The Public Interest

Reviving Civic Republicanism

William A. Schambra

Fall 1983

A search is underway on the American left for a new set of theoretical roots. The old Marxian roots will no longer do, because of the failure of Marxism: There has been no crisis of the capitalist system leading to the worldwide ascendancy of the proletariat, as Marx had predicted. The left’s dissatisfaction with Marxism, however, has less to do with its failure than with its understanding of success. Marxism’s vision for the future-an equitably shared prosperity, followed by the withering away of the state-is based on an inadequate understanding of human nature and politics, according to many on the Ameriean left. It treats man as an economic animal whose primary needs are material, hence, capable of being satisfied almost entirely by modern technology. Politics, in the Marxian perspective, is merely instrumental to that economic end, and is therefore dispensable once material prosperity is secured for all.

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