, Resurrecting Marx: The Analytical Marxists on Freedom, Exploitation, and Justice (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1990)

Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (2 volume set)

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