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Was Marx Right about Capitalism Destroying Itself from Within?

One of the core tenets of Marx’s work is that capitalism will be undone by internal contradictions that would manifest as ever-greater crises that would eventually destroy the system from within.

As the global economy continues to unravel beneath the surface, it’s a good time to re-examine Marx’s claim. If if turns out the current version of global capitalism is indeed unraveling due to its internal contradictions, it would be valuable to understand this now rather than later.

Sartre once observed that students are only taught enough about Marx’s work to refute it. Despite the difficulty of Marx’s writings (only German philosophers can be so convoluted), its elevation to scripture by various academic tribes, and his failure to describe his “scientific socialism” alternative to capitalism in the same detail he devoted to his critique of capitalism, Marx’s work remains relevant and insightful.

Thus we continue to see articles such as Capitalism is unfolding exactly as Karl Marx predicted.

I’m not in either of the two camps, those trained to dismiss Marx’s critiques or those who devote their careers to jousting over Marxist minutiae. It’s been decades since I studied Marx in a college classroom, but I’ve continued to apply his core insights to our era.

To understand Marx’s critique of capitalism, we have to understand that he came to economics via philosophy, specifically the writings of Hegel. In other words, Marx did not approach the study of capitalism from the abstractions of classical 19th century economics (Marx was born in 1818) but from a profound interest in history, social and spiritual development and human alienation. Marx ended up devoting his life to an understanding of capitalism because it is a world-system that drives history and society.

Hegel believed human history wasn’t just “one damn thing after another;” he saw it as teleological, i.e. on a trajectory leading to higher social and spiritual development. Given this context, it’s little wonder that Marx viewed capitalism as a necessary stage of history creating the conditions for the next advancement.

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