Useful Intellectuals: Framing Marx for the Next Generation
The first in a series examining the cultural impact of intellectuals' Marx fetish.
November 6, 2013 - 10:00 am
In a recent Tablet Magazine article, Michelle Goldberg wrote of a revived interest in Marx among the newest generation of intellectuals: “For those too young to remember the Cold War but old enough to be trapped by the Great Recession, Marxism holds new appeal.” Goldberg’s thesis revels in progressive shibboleths about evil, greedy capitalists and ”privileged young people” disappointed that their leftist president couldn’t even score them a job. The interesting angle she brings to the discussion highlights the discussions regarding Marxism in intellectual circles. This is not a new relationship by far; Marxism has been the plaything of the intellectual elite since its inception, lending much-needed credit to an otherwise incredible notion that morphed into the guiding force behind the 20th century’s most murderous regimes.
What Goldberg chronicles, “Meanwhile, the end of the Cold War has freed people—especially those too young to remember it—to revisit Marxist ideas without worrying that they’re justifying existing repressive regimes,” isn’t anything the Economist didn’t observe of Western Marxist thinkers back in 2002:
“People in the West, their judgment not impaired by having lived in the system Marx inspired, mostly came to a more dispassionate view. Marx had been misunderstood, they tended to feel. The communism of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was a perversion of his thought. What happened in those benighted lands would have appalled Marx as much as it appalls us. It has no bearing on the validity of his ideas.”
Only the intelligentsia would have the cojones to rewrite history to suit their own needs. These Marxists learned well from their master.
In the Journal of the History of Ideas, Shlomo Avineri concisely details Marx’s definition and position of intellectuals within the otherwise proletarian revolution:
“It is the task of the revolutionary intellectuals to furnish critical and analytical faculties, understanding of the historical process, comprehension of the actual economic and social conditions, so as to have a better chance of timing the ultimate coup de grace correctly with precision and finality.”