I’m lecturing on Hobbes this week. Since it is a first year lecture, I’m not going to get too deep into any of the controversies, but I will try to give the students a sense of who Hobbes was, why he remains important and how his ideas connect to other topics they may come across. I’ll probably say something about Hobbes’s time resembling ours as a period of acute religious conflict.
Suppose I were lecturing about Karl Marx: I’d do the same thing. I’d probably start by discussing some of the ideas in the Manifesto about the revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie, about their transformation of technology, social relations, and their creation of a global economy. Then I’d say something about Marx’s belief that, despite the appearance of freedom and equality, we live in a society where some people end up living off the toil of other people. How some people have little choice but to spend their whole lives working for the benefit of others, and how this compulsion stops them from living truly truly human lives. And then I’d talk about Marx’s belief that a capitalist society would eventually be replaced by a classless society run by all for the benefit of all. Naturally, I’d say something about the difficulties of that idea. I don’t think I’d go on about Pol Pot or Stalin, I don’t think I’d recycle the odd bon mot by Paul Samuelson, I don’t think I’d dismiss Hegel out of hand, and I don’t think I’d contrast modes of production with Weberian modes of domination (unless I was confident, as I wouldn’t be, that my audience already had some sense of those concepts). It seems that Brad De Long has different views to mine on how to explain Karl Marx to newbies. Each to their own, I suppose.