Any possibility of what Ross Douthat is calling a “Marxist revival” among Americans is a fascinating thing to contemplate, particularly if you happen to be a monarchist (like myself). You see, Marxism and monarchy, while they have almost nothing in common from an intellectual standpoint, are comrades when it comes to cultural derision.
These “M-words” are both ideas that most Americans have been trained, from the cradle, to hold in contempt. Announcing publicly that you are a Marxist or a monarchist is sort of the political-economic equivalent of “coming out of the closet”—and, in some ways, coming out as an M-word might be worse: In the former case, people will just think you are immoral, but as an M-word, on the other hand, they will think you are immoral and stupid.
And there’s little anyone can do about it so long as the taboo persists. Argument is fruitless because the prejudice is not based on a decision—it is simply an a priori form of perception.
This is why it seems almost inconceivable that Marx could once again become culturally “relevant.” It is one thing for a moral or sexual taboo, such as that against divorce, to lose its authority, because moral transformations can come about unconsciously. But Marxism is an idea, and the taboo connected to it can’t slip away unnoticed. When Marxism transforms from pejorative term to talking-point, deep shifts are underway.
I mention all these things because, while I really can’t explain why or how this “revival” is happening, I can say that my reaction to it is a glowing optimism. After all, if American prejudices are loosening enough to have calm discussions about the merits of Marx, then, who knows?—maybe someday soon I might be able to have a calm discussion with someone about the merits of the monarchy.
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One fine body…