30 Dec 2023 15:31

Yet Another Inadequate Placeholder.

Karl Marx was a great and influential thinker, one who inaugurated a tradition of thought (and action inspired by thought) which has been extremely consequential for the world. This tradition is itself a historical entity, whose content changes over time and space and social settings. Indeed, like most long-lived traditions, it is not so much one entity as a branching lineage, spreading out, mutating locally, hybridizing with all kinds of other traditions. The mere fact that in 1948, a century after the Manifesto, one could point to both Theodor Adorno and Mao Zedong as important Marxist thinkers shows something of this divergence; and I daresay things are no more unified now. Self-proclaimed "Marxists" are adherents of that tradition who find it useful, or compelling, to point back towards Marx as the founder, and to insist that whatever modifications may have been made, the essence has been preserved; but what that essence is, is a point of disagreement among them. I find the historical definition more fruitful than disputes about essences. (I hope that in his better moments Uncle Karl would agree with me, but I also know he had plenty of not-best moments too.) The question of traditions which in fact descend from Marx, but don't acknowledge it, is an interesting one, but more complicated than I feel like wrestling with right now.

This notebook is going to be reserved for notes and references on the more intellectually-interesting forms of Marxism, rather than the numerically-predominating Stalinist, Maoist, etc., party drivel. (Though the fact that those, too, are parts of the Marxist tradition is an important fact about that tradition.)

Part of my interest is in collecting extremely unorthodox Marxists. These include Otto Neurath and Joseph Schumpeter. K. A. Wittfogel would be another.