Radical Philosophy was born in the aftermath of the student movement of the 1960s. At that time, philosophy in British universities was very conservative and traditional. Ordinary language philosophy, the analytical approach, and the empiricist tradition were absolutely dominant. However, the student movement of the 1960s had opened young people's minds to a whole new range of radical ideas and issues. These were dismissed as not worthy of study, and excluded from discussion in philosophy departments.
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)
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.
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.
According to materialism, everything that exists or happens is ultimately material or physical. In some form or other, this philosophy is a fundamental component of modern thought. For, with the development of modern science, it has become increasingly clear that natural phenomena can be described and understood in materialistic terms, without recourse to the notions of a divine creator or an immaterial human mind.
The appearance of this Korean translation of Reality and Reason gives me the opportunity to clarify the purpose of the book and to indicate some of the areas in which my views have developed and altered in the years since it was first written. My primary aim in the book is to explain and defend the realist and materialist view that there is an objective material world of which we can have knowledge. My argument, I have now come to realise, (...) takes a Kantian `transcendental' form. I do not prove these propositions from any more fundamental or indubitable premises, for there are none. Rather, starting from the assumptions that there is a material world and that knowledge of it is possible, I try to show how such knowledge is possible Β what are its necessary conditions Β and what this entails about the nature of subject and object, appearance and reality, and the relations between them. Althusser and Ruben adopt a similar approach, I now see, and I regret my polemic against them on this topic (pp. 9-14). A great deal of traditional epistemology starts from the Cartesian assumption that we have immediate and indubitable knowledge of the contents of subjective consciousness, of appearances; whereas objective reality is something beyond and separate, and related to appearances only contingently. Once a dualistic gulf is created in this way between subject and object, knowledge of the objective world by the subject becomes inexplicable and impossible. The possibility of such knowledge obliges us to reject dualism and assume instead the unity of subject and object, appearance and reality. Reality must not be regarded as a mere `thing-initself' beyond or behind appearances, it is revealed in and through appearances. And appearances are not purely subjective: they are not mere appearances, but always and necessarily the appearances of some aspect of objective reality which is disclosed in and through them.. (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 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)
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)
For the past decade, the government has been ruthlessly pursuing free market policies. It has introduced market forces into many walks of life previously protected from them; and it has vigorously promoted the values of the `enterprise culture'. The economic and social consequences of these policies have been dramatic and profound. On the one hand, there has been a radical economic `restructuring': a ruthless sweeping away of much that was old and inefficient, and a considerable streamlining and modernizing of the (...) economy. In the process, however, the lives of countless individuals have been disrupted. Communities, and even whole regions, have been devastated. Millions have been thrown out of work, or forced into new and often uncongenial occupations. (shrink)
British universities have just gone through their third Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The `research output' (i.e. publications) of every participating department has been graded by panels of `experts' on a seven point scale. The purpose of this massive operation is to provide a basis for distributing funds for research. In theory, the idea of allocating these scarce resources according to the standard of the work produced seems fair and reasonable; but in philosophy, at least, that is not how things work (...) out in practice. (shrink)
Le pas d'acier was conceived in 1925 at the height of enthusiasm for the Russian Revolution both in Russia and abroad. Prokofiev intended the ballet to `show the new life that had come to the Soviet Union, and primarily the construction effort.' He quotes Yakulov as saying that the ballet would portray `the uplifting influence of organised labour.' (Prokofiev 1991, 278). In its theme and its staging it is a celebration of industry and labour.
According to Plato, the true philosopher will take on political power only with great reluctance. Onora O’Neill is a prominent political philosopher: specifically, a latter day Kantian and a follower of Rawls. She is also Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge and, as Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve, a crossbench Peer in the House of Lords. I have no idea whether she was at all reluctant to take on these positions. Happily, on the evidence of the present book, they do not appear (...) to have compromised her philosophy. (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: 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.
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)
Scholarly interest in Marxist philosophy has fluctuated dramatically in the past fifty years. Before that, there was little scholarly work in Britain on Marxist philosophy or on Marxism more generally. In the nineteen fifties there were important contributions by economic theorists1 and social historians2 but academic discussion of Marx's philosophy or even of his political theory was minimal and mainly by critics.3 There were only a few philosophers who adhered to Marxism and these were mostly associated with the British Communist (...) Party. This was an orthodox party aligned with the Soviet Union in its political and theoretical standpoint.4 It was never a large political party, unlike those in some other European countries such as Italy or France, and had only a limited impact on British intellectual life. (shrink)
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)
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)
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 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)
The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of actual material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life, so must civilized man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all possible modes of production. With his development this realm of physical necessity expands as (...) a result of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can blossom forth only with the realm of necessity as its basis. The shortening of the working day is its basic prerequisite. (Marx 1971, 820). (shrink)
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)