Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism

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* Book: Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism. by Meghnad Desai. Verso, 2002



From an interview by B.J. Murphy of C. James Townsend, author of a book on Techno-Optimism and the Way to the Age of Abundance:

"Q: How does your book differentiate from Meghnad Desai’s Marx’s Revenge?

A: First I have to say that my book is very different from Desai’s work. Though the underlying leitmotif of my book contains the evolutionary vision foundational to Marx’s thought, I go beyond his work and bring in complexity theory/economics and the techno-optimist’s. That these sources uphold and prove Marx’s vision of the necessity for the full evolution of capitalism in order to bring about the eschaton, the transcendence of capitalism itself, is a dramatic tale that needed to be told. The full realization of my book is the “way to the age of abundance,” which Desai’s book never lays out, but then neither did Rifkin’s recent book the Zero Marginal Cost Society go into how to truly get there. I came across Desai’s book, Marx’s Revenge, when I was almost done with my manuscript. I was afraid as I read it that he had scooped me, but I was relieved at finishing his book that he didn’t “go there.” Lord Desai spent his entire work hinting that he would disclose to the reader at the end of his book the secret of how to reach the eschaton, the event horizon, in which we could finally have “socialism after capitalism,” as he coins it. But in the last chapter he pulled his punch. I even spoke to him online about that and he is very curious to read my book to see what I meant. It is why I quote a long passage from the end of his book in one of the last chapters in my work. I disclose the logical extrapolation that is the capstone to both Marx’s idea of the necessity for the full evolution of capitalism, once he is corrected of David Riccardo’s baneful influences, and classical liberalism’s understanding of where capitalism would go if left to evolve to its logical endpoint. An idea that you find as far back as John Baptiste Say’s Treatise in the early 19th century, and it is such an open secret that anyone could have stumbled across it and yet it has been missed or ignored all of this time. What I call the coming economic singularity, the omega point, was there in classical liberal philosophy for almost two centuries, and Marx had a pretty strong intuition of it, though I think that it was his sticking too faithfully to David Ricardo’s pessimistic outlook of capitalism’s “eventual immiseration” that diverted him from seeing it fully.

* Q: Given that you both cover similar topics insofar that various ideological viewpoints throughout history tend to converge with time, would you say that your book enhances Desai’s work by updating it with our current understanding of Complexity Theory, Transhumanism, etc?

A: I don’t think that complexity theory per se, was a major influence in Desai’s book, which was pretty heavily saturated with Marxian and classical liberal ideas. The index at the back of his book doesn’t even mention complexity theory. I think the complexity and systems theory feel in passages of his book comes from when he engages F.A. Hayek’s ideas, and Hayek in my view is one of the early founders of and thinkers in complexity theory. So the ideas of emergence, and of dynamic systems that can never come to equilibrium etc., he gets from Hayek. I think he is a great admirer of Hayek’s ideas based on how he presents them in his book. So my bringing complexity theory into the milieu in my book was not to update his work as much as to show that modern systems theory both supports classical liberal economics and their theories as well as the dialectical elements within Marxist thought. You could just as easily say that I complete Teilhard de Chardin’s or even Marx’s works as well.

In all humility though I would say that Lord Desai’s book supports parts of my book by giving it the firm foundation in Marx’s evolutionary ideas from a thoroughly Marxist background, and I take the next logical step forward that completes Lord Desai’s train of thought after correcting 19th century ideas with modern complexity and techno-progressive discoveries. If it wasn’t for his book though, I would not have had as much confidence in finishing and publishing my own work as having such strong support from a Marxian economist of his stature gave my evolutionary view of Marx’s philosophy, gleaned from both Marx and the Austrians, the strength it needed. Before his work I only had Marx’s works, always open to ideological interpretation, and books from Ludwig von Mises and others and such books by those on the left as Marx Against the Marxists by Jose Miranda and the bits and pieces of dialectical and evolutionary thought discussed in works by various Leninist-Marxists. Your own fascination with the Chinese communist Deng Xiaoping’s and his emphasis on the need for scientific and technological advancement in order for socialism to arise is another example of the new reawakening happening on the left at this moment in history. So Desai’s bravery in challenging the neo-leftist status quo to correct their view of Marx, that they glean from only reading Marx’s earlier works like The Manifesto, or reading Mother Jones, Salon et al. was in my mind heroic. He is to be given great credit and if you are on the left and haven’t been introduced to this line of evolutionary thinking within Marx’s thought, I recommend you read Marx’s Revenge before you take up and read my book." (