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Marxism in Asia

Japan, China, Vietnam And Southeast Asia, India, Conclusion, Bibliography

The writings of Karl Marx offer both a critique and a celebration of modern capitalism. On the one hand, Marx presented a devastating moral indictment of the capitalist exploitation of labor and the drowning of all human relationships in "the icy waters of egotistical calculation." On the other, Marx saw capitalism as a necessary and progressive phase of historical development, yielding the essential material and social prerequisites for socialism—modern industry and the proletariat.

The proposition that socialism presupposes capitalism was seen as universally valid. "The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production," Marx wrote in The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), "batters down all Chinese walls.… It compels all nations on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production. In one word, it creates a world after its own image."

In this mid-nineteenth-century anticipation of the late-twentieth-century phenomenon of "globalization," Marx assumed that the precapitalist countries of Asia were destined to follow the Western capitalist path of development. They would do so under the universalistic pressure of Western imperialism. While imperialism was morally detestable, it was historically progressive, breaking apart stagnant "Asiatic" societies unable to move into modern history on their own. In universalizing capitalism, imperialism was laying the basis for an international socialist future.

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