Friday, October 23, 2009

Rethinking Marx?

Two years ago, the Pope might've named a Marx to take his former post in Bavaria... but while the archbishop of Munich and Freising's used the name to critique the father of Communism, an "unlikely appraisal" of Karl Marx has appeared in no less than the pages of the Vatican's daily paper....
L’Osservatore Romano said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.

Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx’s work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx’s theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.

“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”...

Professor Sans argues that Marx’s intellectual legacy was marred by the misappropriation of his work by the communist regimes of the 20th century. “It is no exaggeration to say that nothing has damaged the interests of Marx the philosopher more than Marxism,” he said....

Professor Sans’s view of Marx was not without criticism. He argued that Marx’s “materialist” view of history had wrongly reduced man to no more than a product of his material, economic and physical circumstances. He also said that after the fall of communism in 1989, few believed any more that private property was in itself wrong or unjust, and “given the experience of the past half century” no one believed that collectivisation of property was the answer.
In running the story, the Times of London noted that Sans's article first appeared in La Civiltà Cattolica, the authoritative Jesuit journal that, just like L'Osservatore, is vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State.