the revolution of capitalism, a point of view

Sự chuyển hóa của chủ nghĩa Tư bản

John Gray

The gyrations of the market are such that no-one can know what will have value even a few years ahead”

John Gray

3 September 2011 Last updated at 23:27 GMT

Plastic bust sculpture of Karl Marx

Karl Marx may have been wrong about (sai lầm về) communism but he was right about much of capitalism, John Gray writes.

As a side-effect (hiệu ứng phụ) of the financial crisis, more and more people are starting to think Karl Marx was right. The great 19th Century German philosopher, economist and revolutionary (nhà cách mạng) believed that capitalism was radically (về gốc rễ, từ căn bản) unstable.

It had a built-in tendency (xu thé có từ bên trong) to produce ever larger booms and busts (tăng trưởng và suy sụp), and over the longer term (về lâu dài) it was bound to (chắc chắn, tất yếu) destroy itself.

Marx welcomed (mong muốn … xãy đến) capitalism’s self-destruction. He was confident that a popular revolution (cách mạng quần chúng) would occur (xảy ra, happen, take place) and bring (biến đổi, turn) a communist system into being that (=what)  would be more productive and far more humane (nhân bản, hướng đến con người)

Marx was wrong about communism. Where he was prophetically (có tính tiên tri)  right was in his grasp (sự nắm bắt, thấu hiểu) of the revolution of capitalism. It’s not just (không phải chỉ là) capitalism’s endemic (của riêng nó, đặc hữu, cố hữu) instability that he understood, though in this regard (về phương diện này) he was far more perceptive (có cái nhìn sâu sắc hơn) than most economists in his day and ours.

Karl Marx

Marx co-authored (đồng tác gia, cùng biên soạn) The Communist Manifesto (bản Tuyên ngôn) with Friedrich Engels

More profoundly, Marx understood how capitalism destroys its own social base – the middle-class way of life. The Marxist terminology of bourgeois and proletarian has an archaic ring (âm sắc/có cái gì đó/âm hưởng/hơi hướng/ cổ xưa, lỗi thời)

But when he argued that (lập luận rằng) capitalism would plunge the middle classes into something like the precarious existence (sự sông bấp bênh, gieo neo) of the hard-pressed (khốn cùng, bị dồn vào cảnh khó khăn) workers of his time, Marx anticipated (dự kiến, thấy trước, tiên đoán) a change in the way we live that we’re only now struggling (xoay xở) to cope with.

He viewed (đánh giá, xem là, coi.. như) capitalism as the most revolutionary economic system in history, and there can be no doubt that it differs radically (tận gốc rễ) from those of previous times.

Hunter-gatherers (Người săn tìm-hái lượm) persisted (duy trì, not cease or change) in their way of life for thousands of years, slave cultures for almost as long and feudal societies for many centuries. In contrast, capitalism transforms everything it touches (tiếp chạm, đụng đến)

It’s not just brands that are constantly changing. Companies and industries are created and destroyed in an incessant stream (một dòng/ chuỗi không ngớt) of innovation, while human relationships are dissolved (tan rã)and reinvented (tái tạo) in novel forms.

Capitalism has been described as a process of creative destruction (phá hủy để tái tạo), and no-one can deny that it has been prodigiously (phi thường, thần kỳ) productive (tạo sinh, đẻ ra cái mới). Practically anyone who is alive in Britain today has a higher real income than they would have had if capitalism had never existed.

The trouble is that among the things that have been destroyed in the process is the way of life on which capitalism in the past depended.

Negative return: Thu nhập Suy giảm {see below.. }

Defenders of capitalism argue that it offers (mang lại, bring)to everyone the benefits that in Marx’s time were enjoyed only by the bourgeoisie, the settled middle class that owned capital (có vốn) and had a reasonable level of security and freedom in their lives.

In 19th Century capitalism most people had nothing. They lived by selling their labour and when markets turned down they faced hard times. But as capitalism evolves, its defenders say, an increasing number of people will be able to benefit from it.

Fulfilling careers (có được sự nghiệp vừa ý, viên mãn ) will no longer be the prerogative (đặc quyền) of a few. No more will people struggle from month to month to live on an insecure wage. Protected by savings, a house they own and a decent pension, they will be able to plan their lives without fear. With the growth of democracy and the spread of wealth, no-one need be shut out from (ngăn cấm không được hưởng) the bourgeois life. Everybody can be middle class (tầng lớp trung lưu)

In fact, (quả thực) in Britain, the US and many other developed countries over the past 20 or 30 years, the opposite has been happening. Job security (sự bảo đảm việc làm) doesn’t exist, the trades and professions of the past have largely gone and life-long careers (công việc, sự nghiệp cả đời) are barely memories (chỉ là chuyện dĩ vãng).

If people have any wealth (của cải) it’s in their houses, but house prices don’t always increase. When credit is tight (tín dụng bị siết chặt) as it is now, they can be stagnant (trì trệ, đóng băng) for years. A dwindling (ngày càng thu nhỏ) minority can count on a pension (tiền hưu trí) on which they could comfortably live, and not many have significant (=sunstantian, big) savings.

More and more people live from day to day, (sống ngày nào biết ngày đó), with little idea of what the future may bring (ngày mai sẽ xảy ra điều gì) . Middle-class people used to think (trước đây thường nghĩ) their lives unfolded (diễn ra)  in an orderly progression. But it’s no longer (Nhưng ngàt nay..) possible to look at life as a succession of stages in which each is a step up from the last.

Trader in France

Markets are a volatile business (mau thay đổi, dễ bùng nổ)


In the process of creative destruction the ladder (những thang bậc xã hội) has been kicked away (đá văng đi, bị sụp đổ) and for increasing numbers of people a middle-class existence is no longer even an aspiration.

As capitalism has advanced it has returned (đưa lại../dẫn đến) most people to a new version of the precarious existence (cuộc sống bấp bênh) of Marx’s proles (người vô sản). Our incomes are far higher and in some degree we’re cushioned against shocks by what remains of the post-war welfare state.

But we have very little effective control over the course of our lives, and the uncertainty in which we must live is being worsened by policies devised to deal with the financial crisis. Zero interest rates alongside rising prices means you’re getting a negative return on your money and over time your capital is being eroded.

The situation of many younger people is even worse. In order to acquire the skills you need, you’ll have to go into debt. Since at some point you’ll have to retrain you should try to save, but if you’re indebted from the start that’s the last thing you’ll be able to do. Whatever their age, the prospect facing most people today is a lifetime of insecurity.

Risk takers: Những người chấp nhận rủi ro 

At the same time as it has stripped (tước đoạt .. của) people of the security of bourgeois life, capitalism has made the type of person that lived (từng sống) the bourgeois life obsolete (bị lỗi thời) . In the 1980s there was much talk of Victorian values, and promoters of the free market used to argue that it would bring us back to the wholesome virtues (những giá trị lành mạnh) of the past.

For many, women and the poor for example, these Victorian values could be pretty stultifying (không còn mấy ý nghĩa) in their effects. But the larger fact is that the free market works to undermine the virtues that maintain the bourgeois life.

When savings are melting away being thrifty (tằn tiện) can be the road to ruin. It’s the person who borrows heavily and isn’t afraid to declare bankruptcy that survives and goes on to prosper.

When the labour market is highly mobile it’s not those who stick dutifully  to their task (cặm cụi vì công việc) that succeed, it’s people who are always ready to try something new that looks more promising.


In a society that is being continuously transformed by market forces, traditional values are dysfunctional (không còn tác dụng) and anyone who tries to live by them (sống theo đó) risks ending up on the scrapheap (có nguy cơ rốt cục bị vứt vào bãi rác, cuộc đời bỏ đi)

Looking to a future in which the market permeates every corner of life (thâm nhập mọi ngóc ngách cuộc sống) , Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto: “Everything that is solid melts into air”. For someone living in early Victorian England – the Manifesto was published in 1848 – it was an astonishingly far-seeing observation.

At the time nothing seemed more solid than the society on the margins of (ngoài rìa)  which Marx lived. A century and a half later we find ourselves in the world he anticipated, where everyone’s life is experimental and provisional, and sudden ruin can happen at any time.

A tiny few have accumulated vast wealth but even that has an evanescent, almost ghostly quality. In Victorian times the seriously rich could afford to relax provided they were conservative in how they invested their money. When the heroes (các nhân vật) of Dickens’ novels finally come into their inheritance, they do nothing forever after.

Today there is no haven of security. The gyrations (sự xoay vòng, quay cuồng) of the market are such that no-one can know what will have value even a few years ahead.

A protester faces a riot policeman in front of the Greek Parliament on 29 June 2011 in Athens as lawmakers moved towards a vote on a massive austerity package demanded by international creditors.

Austerity measures (biện pháp lưng buộc bụng) to reduce Greece’s debt has sparked (làm nổ ra) riots

This state of perpetual unrest (bất ổn, unstability) is the permanent revolution of capitalism and I think it’s going to be with us in any future that’s realistically imaginable. We’re only part of the way through a financial crisis that will turn many more things upside down.

Currencies and governments are likely to go under, along with parts of the financial system we believed had been made safe. The risks that threatened to freeze the world economy only three years ago haven’t been dealt with. They’ve simply been shifted to states.

Whatever politicians may tell us about the need to curb the deficit, debts on the scale that have been run up can’t be repaid. Almost certainly they will be inflated away – a process that is bound to painful and impoverishing for many.

The result can only be further upheaval (xáo động, =chaos, violent disturbance and disorder), on an even bigger scale. But it won’t be the end of the world, or even of capitalism. Whatever happens, we’re still going to have to learn to live with the mercurial (nhanh nhạy, biến hóa) energy that the market has released.

Capitalism has led to a revolution but not the one that Marx expected (=anticipated). The fiery German thinker (=philosopher) hated the bourgeois life and looked to (trông chờ, kỳ vọng) communism to destroy it. And just as he predicted, the bourgeois world has been destroyed.

But it wasn’t communism that did the deed (the job, the work) . It’s capitalism that has killed off (destroy, wipe out, terminate) the bourgeoisie

|  g . l . o . s . s  |

mercurial: thủy ngân, nước bạc, thần Mercury (Thủy tinh) / relating to or having characteristics (eloquence, shrewdness, swiftness, thievishness/ nhanh nhạy, luồn lách, khôn khéo,  liến láu) attributed to the god Mercury.
mob: đám đông, crowd of people (esp. a disorderly gathering)
riot: bạo loạn,  public act of violence by an unruly mob
perpetual unrest: bất ổn không ngừng, liên tục bất an


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: