What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Communism's dedicated historian

This is remarkable article. I think it rewards a full and careful read, despite my obvious quarrels with its writer and subject. I am impressed by the lengths to which Eagleton has gone to prove Marx innocent of determinism. Conceivably it is phantom of recent debates here, but I am also struck by how spiritual, even mystical, is the portrayal of historical materialism. The essay shines with a palpable warmth; Eagleton has given us a kind of romance of the 20th century Marxist historian.

Marinate on this extraordinary passage: “Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work. It holds that the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it, and that art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity.”

In other words, Marxism is for hippies too.

Romance is fine for intellectuals; for the rest of us, the Bible is more realistic about things: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

I happen to agree with Eagleton that “Marxism been back on the agenda, placed there, ironically enough, by an ailing capitalism.” The idea fills me with dread, but I simply cannot shake the strong presentiment that defenders of capitalism have not properly absorbed the black secrets exposed by the financial crisis of 2007-09.

But what role a new Marxism might play “on the agenda” is not question I’m prepared to conjecture about at the moment.

The specific subject of Eagleton’s essay is the Communist Eric Hobsbawm, about whom Eagleton reserves fulsome and sundry praise. Here is a man who has well and truly prostrated everything at the feet of the Communist ideal. The end of Communism could, for him, justify all means. He once answered a television intereviewer’s question: “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?” Hobsbawm: “Yes.”

This and countless other perfidies are recounted ably by David Pryce-Jones in a 2003 essay for The New Criterion.

Whatever we might say about Marx (and Eagleton, I think, says some interesting things about him) we can certainly say that this particular historian has dedicated his life defending one of the most gruesome tyrannies ever devised by men.

There is no political cause comparable to Communism in at least this respect — it allows respectable men to endorse mass butchery, connive at sedition, falsify scholarship, and still live to be revered by the very sort of men and women who would surely perish, had that “radiant tomorrow actually been created.”

[Hat tip on these links to Pejman Yousefzadeh.]

Comments (8)

"...the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it...art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity...”

Well, yeah, sure - if one's idea of "art" &/or "authentic human activity" is, say, a Warhol piss-painting.

The *Eroica* Symphony, on the other hand, was not "done simply for the hell of it."

Dudes like Eagleton cannot be treated with too much contempt.

Yeah, and the Chartres Cathedral cannot be call "just for the hell of it" either. Eagleton seems to terribly conflate the old categories - leisure, work, recreation - by calling everything that isn't work "leisure". But classically, the distinction is that pursuits of leisure are pursuits worth doing in themselves, because they are inherently noble, high, righteous. Recreation is often done "for the hell of it", like racing a bike. Nothing about racing a bike is noble, no matter how well you do it.

Warhol's piss paintings aren't worth anything, not even bothering to piss at "for the hell of it", They are a net negative drain on the universe.

Racing a bike can be, like so many other pursuits, a vale of soul making. It entails the many profound connections between body and soul, and the disciplines of both that make success in sport possible. When together the body and soul accomplish remarkable things, it glorifies the God who made them, even when those whose body and soul they are do not.

I thought you Catholics had a theology of the body.

Michael Novak is pretty good with the theology of sport. So also, in his more secular way, is George Will.

Tony - unfortunately, said "paintings" are "worth" a fortune.


Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work.

Yes, of course. Because if you dislike having to work then you should by all means--literally--prevent others from profiting from their work. Whether or not they like work, or its fruits. Why should anyone else be allowed to benefit from something one dislikes oneself?

Re: art & doing things for the hell of it, Eagleton does have a point, although his expression of it is rather lacking. From a conservative point of view I'd say that you'll find a much richer explication of the idea of "superfluous beauty" in Roger Scruton's writings on aesthetics.

Nazism was based on racial hatred, while socialism is based on class hatred. By the 1930s, racism was becoming an atavism, whereas the Depression had given socialism renewed appeal to the herd of independent minds. The Nazis never claimed to be slaughtering their millions for the salvation of all mankind. So the luckless victims of socialism were done in on a more resplendent altar in a better-attended political temple, is all.

"...the luckless victims of socialism were done in on a more resplendent altar in a better-attended political temple..."


If only *I* had said that.

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