Time to rediscover Marx?
While we’re scrambling ideological divisions, allow me to make a suggestion: Marx is due to be discovered by conservatives. Seriously. Not the positive, utopian program, obviously. But the critical part. Arguably, Marx was a conservative, initially. Read the 1844 Manuscripts — much of it is straight out of Aristotle. I am not the first to notice this. His account of what we require to flourish is rooted in the idea that there is a distinctly human form of activity, one that answers to our “species nature.” We’re the kind of creatures who need to see our own thought manifested concretely in the world, through productive activity. It may well be that no viable form of large-scale economic organization can take this as its guiding insight, but I think the perspective Marx offers is timely, and can cast new light on what we are doing to ourselves. With the Cold War now decided, I think we can safely start to ease our way out of certain intellectual habits that arose from our defensive posture against the Soviet threat, and take a more cold-eyed look at the trajectory of our own economy. In thinking about economics, conservatives would do well to recover the more tragic view of the human condition that is part of their tradition, and a more pessimistic take on history, as against triumphant neoliberal enthusiasms.