The concept of alienation: Hegelian themes in modern social thought -- Creative activity and alienation in Hegel and Marx -- The concept of labour -- The individual and society -- Freedom and the "realm of necessity" -- Alienation as a critical concept -- Private property and communism -- The division of labour and its overcoming -- Marx's concept of communism.
Marx conceives of labor as form-giving activity. This is criticized for presupposing a "productivist" model of labor which regards work that creates a material product — craft or industrial work — as the paradigm for all work (Habermas, Benton, Arendt). Many traditional kinds of work do not seem to fit this picture, and new "immaterial" forms of labor (computer work, service work, etc.) have developed in postindus trial society which, it is argued, necessitate a fundamental revision of Marx's approach (Hardt (...) and Negri). Marx's theory, however, must be understood in the context of Hegel's philosophy. In that light, the view that Marx has a "productivist" model of labor is mistaken. The concept of "immaterial" labor is unsound, and Marx's ideas continue to provide an illuminating framework for understanding work in modern society. (shrink)
For Marx, work is the fundamental and central activity in human life and, potentially at least, a ful lling and liberating activity. Although this view is implicit throughout Marx’s work, there is little explicit explanation or defence of it. The fullest treatment is in the account of ‘estranged labour’ [entfremdete Arbeit] in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts;1 but, even there, Marx does not set out his philosophical assumptions at length. For an understanding of these, one must turn to Hegel. Marx (...) is quite explicit about his debt to Hegel in this respect. (shrink)
Is there such a thing as human nature? Sean Sayers gives an ambitious and wide ranging defence of the Marxist and Hegelian approach to uphold the controversial theory that human nature is actually a historical phenomenon.
Why work? Most people say that they work only as a means to earn a living. This is also implied by the hedonist account of human nature which underlies utilitarianism and classical economics. It is argued in this paper that Marx’s concept of alienation involves a more satisfactory theory of human nature which is rooted in Hegel’s philosophy. According to this, we are productive beings and work is potentially a fulfilling activity. The fact that it is not experienced as such (...) is shown to be at the basis of Marx’s critique of capitalist society. (shrink)
At a time when many professional philosophers in the English speaking world have all but given up the attempt to think critically and in large scale terms about the modern world, MacIntyre's work is defiantly untimely, and greatly welcome for that. It is remarkably wide ranging, comprehensive and thought provoking. He has been described as a `revolutionary Aristotelian', but this indicates only part of the picture. His work draws on ideas not only from Marx and Aristotle, but also from analytical (...) philosophy, philosophy of science and Thomist sources; and it combines these all together to construct a critical response to the modern condition. It has generated important debates among thinkers in all these areas. (shrink)
The dialectical method, Marx Insisted, was at the basis of his account of society. In 1858, in a letter to Engels, he wrote: In the method of treatment the fact that by mere accident I again glanced through Hegel's Logic has been of great service to me... If there should ever be the time for such work again, I would greatly like to make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in two or three printer's sheets, what is rational in the (...) method which Hegel discovered.1 But he never did find the time for this work. As a result, Marx's dialectical method and the ways in which it draws on Hegel's philosophy remain among the most controversial and least well understood aspects of Marx's work. My purpose in this paper is to explain some of the basic presuppositions of this method and to bring out their significance for Marx's theories. I shall do so by focusing critically on G.A. Cohen 's account of Marxism in Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence. In this important and influential work, Cohen contrives to give an account of 2 Marxism in entirely non-dialectical – indeed, in anti-dialectical – terms. By criticising Cohen 's views I will seek to show that the dialectical method is the necessary basis for an adequate theory of history and an indispensable part of Marx's thought. The major purpose of Cohen 's book is to develop and defend a particular interpretation of historical materialism, the Marxist theory of historical development. Cohen claims that his account is an `old-fashioned' and a `traditional' one ; and, indeed, in certain respects it is. For, in contrast to the tendency of much recent Marxist writing, Cohen strongly emphasises the materialistic and deterministic character of Marx's theory of history. He insists that the development of the productive forces is the primary motive force for historical change, and portrays Marxism as a form of technological determinism. However, there are various different forms of materialism, not all of them Marx's. (shrink)
Wherever there is movement, wherever there is life, wherever anything is carried into effect in the actual world, there dialectic is at work. It is also the soul of all knowledge which is truly scientific. (Hegel, Enc. Logic, sec. 81Z, p. 148).
Discussion of Marxism in the Western world since the nineteen-sixties has been dominated by a reaction against Hegelian ideas.1 This agenda has been shared equally by the analytical Marxism which has predominated in the English speaking world and by the structuralist Marxism which has been the major influence in the continental tradition. The main purpose of my own work has been to reassess these attitudes.
Marx's concepts of individual and society have their roots in Hegel's philosophy. Like recent communitarian philosophers, both Marx and Hegel reject the idea that the individual is an atomic entity, an idea that runs through liberal social philosophy and classical economics. Human productive activity is essentially social. However, Marx shows that the liberal concepts of individuality and society are not simply philosophical errors; they are products and expressions of the social alienation of free market conditions. Marx's theory develops from Hegel's (...) account of "civil society," and uses a framework of historical development similar to Hegel's. However, Marx uses the concept of alienation to criticize the liberal, communitarian and Hegelian conceptions of modern society and to envisage a form of individuality and community that lies beyond them. (shrink)
The concepts of identity and community have recently been the subject of a good deal of debate in social philosophy, much of it focused on the ideas of writers like MacIntyre, Taylor, Walzer. These philosophers are often referred to as `communitarians', though they do not constitute a united school and none of them identifies himself as such. Nevertheless, there are good reasons 1 for grouping them together, for they share some important elements of common ground. In their different ways, each (...) develops a critique of liberal and individualist social theory and formulates a philosophy which recognises the reality and value of community. (shrink)
This paper discusses Marx’s concept of alienated (or estranged) labour, focusing mainly on his account in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. This concept is frequently taken to be a moral notion based on a concept of universal human nature. This view is criticized and it is argued that the concept of alienation should rather be interpreted in the light of Hegelian historical ideas. In Hegel, alienation is not a purely negative phenomenon; it is a necessary stage of human (...) development. Marx’s account of alienated labour should be understood in similar terms. It is not a merely subjective discontent with work; it is an objective and historically specific condition, a stage in the process of historical development. Marx usually regards it as specific to capitalism. The criticism of capitalism implied in the concept of alienation, it is argued, does not appeal to universal moral standards; it is historical and relative. Overcoming alienation must also be understood in historical terms, not as the realization of a universal ideal, but as the dialectical supersession of capitalist conditions of labour. Marx’s account of communism as the overcoming of alienation is explained in these terms. (shrink)
The concept of alienation is one of the most important and fruitful legacies of Hegel's social philosophy. It is strange therefore that Hegel's own account is widely rejected, not least by writers in those traditions which have taken up and developed the concept in the most influential ways: Marxism and existentialism.
The fundamental principles of modern dialectical philosophy derive from Hegel. He sums them up as follows. ‘Everything is inherently contradictory ... Contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality, it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity' (Hegel 1969, 439). In Hegel's philosophy these ideas form part of an all−embracing idealist system which portrays all phenomena ×− both natural and social ×− as subject to dialectic. Marx (...) inherits and transforms these ideas; but how precisely he does so has been a topic of much dispute within western Marxism. Marx himself describes his relation to Hegel with the aid of a couple of graphic but vague metaphors. He says that he turns Hegel's dialectic ‘right side up' in order to ‘discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell' (Marx 1961, 20). But how can this be done? Is there a ‘rational kernel' to Hegel's dialectic? If so, how can it be extracted? (shrink)
The concept of authenticity -- the idea of `being oneself' or being `true to oneself' -- is central to modern moral thought. Yet it is a puzzling notion. This article discusses two accounts of it. Essentialism holds that each individual has a `true' nature or self. Feelings and actions are authentic when they correspond to this nature. This approach is contrasted with views of the self as a complex entity in which all parts are essential, and in which authenticity involves (...) the harmonious functioning of all parts together. This approach is illustrated from Freud and Plato, and defended against the charge of conservatism (Marcuse) and the postmodernist rejection of the very idea of an integral self (Rorty). (shrink)
Since 2007, capitalism has been going through its greatest crisis since the 1930s or before. In 2008, the banking system was saved from meltdown (at least for the time being) only by extensive government intervention in the USA, Britain, and a number of other countries. Stock markets all over the world plummeted. Then the crisis spread to the ‘real’ economy. A long and deep recession followed. Only now are we perhaps beginning to see what may – or may not – (...) be fragile signs of recovery. Capitalism, it is sometimes said, has been on the verge of collapse. (shrink)
Has Marxism a future, now that communism has collapsed throughout Eastern Europe and is in crisis everywhere else? It is often said that Marxism is discredited and refuted by these events: they signify the triumph of capitalism and the free market, the `end of history'. At the other extreme, some Marxists in the West would like to believe that history has not yet begun. For them, socialism is still a distant dream. The old regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern (...) Europe had nothing to do with true socialism. Their demise, therefore, has no bearing on Marxism: no rethinking is required. (shrink)
Something about my book, Marxism and Human Nature,1 seems to have provoked Eagleton's hostility and clouded his mind, but it is difficult to figure out what. All that is evident from his review is that he has not read the book carefully or taken the trouble to understand it properly.
It seems evident that class differences and class struggle continue to exist in socialist societies; that is to say, in societies like the Soviet Union and China, which have undergone socialist revolutions and in which private property in the means of production has been largely abolished. I shall not attempt to prove this proposition here; rather it will form my starting point. For my purpose in this paper is to show how the phenomenon of class in socialist society can be (...) understood and interpreted in Marxist terms; and, in particular, to explain and expound Mao Zedong's attempt to do so. For one of Mao's most striking and important contributions to Marxism was his recognition that `contradictions among the people' continue to exist in socialist society, and his attempt to explain them within the theoretical framework of historical materialism. Marx outlines his account of historical development in the following well-known words: It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - what is merely a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within the framework of which they have hitherto operated. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. At that point an era of social revolution begins. With the change in the economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more slowly or more rapidly transformed. (Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) It has been common to interpret these words as expressing a simple form of economic or even technological determinism which would rule out the very possibility of class divisions continuing to be a fundamental feature of socialist society. For, according to this account, a socialist society, by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production, thereby abolishes the material and economic basis of class differences; and so classes are destined to die out in socialist society 2 as the forces of production are developed. According to this interpretation, which I shall call the `traditional' account, in Marx's account of historical development all the emphasis is placed upon the development of the productive forces.. (shrink)
The idea that knowledge is a social phenomenon is no longer either novel or unfamiliar. With the growth of the social sciences, we are accustomed to seeing ideas and beliefs in social and historical terms, and trying to understand how they arise and why they take the forms that they do. Philosophers, however, are only gradually coming to terms with these views. For they call in question ideas about the nature of knowledge which have dominated epistemology since the seventeenth century.
other approaches. The first of these is `material thinking' (das materielles Denken): `a contingent consciousness that is absorbed only in material stuff', a form of thought which is rooted in existing conditions and cannot see beyond them. At the `opposite extreme' is the transcendent critical method of `argumentation' (das Räsonieren), which involves `freedom from all content and a sense of vanity towards it'. The dialectical method, Hegel maintains, must `give up this freedom'. It refuses `to intrude into the immanent rhythm (...) of the Notion, either arbitrarily or with wisdom obtained from elsewhere'. Instead, it `sink[s] this freedom in the content, letting it move spontaneously of its own nature ... and then ... contemplate[s] this movement' (Hegel 1970 p. 56; Hegel 1977 pp. 35-6). (shrink)
In common with other forms of nonreductive materialism, emergent materialism of this sort is accused of trying to have its cake and eat it. Ontological physicalism, it is said, necessarily implies reductionism which rules out the idea that there are irreducible emergent mental properties and laws. For according to such physicalism, everything is composed of physical constituents whose behaviour is governed by the laws of physics and mechanics. It follows that, in theory at least, every particular mental process is describable (...) and explainable in purely physical terms, without recourse to mental descriptions. Description in terms of emergent properties and laws seems superfluous. Nothing save the complexity of the task prevents us from describing and explaining everything that exists or happens in purely physical terms. (shrink)
Hiding behind the anodyne title of this book is a work of large scope and considerable interest for the Hegelian reader. Its main purpose is to vindicate a dialectical interpretation of Marxism in the context of recent analytical Marxism. The book falls into two parts. The first contains a detailed account of the dialectical philosophy implicit in Marx's work, and of its background in the philosophies of Kant and Hegel. The second shows how this account of Marx's approach can be (...) used to resolve some of the major issues in Marxist philosophy and to illuminate some of the central topics in Marxist social, political and economic thought. (shrink)
I recently visited the Soviet Union. I was there for only one week, as a tourist: time to get only a very limited and superficial impression of life there. Nevertheless, it was a sobering and thought-provoking experience. For even such a brief visit forces one to confront the problems raised by the evidently unideal character of the Soviet Union and other `actually existing' socialist societies. These are amongst the greatest problems facing socialists in the world today.
Few people now read F.H. Bradley and the British Idealists. This is not because they are not important philosophers. On the contrary. It is generally agreed that Bradley, in particular, 2 is a major philosopher, as well as a great, if demanding, writer. It is rather because Bradley and the other Idealists are thought to inhabit a philosophical world quite different from that of the mainstream of contemporary philosophy. They seem to be concerned with issues and problems which have little (...) or nothing to do with the topics which concern most philosophers nowadays. (shrink)
The extraordinary capacity of computers to hold text is familiar to anyone who uses a word processor: an average book will fit comfortably onto a 3.5" floppy disc. With the growth of easy means of communication between computers an immense quantity of information has become available on a world-wide basis. The links may not yet amount to a "superhighway", but they are fast, efficient and increasingly user-friendly. Moreover, like the roads, the system is free to users (though the Clinton administration (...) has made some ominous noises about introducing charges). It is open to anyone with access to a computer connected to JANET (the Joint Academic Network in Britain), INTERNET, or one of the other electronic communications networks that now span the globe. That means almost everyone teaching at an institution of Higher Education in this country, often including postgraduate students, and sometimes undergraduates as well. The material available on-line falls into three broad categories. (shrink)