Blog post

Re-thinking Marx's Capital today—"a politics of revolt and the poetry of the future"

Michael Bacal15 February 2012

Earlier this week, Fredric Jameson was interviewed by, one of Canada's most progressive media outlets, to discuss his recent book Representing Capital and to remind readers of the continued relevance of Marx in the 21st century. He explains the urgency of Marx not so much in terms of nostalgic affirmations of a pastoral communist vision, but as a tremendous resource for understanding the deeper nature of crisis, unemployment and globalization, which, needless to say, are among the most defining political and economic issues of the present. In the interview, Jameson emphasizes the indispensability of Marx's magnum opus and its value in finding alternative ways of thinking through the structural effects of this "infernal machine that is capitalism." Also, clarifying some of the prevailing misconceptions and obfuscations made by others over Marx's original thoughts, he points to the possibilities for today's readers of being nourished by the surprising timeliness and force of much of Capital's analyses. For instance, he is particularly hopeful about the book's ability to guide readers to overcome much of the "self-defeating conservatism" currently hobbling today's Left.

He mentions, for example, that:

Marx himself was always quite excited about new discoveries . . . It is very clear that he thought of socialism as more advanced technologically and in every other way. Raymond Williams wrote about how people think that socialism is a nostalgic return to a simpler society. Williams challenged that saying socialism won't be simpler, it will be much more complicated. There is a tendency among the Left today -- and I mean all varieties of the Left -- of being reduced to protecting things. It is a kind of conservatism; saving all the things that capitalism destroys which range from nature to communities, cities, culture and so on. The Left is placed in a very self-defeating nostalgic position, just trying to slow down the movement of history. I don't think Marx thought about it like that at all. It seems to me that Marx thought that productivity would increase by getting rid of capitalism. On the level of organization, technology and production, Marx did not want a return to handicraft labour, but to go on into all kinds of complex forms of automation and computerization [as it would emerge] and so. The historical accident of something like socialism or communism taking place in a place what was essentially a third world country, Russia, an underdeveloped country, that's made us think of socialism in a way that was not Marx's way of imagining it. The socialist movement has to itself be inspired by this other type of vision.

Visit to read the interview in full.