Monday, May 12, 2008

more charity

I was trying to work Marx into my post on the principle of charity, but somehow I couldn't seem to swing it. I think what I was angling at was that it's become a bit of a cliche to say that Marx is the greatest thing since sliced bread but his ideas have been distorted and have not been properly tried out yet. Marx would of course be horrified if he saw the kind of things that were done in his name.

I suffer from a pretty severe anti-Marx bias, so I'm not to be trusted on the subject (especially since I haven't even attempted the, almost certainly doomed, struggle down page one of Das Kapital), but given that the man wrote a zillion pages of (often incredibly opaque) stuff and that he changed his mind on most issues, I'd be astonished if a determinedly charitable reader couldn't find many reasons to think well of him. But we shouldn't celebrate him because it might be possible to read him saying wise things, we should instead remember it should not have been possible for so many smart people to interpret him in such wildly different ways.

The most charitable reading of Marx is very unlikely to correspond to what he actually thought.

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