Marxism and Ethics: Freedom, Desire, and Revolution (SUNY series in Radical Social and Political Theory)
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Accessible introduction to key thinkers of Marxist theory and the debate on the nature of Marxist ethics.
Marxism and Ethics is a comprehensive and highly readable introduction to the rich and complex history of Marxist ethical theory as it has evolved over the last century and a half. Paul Blackledge argues that Marx’s ethics of freedom underpin his revolutionary critique of capitalism. Marx’s conception of agency, he argues, is best understood through the lens of Hegel’s synthesis of Kantian and Aristotelian ethical concepts. Marx’s rejection of moralism is not, as suggested in crude materialist readings of his work, a dismissal of the free, purposive, subjective dimension of action. Freedom, for Marx, is both the essence and the goal of the socialist movement against alienation, and freedom’s concrete modern form is the movement for real democracy against the capitalist separation of economics and politics. At the same time, Marxism and Ethics is also a distinctive contribution to, and critique of, contemporary political philosophy, one that fashions a powerful synthesis of the strongest elements of the Marxist tradition. Drawing on Alasdair MacIntyre’s early contributions to British New Left debates on socialist humanism, Blackledge develops an alternative ethical theory for the Marxist tradition, one that avoids the inadequacies of approaches framed by Kant on the one hand and utilitarianism on the other.
Paul Blackledge is Professor of Political Theory at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is the author of Perry Anderson, Marxism, and the New Left and Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History, and the coeditor (with Graeme Kirkpatrick) of Historical Materialism and Social Evolution.
“This book provides impressive evidence of the intellectual and moral strengths of contemporary Marxism. Paul Blackledge has provided the best history so far written of Marxism’s engagement with ethics. He enables us to understand Marx’s own moral concerns better than Marx himself did. And he has made an incisive contribution to contemporary moral debate. Critics of Marx and Marxism, including sympathetic critics such as myself, will have to take this book very seriously.” — Alasdair MacIntyre,
back from Marx and the Moral Point of View society . . . exactly what he has given it. . . . Hence, equal right is here still—in principle—a bourgeois right, . . . In spite of such progress this equal right still constantly suffers a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labour they do; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made by the same standard, labour. One person, however, may be physically and intellectually superior to another and thus
capitalism and as a condemnation of this system, is rooted in the collective struggles of workers for freedom. Practice does not and cannot follow theory in the way that modern moral theory would have us suppose, for it is universally true that we can theorize only from speciﬁc standpoints. Marx thus criticized liberal moralists for naturalizing the standpoint from which they wrote, and consequently for being unable to offer an adequate account of human action. By contrast, because he made his
While this argument has an obvious appeal, it was rejected by Kautsky, who, in a reply to Bauer, pointed out that because Kant’s morality was merely formal it could not bear the weight of Bauer’s argument. In fact, he claimed, “despite their categorical imperative, the Kantians have so many different opinions about bourgeois and proletarian ethics, that every ethical sceptic ﬁnds it a matter of amusement.” By contrast, “despite their ethical relativism, Marxists, because they have a deﬁnite
on socialist humanism. Alasdair MacIntyre’s Contribution to an Ethical Marxism 173 complements the renewal of Marxism associated with the revolutionary break with Second International Marxism discussed in Chapter 3, it also provides the most powerful materials from which to construct a counter to the claim that Marx was a nihilist whose rejection of moral discourse reﬂected his inadequate model of social transformation. The New Left’s Socialist Humanism In 1956 four events came together to