Since the death of Karl Marx in 1883, some have considered the work of Marx as an
obsolete contender in cultural thought. Either it is too focused on the economic over the
social, immovably 19th the validity of his compositions. Someone once said: “Marx is only for the Marxists1”. What
this essentially does is side-line Marx as a footnote in history books and attempts to neglect
his pertinent voice and role, then and now. Yet, there has been resurgences of interest in
Marx’s work decades and a centuries after his passing. What are the significant reasons for
such a resurrection? Why Marx? Why now?
The answer itself has been expressed so many ways that it almost seems contrived, but
the menacing state of affairs today is haunted not by a spectre, but a very real presence:
Capitalism. Although, now more than ever, we live in a society in which we desire more
consciousness, that same consciousness is under attack by those who would seek to
undermine the very persistent existence of ‘class warfare’. Albeit, the class categorization
(in the West) seems a bit more muddled (purposely so); to employ notions like
the ‘American Dream’, and or political slogans on a fictional collective statement: ‘Yes, We
Can!’ only exacerbates the fierce distance between the classes. What of those who cannot
obtain this spectre of the American Dream? Are they then resigned to be participators
in the American Nightmare, all the while demonized by the ‘benevolent’ bourgeois as
those inactive impoverished victims who made the choice to be underprivileged.
Or what of those, ‘Who can’t’? In fact, what are the pre-requisite criterion of this so-called
interpellation toward this revolutionary collective ‘Yes!’? No, today, more than ever, Marx’s
voice is one that must be heard. The asymmetry of the arguments against Marx are that
his opponents (current or otherwise) have solely relied upon characterizations of his work
and not his concepts in actuality. Take Marx’s notion of the redistribution of property which
thinkers such as American economist Milton Friedman, leveled as a form of coercion2
can only be seen as a form of coercion if someone has something to lose; which can only
work in a rights-based society. I do not interpret Marx demanding that there be one leader,
but rather implying there be many – this is if we are to take the revolution of the proletariat
seriously. In this new society then, redistribution is for all and not for a few. So, of course
the bourgeois would be angry because they would remove their identity, power, and assets.
They would be nothings in society. For me, this is the revolutionary space in the ideas
of Marx…it calls us back into a new kind of society we had hoped for all along. To be put
another way: “While Marxism stands for the destruction of the capitalist state, and has as its aim
the withering away of the state and all forms of institutionalised violence, Marxists not only support
the right of the working class to exercise a domination over the bourgeoisie, they actively fight for
that, since the dictatorship of the proletariat is the possible way to destroy bourgeois rule and open
the way to the disappearance of all classes, including the class of wage-slaves.
Marxism has its origins in the struggle for this perspective, in opposition to anarchism which seeks to undermine all
forms of authority and seeks destruction of the capitalist state without promoting and preparing the
working class for the seizure and holding of public political power3
This is why Marx’s work must be approached with intent, we must visit and re-visit but not
without application. Hence, the entrance of such a necessary composition as this one, The
Marx Dictionary by Ian Fraser & -century, much too ideological and many other arguments against .”
The Marx Dictionary offers us an overview of one of the most pivotal thinkers of our time.
The authors over-extend themselves in attempting to make accessible terminology that, at
times, can seem quite verbose. In this though, it does mean that a comprehensive treatise
on each term ends up being the only pitfall of the book. But I would hope no one expects
such grandiose gestures as this is a dictionary, which is meant to punctuate the thoughts
themselves into digestible bites.
One main feature is that it does not focus on debate, as do other Marx Dictionaries. The
authors directly deal with Marx rather than Marxism. This also works as a great resource for
university students (or students of Marxist thought) who are starting into the work of Marx.
The alphabetic structure makes is extremely accessible and easy to navigate.
Another feature is the extensive nature of cross-referencing in and throughout the book
which is a great asset for any student writing a synopsis on the work of Marx or for the true
Marxist disciple. The cross-referencing alone would be enough to write another book on the
work of Marx.
The biographical aspects of the book set the foundational backdrop which precedes Marx
the person versus Marx the idea. This palatable distinction provides for us a landscape in
which we encounter the development of Marx’s opus (i.e., The Communist Manifesto).
His background and childhood illuminate to us a person dedicated to social change, hence
why we cannot responsibly marginalize his concepts as outmoded or without value. To
understand a person’s ideas, one must first understand the person. This book does just that.
It paints for us a much more comprehensive Marx, moreso, than a typical secondary-school
history book might.
As I have shared prior, the only letdown is the scarcity of depth in the terms themselves,
however, if one is truly interested in Marx and needs a place to start, this is a great point
from which to converge. I highly recommend this book.
Avineri, S. (1968) The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx
McLellan, D. (1970) Marx before Marxism, chs. 3-6
Löwy, M. (1970) La theorie de la revolution chez le jeune Marx
Ollman, B. (1971) Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, chs. 25-31
Read, J. (2003) The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present
Friedrich Hayek (1944). The Road to Serfdom. University Of Chicago Press
Here’s another review on the Dictionary: The Socialist Review