[In the overall corpus of Marxist writings, there are four essential elements.] The first element is the dialectical approach to knowledge and society that defines the nature of reality as dynamic and conflictual . . . The second element is a material approach to history; the development of productive forces and economic activities is central to historical change . . . The third is a general view of capitalist development; the capitalist mode of production and its destiny are governed by a set of “economic laws of motion of modern society.” The fourth is a normative commitment to socialism . . . [Yet the] principal weakness of Marxism as a theory of international political economy results from its failure to appreciate the role of political and strategic factors in international relations.
Was Marx Wrong About Communism But Right About Capitalism?
Gilpin’s useful and readable piece on the “Three Ideologies of Political Economy” describes the Marxist view (385 and 398) as:
It is in this context above that the further refines the idea of radicalism and how dependency theory is a natural extension of the original economic and socio-economic ideas of Marx grow.
To summarize, for Marxists the international system is economically determined and hasn’t been changed by the end of the cold war. Think of three concentric circles: core, semi-periphery, and periphery. At the core are the post-industrialized nations, the subjugators; at the semi-periphery and periphery are the emerging states, sometimes called the developing world, and the perpetual “basket cases” or failed and failing states—these regions and identities constitute the subjugated.
What we have then is an economically determined hierarchy. Is this a useful way to view the structure of the international system? For Marxist analysts, the divide between core and periphery is the fault line of the international system.
As Cassidy suggests, is Marx indeed “The Next Thinker”? Why would an investment banker say that “The longer I spend on Wall Street, the more convinced I am that Marx was right”?
Was Marx right? Should we continue to take Marx and Marxism/neo-Marxism seriously? Is “economics the driving force in human history”? Is history the history of class struggle? Is the fundamental divide in society between those who own the means of production and those “whose only asset is their capacity for work”? What does class struggle look like on the international level? Is it possible that Marx was wrong about communism but right about capitalism? Has anyone since better understood the dynamics of capitalism? Does capitalism always tend toward monopoly, as Marx argued? Where does power lie in a capitalist society?
Consider this provocative statement by Marx: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.”
In an age of corporate scandals, Wall Street "deals" and "fixes" and real power is held by only a few, Marxists would only confirm their long-held views.