Karl Marx is Britain’s most revered philosopher, according to a BBC Radio 4 listeners’ poll. The Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, explains why. "The Communist Manifesto," he says, "contains a stunning prediction of the nature and effects of globalisation."
Marx got 27.93% of the 30,000 votes in the poll which assessed 20 philosophers. Scottish philosopher David Hume came second with 12.67%, followed by Ludwig Wittgenstein with 6.8%. The Germans and Austrians dominated (naturally), beating the Greeks. Also in the top 10 were:
4. Friedrich Nietzsche 6.49%
5. Plato 5.65%
6. Immanuel Kant 5.61%
7. Thomas Aquinas 4.83%
8. Socrates 4.82%
9. Aristotle 4.52%
10. Karl Popper 4.20%
One can see why Marx came out tops. Kant is a tad too complex, Nietzche too controversial, who cares for medieval scholastics, and Socrates did not much care for Athenian democracy. And are we really prepared for the rule of philosophers advocated by Plato? Let’s have democracy for good or bad. Communism, of course, is its polar opposite. But, as Hobsbawm said, globalisation with its growing economic disparity and job insecurity is breeding a resentment where Marx’s diatribes against workers’ exploitation could strike a chord.
Mark Seddon in The Guardian writes: "Marx, now freed from his flawed pupils, is as liberating as he was when he published the Communist Manifesto 150 years ago."
Yes, the Cold War is over. The Iron Curtain has fallen. China is communist only in name. The USA, which battled communism in the past, is now waging war on terror. Seddon is right when he says: "nationalism and religious fundamentalism vie to fill a dangerous, illiberal void." No wonder some Britons are developing a soft spot for Marx. After all bomb-throwers today are more likely to be anti-communists. Godless philosophers have no place in the hearts of jihadists like Osama bin Laden.