Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (7):833-859 (2007)

Claudia Leeb
Washington State University
In this paper, I argue that Marx's central concern, consistent throughout his works, is to challenge and overcome hierarchical oppositions, which he considers as the core of modern, capitalist societies and the cause of alienation. The young Marx critiques the hierarchical idealism/materialism opposition. In this opposition, idealism abstracts from and reduces all material elements to the mind (or spirit), and materialism abstracts from and reduces all mental abstractions to the body (or matter). The mature Marx sophisticates this critique with his theory of the commodity fetish. The commodity fetish abstracts the exchange-value (the mind) from the commodity's use-value (the body). Although Marx aims to challenge capitalism by abolishing the hierarchical relation among binary oppositions, I show that in his early and later writings on the working-class woman, he reinforces hierarchical binaries, pointing at the gendered unconscious structure of capitalism.
Keywords Marx  Materialist feminism  Hierarchical binaries
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DOI 10.1177/0191453707081682
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