1 January 2017

George Monbiot: no reference to Marxist classics

George Monbiot must rank among Britain’s top left-wing popular intellectual writing today

A few years ago when I first read Monbiot’s book, Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain I delved into the index to look up references to Marx. There was no such reference in the whole book.

At first sight that appears strange. The book is an excellent empirical study of corporate power within the neo-Marxist tradition, but it seems that Monbiot wants to present information within that intellectual interpretative framework, but without references to the corpus of Marxist classics. Maybe he is right to do so.

Much Marxist writing in the last three decades, if not before, has been couched in a cloud of jargon and impenetrable theory, written by university academics for other university academics. The result is that the whole corpus has become inaccessible, even for most of the university educated.

Monbiot, a trained journalist, is thus right to pen his articles and books in what amounts to a Marxian interpretive framework but without exploring its philosophical underpinnings. Those who have studied academic Marxism may be attracted by theory, but I doubt whether many of his readers think the same.

It’s far better for people first coming to left-wing ideas to get a grasp of how society works with practical example – and then later, if they are interested, to delve into the theory. Monbiot gets it right on that score.

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