Marxism was big.
Then Marxism was a big disappointment.
There had been an idea that we New Leftists of the 1960s were on to something new, but then a lot of us, circa 1970, turned back to Marxism. After turning forward, circa 1990, there had been an idea that perhaps 1970 represented the last turning back. But there now is a new New Left and some are turning back again, unfortunately.
Circa 1975 we were reading Ernest Mandel:
He wrote two major books: Marxist Economic Theory and Late Capitalism. They were big and we all read them. When he said “late capitalism” we assumed he meant “the system is in terminus and soon will pass away.” So we thought we’d outlive the sorry system.
Mandel’s Marxist theory proved disappointing. We never should have listened to him. It turned out, unfortunately, that we had to live our whole lives under the sorry system.
The labor theory of value was wrong and ideas about “long waves of expansion and contraction” were wrong and the “organic composition of capital” (wrong) and the “tendency of the profit rate to fall” (wrong) and “the system is in terminus” (wrong).
The system has changed, though. In the wake of the Great Depression the power elites who profit from the system made an adjustment, re: allow governmental deficit spending, under the rubric of Keynesianism. In the wake of the Great Recession the power elites who profit from the system made another adjustment, re: monetize the debt resulting from the deficits, under the rubric of Modern Monetary Theory.
And so, therefore, inertially … growth, super-profits, hyper-exploitation, and inequality continue … while, as Frederic Jameson famously conjectured, it might now be easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.