Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Ideological bankruptcy

Posted by alifinmath on April 10, 2009

For me the single most distressing aspect of the current crisis (or depression, if you wish) has been the response of the Left. Or rather, the lack of response. For it has been clear for the last twenty years that socialists have had no rival program to propose as a serious alternative to the neoliberal project of unregulated global finance capitalism. And now that this capitalism has come a cropper (as was its inevitable destiny), there is no alternative vision waiting in the wings.

A big chunk of the reason for the lack of response has been the way Western Marxism has evolved. From Gramsci onwards, Marxists in Europe have shifted away from revolutionary ideas and solid economic analysis to matters more related to aesthetics and culture. Gramsci, Adorno, Marcuse, Althusser, and Jameson, all fit this mold. One couldn’t trust these people to run a corner shop. Sure, they wrote absorbing books (many of which I’ve bought over the years), but their practical analyses and prescriptions have been nil.

So Lenin’s old question resurfaces again: “What is to be done?” Each crisis is in a sense sui generis — it demands its own unique insights and solutions. The eminent Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm has a thought-provoking article in today’s Guardian:

Impotence therefore faces both those who believe in what amounts to a pure, stateless, market capitalism, a sort of international bourgeois anarchism, and those who believe in a planned socialism uncontaminated by private profit-seeking. Both are bankrupt. The future, like the present and the past, belongs to mixed economies in which public and private are braided together in one way or another. But how? That is the problem for everybody today, but especially for people on the left.


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