The strands of ideology that shape SA’s political economy are deep. Sometimes we are not even conscious of them. One of the most important is Marx’s theory of history, a vision of the world that spans the ANC alliance from left to right. It sets the terms for debate and action. It will play a powerful background role in attempts by the Treasury to cut back the public service wage bill by R50bn a year and save us from a ratings downgrade.

Marx’s dialectical materialism conceives of the world fight between implacable foes for material benefit, with history unfolding in its wake. Those foes are classes in society, principally labour and capital. This way of seeing the world defines what is possible — the kinds of engagements we can have with each other and even the ideas we can convey...

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