Marx thinks that capitalism is exploitative, and that is a major basis for his objections to it. But what's wrong with exploitation, as Marx sees it? (The paper is exegetical in character: my object is to understand what Marx believed,) The received view, held by Norman Geras, G.A. Cohen, and others, is that Marx thought that capitalism was unjust, because in the crudest sense, capitalists robbed labor of property that was rightfully the workers' because the workers and not the capitalists (...) produced it. This view depends on a Labor Theory of Property (LTP), that property rights are based ultimately on having produced something. (A view oddly enough shared with the libertarian right, though the LTP is better support for egalitarian or socialist views; see my From Libertarianism to Egalitarianism, 18 Social Theory & Prac. 259-288 (1992).) -/- I show that the idea that Marx's objection to exploitation is based on injustice or LTP-grounded theft is mistaken. Marx's real objection to exploitation is based on unfreedom, that capitalist relations of production, he thinks, unnecessarily limit human freedom. In the first place Marx is quite clear that he vehemently rejects the concepts of justice, fairness, or rights as bourgeois ideology. It is true that he uses the language of "theft" on occasion, but either a literal interpretation of that language must be abandoned, or his consistent, life-long objection to rights- and justice talk must be given up. Second, the structure, indeed the point, of his analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism, is that capitalists make profits through exploitation of labor -- without cheating -- by the normal "legitimate" operation of the system. Other arguments make the same point. -/- The unfreedom or force-based view, though not necessarily my specific arguments advocated so far is shared by a minority of other writers, such as Nancy Holmstrom and Richard Arneson. What my paper offers that is novel, part from arguments for the foregoing that are different and better than those found elsewhere (although Holmstrom and Arneson are excellent), is an account of in detail of what Marx regards as the real problem with exploitation. -/- I analyze Marx's objection that capitalist exploitation causes unnecessary unfreedom by distinguishing and spelling out three different kinds of freedom that he invokes: classic negative freedom, or noninterference; positive freedom, understood as control over or access to the resources enabling one to exercise one's negative freedom; and "real" freedom, as he puts it, the ability to "give the law to oneself," to regulate one's own activities under rules chosen by oneself, to develop one's capacities by autonomous choice. This puts Marx in the tradition going back through Hegel and Kant to Rousseau, the first express advocate of this idea. The opposite of real freedom, the unfreedom due to lack of autonomy, is alienation. -/- I conclude by stating that I think that justice-based objections to exploitation that avoid Marx's objections to the concept are possible. I do not attempt to spell these out here. I take up that task in my subsequently published paper Relativism, Reflective Equilibrium, and Justice, 17 Legal Stud.,128-168 (1997). -/- The present paper is related to and partly overlaps with my paper In Defense of Exploitation, 11 Econ. & Phil. 49-81 (1995), a critique of John Roemer's equality based account of the nature of exploitation and its wrongness. The research and writing of this paper was financially supported by the philosophy department of The Ohio State University. -/- Keywords: Exploitation, Justice, Unjustice, Theft, Labor Theory of Property, Marx, Freedom, Unfreedom, Rights, Fairness, Critique of Justice, Negative Freedom, Positive Freedom, Real Freedom, Alienation, G.A. Cohen, Norman Geras. (shrink)
G. A. Cohen defends and Jon Elster criticizes Marxist use of functional explanation. But Elster's mechanical conception of explanation is, contrary to Elster's claims, a better basis for vindication of functional explanation than Cohen's nomological conception, which cannot provide an adequate account of functional explanation. Elster also objects that functional explanation commits us to metaphysically bizarre collective subjects, but his argument requires an implausible reading of methodological individualism which involves an unattractive eliminativism about social phenomena.
Is the family subject to principles of justice? In "A Theory of Justice", John Rawls includes the (monogamous) family along with the market and the government as among the, "basic institutions of society", to which principles of justice apply. Justice, he famously insists, is primary in politics as truth is in science: the only excuse for tolerating injustice is that no lesser injustice is possible. The point of the present paper is that Rawls doesn't actually mean this. When it comes (...) to the family, and in particular its impact on fair equal opportunity, (the first part of the Difference Principle, Rawls' second principle of justice), he abandons the priority of justice. I also argue that he is right to do so. -/- The central argument is simple. As Rawls admits, what family one is raised by profoundly affects one's life chances: a child raised by a family has far greater life chances on every dimension than one raised in a poorer family that may lack books, education, and time to give the child attention. But the prevailing family arrangements in the industrialized West, assigning children to be raised by their biological parents, is guaranteed to perpetuate this injustice. While Rawls says an unjust institution in the basic structure of society, in which he includes the family, must be, "reformed or abolished," he refrains from calling for the reform or abolition of the family. We must simply work around it to compensate for the injustices he admits it involves. And this despite the fact that alternative arrangements involving communal child-rearing (Plato) or assigning children to those best qualified to raise them (Rousseau) are common in the philosophical literature. Moreover, the practice of having children raised by their biological parents is a relatively recent one, at least in the West, where, before the late 18th century, fostering-out or apprenticeship arrangements were normal and expected for both rich and poor for centuries. -/- Much of the paper is devoted to fine-grained textual analysis of Rawls' attempts to avoid the devastating implications of this argument for his theory of justice -- much of which are stated only in the original edition of "A Theory of Justice" and simply deleted, without substitution by anything better, in the second edition. In the end, Rawls has no way out. He cannot keep the priority of justice, fair equality of opportunity, and the monogamous family in which children are raised by their biological parents. As he admits, these are mutually inconsistent. -/- In the final part of the paper, I argue that Rawls should give up on the priority of justice. While child-rearing by the biological parents is a historical anomaly, in the real modern world it would be politically unfeasible to institute Platonic, Rousseauean, or similar legislation that purportedly assigned children to those best able to raise them, regardless of biological relationship. Since Rawls is committed to principles of political stability and feasibility, as he should be, and since ought implies can, such proposals are off the table. I concur with Rawls that we must work around this injustice, even those there are more just arrangements available in principle. But the cost of this -- less high than Rawls suggests -- is abandoning the principle of the priority of justice. Justice is one of a number of considerations that we must or may balance in deciding on the best attainable social relations. It is not a trump. However, this comes a great cost for Rawls: he must also abandon the lexical ordering of principles of justice or, in general, right or good principles of social order, in favor of the messy intuitionist balancing that his theory is designed to avoid. -/- One feature of the paper that is worth independent attention is a discussion of Marx's rejection of justice in the Critique of the Gotha Program, which I explicate, and urge, without adopting it, that it has a great deal more force than is widely understood. (shrink)
Roemer's attempt to undermine the normative reasons that Marxists have thought exploitation important (domination, alienation, and inequality) is vitiated by several crucial errors. First, Roemer ignores the dimension of freedom which is Marx's main concern and replaces it with an interest in justice, which Marx rejected. This leads him to misconstrue the nature of exploitation as Marx understands it. Second, his procedure for disconnecting these evils from exploitation, or denying their importance, involves the methodological assumption that exploitation must strictly imply (...) these evils. He thus fails to see that exploitation may 'cause' domination, alienation, and inequality; this assumption and the focus on justice also lead him to overlook the sort of alienation that is most important to Marx and the way exploitation, as Marx understands it, does imply coercion. Roemer's alternative conception of exploitation thus fails to capture basic Marxist normative and explanatory concerns. But Roemer's insistence on the importance of justice and the need for an articulated alternative to capitalism are a necessary supplement to a Marxist account. (shrink)
This paper critiques the view, widely held by philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists, that psychological explanation is a matter of ascribing propositional attitudes (such as beliefs and desires) towards language-like propositions in the mind, and that cognitive mental states consist in intentional attitudes towards propositions of a linguistic quasi-linguistic nature. On this view, thought is structured very much like a language. Denial that propositional attitude psychology is an adequate account of mind is therefore, on this view, is tantamount to (...) eliminative materialism, the denial that human beings are thinking beings. -/- I dispute this on the basis of recent work in cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. Mental models theory, on which thought is better understood as nonpropositional intentional psychology, accords better with the evidence and offers an alternative view to propositional attitude psychology -- one that means that the denial that that is propositional is not eliminative. However, I argue that propositional attitude psychology is a useful idealization, as classical mechanics is of relativity theory, strictly but not radically false, and useful for prediction and indeed, as long as its idealized character is born in mind, for explanation of behavior. (shrink)
A standard problem with the objectivity of social scientific theory in particular is that it is either self-referential, in which case it seems to undermine itself as ideology, or self-excepting, which seem pragmatically self-refuting. Using the example of Marx and his theory of ideology, I show how self-referential theories that include themselves in their scope of explanation can be objective. Ideology may be roughly defined as belief distorted by class interest. I show how Marx thought that natural science was informed (...) by class interest but not therefore necessarily ideology. Capitalists have an interest in understanding the natural world (to a point) so that they can manipulate it for profit. Their survival in the marketplace often depends on their competitive success in doing so. The fact that their interventions into nature, driven by class interest, often succeed, is evidence of the reliability and truth of their natural scientific theories. -/- With social science, capitalists have a partial interest in understanding the world, so that they may maintain their class power, ideological hegemony, and a reasonably stable and self-reproducing economy. Some bourgeois social science, Marx thinks, is therefore vindicated the same way that natural science is, because of, not despite, its success in promoting the class interests that cause it. But the capitalist class, Marx thinks, also has an interest in obfuscating the truth about the social world. It would undermine the stability of capitalism, for example, for the bourgeoisie to adopt what Marx thinks to be the correct social theory, Marxism, and proclaim to the world that capitalism is exploitative and unstable. Capitalism creates a a need for ideological social theories that, driven by class interest, represent capitalism as just, natural, inevitable, and unalterable. If Marxism is correct, while these theories may further capitalist interests, they will not withstand the test of time as capitalist exploitation and instability engenders countersystemic political action. -/- How, then can we know, according to Marx, that Marxism is correct, as applied to itself? In part it is whether it succeeds in further the class interests that cause it. If workers adopt bourgeois theories and Marxism is right, they will find themselves frustrated in pursuit of goals that they have, such as improving their well-being, and if Marxism is wrong, then those theories will help them further their own goals. Similarly with Marxism: if it is right, then workers who adopt it should in the long run have more success in furthering their own goals, and if not, then not. But it is question begging to say that our confidence in the reliability of Marxism is enhanced by its successful promotion of goals that capitalists do not have but (according to Marxism) workers do. To avoid this problem it is necessary to compare the relative success of each sort of theory in promoting the interests and needs that the respective classes have independently of the theory, as well as by the usual criteria of scientific theory choice. -/- Thus the Soviet variant of Marxism was fairly decisively refuted by its failure to generate the support of its own designated constituency necessary to grow and survive. Whether the same is true of other varieties of Marxism or of capitalist social theory, it is, as Zhou En Lai said when asked whether the French Revolution had succeeded, too soon to tell, at least in any definitive way. However, and this is the point of the paper, an objective test of Marxism is possible even though Marxism says that all theory is informed by class interest. The question is whether the interests are in discovering or obfuscating the truth. The point is not limited to Marx, but applies to any self-referential social scientific theory that includes itself in its scope. -/- Keywords: ideology, self-referential theory, self-reference, reliabilism, objectivity, Marx, Marxism, sociology of science, class interest, classes, capitalism, bourgeoisie, workers, working class, social theory of knowledge, confirmation of scientific theory. (shrink)
Philosophers have argued that on the prevailing theory of mind, functionalism, the fact that mental states are multiply realizable or can be instantiated in a variety of different physical forms, at least in principle, shows that materialism or physical is probably false. A similar argument rejects the relevance to psychology of connectionism, which holds that mental states are embodied and and constituted by connectionist neural networks. These arguments, I argue, fall before reductios ad absurdam, proving too much -- they apply (...) as well to genes, which are multiply realizable, but the reduction of which to DNA is one the core cases of scientific reductive explanation, a reduction if anything is. -/- I suggest that psychology, like biology, be what I call "provincialized," abandon claims to universal validity, except as an idealization, and treat different classes of cognizers differently from an an explanatory perspective. This would permit specifies specific, or more precisely, provincial reductions of different psychologies that might be multiply realized if such reductions were available. Connectionism may be the foundation of a reduction of human psychology, and thus biology and connectionism retain their relevance to psychology, and physicalism or materialism is consistent with functionalism. (shrink)
A standard natural rights argument for libertarianism is based on the labor theory of property: the idea that I own my self and my labor, and so if I "mix" my own labor with something previously unowned or to which I have a have a right, I come to own the thing with which I have mixed by labor. This initially intuitively attractive idea is at the basis of the theories of property and the role of government of John Locke (...) and Robert Nozick. Locke saw and Nozick agreed that fairness to others requires a proviso: that I leave "enough and as good" for others. The same considerations apply to legitimate acquisition by voluntary exchange, gift, or bequeathal. -/- This sort of argument has been critiqued for the purely hypothetical and counterfactual nature of its premises, for the coherence of the idea of self-ownership, for the notion that mixing what I own with what I do not gives me a right in what I do not rather than wasting what I own, and for the unacceptably cruel and heartless consequences of adopting it, among other reasons. -/- However, I accept the premises and waive (though note) these objections, and formulate a new objection, showing that to give me a right in what I do not own, the labor theory of property requires a commitment to a right to what I need. I distinguish several senses of need and show that the sense of need the argument requires is "use need," the need I have to to use something to exercise my labor on it. This turns out to have a startling counter-intuitive result: the libertarian principle, so understood, turns out to be "to each according to his needs," which Marx identified as the principle of the highest phase of communism as he understood it. If communism is understood as in some sense egalitarian, this argument for libertarianism turns itself inside out into an argument for egalitarian communism. Libertarians therefore cannot use the Labor Theory of Property to defend the positions they typically wish to hold. (shrink)