He's not likely to elbow Galileo out of the way in the hallways of the Vatican archives, but Karl Marx is apparently enjoying a mild Roman restoration this week. The Times of London is reporting a Marxist uprising at the Vatican, or at least l'Osservatore Romano, which published a piece on October 22 approving Marx’s early critiques of capitalism, which highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded from economic and political decision-making, not unlike what folks overrun by our own era's Great Recession are probably feeling.
According to the Times:
Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx’s work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx’s theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.
“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”
Marx joins a short list of previously problematic historical figures—Galileo, Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde—who have been recently revisited with approval by l'Osservatore Romano. Perhaps the Vatican's paper of record's affirmations of President Obama were merely meant as preemptive historical correctives?
The Times finds it noteworthy that this Marxist reassessment accompanies Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate, a veritable fault-finding mission into contemporary capitalism's heart of darkness. With the Obama administration resurrecting Keynes and Rome finding a seat of wisdom for Karl Marx to recline in, surely we are witnessing signs of the end times of our economic tribulation. It won't be long before we're all humming along: Happy days are here again!