The “Real” Marx

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. "The 'Real' Marx." Commentary Magazine, April, 1985.


It used to be said that the three great giants of modern times—indeed the creators of modernity—were Marx, Darwin, and Freud. In the past few decades we have witnessed major reevaluations and revisions of all three, so that a “classical” Marxist, Darwinist, or Freudian would hardly recognize the doctrines that now pass under their names. Of the three, Marxism has been most thoroughly transformed. In the case of Darwinism and Freudianism, we have been content to expand or modify the doctrine in order to accommodate later findings and theories; what has changed is not our reading of the original doctrine, not our understanding of what Darwin or Freud actually said or meant, but our sense of what we want to retain of these doctrines and what we can now make of them. In the case of Marx, the process of revisionism has been much more radical. For we have actually created—discovered, some would say—a new Marx, a Marx with a new identity, a new ideology, even a new corpus of work. And it is out of this new Marx that a new Marxism has been fashioned.