In an article in World Affairs, Alan Johnson asks how Communism could be making a comeback among a cadre of intellectuals after the ideology's history of misery and mass murder during the twentieth century. Johnson maintains that the new Communists have little interest in history, which explains their ability to overlook the atrocities of Stalinism and Maoism. They also, in his view, have no clear plan for the future. The appeal of Communism, he argues, lies in Communists' identification of all the problems of modern society as interlinked and systemic. If "the system," as it currently exists, is the source of all problems, then the answer to all problems must be to have a revolution that will completely replace the system with some new state of affairs.
I suppose we are fortunate that most of the new Communists Johnson names are abstruse theorists unlikely to have any impact outside of seminar rooms. But this "systemic" perspective is clearly an instance of what the sociologist Gideon Sjoberg approvingly called the "countersystem" approach in the social sciences, looking at current reality as an interlinked web of "social problems" and imagining a completely different organization of human relations. This, I would argue, was precisely why Communism always became totalitarian whenever its adherents achieved power: because they treated human societies not as products of history or as living associations among human beings, but as abstract patterns to be totally redesigned by planners of a new system.