Someone is bound to wonder — Why bring up Karl Marx? Isn’t there some way to express what you are trying to say without complicating things by dragging in such a controversial figure?
Well, yes, probably. But that would be intellectually dishonest. Marx was the first to see and describe the processes which drive changes in social formations. As such, he deserves his due recognition. He saw then more clearly than most see now.
In his writings, Marx was very scrupulous about assigning proper credit to others for their ideas, as Paul Lafargue relates:
Capital contains so many quotations from little-known authors that one might think Marx wanted to show off how well-read he was. He had no intention of the sort. “I administer historical justice,” he said, “I give each one his due.” He considered himself obliged to name the author who had first expressed an idea or formulated it most correctly, no matter how insignificant and little known he was.
We owe him no less respect.
If you disagree with this assessment I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the subject of how disruptive general-purpose technologies are poised to change our economy in the decades to come. You could visit this website’s Rise of the Robot Economy section, for example, or read any one of a number of recent books on the subject.
After you gain a sense of what everyone is talking about read Marx’s preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy written in 1859. You can find the relevant excerpt here.
If you give Marx a fair and careful reading I think you will agree that his analysis is a valuable contribution to the subject at hand. Schumpeter called him “profound” in this regard.1 Daniel Bell wrote that in Marx’s work we find “the true starting point for the analysis of social developments in capitalist and advanced industrial societies of the West.”2 Pick up any sociology textbook and you’ll find Marx’s name mentioned as one of the most influential voices in modern thought.
I could go on with this defense, but I urge you, if you are put-off by the mere mention of Karl Marx, read the Preface yourself, and you tell me how we can, in good conscious, exclude Marx from this discussion?
1 Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (Harper & Brothers, 1942; reprint edition Harper Perennial Modern Thought edition, 2008) p. 42.
2 Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (Basic Books, 1973; Special Anniversary edition, 1999.) p. 56.