Why Read Marx Today?

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We could be forgiven for assuming that Marx has nothing left to say to us. Marxist regimes have failed miserably, and with them, it seemed, all reason to take Marx seriously. The fall of the Berlin Wall had enormous symbolic resonance: it was taken to be the fall of Marx as well as of Marxist politics and economics. This book argues that we can detach Marx the critic of current society from Marx the prophet of future society, and that he remains the most impressive critic we have of liberal, capitalist, bourgeois society. It also shows that the value of the “great thinkers” does not depend on their views being true, but on other features such as their originality, insight and systematic vision. On this account too Marx still richly deserves to be read. The fall of the Berlin Wall had enormous symbolic resonance, marking the collapse of Marxist politics and economics. Indeed, Marxist regimes have failed miserably, and with them, it seems, all reason to take the writings of Karl Marx seriously. Jonathan Wolff argues that if we detach Marx the critic of current society from Marx the prophet of some never-to-be-realized worker’s paradise, he remains the most impressive critic we have of liberal, capitalist, bourgeois society. The author shows how Marx’s main ideas still shed light on wider concerns about culture and society and he guides the reader through Marx’s notoriously difficult writings. Wolff also argues that the value of a great thinker does not depend on his or her views being true, but on other features such as originality, insight, and systematic vision. From this perspective, Marx still richly deserves to be read. Why Read Marx Today? reinstates Marx as an important critic of current society, and not just a figure of historical interest.

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