In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Big Picture, Derbyshire Style | Main | Movies -- "Crush," Wong »

August 30, 2002

Paul Johnson on Marx


I thought I'd share a little gem from Paul Johnson's incredibly useful and fun book, "Intellectuals" which takes a close look at what he terms "the moral and judgmental credentials of certain leading intellectuals to give advice to humanity on how to conduct its affairs."

He tackles many of the illustrious of the past few centuries: Jean-Jacques Rousseau ("An Interesting Madman"), Shelley ("Or the Heartlessness of Ideas"), Tolstoy ("God's Elder Brother"), Bertolt Brecht ("Heart of Ice"), Jean-Paul Satre ("A Little Ball of Fur and Ink"), etc. Perhaps my favorite chapter concerns Marx. The following is a brief extract:

[Marx] was totally and incorrigibly deskbound. Nothing on earth would get him out of the library and the study. His interest in poverty and exploitation went back to the autumn of 1842, when he was twenty-four and wrote a series of articles on the laws governing the right of local peasants to gather wood....But there is no evidence that Marx actually talked to the peasants and the landowners and looked at the conditions on the spot.

Again, in 1844 he wrote for the financial weekly Vorwarts (Forward) an article on the plight of Silesian weavers. But he never went to Silesia, or, so far as we know, ever talked to a weaver of any description...Marx wrote about finance and industry all his life but he only knew two people connected with financial and industrial processes. One was his uncle in Holland, Lion Philips, a successful businessman who created what eventually became the vast Philips Electric Company [now Philips Electronics, with sales of EUR 32.3 billion in 2001.] Uncle Philip's views on the whole capitalist process would have been well-informed and interesting, had Marx troubled to explore them. But he only once consulted him, on a technical matter of high finance, and though he visited Philips four times, these concerned purely personal matters of family money.

The other knowledgeable man was Engels himself. But Marx declined Engels's invitation to accompany him on a visit to a cotton mill, and so far as we know Marx never set foot in a mill, factory, mine or other industrial workplace in the whole of his life.

The question this and other matters discussed in Johnson's book (which has, predictably, been criticised repeatedly by lefties as "mean-spirited" but not, as far as I know, on factual grounds) raises is one you have asked repeatedly: why wasn't any of this ever brought up by the professors at our Lousy Ivy University? It's not like this stuff was a secret, exactly--except from us students.



posted by Friedrich at August 30, 2002


Dear Sirs:

I have no reasons whatsoever to defend Marx from Johnson´s jokes about the German philosopher. Nor am I a Marxist enthusiast myself. But to believe that writting a book on social poverty demands a much closer contact with poor people is tantamount to say or believe that to write an academic thesis on prostitution would demand the thesis´ author to get to bed with whores in order to know how they live, make love and welcome their guests in bed.
No matter how Marx is wrong or not,he is a famous man, even in spite of himself, while Johnson is to forever remain an unknown man . He should, at least in spirit, thank Marx for having given him (Johnson)an opportunity to get known to the wide public of his readers, who are less numeropus than Marx´readers. Well,if I intend to write an essay on the side effects of drug consumption among youngsters, must I use heavy drugs to do it? Or must I become a gay man to study the social behaviour of homossexuals? Would Mr. Johnson ever dare contradict me?

Hamilton Castro
Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Posted by: hamilton castro on November 6, 2003 01:44 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?