Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice

Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice

RODNEY G. PEFFER
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 540
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztr74
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  • Book Info
    Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice
    Book Description:

    The interpreter of Marx's writings faces the task of reconciling, on the one hand, Marx's frequent explicit condemnations and criticisms of morality and, on the other, the obvious way in which his world-view reflects substantive moral judgments. In this book R. G. Peffer tackles the challenges of finding in Marx's work an implicit moral theory, of answering claims that Marxism is incompatible with morality, and of developing the outlines of an adequate Marxist moral and social theory. Peffer analyzes the moral components of Marx's thought and considers all the major interpretations of his moral perspective; he concludes that Marx is a mixed deontologist who is most committed to a maximum system of equal freedoms, both positive and negative. He then utilizes contemporary metaethical theory to show that Marxism is compatible with morality in general and with the concepts of justice and rights in particular. Peffer proposes a radically egalitarian theory of social justice (which subsumes Marx's own moral theory) and a minimal set of Marxist empirical theses, which together entail the Marxist's basic normative political positions. This book demonstrates that contemporary analytic political philosophy is invaluable for coming to terms with Marxism and that it is only Marx's less abstract empirical theories about classes and class struggle, the dysfunctions of capitalism, and the possibility of creating democratic, self-managing postcapitalist societies that are needed for the development of an adequate Marxist moral and social theory.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6089-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-32)

    The ultimate goal of this work is to develop at least the outlines of an adequate Marxist moral and social theory. By a “moral and social theory” I mean one that provides a set of moral principles or standards by which to judge social arrangements and, by so doing, provides criteria to decide between competing sets of historically possible social arrangements. Such a theory must contain enough of an empirical, social-scientific theory to determine which sets of social arrangements are real historical possibilities and—of those that are possible—which best conform to the moral principles or standards propounded by...

  5. Part I: Marxʹs Moral Perspective
    • ONE THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARXʹS MORAL PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 35-79)

      It is sometimes said that Marxism has no moral component or that Marx’s works—at least, his later works—have no moral component. As will be seen in what follows, these claims are clearly and demonstrably false. Although Marx never developed the philosophical basis for a full-fledged moral theory, he did exhibit a moral perspective, which remained relatively constant—although somewhat eclectic—throughout his writings. The objective of this chapter is to demonstrate his moral views. The approach taken is basically historical: the development of Marx’s moral views, as well as the most important components of his empirical views, is...

    • TWO CONSEQUENTIALIST INTERPRETATIONS OF MARX
      (pp. 80-114)

      Even if it can be shown that Marx’s primary values are freedom (as self-determination), human community, and self-realization, this does not yet settle the question of what general sort of moral theory he actually holds. Depending on how these values are explicated and defended and how they are related to a theory of right (as applied to actions, general rules for action, and/or social institutions), Marx’s implicit moral theory might turn out to be a species of any one of a number of moral theories. Is Marx a utilitarian, his objections to this school of thought and especially raking criticisms...

    • THREE MARXʹS THEORIES OF FREEDOM AND EXPLOITATION: A RECONSTRUCTION AND DEFENSE
      (pp. 115-166)

      In this chapter I shall first argue that Marx’s concern for human dignity and his (implicit) demand for an equal distribution of the primary good of freedom make him a mixed deontologist. Then I shall attempt to reconstruct his concept and theory of freedom. I argue that freedom, on Marx’s view, is to be interpreted as the opportunity for self-determination where this is taken to indicate bothnegative freedom, i.e., freedom from the undue interference of others, and positive freedom, i.e., freedom to determine one’s own life to as great an extent as is compatible with a like opportunity for...

  6. Part II: Marxism and Morality
    • FOUR “MARXIST ANTI-MORALISM”: A CRITIQUE
      (pp. 169-211)

      Having to this point described and analyzed Marx’s moral views in considerable detail, I shall in the next four chapters consider some supposed incompatibilities between Marxism and morality. The issues involved here are primarily of a metaethical nature, and it is through the use of recent and contemporary metaethical theory that I hope to solve (or dissolve) these purported difficulties and thus show Marxism and morality to be compatible. Chapter 5 takes up the objection that morality is irrelevant because, according to Marxist theory, socialist revolution is inevitable. Chapter 6 discusses the objection that morality, on the Marxist view, is...

    • FIVE MARXISM AND MORAL HISTORICISM
      (pp. 212-235)

      Even though it is apparent that Marx’s thought contains moral judgments and—at least implicitly—moral principles, there are yet those who claim that all of this is irrelevant because his most basic moral (or metaethical) view is that whatever social structures have evolved or whatever social structures will evolve are, ipso facto, morally justified. This is the doctrine of moral historicism. It seems clear, however, that if Marxism is committed to moral historicism, this commitment is paradoxical since, as shown previously, Marxism is also committed to moral criteria for judging social institutions, namely, the values of freedom, community, and...

    • SIX MORALITY AND IDEOLOGY
      (pp. 236-267)

      A paradox in Marx’s thought (and for Marxism in general) is that while his writings abound in moral judgments (i.e., in commendations, condemnations, prescriptions, etc., made on the basis of a concern for human ill and well-being), they contain, at the same time, the claim thatmorality is ideologyor, to say the same thing slightly differently, thatmorality is ideological. In the present chapter I shall first distinguish between a global and nonglobal concept of ideology and then give a detailed analysis of Marx’s nonglobal (critical) conception of ideology. I will make these distinctions in order to ascertain whether...

    • SEVEN MARXISM, MORAL RELATIVISM, AND MORAL OBJECTIVITY
      (pp. 268-314)

      The final issue concerning the relation between Marxism and morality I shall consider is whether Marx and Marxists are committed to some form or other of moral or ethical relativism. If so, it would seem that there are no “absolute” or absolutely objective moral principles (or standards) and, consequently, that no moral judgments—including those underlying the Marxist’s normative political positions—are well-founded. I hope to show that though Marx and especially Engels sometimes speak as though they accept this thesis, once one distinguishes ethical relativism proper (i.e.,normativeethical relativism) fromdescriptiveethical relativism, on the one hand, and...

  7. Part III: Marxism and Social Justice
    • EIGHT MARXIST CRITIQUES OF JUSTICE AND RIGHTS
      (pp. 317-360)

      To this point I have argued that both Marx’s writings and the Marxist tradition of politics have a moral component and that there are no insuperable difficulties in reconciling this fact with other components of Marxism. If my arguments have been basically correct, there is no insuperable difficulty in reconciling the existence of a Marxist moral component or even a Marxist moraltheorywith: (1) Marx’s (supposed) moral historicism, (2) the deterministic features of Marx’s theory of historical materialism, (3) Marx’s concept and theory of ideology, and (4) the (supposed) Marxist commitment to moral relativism. But even if all of...

    • NINE MARXIST AND LEFTIST OBJECTIONS TO RAWLSʹ THEORY OF JUSTICE: A CRITICAL REVIEW
      (pp. 361-415)

      Assuming that the circumstances of justice—moderate scarcity and moderate egoism—will continue to pertain to human societies even if a world socialist society is established, it seems clear that any adequate moral and social theory requires a theory of social justice that will provide us with principles governing the distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation, as well as with the moral grounds of legitimate political authority and political (or social) obligation. The question thus becomes: what theory of social justice ought we adopt? Given the problematic of the present work, this question becomes: what theory of...

    • TEN TOWARD AN ADEQUATE MARXIST MORAL AND SOCIAL THEORY
      (pp. 416-460)

      As outlined in the Introduction to this work, an adequate Marxist moral and social theory must have certain features. First, it must be based on a moral theory that is in wide reflective equilibrium with our considered moral judgments. Second, it must be informed by a correct set of empirical, social-scientific views. Third, it must account for the Marxist’s basic normative political positions that (1) socialism is morally preferable to any form of capitalism (as well as to any other type of society possible under the historical conditions of moderate scarcity and moderate egoism), and (2) social and/or political revolution,...

  8. APPENDIX: STAGES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF MARXʹS THOUGHT
    (pp. 461-464)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 465-506)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 507-526)