Sunday, March 6, 2016

Roger Scruton: Marxist Conservative!!

Yes, my title is partly facetious. Now Roger Scruton is a decent analytic philosopher, and the author of Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey (1994), which is actually a very good introduction to analytic philosophy and a favourite book of mine. Scruton (2015) is also a decent critique of some Postmodernist thinkers (though his critique of John Kenneth Galbraith in that book is both lazily ignorant and flawed).

But Scruton is also a conservative, and the author of the recent book How to be a Conservative (2014). As we see in this video, he’s a very odd conservative.

Scruton is a “reluctant capitalist.” He sees the downsides of capitalism and doesn’t appear to be a Thatcherite.

For all of his interesting points, I regret Scruton doesn’t understand economics, and I think his regard for Marxism is overblown.

The concept of the “commodity fetish,” for example, in volume 1 of Capital does not mean the obsession over consumption of commodities or pursuit of conspicuous consumption, nor does it refer to brand names (Heinrich 2012: 71). Scruton misunderstands Marx.

As I have shown here, “commodity fetish” for Marx means the social relations hidden by the process of the exchange of commodities. Commodities are “social” things, and the contingent social relations between people as labourers, consumers and capitalists occur through commodity exchange, even though this very process disguises those relations and makes them appear as somehow natural and unalterable (Harvey 2010: 39).

If Scruton and conservatives like him want to make capitalism great again, they need to understand and support Post Keynesian economics.

Harvey, David. 2010. A Companion to Marx’s Capital. Verso, London and New York.

Heinrich, Michael. 2012. An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital (trans. Alexander Locascio). Monthly Review Press, New York.

Scruton, R. 1994. Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey. Penguin Books, London.

Scruton, R. 2014. How to be a Conservative. Bloomsbury, London.

Scruton, Roger. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. Bloomsbury, London.

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