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2012/04/02

"Marx at 193" by John Lanchester ·London Review of Books

-Marx didn't forsee China's state capitalism.  Long article, with an hour talk. 

Why not? I think for two main reasons. The first is that Marx did not foresee, as no one else did and I don’t think anyone could, the variety of different forms of capitalism which would evolve. We talk of capitalism as one thing, but it comes in many different flavours, involving different models. The contemporary welfare state – housing and educating and feeding and providing healthcare for its citizens, from birth to death – is a development which challenges the basis of Marx’s analysis of what capitalism is: I think he would have looked hard at the welfare state and wondered whether it fundamentally undermined his analysis, just because it is so different from the capitalism Marx saw operating in his day, and from which he extrapolated. Perhaps he would argue that what has happened is that British society in its entirety has become part of a global bourgeoisie, and the proletariat is now in other countries; that’s a possible argument, but not one that’s easy to sustain in the face of the inequalities which exist and are growing in our society. But Scandinavian welfare capitalism is very different from the state-controlled capitalism of China, which is in turn almost wholly different from the free-market, sauve-qui-peut capitalism of the United States, which is again different from the nationalistic and heavily socialised capitalism of France, which again is not at all like the curious hybrid we have in the UK, in which our governments are wholly devoted to the free market and yet we have areas of welfare and provision they haven’t dared address. Singapore is one of the most avowedly free-market countries in the world, regularly coming top or near top of surveys for liberalisation of markets, and yet the government owns most of the land in the country and the overwhelming majority of the population lives in socialised housing. It’s the world capital of free markets and also of council flats. There are lots of different capitalisms and it’s not clear that a single analysis which embraces all of them as if they were a single phenomenon can be valid.

John Lanchester · Marx at 193 · London Review of Books  5 April 2012:


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