Ages ago, as a grad student at NYU in the early 1980s, I took a course in Marxian (or was it called Marxist?) Economics from NYU Econ’s resident Marxist, Prof. James F. Becker. I enrolled in this course in order to give myself sufficient incentive actually to read Marx’s key works.
I recall very much liking Prof. Becker and his text , but finding – not to my surprise – Marx’s writings to be turgid, profoundly confused, and mostly downright absurd. I don’t remember the precise grade that I earned to pass the class, but if Marx’s labor theory of value were correct, then that grade damn well ought to have been an A+. Reading Marx was a struggle. It’s a task at which one must labor hard.
I am now again reading many of Marx’s ‘scientific’ economics writings (in preparation for a conference that I’ll attend next week). What a crock! Marx’s ramblings are far more ridiculous and difficult to penetrate than I’d recalled.
I’m astonished that Marx’s lumbering, thick, repetitive, and entirely inelegant prose somehow won for him any popularity beyond a tiny handful of crazed and semi-literate followers. Reading Marx is a figurative form of grinding red-hot embers into one’s eyes and trying to make sense, through the pain, of the resulting confused and distorted scene.
More than one person whose opinion and judgment I greatly respect insist that Marx, for all of his many mistakes, is nevertheless a thinker with some worthwhile ideas – a thinker worthy of careful study and respect. Well, if so, I’ve missed something. I’ve not come close to stumbling upon any original thought in Marx that is worth the ink used to record it onto paper. Nothing in the old fool’s oeuvre that I’ve read is remotely worthy of respect. It’s all, as far as I can tell, nonsense that is more difficult to digest than cement and with less intellectual nutritional value.