Moralizers that they are, Lefties always confuse correlation with causation, description with prescription. Because “capitalism” correlates with all kinds of bad stuff, they think it causes all that bad stuff. Eliminating “capitalism,” they think, will eliminate racism, sexism, etc.
That’s the practical problem with Marxism.* Marxist analyses of history can be very useful. For instance, it’s now understood that enclosure started the market revolution in England. By kicking peasants off waste land, the cities got a large, loose labor force that caused businesses to expand. Meanwhile, back on the farm, the remaining tenants greatly improved their efficiency while producing for distant markets, injecting a whole bunch of cash into the old feudal system. Combined with contemporary religious developments like Puritanism, with its emphasis on personal discipline, conditions were ideal for the development of industry, with all the social, political, and cultural changes that entailed.
That’s the standard line, and it’s as Marxist as it gets. That whole “masterless men jump start business in the cities” bit is, in fact, exactly Marx’s “primitive accumulation of capital,” the precursor to real capitalism in the Industrial Age. The problem is, Marxists don’t stop there. Marxism is teleological — because all this stuff must produce Capitalism, which must produce Revolution, Marxists write as if the historical actors they describe are actively, consciously doing things like “the primitive accumulation of capital.” As if there’s a Capitalist manual out there somewhere, which you get along with your secret decoder ring when you send in five box tops and a self-addressed envelope.
Take the Puritans. They’re ideal Marxist villains — gross hypocrites who thunder from pulpits against luxury and wealth while piling up cash as fast as their grubby little hands can count. As Puritanism is a bizarre, harsh creed that nobody could possibly live up to, we normies tend to nod along as the Marxists denounce Puritans as evil proto-Capitalists. But the Puritans really did try to live by their values, for the most part, and they succeeded in a lot of ways — if you ever fall into a time machine and end up in the 17th century, pray that you encounter some Puritans. They’ll take you in, where nobody else would. They’re sharp traders, yes, and not much fun, but the same guys who hung witches at Salem also produced the healthiest, wealthiest, most prosperous society in the Western world at the same time.
And that’s where Marxism really goes off the rails. Because Puritans are such great villains, and because the “Marxist” analysis of the period is the correct one, it’s very tempting to fall into a kind of historian’s fallacy about what’s really going on behind the scenes. If colonial Massachusetts seemed to be more prosperous than everywhere else, it must be on the backs of some proletariat somewhere (they were, after all, primitively accumulating capital). Hmmm…. Indians? No… oh, wait — women!!! And along come the Salem Witch Trials, which prove how horrible awful no good really bad their society really was. And so on down the line, such that before long, history is nothing but the search for sticks to beat them with, regardless of how ahistorical. E.g. Anne Hutchinson, pretty much a nobody in the grand scheme of things, vs. Cotton Mather — 12,800,000 hits to 520,000. But Anne Hutchinson should matter, damn it, because feminism, so we’ll make her matter.
It takes discipline and a commitment to the historian’s craft to avoid this, which is why nobody bothers anymore. Marxist critics of the Puritans — guys like Christopher Hill, who never abandoned their communist faith — could do great historical work on the period, because they could stay close to the sources and, as classically trained scholars, could separate description from prescription. But that generation started dying off in the Sixties, not coincidentally as our Feelz Before Realz culture really got rolling. The Sixties generation could dimly see the difference between “is” and “ought,” but were having too much fun to insist on it. Their descendants — whom the Sixties generation taught to value transgression uber alles — consciously rejected it as politically limiting, and so the current Snowflake generation not only can’t tell the difference, but can’t even define the terms. So, the Puritans? CisHetPat gun nuts, eeeevil. A+.
If you really want to save Western culture, start there. “Is” is not “ought,” DEscription is not PREscription, and just as there’s no necessary relationship between correlation and causation, the recognition that something is not to your liking does not entail the world’s obligation to change it.
*The philosophical problem, of course, is that it’s muddleheaded Hegelian junk, with Spirit coming down Holy Ghost-style to move History towards the inevitable Revolution, and thence to Utopia. Free pro tip to any college kids reading this: Any system that requires a whole bunch of Capital Letters to describe is wrong, and usually murderous too.Loading Likes...