But Marx did not fully comprehend the mechanisms by which it would happen or what form(s) the crisis would assume. He focused on the socioeconomic consequences of capitalism at a time when the world's population was roughly 15 percent of today's, when there were automobiles, oil wells, and coal-fired power plants did not exist.
How could Marx have imagined that modern economies -- from housing and highways to forestry, farming, water rights, power generation, and transportation -- would be so profoundly affected by the environmental costs associated with capitalism?
The Communist Manifesto begins with a sentence that foreshadowed one of the world-shaping events of the 20th century -- the October Revolution: "A spectre is haunting Europe -- the spectre of communism". Marx theorized that, "The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers."
Marx was wrong about one big thing: he put too much faith in the masses and failed to see how easily they (we) can be bought off. Materialism informed his theory of the past, but he never reckoned with the rampant materialism of the present, never imagined an age of mass consumption so pervasive. So here's the question:
If corporate elites have no incentive to curb capitalism and every incentive to grab a bigger and bigger share of the world's wealth, and if the "working class" of the world, now numbering over 7 billion, can be placated with credit cards and Walmarts, what chance do we have?
Was he paranoiac or prophetic? You be the judge.
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