A note on Karl Marx

Karl Marx was a German philosopher who got his name attached to a lot of worker-oriented social movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He remains famous in some intellectual circles for a core idea about the consequences of social interaction. His claim was: the physical arrangement of our daily productive lives, and the connections we form to accomplish our required tasks, necessarily determine the way we will govern ourselves. He stated this as a scientific proposition. He thought it was inevitable: if our collective lives are organized in a certain physical arrangement, a predictable type of government will emerge from that. This made it easy to believe the evils of Capitalism were necessarily going to be replaced by the pleasantries of Marxist Socialism, and his name became a rallying cry for millions upon millions of people.

Karl was, of course, right – and perpetually mistaken. Our social expressions are indeed determined by our material arrangements. It’s just that the connection between them is inscrutable. The very act of describing our situation inevitably changes the arrangement itself. The dynamic nature of human perception and response inevitably confounds yesterday’s certainties about today’s likelihoods. Karl wanted to see a revolution. He had a gut urge to change the world. So he declared his science made it inevitable, and he faded into history.

His urge remains: to see so clearly what’s in front we can know from it what will happen next; to be certain of tomorrow because we understand today. And yet, in the moment of our conviction, our fingers slip from the prize and we, too, fade away. How happy those who simply live, right here, with the raindrops on their skin, just – waiting to see.

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