For Progress, after the Fall of the Idols

"For Progress, after the Fall of the Idols," Chicago Review, v32 n3 (Winter, 1981): 108-118.


Marx is not dead; in secondary schools, and colleges, even in the universities, he remains very much alive, and inexhaustible mine of quotations, of concepts and dogmas, and almost inevitable reference if not an undisputed authority. In England,  never have the sociologists read and discussed him so intensively: Althusser  has disciples there, practically a school. The same popularity in the United States: opening the June 29, 1978, issue of the New York Review of Books, I come across a remarkable article titled Inescapable Marks by Robert L. Heilbroner, devoted to an impressive list of books on Marx, his life, his theories of history and revolution, his heritage, the meaning of his thoughts today.

True, this is Marxology  rather than Marxism, though most Marxists, even Communist Party members, justify the positions they take by an interpretation of the master. What is distinctive about those who are being called the “new philosophers” is there simultaneous condemnation of marks, the “Gulag archipelago,”  and the Soviet Union (at the price of condemning also, in the same impulse, capitalism and socialism). There is today as in the past a fraction of the Parisian intelligentsia, of a high-caliber, or presumed to be, that does not regard Marx and the Soviet Union as polar opposites. For them, the approach of hell replaces the hope of Paradise.