Marx, Justice and History

Marx, Justice and History: A "Philosophy and Public Affairs" Reader

Marshall Cohen
Thomas Nagel
Thomas Scanlon
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Marx, Justice and History
    Book Description:

    The political and ideological turmoil of the late 1960's stimulated among Anglo-American philosophers a new interest in applying moral philosophy to the problems of contemporary society, and a search for critical perspectives on Marx and Marxist thought. These essays, originally published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, contribute to both these areas in the form of new Marxist scholarship and in illuminating the way in which Marxist criticism and social theory bear on contemporary analytic moral philosophy and current moral problems.

    Originally published in 1980.

    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: 978-1-4008-5355-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    M.C., T.N. and T.S.

    The struggles of the late 1960s stimulated among English-speaking academic philosophers a new interest in applying moral philosophy to the problems of contemporary society. They also stimulated a search for critical perspectives on Marx and Marxist thought, long neglected even by social philosophers working in the Anglo-American analytic tradition. Since its inception,Philosophy & Public Affairshas sought, among other things, to provide a forum for both of these endeavors and to publish articles that would help bridge the gap between contemporary analytic moral philosophy and Marxist social theory.

    Viewed from either side, this task is not an easy one. From...

  4. Part I. Marx’s Views on Justice and Other Fundamental Ethical Ideas
    • The Marxian Critique of Justice
      (pp. 3-41)

      When we read Karl Marx’s descriptions of the capitalist mode of production inCapitaland other writings, all our instincts tell us that these are descriptions of an unjust social system. Marx describes a society in which one small class of persons lives in comfort and idleness while another class, in ever-increasing numbers, lives in want and wretchedness, laboring to produce the wealth enjoyed by the first. Marx speaks constantly of capitalist “exploitation” of the worker, and refers to the creation of surplus value as the appropriation of his “unpaid labor” by capital. Not only does capitalist society, as Marx...

    • Marx on Distributive Justice
      (pp. 42-79)

      Capitalism, Marx thought, had made stupendous technical progress—its development of productive forces far surpassing that of all earlier social formations. That aside, no social system has ever been condemned more radically, indicted more severely, and damned more comprehensively than capitalism was by Marx. It is a system of domination of men by men, of men by things, and of men by impersonal forces. The exploitation associated with private property in the means of production sets class against class; competition turns capitalist against capitalist and worker against worker. In their social relations and in the state, men are afforded only...

    • Freedom and Private Property in Marx
      (pp. 80-105)

      Marx’s opposition to private property is well known.¹ He was, after all, quite explicit: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”² However, the nature of this opposition is rather controversial.

      Some maintain that Marx’s opposition is limited to a number of technical and sociohistorical analyses of the nature and fate of private property: for example, the declining rate of profit, the changing organic composition of capital, the concentration of capital, and the increasing size and immiseration of the proletariat.³ Such analyses, it is said, account for the whole of Marx’s...

    • Marx on Right and Justice: A Reply to Husami
      (pp. 106-134)

      From one point of view, Marx’s writings make it quite plain why he favors the overthrow of capitalism. Capitalism is an irrational and inhuman system, a system which exploits and dehumanizes the productive majority of society, and which is becoming increasingly unable even to maintain the slaves of capital in their condition of servitude. Whether we agree or disagree with these claims, it is at least fairly clear what they mean, and it is difficult for anyone to deny that if they are correct, then Marx has powerful reasons for attacking capitalism and advocating its revolutionary overthrow.

      But from another...

    • The Labor Theory of Value and the Concept of Exploitation
      (pp. 135-157)
      G. A. COHEN

      This essay shows that the relationship between the labor theory of value and the concept of exploitation is one of mutual irrelevance. The labor theory of value is not a suitable basis for the charge of exploitation laid against capitalism by Marxists, and the real foundation of that charge is something much simpler which, for reasons to be stated, is widely confused with the labor theory of value.

      I begin with a short exposition of the labor theory of value as we find it in Volume i ofCapital. (Differences between Volume i and later parts ofCapitalwill be...

    • Marxism and Retribution
      (pp. 158-184)

      Philosophers have written at great length about the moral problems involved in punishing the innocent—particularly as these problems raise obstacles to an acceptance of the moral theory of Utilitarianism. Punishment of an innocent man in order to bring about good social consequences is, at the very least, not always clearly wrong on utilitarian principles. This being so, utilitarian principles are then to be condemned by any morality that may be called Kantian in character. For punishing an innocent man, in Kantian language, involves using that an as a mere means or instrument to some social good and is thus...

    • Marx on Internationalism and War
      (pp. 185-208)

      Most scholars adhere, sometimes inadvertently, to an economic determinist notion of Marx’s politics, according to which the development of capitalist productive forces would inevitably produce proletarian revolution with minimal political organizing. This view overlooks the distinctive role of politics in Marx’s social theory and especially his advocacy of internationalism—the hallmark of his political activity.¹ I shall focus here on the international aspect of Marx’s theory and activity and suggest its relevance for a consideration of justice in contemporary international distribution.

      Today the problem of international distribution is apparent in the contrast between rich capitalist nations and nations so poor...

  5. Part II. Marx’s Theory of History
    • Marx and Lenin as Historical Materialists
      (pp. 211-234)

      Attacking Marxism in hisStatehood and Anarchy, Bakunin asks what Marxists mean by calling their doctrines scientific. The expression indicates, he suggests, that since the mass of the people are incapable of science their emancipation will consist in accepting the despotic rule of an educated socialist elite. “A wonderful liberation!” he comments. “Government by intellectuals is the most oppressive, offensive, and despicable type of government in the world.”

      Marx’s notes on Bakunin’s book, written in 1874, contain an answer to this charge. Marxian socialism has been called scientific, he replies, only by contrast with Utopian socialism, which seeks to impose...

    • The Consistency of Historical Materialism
      (pp. 235-254)

      In a recent article in this journal,¹ Stanley Moore argues that major aspects of Marx’s theory of social development are mutually incompatible. In particular, Moore perceives two major inconsistencies: a contradiction between the theory of social development in thePreface to a Critique of Political Economyand the theory of class struggle in theCommunist Manifesto; and a contradiction between thePrefacetheory of social development and Marx’s account of the transformation of feudalism into capitalism inCapital.

      Moore’s charges of inconsistency are based, I shall argue, on misinterpretations of Marx. But his mistakes are important, because the texts to...

    • A Consistency Proof for Historical Materialism
      (pp. 255-263)

      In a recent issue ofPhilosophy & Public Affairs(Winter 1975), I published an article entitled “Marx and Lenin as Historical Materialists.”¹ In a subsequent issue (Summer 1975), Richard W. Miller published a critique of that article, opposing to some of my interpretations of what Marx wrote interpretations of his own—which admittedly depart from “a strict and literal meaning,” on the ground that such departures free Marx “from inconsistency or obvious error.”² In my opinion these nonliteral interpretations exemplify a fault all too common among writers on Marxian theory—the vice, as R.M. Hare describes it, of trying to settle...

    • Revolutionary Motivation and Rationality
      (pp. 264-287)

      Much recent literature concentrates on the question of whether Marx’s analysis of capitalism uses moral concepts, especially a concept of justice, or whether it is a non-moral, strictly scientific analysis. Less attention has been paid, however, to what role, if any, Marx assigns to moral principles in his account of revolutionary motivation.

      Marx repeatedly asserts the superiority of his views to those of moralizing socialists, who appeal to moral principles to spur the masses to revolt.¹ Thus Marx’s claim to a non-moral, strictly scientific analysis of capitalism would seem to be in harmony with his account of revolutionary motivation. I...

    • Karl Marx and the Withering Away of Social Science
      (pp. 288-309)
      G. A. Cohen

      When presented with evidence against one of the propositions it is their business to believe, professional communists sometimes accuse their opponents of looking at the surface of things only, at appearances. They invoke the words of Marx: “If there were no difference between essence and appearance, there would be no need for science.” Thus armed, they claim, for example, that he who thinks the apparently uneven distribution of power in East European countries proves that they are not classless societies is bewitched by seemings. What appear to be classes are really strata, or, to take other instances, what appears to...

    (pp. 310-311)