This is essentially a post about a very typical characteristic of people today who claim to be Marxists, yet still cling to consumerism because it’s simply too convenient to abandon in the name of living up to one’s ideology. So they aren’t Marxists really, just capitalists who complain about capitalism. Also, bear in mind that I’m talking about postmodern, not modern Marxists. The title just worked out nicely.
Here’s my experience of them, which I believe to be quite accurate.
The typical postmodern Marxist is an academic. We all know that students in university tend to be bent far more towards the left than other members of society, probably due to their lifestyle, which is financially humble and also very comfortable and sheltered. Furthermore, a student typically has no fiscal responsibility to anyone except for himself. I believe students are subconsciously conditioned after a couple of years in this environment such that they do not appreciate how different life is in the real world. Thus, socialism, perhaps extreme socialism, might seem more familiar and practical than the life of a suburban middle-class SUV driver. No doubt, they’ll receive a rude awakening when they leave college, start a family, and realise what real financial responsibility is, not to mention that they can no longer depend on their parents if they need new cars. Hence the socialist mentality is gradually replaced by a heavy and more sincere consumerist lifestyle. Ideology matters little when you’re gunning for that new house in that nice neighbourhood. Go figure (six-figure?).
Some of these students become politically ‘Marxist’ before the ideological pathways in their brains are obliterated by their affinity with new, shiny, expensive things. These are, in my opinion, the stereotypical postmodern Marxists. If you are reading this, are a Marxist and do not feel you are accurately represented by the aforementioned description, then I do apologise. One can only experience and understand so much in 18-19 years.
So what are the ideological thoughts of these people? I don’t want a lengthy post, so I’ll stick to the primary cause for their allegiance with socialism, an approach which is fatally flawed. Many of the guys I’ve talked to tend to think capitalism is bad because of its requirement of ‘constant growth’, which I also happen to believe is true. They say that the world’s resources are being depleted by the capitalist consumer, and that this will ultimately plunge the world into chaos once something essential like oil runs out. This is indeed founded on truth. A typical first world consumer, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts, might consume several times the electricity, water and food of a typical impoverished person in a third world country.
Here’s where the disagreement (read: fatal flaw) emerges. The postmodern Marxist lives under the delusion that redistributing wealth will somehow cause the world to stop consuming resources.
The problem, however obvious, can be highlighted with the following parable I just made up:
John is a consumer. However, he grows disillusioned with his lifestyle because he consumes far more than he needs to survive, which he feels is wrong. So he participates in a Marxist revolution and the whole world goes communist. Now, John consumes a tenth of what he did before, and what he used to consume is now being shared between five other people whose standard of living has risen in proportion to how much his standard of living has gone down. John is now a fully-fledged Marxist. But he realises too late that, despite having redistributed his resources, the world as a whole is still consuming the same amount of resources and will ultimately run out of something, just as it was going to before, except now the world has no incentive to find a solution, because Marxism is centered on the principle of staying the same, rather than growing. Only now does John realise the absolute necessity of constant, dirty, unfair and unbalanced economic and consumptive growth which is typical of a capitalist system.
The moral of this story is that capitalism does not consume resources: people do. They are not going anywhere, which is why the typical postmodern Marxist is incredibly flawed by blaming capitalism for the fact that resources are being consumed at a phenomenal and indeed unsustainable rate ^_^
This has been (Post)Modern Marxist Mistakes with Savva Pouroullis.