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Karl Marx has been decried by mainstream economists and news outlets as dead, irrelevant and outdated. A new study published by the world’s most reputed scholarly journal, Nature, once again shows that, despite the hue and cry of naysayers and those who would revise history, his spectre cannot be exorcised.

Karl Marx has been decried by mainstream economists and news outlets as dead, irrelevant and/or outdated. A new study published by the world’s most reputed scholarly journal, Nature, once again shows that despite the hue and cry of naysayers and those who would revise history, his spectre cannot be exorcised.

At the height of the capitalist boom, Paul Krugman wrote in Forbes magazine, “Sure, Marx wrote about economic upheavals; so did lots of people. What he never managed to do was offer either a comprehensible explanation of why such upheavals happen or any suggestions about what to do about them (except abolish capitalism). By my reckoning, Karl Marx made about as much of a contribution to economics as Zeppo Marx made to comedy.” This high-flying and baseless rhetoric is hardly unique. In his lifetime and long after, Marx has been caricatured and derided by countless “scholars,” “economists,” and defenders of the status quo. There is even a website dedicated to pulverizing the corpse of the bearded barbarian:

This unrelenting libel against a man who has been dead for more than a century is rather peculiar and begs an important question: if the guy is dead and irrelevant, why do we keep reminding ourselves of this? We are not constantly reminded of the irrelevance of Franz Joseph Gall, Mikhail Bakunin, Martin Fleischmann, and Stanley Pons, are we? With scant exception, their theories have vanished from public discourse and scientific inquiry—unaccompanied by a torrent of attacks. The reason for this is evident: their ideas have been systematically destroyed by the march of science and history.

But dispatching Marxist theories has not been so easy, even for its staunchest opponents. The last few years have seen an unprecedented revival in coverage of Marx, and a marked change in tone. This reached a new peak as the scholarly journal Nature published an article titled “Who is the best scientist of them all?” Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington devised a test to determine the interdisciplinary relevance of scholars, controlling for field bias.

According to the article:

“Their provisional (and constantly updated) ranking of nearly 35,000 researchers relies on queries made through Google Scholar to normalize the popular metric known as the h-index (a scientist with an h-index of 20 has published at least 20 papers with at least 20 citations each, so the measure takes into account quantity and popularity of research). It found that as of 5 November, the most influential scholar was Karl Marx in history.”


“Karl Marx’s score was more than 22 times the average h-index of other scholars in history (but 11 times that of the average economist). Compared to 35,000 other high-profile scholars, Marx’s score stood out the most. Second in line was psychologist Sigmund Freud. Third was the (still alive and working) physicist Edward Witten.”

It goes without saying that these are impressive results for a man who is continually alleged to be dead. Anyone who considers him or herself to be intellectually honest, forthright, and critical must examine the theories of scientific socialism on their own merit and determine how they confirm or disprove themselves against the experience of living reality.

As capitalism lurches along through its greatest crisis yet, we can rely on defenders of the status quo to remind us that this most “subversive” of scholars is outdated. Fortunately for the Marxists, capitalism itself is convincing more and more people that old Karl’s ideas are not only more relevant than ever, but urgently needed.

As Alan Woods pointed out in The Ideas Of Karl Marx:

“Every social system believes that it represents the only possible form of existence for human beings, that its institutions, its religion, its morality are the last word that can be spoken. That is what the cannibals, the Egyptian priests, Marie Antoinette and Tsar Nicolas all fervently believed. And that is what the bourgeoisie and its apologists today wish to demonstrate when they assure us, without the slightest basis, that the so-called system of ‘free enterprise’ is the only possible system—just when it is beginning to sink.”

 Published on In Defence of Marxism

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this education guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs below to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, videos and audio talks for different topics. Read More
Check out this selection of writings for an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory, providing a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the ideas necessary in order to fight for socialism. Read More
Dialectical materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. We must seek to understand the laws of society and nature in order to change them. Read More
Historical materialism is the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how capitalism works. Read More
Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society, allowing us to understand why capitalism perpetually goes into crisis, where inequality comes from, and what the alternative is. Read More
The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. Studying the events of 1917, and understanding why the Revolution degenerated into Stalinism, provides vital lessons for revolutionaries today. Read More
For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral. We must understand the state’s real basis and strip away its mysticism by treating it historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall. Read More
Anarchism is naturally attractive for those wanting to abolish capitalism. But only Marxist ideas can explain why bureaucracy and oppression exist - and how to overthrow the exploitative capitalist system. Read More
Marxists are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fight determinedly for liberation and against discrimination. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle - to abolish the oppressive capitalist system. Read More
The madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism. But it could have been avoided if the working class had a united revolutionary leadership, prepared to take power. Read More
Nations have not always existed, nor will they always exist in the future. Marxists are internationalists, fighting for world socialist revolution as the only way forward for humanity and our planet. Read More
Wars represent the sharp extreme of capitalism’s impasse. Imperialism, Lenin said, was the "highest stage of capitalism". As long as the profit system exists, there will be wars over markets and spheres of influence. Read More
All written history, Marx stated, is the history of class struggle. Our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future. Read More
Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, amongst workers and youth. In order to do this, we must study the history and traditions of the working class. Read More
  • Educate Yourself
  • The Fundamentals of Marxism: suggested reading
  • Dialectical Materialism and Science
  • Historical Materialism
  • Marxist Economics
  • Russia, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalinism
  • The State
  • Anarchism
  • Women's liberation
  • Fascism
  • The National Question
  • Imperialism and War
  • Revolutionary History
  • Revolutionary Strategy

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