Paul Blackledge

Sport: capitalism at play

Issue section: 

Can Marxism help us make sense of sport? Paul Blackledge mines Tony Collins's Sport in Capitalist Society and Michael Lavalette's collection Capitalism and Sport for some answers.

If the Winter Olympics in Sochi, London 2012, and the World Cup in Brazil prove nothing else, they confirm that sport and politics go together like a horse and carriage - and those who argue otherwise are at best illiterate or more likely ideological.

How socialists should respond to these events is also clear enough - no amount of grand spectacle could ever justify Russia's homophobia or Brazil's social cleansing. And for all its brilliance, the opening ceremony at London 2012 didn't justify the £11 billion spent on the games in a period of austerity.

Norman Geras 1943-2013

Issue section: 

The author of the seminal and groundbreaking work, Marx and Human Nature, was not without his faults.

Norman Geras died an apologist for imperialism and had spent the last decade and more trying to justify Bush's and Blair's drive to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. That said, it would be a mistake to dismiss all of his work because of where he ended politically. For in the decades before he became a warmonger, Geras made important, if flawed, contributions to Marxism that deserve rereading today.

Obituary: Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012)

Issue section: 

When he died last month, Eric Hobsbawm left behind a superb body of work explaining and criticising the development of capitalism - but his Stalinist-influenced politics nonetheless affected his history. Paul Blackledge looks back at the complex life of this important Marxist historian

Eric Hobsbawm, who died last month, was the last, and arguably the greatest, of an incredibly influential generation of British Marxist historians who cut their teeth in the Communist Party Historians' Group (CPHG) after the Second World War. This group, which included Christopher Hill, Rodney Hilton, Victor Kiernan, George Rudé, Raphael Samuel, John Saville, and Dorothy and EP Thompson, was an intellectual powerhouse whose members went on to make a frankly stunning collective contribution to the study of history.

The Marx Dictionary

Issue section: 

Ian Fraser and Lawrence Wilde

Former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson once remarked that he could never get past the first page of Marx's Capital. Irrespective of the vote-chasing reasons behind Wilson's cynical comments, many would accept his caricature of Marxism as an arcane theoretical system whose secrets remain the preserve of the professoriate.

Why workers can change the world

Issue section: 

Karl Marx's claim that the working class has the power to change the world is perhaps his most important contribution to socialist theory. Before Marx workers were viewed at best as victims of the system or more typically as a rabble whose existence threatened civilisation. Marx challenged these assumptions, arguing that workers' collective struggles for freedom pointed towards a potential socialist alternative to capitalism.

This vision is widely disparaged today. However, criticisms of Marx often miss their target. This is particularly true of those who reject his model of class from "common sense" or sociological perspectives which tend to equate class with social stratification - the various ways of differentiating people along lines of income, status, occupation or patterns of consumption. What, it is asked, do university-educated teachers, factory workers or low-paid shop workers have in common?

Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness

Issue section: 

István Mészáros, Monthly Review Press, £20

Politics is often presented as the "art of the possible" - an endless process of negotiation and compromise between individuals and groups making deals while aiming at divergent ends. From this perspective the desperate courtship of the Liberal Democrats by both Labour and Tory politicians after May's election is the political corollary of human nature: individuals have different needs, wants and desires, and (democratic) politics is the messy way in which we try to realise them together.

The New Old World

Issue section: 

Perry Anderson, Verso, £24.99

The EU is profoundly important to our lives, but its very complexity tends to be off-putting to anyone attempting to grasp its nature. So this serious study of the EU, written by a foremost Marxist intellectual, is to be welcomed.

Ireland's second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - completed last year after Perry Anderson finished his book - is a useful point of departure. The treaty was agreed at a meeting of EU leaders in June 2007 after the collapse of the EU constitution.

Y is for Young Hegelians

Issue section: 

Marxism was born of a synthesis of the most advanced aspects of bourgeois social theory: English political economy, French socialism and German classical philosophy.

In retrospect the first two elements of this seem obvious enough.

Among the political economists, Adam Smith had shown that labour was the essence of value, while David Ricardo, despite being on the opposite side of the barricades, had pointed to the rationality of working class struggle.

Meanwhile, the socialist workers who Karl Marx met in Paris were living proof of an alternative to the egoistic individualism assumed to be natural by the economists.


Subscribe to RSS - Paul Blackledge