Rowan and Marx
I’m getting a teensy weensy bit fed up with the number of conservatives (christian and political) criticising Rowan Williams for his usage of Marx in critiquing modern capitalism and especially the events of the last few weeks or so. Here’s the actual paragraph that many have taken exception to.
Fundamentalism is a religious word, not inappropriate to the nature of the problem. Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else. And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry. What the present anxieties and disasters should be teaching us is to ‘keep ourselves from idols’, in the biblical phrase. The mythologies and abstractions, the pseudo-objects of much modern financial culture, are in urgent need of their own Dawkins or Hitchens. We need to be reacquainted with our own capacity to choose — which means acquiring some skills in discerning true faith from false, and re-learning some of the inescapable face-to-face dimensions of human trust.
Do you see what Rowan has done? He’s taken the best bit of Das Kapital (and, dear readers, your author has read all of Marx’s epic volumes on Capital, including the hefty text that Engels probably scrawled, which is more than I think 99% of those who are criticising Williams today have done, or the mad lefties in the street who promise to create a glorious socialist fatherland if we just gave everybody unlimited free rice pudding) which is Volume One, taken the most incisive bits of that, and simply said, "Yes, Marx is right when he says that the worst part of capitalism is that it idolises wealth". He then goes onto dismiss pretty much everything else Marx wrote (which, for those of us who have trawled through volume 3 of Das Kapital, is not hard to see why), but has anybody praised him for that?
So might I suggest that before we start having another go at Rowan (and by golly are there things to have a go at him for this week), we take some time to actually read what he said, instead of relying on hearsay? And let’s not bad mouth Marx (or praise him for that matter) unless we’ve had the decency to read him. Even if that is a marathon task.
There – got it out of my system.