The 'disembodied self' in political theory: The communitarians, Macpherson and Marx

Philosophy and Social Criticism 28 (2):191-211 (2002)
The communitarian critique of liberal agency is reminiscent of two earlier critiques: C. B. Macpherson's theory of possessive individualism and Marx's theory of alienation. As with the communitarian critique, Macpherson and Marx saw the liberal individual as being in some way 'disembodied'. Where they differed from communitarians was in the attention they paid to the actual social relations that gave rise to such an image. The comparison is thus fruitful because the emphasis Macpherson and Marx give to the concrete circumstances of disempowerment highlights the overly abstract nature of the communitarian critique, demonstrating how it, and other similarly abstract normative theories, might maintain a focus on actual social relations. Key Words: alienation • communitarism • disembodiment • labor • liberalism • Macpherson • Marx • self.
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