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)
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)
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)
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)
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).
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 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)
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 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)
Since 1972, the journal _Radical Philosophy_ has provided a forum for the discussion of radical and critical ideas in philosophy. It is the liveliest and probably the most widely read philosophical journal in Britain. This anthology reprints some of the best articles to have appeared in the journal during the past five years. It covers topics in social and moral philosophy which are central to current controversies on the left, focusing on theoretical issues raised by the socialist, feminist and environmental (...) movements. Topics covered include feminist perspectives on a range of traditional philosophical issues and contemporary problems; theoretical questions involved in the rethinking of socialism and Marxism; and questions about the relation between humanity and nature raised by environmental debates. The pieces included engage with contemporary issues in critical terms, and represent the best of recent philosophical work on the left. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the current state of radical thought. (shrink)
In the `Preface' to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel outlines the dialectical method and contrasts it with two other approaches. On the one hand, there 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 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'. (shrink)
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.
Confusingly, Marquit insists on describing his own position as `materialist dialectics'. I shall come to the question of materialism in due course; but dialectic it is not not, at least, in the usual sense of the term, which describes the philosophy of Hegel and classical Marxists like Engels and Lenin. This is quite explicitly a philosophy of contradiction, as Marquit himself demonstrates at some length (148-56). Its central tenet is that change is an essential feature of all concrete things; and (...) this can be understood only by recognizing the contradictions which are inherent in things, and by describing them in contradictory terms. 3 Marquit rejects this outlook as both logically and philosophically untenable. Motion and change, he argues, can be described without recourse to contradictions. The dialectical view that things are contradictory is a form of idealism deriving from Hegel. (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)
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)
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)
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)