Marx sets the boundaries

I would say that 99% of the time, in the various sort of mentions of Marx, the implication is that this is a critique of the United States. In fact, I will argue that one of the reasons that Marx continues to be received in the United States, read in the United States, and an important what I call ‘alter ego’ in American political culture, is precisely for that reason. If you want to be critical of the United States it is a good source to turn to. But there have been really important theorists such as Marshall Berman who wrote this book called All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, in which he argues that Marx is this theorist of modernity and that American culture is as modern as it gets and so the two can be sort of read together. Berman was a Marxist so he was obviously critical of capitalism and American capitalism, but he is not seeing the two as antithetical. I am trying to think through where I stand relative to that, and it really is hard to think about an American identity that would embrace or incorporate Marx, and I think one of the reasons that Marx is important is that he sets the boundaries of what it means to be an American. There have been intellectuals throughout American history since Marx began to be received in the United States who have wanted to argue for an American Marx, but I think that is a pretty difficult proposition.

–Andrew Hartman, Marx in the United States: An Interview


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