Karl Marx's Mixed Legacy for Democratic Socialism - according to Gary Dorrien

I'm starting to tackly Gary Dorrien's 500+ page tome, Social Democracy in the Making: Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism (Yale, 2019) and I must say that he's doing a good job front-loading some interesting stuff to motivate his easily distracable readers (like myself) to stick with it. What follows is an excerpt wherein Dorrien reflects on Karl Marx's mixed legacy for democratic socialism. It reonates with me because Helmut Gollwitzer made a distinction between Marxism as an analytical tool and 'dogmatic Marxism' as an ideology, and I think that distinction in how Marx has been applied tracks with Dorrien's comments here. If you want more on Gollwitzer and Marxism, you could do worse than by starting here. But enough of that. On to the excerpt!
No definition of socialism as economic collectivism or state control of the economy or any particular ownership scheme is common to the many traditions of socialist thought. Various schools of democratic socialism hold ample right to the name without agreeing on its defining meaning or goal. Historically, Marxism played the leading role in reducing, for many, the idea of socialism to collective ownership. Karl Marx taught that the structure of economic ownership determines the character of an entire society, and socialism is the collective ownership of the means of production - a sufficient condition for fulfilling the essential aspirations of human beings. He developed the most powerful and illuminating critique of the capitalist system ever conceived, inspiring numerous traditions of Marxian criticism. His focus on the factors of production and the structural capitalist tendency to generate crises of overproduction and crash made permanent contributions to socialist thought. But Marx's dogmatic determinism, catastrophe mentality, and doctrine of proletarian dictatorship wrecked colossal harm. He developed his theory during an era in which democracy was merely a form of government and thus of low importance to him. His denigration of moral-everything obscured his own ethical wellspring. And his fixation on collective ownership wrongly identified socialism with a totalizing goal. (pp. 4-5)
Of course, one can always pick nits.


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