The relevance of Marx

David LaneFellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Emeritus Reader in Sociology and an Emeritus Fellow of Emmanuel College 


When I was thinking about globalization, I looked in “The Communist Manifesto,” where Marx pointed out the following, “National differences are vanishing gradually from day to day owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.” This makes Marx one of the first to note the rise of globalization and the resulting uniformity of capitalism. For Marx, the answer to the question beyond globalization was simple: the prospects for global capitalism mean socialism.

Peter Nolan, Director, Centre of Development Studies, Chong Hua Professor in Chinese Development, Director of the Chinese Executive Leadership Programme (CELP) M.A. (Cantab.), M.Sc., Ph.D. (London), CBE 

For Karl Marx the idea of the dialectic is central, and within Marx is the continuous contradictory character of capitalism with its Darwinism, its progressive, its internationalist character, but also continuous contradictions out of which would emerge hopefully a better society, though Marx devoted very little attention and was very unwillingly talking about what was the concrete nature of that society.

So developing countries’ share of global GDP has more or less doubled during the era of globalization. If we look at the most important single synthetic indicator, the human development index, the human development index for developing countries has risen by 30% since 1990. Risen by 30%, not fallen by 20, or 10, or 50, but risen by 30%. That is not dark, in fact. That is a bright picture. If we look at poverty, a portion of the global population, the population below the poverty line of $1.9 (2005 purchasing power prices) has fallen since 1990 from 44% to less than 15% today. It is an astonishing progress for the world during the era of capitalist globalization. And it has been peaceful. It has been exactly as Marx talked about in “The Communist Manifesto”.

European Union produces a study of the top 2500 companies in the world by Research and development spending, and this is almost all of the spending, more than 90% of all corporations in the world, that is their estimate. And within the 2500, 500 corporations account for 85% of the total: Toshiba, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Boeing, Airbus, etc. And that is the core of where modern innovation comes from, and it has been an immensely positive force for the world. Not only these companies produce those technologies, but through what we might call the advantage of the late- comer, through the impulse that Marx talked about in “The Communist Manifesto,” these companies have spread across the world.

James Kenneth Galbraith, Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and at the Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin 

What is “capital”? To Karl Marx, it was a social, political, and legal category—the means of control of the means of production by the dominant class. Capital could be money, it could be machines; it could be fixed and it could be variable. But the essence of capital was neither physical nor financial. It was the power that capital gave to capitalists, namely the authority to make decisions and to extract surplus from the worker.


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