What remains of Marx’s thought is his insight into the emergence and consequences of a global market, which Stedman Jones summarises forcefully. Marx, he writes:
"[W]as the first to chart the staggering transformation produced in less than a century by the emergence of a world market and the unleashing of the unparalleled productive powers of modern industry. He also delineated the endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism as a phenomenon. He emphasized its inherent tendency to invent new needs and the means to satisfy them, its subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs, its disregard of all boundaries, whether sacred or secular, its destabilization of every hallowed hierarchy, whether of ruler and ruled, man and woman or parent and child, its turning of everything into an object for sale."
It is a prescient glimpse of our world. But along with many other thinkers of the 19th century (and the 20th), Marx failed to foresee how older forms of life would be reinvigorated even as the world was being transformed. While village life has not been renewed, religion and nationalism have mutated into new and at times strikingly malignant forms. Capitalism may be a revolutionary force, as Marx believed. But for that very reason it cannot help creating powerful forces that resist and sometimes defeat it.
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