THE TWILIGHT OF CAPITALISM: A Marxian Epitaph by Michael Harrington


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Marxism is finally coming out of the closet in this country, and ready to spread the true word is Michael Harrington, committed author (The Other America, 1962; Socialism, 1972) and enrolled Socialist. His aim is to identify ""the authentic Marx"" and demonstrate his relevance to present-day conditions--thus implicitly disproving the contention that capitalism's persistence beyond its allotted span gives the lie to Marx's expectations. First, then, Marx must be rescued from misinterpretation by Marx himself and of course Engels; by the Communists; and by non-and anti-Communists of many stripes. Marxism, Harrington stresses, is not vulgar determinism (the economic base determines the political and cultural superstructure) but a concept of society as an organic whole; only in capitalist society--which Marx was analyzing--is the economic factor basic, because capitalism alone depends on the illusion of ""an hour's pay for an hour's work"" (whereas, e.g., feudalism depends on a God-given obligation). Thus, a change in technology will not of itself alter society, either from feudalism to capitalism or--apropos of the present--into a distinct post-industrial society (contra Daniel Bell). Though fundamental, these are only two of the themes Harrington develops in the first, theoretical section and carries over into the second, where the great recession of the Seventies gives Marxism new credence and scope. But the book does not rest on prognosis: it is a grand, disputatious synthesis accessible to laymen and undergraduates and demanding of thought.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Simon & Schuster