Marx disliked the capitalist system of his age, with its colonialism. Marx saw it as unjust, half-way between savagery and civilization. the only way to humanize the system was through the proletarian revolution. Yet, he thought, even colonialism and free trade were necessary: the immense colonial empires carved out by the European powers would facilitate the exportation of the revolution (as Engels wrote in Protectiona and Free Trade. Colonialism and world trade were an historical opportunity, so to speak, to make the revolution worldwide. Thus, Marx saw in the conditions of his days the gate through which his utopian world could not only be born, but exported to all the world, and especially the ‘Oriental despotates,’ as well, the means by which others could be enlightened.

To come back to my original question: is Marx relevant today? He is, if we understand his philosophy of history, which was his main interest and focus. He saw European capitalism and colonialism as universal, and originated a materialist view of history, a view that was Eurocentric–the spread of its political and economic enlightenment to the world. This view has influenced many thinkers after him–not all marxist as we understand the word–such as Wallerstein for example. It is necessary to understand Marx if we want to understand all economic theories of the 19-20th centuries, and study their development; it is necessary if we want to study where we stand ourselves after him, and if we take from him the undeniable continuity between the feudal to the modern order. If we recognize that the world in which we live today is the product of European/American economic imperialism (in whateever way we understnad this), then we may see in Marx one of the first to realize it. Even if few of us are Marxist in the sense we understand it, we are nonetheless influenced by his theories even today.