Cultural Footprints in Public Discourse

Take a brief moment today to consider name-calling as a rhetorical device. Most of us would agree that it is disgusting when a person calls another person a name simply for the purpose of stigmatizing his or her ideas. This is a terrible approach to debate and dialogue. It may work to solidify opposition among the less astute, but it is nonetheless little more than mud-slinging. Not every use of names can be reduced to mud-slinging, though.

We would do well to recognize that many very historical names leave behind massive cultural footprints. Granted, sometimes people can be falsely charged as Marxists, Pelagians, Hitlers, and the like. However, to evoke one of these names—and myriad others—in a spirited debate, is not necessarily reducible to mud-slinging. In fact, oftentimes, when we reduce the use of these historical names in the cultural dialogue to mere mud-slinging, we run headlong into the error of denying cultural footprints and we demonstrate that we are ignorant of history.

For instance, a person who has studied church history should be very aware of the Pelagian debate where Augustine asserted that men must be enabled by God to do what He requires us to do. Pelagias responded that God would not require anything of us that we are incapable of accomplishing. When some professors and seminary presidents respond to Calvinists with the same line of argumentation and, subsequently, they are told they are making Pelagian arguments, they will often accuse their brothers of mud-slinging. By accusing Calvinists of mud-slinging, simply because they did not (directly) receive their argumentation from Pelagius himself, they deny Pelagius’ cultural footprint and / or demonstrate that they are ignorant of a major debate in church history.

Likewise, a person who has studied political history should be very aware of the Marxist debate where Marx and Engels asserted that a narrative must be forwarded that pits oppressors against oppressed so that a one-world communist utopia could arise. Marx and Engels primarily focused on economics, but they were also for the toppling of other institutions as well, like the family and the church. For them, any destabilization would lead ultimately to revolution, and revolution could only make possible the rise of their desired utopia.

So, when Christian leaders start to smuggle this language of oppressor and oppressed into the church, the idea of a power struggle between classes even within God’s church, some have rightly called them on the use of a Marxist tactic. Yet, predictably, they claim that this recognition of Marxism is nothing more than mud-slinging. By accusing their detractors of mud-slinging, simply because they do not (directly) receive their argumentation from Marx and Engels, they deny Marx’s and Engel’s cultural footprints and / or demonstrate that they are ignorant of a major debate in political history.


The next time someone uses a name you consider to be very negative to describe your position, try not to respond with a knee-jerk reaction and accuse them of mud-slinging. Rather, ask them why they make that connection. You may have imbibed a cultural footprint of which you are unaware. You may have a blind spot in your understanding of history. The other person may have a very valid reason for the connection he or she is making and, if he or she doesn’t, you can offer a more gentle correction than merely accusing him or her of mudslinging.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

untitledThe Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Penguin Classics (August 27, 2002)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0140447571

ISBN-13: 978-0140447576





“Originally published on the eve of the 1848 European revolutions, The Communist Manifesto is a condensed and incisive account of the worldview Marx and Engels developed during their hectic intellectual and political collaboration. Formulating the principles of dialectical materialism, they believed that labor creates wealth, hence capitalism is exploitive and antithetical to freedom.

This new edition includes an extensive introduction by Gareth Stedman Jones, Britain’s leading expert on Marx and Marxism, providing a complete course for students of The Communist Manifesto, and demonstrating not only the historical importance of the text, but also its place in the world today.”



The Communist Manifesto – Monthly Review Press

“First published in London in 1848, The Communist Manifesto is one of the most important books of all time: a document which helped to define the emerging socialist movement, altered the course of world history, and is universally acknowledged to be a cornerstone of modern social thought.” read more…


Book Review: The Communist Manifesto – Francis Beckett

Listen to Our Discussions of This Book

Listen to Our Discussion of This Book

“No philosopher’s reputation has plummeted in my lifetime as dramatically as that of Karl Marx. As late as the 1970s, it was still fashionable to claim an ideology deriving from Marx. Ambitious young politicians like John Reid and Alan Milburn called themselves socialists and even Marxists as comfortably as they later called themselves New Labour.” read more…


The Communist Manifesto – Roger Spalding

The Communist Manifesto was a product of the social, economic and political turmoil that characterised Europe before 1850. Both of its authors, Marx and Engels, were touched by elements of this turmoil. Karl Marx, born in 1818, came from the Rhineland, an area occupied by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. During this period the French abolished feudal restrictions, introduced religious toleration and secularised the state. Many, like Marx’s father, benefited from this liberal regime. When, after Napoleon’s defeat, the Rhineland passed under Prussian control, Hirschel Marx, Karl’s father, abandoned Judaism for Christianity to retain the right to practise as a lawyer. Friedrich Engels, born in 1820, came from a family of German industrialists: he had, therefore, first-hand knowledge of the effects of rapid industrialisation. In 1842 Engels moved to Manchester to work at the family cotton mill. This took him to the heart of the world’s first industrial nation.” read more…