The fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) seemed to herald the victory of capitalism over socialism, what Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History;” the failure and death of both Marxist thought and political movements. Fukuyama, an eloquent Hegelian political philosopher and one-time neoconservative (and continued anti-Marxist) asserts uncompromisingly in his “End of History” essay that ideology, not economics or material circumstances, broadly determine human activity and the course of history. Fukuyama, in all subsequent writings that I have read (even up until today), continually advances this Hegelian perspective on history, and Slavoj Zizek, not just a Marxist but a Communist/Hegelian/Lacanian, wonders if, in light of the unimpeded charge of capitalism since 1989, we are not all “Fukuyama-ists.” In Zizek, probably the most famous philosopher of the last 10 years, we find a sysnthesis of Hegelian ideology (“THIS, I claim, is the best formula of how ideology works”) and Marxist materialism, and Zizek often defends Hegelianism despite his continual encouragement of proletarian solidarity (of course, there has always been a leftist Hegel camp that sees no contradiction in endorsing both him and Marx).
Since 1989, almost ubiquitously, Marxist philosophy has been relegated in the global north to acadamia and debate amongst intellectual Marxists and other radicals (in the global south, Marxism has had significant social and political influence, too extensive for this discussion). However, with the 2008 global financial crisis, Marxist thinkers have found a new platform and wider audience for declaring the continued vitality and relevancy of Marx’s insights and assertions. Marxist economist Richard Wolff, for example, went on a massive speaking tour to promote his book and video Capitalism Hits the Fan, in which he claims that not only has capitalism failed, but Marixsm and Socialism are the only viable alternatives. David Harvey, a Marxist Geographer (whatever that is) has gained a degree of mainstream academic acceptance with his Marxist critique of contemporary global financial capitalism. His “Reading Marx’s Capital” podcast and youtube has enjoyed widespread popularity, and he shared a stage with Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, and detailer of capitalisms insidious tenacity, Naomi Klein, at least once.
Two giants of radical intellectualism (at least at one time) are avowed Marxists’ Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. In their trilogy; Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth, they show how capitalism has saturated the identity of all people and relations of all nations, but also offer a solution rooted deeply in Marxism. Furthermore, Negri in particular asserts that globalized capitalism has created a new class of person; the unemployed, un-utilized favela dweller in whom resides a great but un-profitable potential for productive, artistic, and revolutionary output (of course, it would be impossible to fully characterize the insights and assertions of these three large volumes in this blog post, suffice it to say they offer both an unintentional endorsement of [Empire], and counter-weight to [the other two], Fukuyama’s above depiction of Marxism and capitalism).
Regardless of capitalism’s supposed victory over socialism, Marxist thought has arguably grown in recent times and, as illustrated, both Marxist and anti-Marxist thinkers are still viable in todays intellectual and economic debate. Even Christopher Hitchens, radical leftist Trotsky-ite turned neoconservative, asserted until the end of his life that he was unapologetic about his Marxist leanings. In fact, he even reinforced another thinkers’ assertion in an article on “The Revenge of Karl Marx” that as long as capitalism lives, so too does Marx.