Marx’s Capital is back on the bookshelves in Germany -- but the Marx in question is a Catholic bishop. And while his book is a response to the crisis of capitalism the revolution he is calling for has more to do with Rerum Novarum (1891) than Das Kapital (1867).
You’ve got to hand it to the Bishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx: he is a savvy marketeer. The cover of the 300-page Das kapital: a plea for man is in ecclesiastic purple but modelled on the German edition of Karl’s tome. The timing, of course, could not be better -- the first print-run of 15,000 has already been sold.
It’s not exactly a call to revolution (but then nor was Karl’s). Bishop Marx says it is an "argument with Marxism" and calls for a return to the cosy, socially responsible "Rhineland model" of capitalism that has been dismissed "as a social-romantic relic of the postwar years".
Recently, Bishop Marx addressed the conference of European bishops (COMECE):
"The social teaching of the Church has for a long time recognised the idea of global governance in order to bring justice, transparency and responsibility into the world’s financial markets. Now the time has come to implement this social teaching. It is also important for our governments, as well as for the EU-Institutions, to start caring for the situation of those citizens who - without being responsible - will nevertheless have to carry the social consequences of the financial crisis. We have arrived at the precise moment where the European social model should prove itself in order to avoid turning the financial crisis into a political and social crisis."
It is usually when a connection is seen to exist between scandalous profiteering and the plight of the most vulnerable that questions get asked about the system itself. It is hard not to see that connection in news that repossessions in the UK are up by 70%. It seems lenders are rushing to take over the properties of borrowers in arrears before house prices drop further.
If the system is unable to reach the sensible conclusion that bonuses should go to a hardship fund to help people survive the recession and stay in their homes, then the system, people will begin to say, is structurally flawed.
Marx - the bishop -- is right. This is the moment when the financial crisis risks becoming a political and social one.