- How Fares Marx in the Twenty-First Century?
The very fact that such a question is being asked without, as a rule, indicating the locale where it is being asked or, put otherwise, the places where Marx will fare or not fare in the future shows that Marx was right about one thing at least: since his time the world has gone global. This doesn't of course mean that Marx is always given his due in discussions of globalization. His observation that the bourgeoisie set up a global nexus of trade and with it a world culture, assigning to all social relationships a cosmopolitan character, is not always acknowledged. On the contrary: before the 2008 crisis and during the two previous decades that elapsed from the demise of "really existing socialism," Marx and Marxism were a kind of blind spot in discourses on man and his world. The apparent disproval of his eschatology was used to disparage the whole of his thinking. Marx returned onto the scene with the outbreak of the [End Page 37] last financial crisis. Having said that, it needs to be recognized that Marx's return has not been equally in evidence on the global scene.
I will not deal in any detail with the resurgence of an interest in Marx and only tangentially indicate how this resurgence is spatially differentiated using anecdotal evidence of both how Marx has resurged and how he has done so in some unlikely places. First, it is revealing that even mainstream economists—we can take Nouriel Roubini as an example—opined that Marx had been proven right (2011). Many others followed suit. A more unexpected vindication of Marx came from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has been recorded saying: "Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves" (Bates 2008). In a review of Terry Eagleton's book on why Marx was right, Tristram Hunt quotes Pope Benedict XVI's words praising Marx's "great analytical skill" (Hunt 2011). If it is understandable that an economist returns to Marx because the neoliberal orthodoxy had let pass under its screen processes that triggered the outbreak of the crisis and that a Marxist literary critic surmises that reality was catching up to Marx's analytic, then the pronouncements by church figures do come as a surprise, to say the least. They are even more surprising viewed from a place from which I am here thinking on Marx's relevance. Writing from that place, Croatia, I draw attention to a spectacle from the neighboring fiefdom of Montenegro. Recently in Podgorica, which throughout my life I had known as Titograd, the Serbian Orthodox Church of Christ's Resurrection displayed frescoes portraying Josip Broz Tito burning in hell. I draw attention to this because the painting portrays him in the company of Marx and Engels. Although Croatian Catholicism espouses an identity empowered by its difference from Orthodoxy, I am convinced that the Croatian church would more readily subscribe to this portrayal of everlasting punishment than to the pope's praise of a Marxian analytic. When the Zagreb city council recently renamed a square by deleting Tito's name from it, this was not only a retaliatory gesture against a historical figure but an occasion to disparage if not blot out a historical narrative that the said figure personified. I will begin with that narrative and indicate how it connects with Marx. I will then describe how Marx fared when that narrative was displaced by the nationalist one Croats [End Page 38] are now living. Next I will proffer an explanation why Marx could have been so easily displaced when the narrative that supposedly was inspired by his thought became defunct. I will then rehearse a number of ways the appropriation of Marx in the old socialist narrative failed to do justice to his thought. Finally, I ask whether the pinpointing of those failures helps us recognize in Marx a thinking that is still of use in understanding the present conjuncture.
The old narrative, the one that is being...