Marx and the iron cage

January 20, 2006

It is daft of John Gray to suggest that neoconservatives are the true heirs of Marx, for the core differences far outweigh surface similarities (Features, January 13).

Leszek Kolakowski's diatribe against Marx does not go deep enough. Marx rightly saw Enlightenment philosophy as "alienated consciousness" and opposed its division of reason and experience, thought and practice. For thinkers building on Marx, the Cartesian belief in the mind's access to an objective reality ignores how the mind is shaped by history and material circumstances and cannot step outside a human perspective. Its divisions of mind and body, facts and values, means and ends and so on favour not an integrated vision but rather one side of each dualism over the other. Marx broke free of them only to some extent.

The result is oppressive bureaucracy and technocracy, environmental crisis and a stultifying mass culture. These divisions are why (to paraphrase Mark Twain) shallow thinking is round the world before deep thought has its boots on.

Max Weber's "iron cage" of capitalism will collapse under its contradictions only after it has destroyed the planet.

David Rodway
Surrey

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