No, that’s not the new album by Pete Seeger, although he’d most certainly approve of the idea. Arnold Kling looks at how deeply watered down Marxism has seeped into so many American political debates:
Folk Marxism looks at political economy as a struggle pitting the oppressors against the oppressed. Of course, for Marx, the oppressors were the owners of capital and the oppressed were the workers. But folk Marxism is not limited by this economic classification scheme. All sorts of other issues are viewed through the lens of oppressors and oppressed. Folk Marxists see Israelis as oppressors and Palestinians as oppressed. They see white males as oppressors and minorities and females as oppressed. They see corporations as oppressors and individuals as oppressed. They see America as on oppressor and other countries as oppressed.
I believe that folk Marxism helps to explain the pride and joy that many people felt when Maryland passed its anti-Walmart law. They think of Walmart as an oppressor, and they think of other businesses and Walmart workers as the oppressed. The mainstream media share this folk Marxism, as they reported the Maryland law as a “victory for labor.”
The folk Marxist view of Iraq is that the United States is the oppressor, and the groups fighting the United States are the oppressed. At the extreme, Michael Moore and Ted Rall have made explicit statements to this effect. However, even reporters in the mainstream media who are not openly supporting the enemy take this folk Marxist view when they refer to “the insurgency.”
If you think about it, the forces fighting America in Iraq consist of former oppressors and would-be future oppressors. But because America is a rich, powerful country, the folk Marxist instinct is to romanticize (“insurgency”) the real oppressors and to demonize (“occupation”) the real liberators.
I am not saying that only a folk Marxist would oppose the way we went to war in Iraq or the way that the war has been conducted. However, I would say that it is striking that the basic narrative of the war coming through the mainstream media is folk Marxist. This is particularly true in Europe, where the folk Marxist view of America’s presence in Iraq appears to be broadly and deeply held.
Read the rest, including the antidote to folk Marxism: folk-Locke-ism.