Ten years ago I picked my best friend up from the airport and he mentioned that he sat next to someone on the airplane who was reading Karl Marx’s gigantic Das Kapital. He was beside himself as to why someone would subjugate themselves to that. At the time, I didn’t have an answer but the question stuck in my mind for some reason because here I am still, thinking about that question all these years later.
Today, the book Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari gave me a reasonable answer to that question.
In the west, we’re used to associating Karl Marx with Marxism, and from there we think of communism, mass starvation and misery. But in his time he was a more significant intellectual because he was the first to think about how industrial institutions affect humanity:
“Before Marx, people defined and divided themselves according to their views about God, not about production methods. Since Marx, questions of technology and economic structure became far more important and divisive than debates about the soul and the afterlife. In the second half of the twentieth century humankind almost obliterated itself in an argument about production methods.”
Marx’s ideas caused untold human suffering in the decades after his death but in many ways he was the first sociologist, perhaps what Charles Darwin is to biology.
I felt like this video from The Economist explored this subject better than I did:
“Although there is a lot to learn from Marx his solution is far worse than the disease”