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I find it interesting that in an age when nobody seems to appreciate Marxism, Berger is not ashamed to proclaim how indebted his own understanding of history is to Marxist theory. He even goes further as to affirm that, unlike what many may think, Marxism is still useful today not only as a standpoint to envision a future society committed to “human dignity and justice” but also as a theoretical framework to pursue a critique to the all-pervasive Neoliberal trends that have an enormous part of responsibility in the current economic crisis worldwide. I like how he comes up with a very nuanced position on Marxism. Berger is very lucid and poignant. Thank you, Alvaro, for posting and sharing!
I´m far from been a marxist or even to be able to appreciate its theoretical basis in any way; marxism is another form of materialism and recent history tell us enough about the sufferings and struggle that has spread wherever it´s been more or less stablished. That´s precisely why I can´t neither be an enthusiast of the present state of things, a world based on the omnipresence and powerfullness of the material value. I feel myself as David fighting against Goliat: I believe in the everlasting power of smallness. And sorry for my english. It´s a litlle bit stingy!
Regardless of how enthusiastic we may or may not feel about Marxism (which is not really relevant here), the fact of the matter is that it provided us with speculative categories and a lexicon to describe and examine the relations among individuals within a Capitalist society. And it pointed out the essential flaw of a system that relies upon the oppression of the many for the benefit of the very few, as Berger himself implies when he says “If we look at what is happening to the world and the decisions being taken every day and all, all those decisions that are really made in the name of one priority, that priority of increasing, ever increasing profit. At that moment Marx doesn’t seem quite so obsolete, does he?” You don’t even have to be a Marxist to acknowledge its contributions to the history of political thought through the analysis of the material relations that shape our present societies. That’s why Berger’s take on it is, in my opinion, germane and worth thinking and discussing.
I agree with you that it´s a matter worthwhile for discussion, even by these so cold means. In my opinion, Berger´s political statements are naif and often very injust. He has no answer to what is happening today because his categories are just erratic because they are marxist. Marx denied human liberty (Hannah Arendt explains neatly what is and what isn´t a human action in his book Human Condition) and that is to me the heart of the matter: freedom must be the pre-condition in any society or in any political system. Human freedom and marxism are just antihetical, both in theory and in the today well known praxis all through last century (and even nowadays in that absolute hell that is China)
You might be right in pointing out the fundamental contradiction between Marxism and human freedom, especially if we take into account the historical experiences of Marxism in the last two hundred years (the example of China that you bring is a good case in point); however, is people really free in Capitalist societies? How free can you be if you lack access to the means of production? To our dismay —and to confirm the failure of our current Governments (the failure of politics in the face of economy)—, it is the capital in the form of wealth what gives you access to freedom; otherwise, we are all condemned to servitude in the form of poor salary wages, no access to health care or educational opportunities, etc.… I could go on listing all the instances in which freedom is really absent in non-Marxist societies. I think of Spain and the siege under which the markets have placed it! Has Spain been able to exert its legitimate political freedom in the face of markets’ attacks? Hey, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating on behalf of Marxism. I just acknowledge, as Berger does, that from an intellectual or theoretical perspective, Marxism made very important contributions in discerning the role and place of man within Capitalist societies. This is confirmed by the fact that Marx’s works are always included in any anthology of Western political thought or critical theory; or in any higher education program on Political Sciences or Political Philosophy; or by the more pedestrian circumstance of you and me discussing these matters in this blog. Maybe we should draw a distinction between the theory (Marx) and the practice (China, URSS, Cuba, etc).