Renaissance Marx, only in Italy is locked up in the attic

The Liberal Weekly Der Spiegel bangs Marx on the first page. The cover of the first issue of 2023 portrays him, sly, with his arms covered in tattoos, questioned as a dispenser of light on the many crises of the present (Polycrise): energetic, commercial, democratic (for the onset of populism and autocracy) e war (for the looming world war).

In fact, when asked, the Trier theorist it would have to say a lot to go back to the root of the contradictions of the modern age. The title with which the German sheet inaugurates the new year is in any case already a program, asking whether, in the face of the long and general crisis of capitalism, not “was right” just him. The answer to the dilemma is sought in a very long article, of over 36,000 characters. The piece, signed by Thomas Schulz, Susanne Beyer and Simon Book, investigates the objective reasons of the Marx renaissance. This can only be surprising in the lost Italian province. Here Marx it is locked in the attic. In the academy seduced by pure compilation, it has been forgotten for at least forty years. And, in the big opinion press, many signatures were scandalized because, in a recent meeting of the Democratic Party, Gianni Cuperlo dared to quote a phrase from the German philosopher.

The shooting of Marx it takes place on several levels, and one does not draw from its inexhaustible catalog just to highlight a few political-ideological affinity. What is particularly striking is the impudence of the Financial Times,who has the impudence to recycle a bit of Marx to invoke a new economic order as the time has come to give the boot to the neoliberalism. The Hamburg weekly recalls how even Ray Dalio, founder of the largest hedge fund in the world, in the face of repeated crises and distribution imbalances, read again Das Kapital preferring it to the useless apologies of the Wall Street Journal. Even among the top of official culture le Marxian metaphors they circulate quietly to denounce the foundations of the current social order. Der Spiegel hear Minouche Shafikwho directs the London School of Economicsis also a baroness and a member of the British House of Lords, having previously served as Vice-President of the World Bank.

The language of one crossbencher skeptical about the integrative capacity of today’s development model, and who hopes for a “new social contract”, does not differ, at least in the descriptive part of the phenomena, from that of the more radical cultures which resurrect, in addition to the instances of left-wing Keynesianism, also more specifically Marxian categories. With his solicitations to rediscover the role of programmer-manager of the State, M. Mazzucato affects the work of the government of the Social Democrat Scholz. Within the framework of a platform neo-keynesian, oriented to Green New Deal, finds a natural interlocutor in the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck, exponent of Greens, grappling with an attempt to restructure industrial policy models inspired by a zero-emission economy. The cyclical political reason for the resurgence of interest in the Marxism it lies in the need, for the German left, to redefine the political categories useful for the democratic government of the economy after the season of deregulation.

L’Spdin fact, had rehabilitated Marx already in 1989, except, however, share the moderate drunkenness for the “new center” initiated by Gerhard Schröder in the late 90s. Today they are looking for each other “Innovation missions” to manage a green economy that requires the transition from the old state, which intervenes ex post to correct market failures, to the new condition, which plans, defines the purposes, reformulates the foundation of civil coexistence. In this space of reflection, the search for a radical change matures (Zeitenwende) to force the capitalism to march towards a new economic order. In addition to the left-wing Keynesian paradigm, attention is growing for the Marxism. The German weekly above all recalls the analyzes of two intellectual figures: Kohei Saito, who, in order to respond to the crisis, has hurled nature against capital (freeing, according to him, Marx give it Zeitgeist modernist of technological optimism), ed Eva von Redecker, feminist and Marxist who redefined the language of liberation against the privatistic rule of capital.

Saito is a young Japanese philosopher who trained in Germany. His doctoral thesis, Natur gegen Kapital (published by Campus in 2016), was discussed in 2015 at the Humboldt Universitat zu Berlin under the supervision of Andreas Arndt, one of the most interesting Marx scholars. His ideas were then systematized in a successful book by 2020, much cited among specialists. It is a sort of manifesto of the new socialist-inspired ecologism which, once translated into Japan, it has sold half a million copies in bookstores. Saito retrieves instances of a “normative critique of capitalism” which proceeds through the writings of Marx subsequent to 1868, only partially collected in volume IV-18 of the complete works, of which the young philosopher is curator. These are excerpts and notes on agricultural chemistry, on the history of the soil, which bring the German thinker closer to understanding the depletion of resources that occurs following the intensive use of artificial fertilisers.

Without indulging in a negative ontology, in the work of Saito the exploration of the nature-capital contradiction accompanies Marx towards an ecosocialist perspective. In awareness of the limits of the overload of the ecosphere, the Marx reread by the Japanese philosopher, it coherently assumes the hypothesis of de-growth and goes beyond a productivist model with a marked Promethean-anthropocentric trait. No less radical, but within a different critical point of view, appears the reflection of Eva von Redecker, a philosopher trained between Berlin and Cambridge, “with a predilection for Marx”. The contestation of the government of capital, which exercises a domination of sex, race and is distinguished by the depredation of nature, welcomes the innovative scope of the protest movements (from those of blacks to those of women who act in the name of “motherhood of politics).

Convinced that “the revolution is interstitial”, the philosopher entrusts the search for a Socialismus for the XXI century. A sharing community (Gemeinschaft der Teilenden), in addition to rethinking the rules, he must contest the property relationship imposed by a “capitalism that destroys life”, which must be fought to open up life beyond the commodity, the person beyond the market. In his book translated into English (Praxis and Revolution. A theory of social transformationColumbia University Press, 2021), to the real contradiction Redecker he prefers the rhetorical figure (metalepsis) which leads from total chaos to the recovery of meaning. “Social revolutions can challenge not only how we are governed, but also who we are, who owns what, how we relate to each other and how we reproduce our material life.

Care, time, ecology, tax policy oriented towards different purposes call for an active policy. It is up to it to design a new order, not simply to present itself as a reactive sphere that advances only after the failures of the market, with its marginalities and exclusions. In the Marxian renaissance we note, therefore, different components that go in search of a solution to what Der Spiegel explicitly call a Klimakiller-Kapitalismus, a murderous and rapacious capitalism that kills the climate, society, democracy. There is even the disenchantment of the billionaire financier who perceives that the system as it stands no longer works. Globalization without rules has stalled and urges, even for a scrooge from the top positions of Forbes, a policy that knows how to govern the contradictions of the jammed mechanism and outline the forms of a sustainable capitalism. Moreover, these are critical reflections that arise in the very heart of the most advanced capitalism, not among the losers of it liberal globalizationand denounce not only the excesses of speculative finance, but also unmask the costs of unlimited growth, contrasting the needs of society with the centrality of the shareholder.

However, something is missing in today’s cultural demand for emerging Marxism in Germany (the weekly also reminds us that in the Use 49% of young people aged between 18 and 29 are in favor ofsocialist idea). Between cycle paths, redistribution, incentives and subsidies for companies attentive to emission levels, birth benefits, it is work, the freedom of those who produce, that does not emerge in Japanese and German philosophers as the subject of transformative criticism. Yet in marx, more than the emphasis on the limits of development, broods aapplication for releaseof enhancement of capabilities. With his invocation of a rational plan, he does not overlook the ability of the market to arrest the trend fall in the rate of profit, and therefore does not believe in zero growth (Nullwachstum) as a basis for major innovations.

There is something slippery in the post-growth pathway (Post-Wachstum), assumed in the German debate as a condition to accompany the ecological transition (with periods of contraction of income and consumption, with phases of unemployment). The reflection reported by Der Spiegel not only does it neglect the ability of the market to make the crisis productive, but, by obscuring the subject of the conflict, it makes the terrain crumbly for the search for other goods (public goods) and use values, underestimating the weight of personal care, participation (political and social), continuous training and education. Indisputable merit of the weekly of Hamburg is to have nevertheless invited back Marx to come down from the attic. His pages are still an indispensable lens for investigating the contradictions of the present.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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