Reading a bit about Marxism (from second hand sources) and it is saying in any society A will happen then B will happen and so on.

So was Marx a futurist much like Asimov. Asimov wrote a lot about robots and his three laws. And now, people are building robots and thinking about how to implement his three laws. They could be called Asimovists, to coin a phrase.

Another person who did something similar was Nostrodamus, who made many predictions about the future.

And then there were the old testament prophets such as Isaiah. Some might say Jesus made those into self-fulfilling prophesies by letting other assign him the label of Messiah.

It is not unheard of for a science fiction writer to later be revered for his ideologies (e.g. L Ron Hubbard).

Another one of those self fulfilling prophecies might be the idea that the lost tribes of Israel coming back together will be associated with the coming of the new Messiah. And then the attempt to fulfill this prophecy.

So what category would you put Marxism in? Political theory, futurism, science fiction, soothsaying, prophecy or something else?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Gordon, Frank Hubeny, Not_Here, Conifold, ClearMountainWay Jul 17 '18 at 15:37

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  • Marx in describing economic phenomena uses the word "tendency" to describe a number of different types of social/economic scenarios: 1) Trends; 2) Cyclical variation; or 3) Stochastically specified laws The word "law" can describe an event regularity or a tendency in his work. Economic laws and tendencies are not deterministic, they're probabilistic, and Marx's materialist hegelianism meant that he approached the economic in terms of dialectical analyses. Reducing a question of methodology to a question about prophecy and soothsaying misses the point entirely IMO. – ClearMountainWay Jul 16 '18 at 2:05
  • @ClearMountainWay But usually in science you construct laws from observations of what did happen many times (such as apples always fall downwards). Then applying the law to new situations. But how could Marx have a law about communist societies before any have even existed? – zooby Jul 16 '18 at 3:06
  • @zooby Could you say specifcally what you're referring to as "laws" about communist societies? Tendential analyses, if they are describing true tendencies or regularities should have predictive value. This was the object equally of Smith & Ricardo before Marx. – ClearMountainWay Jul 16 '18 at 4:10
  • True, but laws often have domains of applicability. And sometimes they breakdown outside their domains. In a scientific theory laws are tested to see if they match predictions. And yet it seems Marxists are not interested in testing if Marx's laws are correct but instead are assuming they will be correct. – zooby Jul 16 '18 at 4:15
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    It is the other way round; we can say that is Asimov's Psychohistory that mimicks Marx & Engels project (dream ?) of a science of history capable of detecting the laws ruling historical facts and thus having predicting capabilities. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jul 16 '18 at 9:24

This is a rather odd question. You seem to be taking a single non-essential property of Marx (that he made strong predictions about the future) and then on that basis you are likening him to a host of other types of people that also have that non-essential property. This kind of reasoning strikes me as an example of argument from analogy --- e.g., Marx made predictions about the future; so does a soothsayer; therefore Marx is a soothsayer.

Marx was an economist and political philosopher who expounded a theory of economics and history that fused Hegelian dialectics and certain aspects of classical Ricardian economics. In his theory he gave a general account of the economic history of society based on "stages" of history. He gave a historical account of the stages that had already occurred at the time he was writing (primitive communism, slavery, feudalism, capitalism) and he asserted that the laws of economics would lead to evolution to future stages (from capitalism to socialism, then to communism). He gave an economic account of why he thought that capitalism was unstable, and would lead to socialism, then to communism. This account was largely based on the "labour theory of value", which was a (flawed) theory of value that was used by some of the classical economists prior to the "marginalist revolution" in economics.

In regard to his predictions for the future, the simplest characterisation is to say that he was making economic predictions, albeit rather grand ones. He could reasonably be regarded as a "futurist" in the sense that he used his theory to make predictions about the economic organisation of future society, and gave a purported scientific basis for this. The comparisons you make to Nostrodamus, Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, soothsayers, science fiction writers, etc., are not very helpful analogies, since they all involve very different types of speculations about the future.

  • A lot of television economists are like soothsayers. You always have about ten of them predicting entirely different things about the future. They can't all be right. – zooby Jul 16 '18 at 13:36
  • I agree that this question is very poor in quality, but "a single non-essential property of Marx (that he made strong predictions about the future)" this is false. Historical materialism is the backbone of Marxism and it is indeed a theory of history. One of the reasons that Marx was so avid about historical materialism was because he presented it as an empirical, scientific study of history, as opposed to the dialectic theory given by Hegel. He did make strong predictions about the future and the entire ideology of Marxism was founded on the theory that made those predictions. – Not_Here Jul 16 '18 at 15:59
  • @Not_Here: I agree that historical materialism is integral to his theory, but the property used by the OP is the much weaker property that he made predictions about the future, and that is the one I say is non-essential. That is how the OP forms the analogy. If the stronger property of HM were used, the analogy between Marx and a soothsayer would not hold. I think we agree here totally on the importance of HM to Marx. – Ben Jul 16 '18 at 23:50
  • To me the very nature of the method he outlines in the grundrisse (& that informs the method of Das Kapital) undercuts any notion of a strong concept of prediction. Everything uttered at an abstract level (such as a tendency or law) is 1) conditional and 2) determined at the level of concrete singularities first, not the opposite approach of historical economics of assuming the abstract (or ideal). An analysis is made from data collected, if future data contradicts the prior you update your assumptions. Materialist or empirical analysis isn't afforded a separation from that exposure to data. – ClearMountainWay Jul 17 '18 at 2:24

Marxism can probably be classified as either political theory or slick propaganda. The key question is this: Was Karl Marx' goal to promote socialism (which was born before Marx) or derail it? Or was his goal to simply manipulate it for some sinister purpose?

According to Wikipedia,

It has been claimed—though controversially—that there were elements of socialist thought in the politics of classical Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

In this spirit, aren't traditional "native" cultures largely communistic? Imagine traveling back in time a few hundred years and offering a Sioux hunter a choice between 1) bartering for something of value, or 2) two buffalo robes for the price of one...provided he close the deal by 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday.

Some authorities believe Christianity was embraced and molded by the Romans, who valued it for its propaganda value. (The phrase "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" certainly made a great political slogan.) Similarly, some people believe postmodernism is the creation of propagandists - or a philosophical school they have molded, similar to the Romans.

The first modern "Self-conscious" socialist movements were reportedly born in the 1820's. Karl Marx was born in 1818.

The early history of the Soviet Union (the first socialist state) was amazingly bloody. Socialism/communism was successful in that the USSR evolved into a superpower, exceeded in power only by the U.S. But life in Eastern Europe was hardly a workers' paradise.

Of course, Karl Marx was hopefully sincere in his quest to create a worker's paradise. He may have been horrified by the Soviet experiment if he had lived long enough to witness it.

I don't understand Marxism well enough to comment on it in detail. I'm a huge fan of socialism, in the broad sense of the term. There's a huge difference between the Soviet Union and Cuba, Libya or Canada's health care system.

One thing that popped into my mind just recently is Marxism's emphasis on workers. While I would rally behind a movement that supported workers over corporate interests, what about farmers?

To me, Marxism sounds like an urban school, strangely out of place in the vast Soviet empire, which relied heavily on agriculture. Under Lenin, land was taken away by farmers - a great way to subjugate a population. (Read about the Holdomor.)

I may be rambling. Like I said, Karl Marx might not have approved of the Soviet experiment, which may not have even been true to Marxism.

However, I wouldn't compare Marxism to science fiction unless it was - gasp - nothing more than a slick propaganda campaign. It could be compared to prophecy in the sense that its growing popularity was almost inevitable.

People desperate to escape the horrors of capitalism - the exploited class - would obviously look for an alternative, and socialism appears to be the only major alternative economic system. Unfortunately, such people could easily get suckered by smooth-talking propagandists.

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