Posted by: aboutalbion | October 3, 2012

Marx documentary

A couple of nights ago, the informative last episode of the three-part BBC series on three influential economists featured Karl Marx (1818-1883).

The programme couldn’t help mentioning that only Great Britain was prepared to admit Marx and his family in 1849 when he was pronounced unwelcome in other European countries.

The presenter stated that people were again reading Marx’s books and finding that his analysis of capitalism had a modern feel to it.  For example, Marx believed that capitalism was inherently unstable.  He imagined that the cycles of boom and bust would reach new crisis heights and new crisis depths as time went on … until the capitalist system collapsed.

For Marx, capitalism begins with the notion of private property, and the programme pointed out that capitalism is therefore a system and not a fact of life.  The defenders of capitalism suggest the system brings to the many the benefits that were previously enjoyed by only the few.  The present day critics of capitalism in the UK are able to point to the shrinking proportion of people (since 2008) who are able to own their own home and the shrinking number of people who have job security.

Marx’s emphasis on economic relations as the basis of human interaction has had a significant influence on historians.  And it is reasonable to suppose that capitalism’s drive for continual growth is associated with a lot of collateral damage in the market place in the form of perpetual change and unrest.

But the system hasn’t collapsed ……. yet.


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