Home Opinions Most 'Marxist thinkers' use Marx without really understanding his academic legacy

Most ‘Marxist thinkers’ use Marx without really understanding his academic legacy

While so-called “Marxian Thinkers” in India talk about our poor social indicators, I believe they also need to view why India ranks better in HDI than compared to Per Capita Income.

The year 2018 has been celebrated as the 200th Year of the birth anniversary of Marx. Marx somehow continues to be the most misunderstood social scientists and thinkers and a major reason behind this is the adulteration of his theory by some of his supporters over the last couple of decades.

I admit that his book Das Capital is one of the finest pieces of work that gives us an interesting and refreshing take on how to analyse factors of production as a comprehensive part of the larger society in which we live in. His work on differentiating labour power from labour is also significant towards our understanding of how labour markets operate. Despite his contribution in terms of giving an alternate view of the society and factors of production within in, his work is generally much more widely cited and read by sociologists than economists.

One of the reasons why economists use selected parts of Marx is because, despite his distinct way of analysis, most of his conclusions were completely wrong. One of the reasons why that occurred is significant theoretical problems in his analysis but despite that, his biggest contribution remains in terms of telling the world that labour is the only human factor of production.

- Advertisement - - article resumes -

Some of my professors have advocated for the comprehensive view that Marx takes of the society and accept that he is more of a social thinker than an economist. This is why Keynes work which happened around the same time finds a greater emphasis in economic thinking than of Marx. But the focus of this article is not Marx but the great disservice that students of certain universities who advocate for a Marxian way of thinking are doing towards the legacy of Marx.

I wanted to test a hypothesis just for the sake of it (non-academic hypothesis so don’t get into the methodology and everything around it) so I decided to ask 30 students who are ardent supporters of Marx about the contribution he made in Volume 2 of Das Capital. To my surprise, most weren’t even aware that there was a Volume 2 while a couple of people who did try to answer were unable to give any specific answer as they kept talking about “labour” and “workers of the world unite”.

I am not saying that all Marxist thinkers are like that. Some of my best professors have been Marxists and they too are aware of the limitations in Marx’s theoretical analysis but the current breed of students who talk about Marx know zilch about him. Marx unfortunately, has become a figure who is adulterated by these thinkers and as a consequence, he is targeted. His academic legacy is also up for debate. Some might completely debunk his critique of capitalism, while others may find merits in parts of it, however, most of the ‘Marxist thinkers’ of the current lot aren’t even aware of the facts to indulge in reasonable debate.

While his ideology arguably claimed millions of lives, his academic legacy is towards providing us with a strong critique of capitalism so that we can improve upon the system and ensure that in our process of development, social welfare (Health and Education) is of paramount importance. In a big way, we’ve been doing just that as most democracies are welfare states. The problem occurs when those who haven’t even read Marx, stop us from critically evaluating him. For all that Marx gets wrong, he gets one thing right which is the critique of capitalism. The critique offers a roadmap of how to fix the system, not replace it with another one which we now know doesn’t work.

Marx’s biggest improvement towards capitalism is demonstrating the critics of uncontrolled capitalism due to over-concentration of monopoly power (or monopsonic power). This was a timely criticism that had been adequately addressed by most economies by enacting a strong set of laws. There is a definite scope of improvement in anti-monopoly efforts, however, the biggest threat to monopolies has come from innovation and technological progress. Thus, his biggest improvement is towards directing his energies in providing a strong critic of capitalism and provide inputs on what needed some improvement. As far as criticism of Marx’s is concerned, there are volumes written on them. Biggest of them all being that he doesn’t factor in how labour markets are distinct from other markets and he assumes that wages would be suppressed in order to bring down the cost of production. However, as evident, both real and nominal wages actually increased over the last 5 decades pointing out how the wage suppression theory is not completely true. Ironically, China is the only country that has managed to suppressed real wages to reduce the cost of production so the criticism that Marx gave of Capitalism holds true for a Communist nation and not a Capitalist one. Technology too doesn’t find an explicit mention in his understanding of the dynamic nature of society and the economy.

While so-called “Marxian Thinkers” in India talk about our poor social indicators, I believe they also need to view why India ranks better in HDI than compared to Per Capita Income. The reason is that for every 1$ increase in per capita Income, India tends to make a significant improvement in its HDI. This in itself makes the point apparent that India’s model is addressing the critical challenges of social welfare.

Most Marxian thinkers have politicized him to the point that his actual views are immaterial to their political interests. This follows from the fact that Marx advocated for a classless society which can be interpreted as a caste-less society. Given India’s improvement in social indicators along with robust growth and development, the proponents are unable to construct a narrative and have now resorted to “class” based identity politics for their political interests which is in direct conflict with what Marx had envisioned in his work. I’m sure that Marx would have rolled in his grave had he seen how some Indian Politicians use him, without any idea of what he represents.

Karan Bhasin is a political economist by training and has diversified research interests in the field of economics. He tweets @karanbhasin95.

Help Us Reach Every Indian, Please Share This Post
We need your support to survive in the media industry. Please consider paying us for the content we produce:

To know more about these payments, please click here.


Advertisement

Big Story

The Kolkata police finally swung into action and arrested seven men: Sheik Rahit, Fardin Khan, Sk. Sabir Ali, Sk. Gani, Sk. Imran Ali, Sk. Wasim and Atif Khan, for allegedly harassing the complainant.

2019 World Cup Is Here!

Catch the latest on Cricket World Cup as it unfolds, special coverage by Opindia

Anjana Om Kashyap heckles doctors and nurses in Bihar hospital

What you did in that ICU is not journalism, Anjana Om Kashyap, it is insensitive, creating a nuisance and endangering lives

A video came to light earlier where Anjana Om Kashyap, a senior journalist from the India Today group was seen heckling and questioning a doctor inside the ICU over the outbreak of Encephalitis in Bihar

After threatening Jesus to choose between her and Rakhi Sawant, Tanushree Dutta questions Modi’s ‘Ram Rajya’

The Mumbai police have recently filed a B Summary report, giving a clean chit to Bollywood actor Nana Patekar, in connection with actor Tanushree Dutta sexual harassment case

Rapper Hard Kaur goes mental on social media: Blames RSS Chief for terror attacks, calls Yogi ‘OrangeRapeMan’

Taran Kaur Dhillon, more popularly known by her stage name Hard Kaur, appears to have fallen over the edge.
Gujarat: Past karma will haunt Congress in fascinating Rajya Sabha bypoll irony

Gujarat: Past karma will haunt Congress in fascinating Rajya Sabha bypoll irony

The bypolls for the 2 vacant Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat are going to be held shortly. The Congress has moved the SC, but given the clear precedents, it is quite clear that they have no chance of winning in court.
Read OpIndia.com's response to the defamation notice served by Swati Chaturvedi

That you have lost readership and your peers doubt you, is not our problem: Read our response to Swati Chaturvedi’s defamation notice

Recently, OpIndia.com got a legal notice from abusive media troll Swati Chaturvedi. At the onset, we would like to reiterate that such intimidatory tactics won't work with OpIndia.

As Swati Chaturvedi mourns the loss of her imaginary credibility, her past faff pieces come to haunt her

Even though she wants to put the blame on us, we can't possibly be held responsible if Swati Chaturvedi's peers doubt her 'credibility'.

On press freedom day, meet the ‘fearless’ journalist who interviewed Rahul Gandhi and said ‘Rafale has entered people’s blood’

Now, as if the India Today interview fiasco wasn't bad enough, another pliant journalist has got the "once in a lifetime" opportunity to interview Rahul Gandhi.

Man masturbates on woman and abuses before running away: See Kejriwal? Free rides won’t guarantee safety

The daily harassment women face while commuting in the Delhi metro just shows how 'free metro ride' does not ensure safety.
Image Source: Zee News

Even as Indian liberals and peaceniks hail ‘peaceful’ Pakistanis, abuse pours in against Sania Mirza post world cup defeat

After motormouths like Veena Malik dragged Sania Mirza into an unwarranted controversy, it was time for other eminent intellectuals of Pakistan to share their blame on Sania Mirza.
Subscribe to Day's Top Stories
- Advertisment -

Latest articles

Connect with us

170,810FansLike
149,625FollowersFollow
69,817SubscribersSubscribe
Help Us Reach Every Indian, Please Share This Post