A couple of years ago when I was at York University I remember a conversation between two other graduate students at a campus restaurant, in that campus mall. They were talking about capitalist development, and how it ought to be judged considering a radical critique and considering the betterment of people’s lives. The example of South Korea came up and the one student pointed out that living standards had gone up and people were living better lives than they had been living some fifty years ago in general, and that this was a result of capitalist development. What would a Marxist say to that? The other student tried to counter that a Marxist would talk about how capitalism alienates the worker from fellow workers, or something like that, trying to give a fairly abstracted answer to a fairly concrete question. It was clear the brother didn’t know much about South Korea.
Neither did, I for that matter. I don’t remember if I interjected to voice what I do remember thinking, that to the contention that capitalist development had raised living standards a Marxist would not, without concrete investigation, say much. The Marxist would go and study South Korea and see what trajectories its historical development had taken, and then come back with an answer about whether or not capitalist development was beneficial to it.