"On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think…."
Don't panic. Last I heard, Rush is alive and well and spreading sweetness and light across the fruited plain.
These words were spoken by Friedrich Engels at the graveside of Karl Marx, who died 120 years ago today, on March 14, 1883.
Engels went on: "Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history." That was the great contribution of that greatest of thinkers to his fellow mena particular idea of History with a capital aitch. What this idea of History means, in part, as Engels writes elsewhere, is that there is no "immutable ethical law," no "permanent principles which stand above history." Specifically, "all moral theories" are "the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time…: morality has always been class morality." No idea wrought more slaughter, oppression, and misery in the 20th century than this gift to the world from Karl Marx.
Marx is long dead, but as Herman Belz reminds us in the Spring 2003 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, his ideas live on in various iterations at the highest levels of authority in the American academy. Belz reviews Marxist historian Eric Foner's book, Who Owns History? Foner is past president of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians.
Marx's "economic conditions" and his "classes" have become a little passé. Some of his contemporary intellectual heirs have substituted "culture," "race," or "gender" in their place. Still, the analysis is essentially the same: all morality is relative (except for this one!). And the misery and oppression dragged into the 21st century by these bad ideas will be with us for a long time.
Fortunately, we have a Remedy.
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