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Machiavelli and Modern Thought

R. Fahan

Machiavellian Approach to Society

Continuing a Critique of Burnham

(January 1944)

From The New International, Vol. X No.1, January 1944, pp. 24–28.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In our first article, we demonstrated that the Machiavellian approach [1] is grounded on the tacit foundation of a theory of human nature as immanent and static; and that once the latter theory is disproved, the Machiavellian assumption has its main prop kicked from under it. Nonetheless, we think it valuable to discuss the Machiavellian sociological approach in terms of its own propositions – again, if only because they are so much in vogue at present – reserving for our third and final article the political conclusions of Machiavellianism.

Burnham derives almost completely from Pareto in the realm of sociology. His mind is attracted by the system-making quality of Pareto’s fuzzy dialectics: the formally rigorous logic of his classifications, the occasional instances of brilliant but strictly secondary analysis, the pious adherence to “science.” Especially appealing to Burnham’s present mood of blasé cynicism is Pareto’s theory of “non-logical action” which is both a socialized restatement of the human nature theory and the major operational concept of his sociology.

According to Pareto, there are two types of human action: logical and non-logical. Logical action is that in which the subject considers his needs and position, selects a certain goal as desirable and realizable on the basis of that consideration, and resultantly chooses adequate means to attain that goal. The action is logical in that the result corresponds to the motivation of the activity. Non-logical or irrational activity, on the other hand, contains goals and means which do not correspond; possibly the goal is unrealizable in the context of the situation in which it has been chosen and the means are therefore necessarily futile; or the goal is realizable and the means may be improper. In any case, it is the non-logical activity which comprises the prevalent social life of the great bulk of the masses and only a tiny, self-conscious minority – the manipulators of history, the elite – is capable of logical activity. It is obvious, of course, that there are innumerable irrational activities in both individual and social life. [2] The entire science of psychoanalysis is dedicated to the attempt to discover the significance of these non-logical activities in individual behavior; it labels them as neuroses, actions “to escape an unbearable situation. The strivings tend in a direction which only fictitiously is a solution” (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom). The social group acts irrationally, not merely out of a desire to escape an unbearable situation, but out of an immature or inadequate attempt to solve a pressing problem. But to state that such activities exist is not to solve the problem.

Non-Logical Activity in Historical Context

Why are there certain non-logical activities at a certain time and another kind at another time? Out of what ingredients is the myth of the social group (or the neuroses of the individual) formed which composes the basis of the non-logical action? Pareto, and Burnham after him, make no attempt to answer this question. In this, they betray their non-historical approach. The primitive tribe which worships a totem pole and hopes thereby to be blessed with a bumper crop is engaging in a non-logical activity; when the European working class, as a result of an entire series of concrete experiences, continues to place its faith in its Stalinist betrayers, it also thereby engages in a non-logical activity. One can, if so inclined, construct a profound theory of history – with even a new vocabulary to gloss over its platitudinous ancientness – on this type of observation. But it contributes nothing to an understanding of either totem worship or the European working class.

One must attempt to explain, on the basis of a specific, unique historical analysis, what were the factors in the life of the primitive tribe which led it to totem worship. What was their cultural level which made it possible for them to believe that the worship of a totem pole would have efficacious results in as disparate a field as agriculture? What in their background let them to link the two experiences into a miraculous totality? How had their religious life developed in relation to their tribal organization, their mode of production, their geographical position? What contact with other groups, if any, helped enshrine the totem worship? These questions, placed in the concrete context of the social situation as it is (that is, inductive analysis together with theoretical construction on the basis of the knowledge gleaned therefrom and compared to similar inquiries) indicate the means by which to discover the relationship between the rational and irrational; not a mere a priori generality gleaned from a predilection about “human nature.” The Machiavellian approach is concerned, however, not with analyzing the relationship between the logical and non-logical action, but merely in establishing the dichotomy. There it demonstrates its non-utility as a means of historical inquiry and its social bias as well.

The Class Determination of Social Activity

For it is obvious enough that not only is the relationship between logical and non-logical action historically determined in the sense of being a resultant of specific historical situations, but it is also class-determined in that it is, within a given period, the resultant of class points of view and perspectives. When Burnham writes of logical activity as comprising a proper adaptation of means to end, he is dealing not with some neutral problem in abstract logic, but with the major societal problem of contemporary life. What one considers the proper means to reach a given end is largely determined by one’s class outlook. Is the Leninist method proper for achieving socialism? No one can answer that question as if it were a problem in calculus or physics. Such questions can be answered only from a position, as must all questions involving means and ends, social activity and class outlooks. [3] The social bias in Burnham’s conception of non-logical actions is in his equation of the elite with logical action and the non-elite with non-logical action – of course, once again asserting at the beginning that which he is supposed to prove at the end.

But not only is the Machiavellian concept of non-logical action without either historical or class reference; it is, as posed, contrary to elementary scientific methodology. The specific form in which Pareto poses his theory of non-logical action is illustrated by his most notorious sociological distinction, that between “residues” and “derivatives.” Residues consist of the common underlying psychological element in different actions; they are invariable and incapable of further explanation. Social life is determined by a considerable number of these unchangeable entities which themselves have neither a function nor a meaning nor even an origin; they are simply there! Burnham lists as among Pareto’s residues: the instinct of group-persistence, the sexual expression, the tendency of human beings to manipulate elements of their experience into systems, the need for expressing sentiments by external acts, and similar platitudes. From these basic causal factors come most of human activity; it is therefore non-logical. When men begin to develop rationalizations – what Pareto calls “the work of the mind in accounting for residues” – they are the derivatives. Though Burnham tries to wiggle out of it, Pareto clearly identifies his residues with “instincts” and thereby admits the psychological basis of his theory.

Does Science Have a Place?

But the question arises: If the origin, meaning and development of the basic factors causing social habits is not deter-minable, then how can one speak of using the experimental, scientific method in sociology or history? If we must always refer to the unknown and unknowable – as in religion – then of what value are Pareto’s (and after him, Burnham’s) scientific pretensions? Science is concerned with cause, with explanation of one series of phenomena or sequences in terms of another. Pareto’s method is directly contrary.

As the psychologist, Carl Murchison, very correctly says:

If Pareto means that human actions and thoughts are lawless and do not consist of events that follow inevitably from other events under restricting conditions, he has made a statement entirely unsupported by experimental science and impossible of verification. No lawless event can ever be verified, either experimentally or logically. (Journal of Social Philosophy, October 1935.)

In other words, the profound discovery of Pareto and Burnham consists in the idea that the great mass of human actions are beyond the scope of scientific investigation. If that is true, there is – this is the sole consolation – little need for their tomes.

There are other appalling weaknesses in the Paretian construction. How does one prove the causal sequence from residue to derivative if the former is so hazy and vague and the latter so arbitrary in its development? How does one explain the vast sequences of change in human history? And what right do Pareto and Burnham have to rail against the rationalists who believed in the permanent goodness of mankind? For Pareto shares with the rationalists the belief in the essential identity of morals, religion and so forth throughout mankind, with the sole difference that the rationalists choose to give an optimistic bias while the Machiavellians strike a pessimistic pose. Neither has much relation to science. But if they are to be compared, the rationalism of Rousseau is quite preferable to the negative rationalism of Pareto, if only because of the contrasting uses to -which they have been put.

“Real” and “Formal Meanings”

Behind all the metaphysics about logical and non-logical actions, residues and derivates there lies a very vital historical problem. That is what Burnham calls the distinction between “real” and “formal” meanings. As he uses this distinction, it is a wiseacreish means of debunking rather than a weapon of analysis. His book is full of exposés showing that people didn’t act out the motives they believed were behind their actions and of exposés showing that the ideological program of a social group was camouflage for diverse or contrary ends. But this kind of exposé has slight historical value; for the sophisticated student, aware of the fact that men do not always act out the motives they proclaim, it has no real value.

Burnham, for instance, cites the struggle between Dante and Machiavelli. Dante, though speaking in terms of the most noble platitudes, really represented feudal reaction; while Machiavelli, despite his cynical realism, spoke for the progressive town elements desiring a unified Italian nation. Dante then, hid his “real” meaning behind his “formal” one; Machiavelli expressed both congruently. But Burnham here again fails to use a historical approach. It is true that Machiavelli represented progressive forces [4] in comparison with Dante; but it is only when the phrase “in comparison” is used that the sentence has meaning. To do so is to admit that the entire question of real and formal meaning is historically conditioned. Then it descends from the clouds of permanent residues and enters the reality of historical relations. For though there is a greater scientific value to Machiavelli’s political writing than to Dante’s, the former’s are by no means free from “ideology.” Machiavelli too appeals to generalized conceptions such as “justice” – only he can afford to be much more concrete than Dante since the cause of rising capitalism which he championed was more akin to the interests of humanity as a whole than was Dante’s feudal society. Every rising, revolutionary class speaks in the name of humanity as a whole, in addition to championing its own interests; and this is not merely a device, it is almost always a genuine belief. It is there that the Marxian concept of “ideology” plays such an illuminating role – in demonstrating the concrete relationship between the true meaning (the class interest) and the formal meaning (the appeal to and in the name of humanity). The Machiavellian concept is little more than a sophisticated refurbishment of the old Platonic duality between substance and essence, between the phenomenon and the ideal; it is a form of statement rather than explanation.

The Marxian Concept of Ideology

The Marxian concept of ideology, on the contrary, is historical and relativistic in its approach. It sees in each historical situation, ultimately in the mode of production, the major though by no means exclusive determining force for the rise of an ideology; it destroys the duality between real and formal meaning and establishes the concrete connection. A vivid description of the ideological process has been given by Engels:

Ideology is a process accomplished, to be sure, by so-called thought but with a false consciousness. This process does not know the actual motive forces behind it, otherwise it would not be an ideological process. Being a process of thought, it derives its content as well as its form from pure thought, either on its own part or on that of its predecessors. It works with mere mental material, which it assumes and accepts as the product of thought and for which it does not seek any more remote process that may be independent of thought, and all this is self-evident to this process, for it regards all action, since it works through thought, as also in the last instance based on thought ... This illusion of an independent history of national constitutions, legal system, ideological conceptions in each special field of knowledge, is the element which leads most people astray mentally. (Letter to Mehring, July 14, 1893.)

The fact that a social group speaks in terms of generalized welfare in its formal platform and really represents a special interest does not necessarily disqualify it as either scientific or progressive, in the context of its times. The real test is: How much closer do the formal and real meanings coincide in the case of one class or group than in the case of the other? Social life is a problem in choice, within necessary limits. There is more scientific truth in Voltaire than in a defendant of the Bourbon monarchy, even though Voltaire speaks in the grandiose generalities of rationalism; Danton comes a little closer to scientific understanding of the historical process in which he acted than Voltaire; and in turn Robespierre more so than Danton.

The relationship between real and formal meaning, then, depends on the class relationships which they express and on the historical level within which they function; the reason for the particular configuration of the real-formal relationship is always specific, historical, relative. The Machiavellian attitude, on the contrary, merely establishes the dichotomy as a pernicious constant, pats itself on its back for not indulging in such fantasies, and attempts no explanation. The result is that Burnham’s understanding of history is limited to a monotonous chant: “They didn’t really mean it ...” And not only that; he falls into an ideological trap which is supposed to be the special province of Marxism (in reality, of its vulgar traducers). He ascribes to the formal element a completely negative rôle: “the entire formal meaning, which has told us nothing and proved nothing ...” (page 19). But this is precisely the vulgar approach of denying the importance of what Marxism calls the ideological superstructure in historical causation. It is not true that the formal meaning tells nothing or proves nothing; quite the contrary. In actual historical research, we must often proceed from the formal back to the real meaning; the former provides endless clues to the latter, and it often plays a great retroactive rô1e in influencing the real meaning of a historical movement. Who would dare deny that the humanistic aura of the French Revolution was an important factor, even though it was basically a bourgeois revolution? Or any one of a million other instances. Burnham, driven by idealistic metaphysics of Paretian sociology, winds up with an extraordinarily mechanistic historical approach.

The Theory of the Elite

We have dealt so laboriously with this whole matter of logical and non-logical actions, real and formal meanings because it is basic to the conception of the elite which is the central point in Machiavellian sociology. The concept of the elite, as used by the Machiavellians, is far from rigidly defined and contains considerable elements of confusion. Since Pareto and Burnham refuse to accept the Marxian analysis of a ruling class as a social, historically limited, relationship based on a specific mode of production, and since they likewise refuse to accept any rationalist or normative wish-fulfilling theories, they must necessarily resort to one of two approaches: definition by external description or by an endowment of the elite with superior native qualities. Strangely enough, they utilize both. Typical of the first approach is Pareto’s definition of the elite as consisting of “individuals who directly or indirectly play some considerable part in government.” Mosca’s definition is hardly more illuminating:

Political power always has been and always will be exercised by organized minorities, which have had and will have the means, varying as the times vary, to impose their supremacy on the multitude.

These tautological definitions form the basis for one of the two approaches which the Machiavellians have toward the elite conception. But the ground is shifted when Pareto sets up his “index of efficiency” as a means of distinguishing between elites and non-elites. For, dearly, to say that “X has a high index number of efficiency in some field of activity” is not the same as saying that “X is high in the social scale” ... unless one attempts, as does Pareto (but Burnham shies away from this!) a correlation between the curve of stratification of society in intelligence, and the curve of distribution of income. But this assumption is patently unprovable, since the curve of income has changed in, say, the last two centuries in any number of ways, while the biological endowments with which elites are presumably blessed must have remained constant. It is not difficult to see the moral sanction afforded to the status quo and its elite by the theory that the governing elite is endowed with a high “index number.” (The quaintness of phrasing is Pareto’s, not ours.) They are on top because they’re smarter; they’re smarter because they’re on top: is that a vulgarization?

Burnham, however, confines himself to the descriptive, tautological approach. He lists vague qualities which fail to clarify. Does the elite include the politicians, the managers, the capitalists, the landowners, the state bureaucracy? If so, what is the relationship between them? Who rules and who administers? Who drives and who is driven? But Burnham never once attempts to give substance to his definition of the elite by considering such questions ... It might even lead him back to the old Marxian concept of classes, from which he recently had such a narrow escape. All we are told is encompassed in the profundities: the elite ... is the rulers. The rulers ... are the elite.

We are given no indication of how the dynamics of a given society, its tensions and conflicts, its character and transformation, may determine the rôle and composition of a ruling elite. As Franz Borkenau remarks in his book on Pareto:

As art cannot be explained by the fact that there is a large differentiation in artistic talent between the members of a community, so political domination cannot be explained by the fact that different individuals are suited in varying degrees for exercising domination. Domination must be explained as a social need and not as a desire or intention of the elite. If the necessity for domination is understood, then and then only the function of the dominating group can be made intelligible ...

Pareto treats domination as a natural, quasi-biological fact arising out of the existence of a group specfically talented for domination ... [Consequently] the elite must have some natural features characteristic of rulers in common, which are lacking in the mass of mankind. If domination is mainly the result of natural biological differentiations, then the rulers must represent some sort of higher race.

Why Do Elites Degenerate?

But – and now we reach the crux of the problem – if elites, by definition, are endowed with superior qualities, why, then, in the course of history, do ruling groups so conspicuously degenerate? On this crucial question, as on every other. Machiavellian theory is unable to explain change in history. And if you can’t explain change, what can you explain?

Pareto himself is puzzled by this problem. He writes that “aristocracies do not last. For one reason or another (our emphasis), after a certain time they disappear.” This sentence, which Burnham does not quote in his book, reveals the complete helplessness of Machiavellianism before the factor of history. It can draw up long catalogues of surface similarities between different historical epochs; it can debunk idealist movements without understanding their significance; it can “explain” hosts of diverse actions under fuzzy categories; but it is helpless to explain change, that is, history.

Burnham attempts to wriggle out of the dilemma by dragging in Pareto’s auxiliary concept of “circulation of elites.” There is a change in the elite’s makeup when the old elite has become stultified, corrupt and softened from power, and unwilling to admit new, fresh elements. Resultantly, a change of elites takes place. But there are here several contradictions. If, as Pareto claims, there is a constant correlation between the curves of social stratification and biological endowment, why should a free circulation of elites be desirable? Then, presumably, it would be desirable to keep the elite closely confined ... to avoid, shall we say, racial poisoning. Secondly, how does the new, fresh elite that is to “circulate” itself (what a fantastic euphemism for revolution!) into the place of the old one, come by the qualifications required of the elite? Let us take the French Revolution as an example. Both the courtiers of Louis XIV and the cabinet of Robespierre constituted, in different ways, elites. But to lump them together under the one general heading clarifies nothing about the French Revolution. What were the residues that Robespierre possessed which made it possible for him to triumph where Mirabeau failed? Could it just possibly have had something to do with the class fluctuations, the rôle of Robespierre as a representative of the most revolutionary section of the petty bourgeoisie? When confronted thus with an actual historical situation the theory of the elite can serve no function except to offer the incredibly sage statement that the Bourbons and Jacobins both were elites, and the Jacobins acquired more of the necessary qualities needed by a successful elite than did the Bourbons, and therefore triumphed. This is what Lenin once called the “enrichment of history.”

The question applies with even greater force to the present day. Why does the German elite (incidentally, who, according to Burnham, would be the German elite: the Nazi bureaucracy, the army leaders, the capitalists, or all of them jumbled up together?) show such greater durability and toughness than its Italian cousin? A Marxist would suggest that a glance at the industrial potentials of the two countries and their relation to the world market might supply a clue to the answer.

If the elite concept cannot explain past history, does it give any due to the future? All that it can contribute on this score is the barren formula that elites are inevitable and classless societies impossible. Since our final article will concern itself with this question, we shall not discuss it here, except to note that it is the same James Burnham who broke with Marxism because he said it contained a philosophy of optimistic inevitability who is now trumpeting this inevitability, but in a socially retrogressive form.

In summary, then, the concept of the elite is of no particular theoretical or political value since:

  1. it is too vaguely defined to be of operative use and, in the Machiavellian scheme, has at least two exclusive definitions;
  2. there is no evidence to demonstrate any natural endowment making for a social elite;
  3. it makes impossible any explanation of change in history;
  4. it fails to explain why certain elites are relatively more durable and successful than others and why all elites that history has known thus far have sooner or later disappeared from the scenes.

The Interdependence Theory of History

All that remains to complete our discussion of the general concepts of Machiavellian sociology is a consideration of its formal theory of history. [5] We have deliberately left this for last, since it plays a secondary rôle in Burnham’s book. Formally, he adopts the popular theory of historical interdependence: a multiplicity of historical factors interact and the resultant is history. But the theory ends where it should begin. Granting that there is an interplay of historical forces – so what? The theory has no means of measurement or comparison. Why do certain historical factors play a decisive rôle and others a secondary one? Which provides the power and which cools the engine? To note that there are many factors in history is merely to create confusion unless one also provides a means of evaluating them. Historical materialism is one such means; it is a means of measurement (of at least an approximate nature) and evaluable. The simple interaction theory, however, provides no such tools; it is a means of evading historical analysis rather than indulging in it. To say “pluralism” is not to wave a magic wand, even if it gives the author a roomy feeling and relieves him of the requirement of historical specificity in his analysis.

But this is merely the formal historical theory of Burnham. In reality, he seldom uses it. His real historical theory is incredibly crude and mechanistic, for it is nothing else than a refurbished version of the force theory of our old friend, Herr Eugen Dühring.

Throughout his book, Burnham stresses the rôle of force as an arbitrary determining factor in history. “Force and fraud” – these are the means by which elites maintain their power and the latter is used primarily as a kind of substitute for force, which always stands in the background ready to exert its sovereignty. In Burnham’s approach, the force theory – much as with old Dühring – is abstracted into a universal determinant, without any ties to existing historical institutions and hence without historical limitations. That an elite may exist because of a certain set of productive relations rather than because it is in possession of the means of forces does not occur to Burnham. As Engels so appropriately wrote of Dühring:

Superior force is no mere act of the will but requires very real preliminary conditions for the carrying out of its purposes, especially mechanical instruments ... In a word, the triumph of force depends upon the production of weapons, therefore upon economic power, on economic conditions, on the ability to organize actual material instruments.

Force in Social Life

Surely everyone knows that force has been an unremittant ingredient of social life, but we still must ask what has shaped this socially neutral means of action, what has bent it in one direction or the other? To say that force has always existed is to say that there has never been social equality, which is what the historical investigator begins with, rather than ends with. The very mechanisms of force are historically conditioned; the uses to which it is put are obviously so.

Writes Engels:

... Force is only a means to further an economic interest ... In order to be able to keep a slave one has to be superior to him in two respects, one must first have control over the tools and objects of labor of the slave and over his means of subsistence also ... Especially where private property arises it appears as the result of a change in the methods of production and exchange in the interests of the increase of production and the development of commerce and therefore arises from economic causes. Force plays no role in this. It is clear that the institution of private property must have already existed before the robber is able to possess himself of other people’s goods, and that force may change the possession but cannot alter private property as such. (Anti-Dühring)

But for Burnham, as a true Machiavellian, such historical considerations are not to be noticed; one reiterates constantly that force has always been used in social life, it is the ultimate determining factor in social struggles, and that it will always be so. Thus, from the “flexible” and “pluralistic” interaction theory of history, we come to a rigid, vulgar theory of force. This development is not unique. It is the outstanding characteristic of Machiavellian theory: the would-be anti-rationalists turn out to be rationalists. The champions of “science” turn out to be champions of metaphysics. The crude, unrelenting empiricists turn out to be sheer idealists. In a word, to use Burnham’s argot, there is no relation between the real and formal programs of Machiavellianism.

* * *

In the third and final article of this series, we propose to discuss the political conclusions of Machiavellianism, namely, the so-called Iron Law of Oligarchy, the problem of bureaucratic degeneration of organizations, and the possibility of achieving a classless society.


1. A number of readers have brought to my attention the possibility that in accepting Burnham’s usage of “Machiavellianism” as the label for his theories, I allow to go unchallenged his identification of his theories with those of Machiavelli. It goes without saying that I do not accept such identification but use the term as Burnham does merely for lack of another handy label. We are really dealing with a form of pseudo-Machiavellianism or perhaps neo-MachiavellianIsm, but that is clearly too clumsy, so I’m afraid we’ll have to tag along with “Machiavellianism” as the label for Burnham’s approach, if for no other reason than convenience.

2. The observant reader may wonder at the continued reiteration in both this and our first article on tbe distinction between individual and social life. For surely they are intertwined and retroactive! This we would be the last to deny. We are, however, compelled to affect what at times may seem to be an overly fine distinction between the two because of the continued Machiavellian practice of congealing them, of failing to note the vital distinctions in analytical approach necessary to the individual psyche and the social class, even though no one could possibly deny that they are interdependent.

3. Does this mean that objective investigation into history is impossible, that historical truth does not exist outside of class interests? This question, always posed by the anti-Marxists, is here irrelevant since we are dealing not with investigation but with activity, and no one has yet demonstrated the existence of any major social activity – logical or not – which is not in some way influenced by class interests (using the word “interest” in the broad sense Marx always did).

4. It is extraordinarily noteworthy that Burnham utilizes the concept of historical progressivism in relation to Machiavelli and Dante – and with quite valid results – but completely “forgets” about it when discussing the modern Machiavellians. But if it is proper to place Machiavelli and Dante in their class contexts, why not do so for Pareto and Mosca? Why not also examine the social use and the social purpose of their theories? Would the result be embarrassing?

5. Burnham disposes of the Marxian theory in brief. “Social and political events,” he writes, “of the very greatest scope and order – the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islam – have occurred without any important correlated change in the mode of economic production; consequently, the mode of production cannot be the sole cause of social change.” In one brief sentence, Burnham has succeeded in accumulating the platitudes of a century of academic effort – and the dishonesty as well. To wit: (1) Marxism has never claimed that every social and political event must be “correlated” by a change in the means of production; (2) on the contrary, the belief in a one-to-one relationship between the mode of production and social and political superstructures is one against which Marxism has constantly polemized; (3) Marxism has, as a matter of fact, explained social and political changes such as those Burnham mentions as the results of rising new classes which challenge the existing mode of production, or as a result of modifications within the mode of production, such as the change from industrial to finance capitalism; (4) Marxism has never claimed that the mode of production (does Burnham mean changes In the mode of production?) is the “sole” cause of social change; (5) Marxism has examined at least the first two of Burnham’s examples in great detail, notably in Kautsky’s Foundations of Christianity, with such success that subsequent historians have liberally borrowed from it, without, of course, acknowledging their source. Marx himself paid considerable attention to the rise of Christianity, as did his co-workers among the “Young Hegelians,” during his early period; as witness the interest aroused by the publication of Strauss’ Life of Christ, an early attempt to explain Christ’s life in natural, historical terms (see Mehring’s Karl Marx).

But, most important, why does Burnham have to go back twenty centuries to prove the inapplicability of the Marxian historical method? Why not attempt to offer evidence from somewhat more recent historical experience? Or is it easier to “disprove” Marxism by vague references to the rise of Islam than by references to contemporary capitalist society?

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