Johnathan R. Razorback
- Messages : 18036
Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
Localisation : France
"I argue inthis paper that we should consider Marx’s ideas as an expression of a radical tendency within the tradition of republicanism and that reading his ideas in this way enables usto approach his critique of capitalist society in a new and more compelling way. What Ithink has been concealed from view is a more radical republican thesis that remainsencased within the republican tradition — a radical republican thesis that, whenexplored, sheds fresh light on the ideas of Marx in particular and his critique of capitalist society.My suggestion here is that Marx’s ideas can be understood as an extension andexpression of ideas that began to emerge during the Renaissance that sought to re-establish popular self-government, a concern with the common good as a supremepolitical goal, and ideas of social solidarity and civic democracy. Even more, I wantto suggest that Marx’s critique of capitalist society is an elaboration of the radicalrepublican ideas that began with thinkers who addressed the problems of wealthand power in conjunction with popular forms of politics such as those of NiccolòMachiavelli and continues on through the radical ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseauand on to the radical republicanism of early nineteenth-century North Americanand European thought. My thesis is that Marx’s critique of capitalist society hasdeep roots in a republican structure of thought — a structure of thought that hesought to extend, deepen and radicalize in the sense that he brought its basic principlesto bear on the dynamics of capitalist society. To this end, I want to emphasize theinherently democratic and republican character of Marx’s thought and to understandhis critique of political economy as embedded in a robust political tradition of thought,that of radical republicanism — radical because it sought the transformation of theeconomic power relations of capitalist society according to common, public anddemocratic ends.Marx was, by all accounts, a critic of the liberal-republicanism of his time, which hesaw as failing to extend into the concrete, material dynamics of social power.
But his critique of capitalist society develops as a more radical expression of the basic ideas of republicanism, of non-mastery, non-servitude, cultivation of a common good and theperfection of the individual via an enhanced form of social freedom. His radicalism isto extend these social-philosophical ideas into a more expanded form of critique of theform of production and value that deﬁnes capitalist society as a whole. Marx alsoengages in a critique of bourgeois republicanism: the thesis of a polity that grantsrights to private persons to possess private property over that which is rightly within the domain of the res publica. Marx’s radicalism therefore extends this logicof the common good, social justice and social freedom that is rooted in republicanideas." (p.392)
"What Marx has in view is a form of social life that will allow for the ﬂourishing of the individual just as it has in view a concept of the individual whocultivates the ﬂourishing of the common, social wealth to which he belongs. As I see it,the radical republican paradigm of thought is one that can provide for us a fresh and vibrant means of synthesizing the descriptive and normative dimensions of Marxian theory. It can also demonstrate that Marx’s critique of capitalist society is deeply tied to political ideas that were meant to shape the agency of working people into apolitical force rather than relying on the scientiﬁc laws of capitalist developmentand its mechanistic production of political revolution and social change." (p.393)
"Republicanism also emphasizes the central idea of civic virtue, one where membersof any polity are to take part in public life and public concerns but for the purpose of self-government. This is contrasted to the problem of corruption which is where indi- viduals beneﬁt at the expense of others or of society as a whole. Republican government is therefore one where freedom is seen as maintained only in a free state, or only in a polity that is self-governing and not under the control or subordination of any individual or group. It sees the res publica, or common good, as the very objecttoward which civic life should oriented and directed. It therefore combines a theory of power with a theory of freedom as well as a theory of the individual and thebroader political context within which it is embedded. Although this is a broad andexpansive view of republicanism as a general theory, I think we can discern a moreradical interpretation of these ideas, one where the ideas about dependence, domina-tion, self-government and the common good can be aimed at the economic power of elites and a more thorough penetration of democracy beyond the polity and into theother spheres of society, namely the economy itself.
Radical republicanism denotes a form of social freedom where individuals enjoy freedom by being part of a society that is organized around the common good of itsmembers. Domination is seen not only in terms of one’s capacity to interfere inyour choices, but more deeply as a structural form where individuals and/or groupspossess sufﬁcient social power to extract beneﬁts for themselves and at the expense not only of those from whom beneﬁts are being extracted, but also, ex hypothesi, from the community as a whole. The radical republican thesis about the nature of social domination is therefore different than the liberal ideas formalized by neo-republican thinkers. The radical republican idea of domination is one that is based not simply on interfering with your choices, although it can and often does include this, but rather ismuch richer insofar as it contains the phenomenon of extractive power that is thecapacity for one agent to derive surplus beneﬁts from another agent. The more extrac-tive power one agent has over another, the more extractive domination it possessesover others, whether an individual, a group, or the society as a whole." (pp.394-395)
"Machiavelli, for instance, makes it clear that the nature of the power that the wealthy (grandi) possess is that they have the capacity to essentially take what they want for their ownbeneﬁt at the expense of other, speciﬁcally, the people as a whole (popolo). The conceptMachiavelli employs is usurpare, a word that he uses to denote a kind of power relationthat extracts beneﬁt from one agent for the beneﬁt of the agent employing that power. Machiavelli, for instance, notably remarks on the ways that economic inequality between different classes within society frustrate the ends of republican governmentwhich is the maintenance of the good of the community. His indictment of wealth scorrupting inﬂuence is well-known but serves as a basic entrée into the radical repub-lican framework." (p.395)
"A radical republican vision of democratic life is one that sees human social life as essentially cooperative and inter-dependent, and that people must be able to frame laws and rules over all domains of society and make them accountable to as well as oriented toward the common beneﬁt of society. From its roots in classical Greek thought and republican Roman thought that emphasized the idea of social and political life as ordered for common needs, theradical republican idea re-emerges in the eighteenth century in the work of Rousseau. Rousseau emphasizes the notion that the origins of inequality comes from the corrup-tion of this mutual cooperation, as soon as one man perceived that it was useful for asingle individual to have provisions for two, equality disappeared, property came intoexistence, labor became necessary.
Inequality is not simply an interpersonal difference in wealth or skill ; it is also a cor-ruption of the cooperative powers of social life. In the Social Contract, this becomes the central concern for a new, just political association, one where each gives up hisnarrow, particular interests in order to expand his interests as a member of this inter-dependent community. The general will is therefore an expression not of some com-munal voice of the demos, but rather an expression of what is in the interest for thesociety as a whole — a society seen as an association and not an aggregation of individuals. The radical republican idea is therefore more than a one-sided emphasis on socialgoods, it is — and this is an salient idea — an emphasis on an expanded notion of theindividual as a social self, as a person who operates within a social nexus and that the ﬂourishing of the common goods of that nexus are also goods for the particularmembers of that association." (pp.395-396)
"Radical republicans contrast the interdependent nature of social life to the dependence of mastery and servitude. They see mere labor independence as illusory and a defective form of freedom. Rather, it is the fulﬁllment of our interdependence with others that they are after, and this captures the basis of Marx’s critique of capitalist society. Marx takes up these basic ideas and he uses them as struts for his broader critique of capitalist society and to construct an argument for an alternative to capitalist institutions and forms of life." (p.396)
"Human being as social being entails the thesis that society is not only processual butalso relational. Members of the society relate to one another as socially interdependent beings, and this further means that the products of this cooperative interdependenceare also social. These ideas emerge from his critical studies of Hegel, but Hegel’s ideas were themselves attempts to philosophize the idea of a modern social republic built onthe premise of the common interest and mutual interdependence.
But even more, members do not relate as atoms to one another and then form structures at will ; we are essentially relational beings and this means that the historical nature of any society is a function of the shapes of social relations of that society at that time. Again, in the 1844 Manuscripts Marx makes it clear that the social is a structure of relations that promotes a common life via interdependent relations of activity: social organs are constituted in the form of society ; for example, activity in direct association with others has become an organ for the manifestation of life and amode of appropriation of human life.
The concept of the individual and the concept of society are now to be seen as dialectically sublated. This does not imply an absorption of the individual into the community, nor does it involve the Hobbesian construction of society from individual voluntarism. Marx emphasizes that society — the word he consistently uses is not community (Gemeinschaft) but Geselleschaft which means association — must be seen as possessing its own ontological properties. What this means is that Marx sees the relation between the individual and society as one of mutual cooperation and reciprocity. As he argues in the Grundrisse: The more deeply we go back into history, the more does the individual, and hence also the producing individual, appear as belonging to a greater whole.
The greater whole to which Marx refers is not a moral whole, a moral community of common values and traditions, but rather an interdependent nexus of social relations where each members dependence on the other is reciprocal and mutual and the cooperative activities of all members with others enriches and expands the development and freedom of the individual. The problem of exploitation is therefore an extension of this theory of extractive power that Machiavelli and Rousseau examine. But it is also seen in the light of common interests and ends, from the point of view of interdependence, not independence as a theory of freedom as some have mistakenly assumed. Indeed, since societies produce with in a cooperative nexus and, assuch, are constituted by this structure of relations. The precise nature of the shape of these relations determines the ways that individuals will relate to one another and what kind of common life they will have together as well as what kind of individual life they will have for themselves.
The thesis of human relatedness is one that is core to Marx’s broader theory about the aims of socialist society and the defects of capitalism. A crucial aspect of this argument, one that I think is the essential thesis that grounds Marx’s critical theory of capitalism but also his implicit normative basis for a socialist society, is that private control over what is essentially social constitutes a defect in our own sociality. And this defect in our sociality is one that is also a defect in our own personhood — our social relations actively and ontologically constitute us." (pp.398-399)
"This "fully constituted society" is therefore one where the relations between individuals become oriented toward the mutual beneﬁt of all. The enrichment of the common purposes of the community now becomes the basis for the individual’s life as well but only because now the cultural development of the person is seen by each as functionally dependent on the ﬂourishing of that common wealth. Marx makes this more explicit as a historical process in the Grundrisse :
Relations of personal dependence (entirely spontaneous at the outset) are the ﬁrst social forms, in which human productive capacity develops only to a slight extentand at isolated points. Personal independence founded on objective [sachlicher] dependence is the second great form, in which a system of general social metabolism, of universal relations, of all-round needs and universal capacities is formed for the ﬁrst time. Free individuality, based on the universal development of individuals and on their subordination of their communal, social productivity as their social wealth, is the third stage.
Marx ’s idea of this third stage of social development is an interesting one from the point of view of the republican structure of thought. As I have been arguing here, the radical republican structure of thought is constituted by a concern with the domination of members of the community, and the power that they have over one another. But it is also concerned with the common good of that community as well. These two ideas are in fact two sides of the same conception of what a political community is: since domination of one person over another entails a distortion of the nexus of social relations that constitutes our common life together, our res publica, if you will, then it must be seen that this domination has an impact on the common purposes and ends of that society. Common good and individual good are therefore not collapsed into one but are functionally related to one other. Distorted relations of dependence —as opposed to mutual interdependence— will produce alienation at the level of the individual, but also superﬂuous social wealth at the level of the commons. Development of the individual in tandem with the development of social wealth (that is, the enhancement and democratization of the social product) constitutes what Marx sees as overcoming the narrow horizon of bourgeois right when after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth ﬂow more abundantly." (p.400)
"Marx now sees that bourgeois property must be regarded as a defective expression of what human social life possesses in potentia but is not realized because of the structure of social relations that constitute it. [...] Marx’s dialectic between individual and society entails seeing the individual as deriving his own existence from the social-relational nexus of society as a whole. The crude distinction between the two is not only an analytic ﬁction, it is also the concrete expression of bourgeois property." (pp.400-401)
"This is why Marx can argue that the overcoming of private property — by which he means bourgeois property or the capacity to own, to control and to subordinate social relations and social wealth toward private ends and purposes — is so essential for the development of the free society and the free individual. [...] This idea of private property as the appropriation of human life means the accumulation of the activities of individuals extracted by capitalists. To make anything requires the labor power of another that is extracted via the ownership of capital. To not be able to appropriate what is the fruit of your own laboris therefore a state of alienation." (p.401)
"Domination therefore takes on a wider scope of meaning than in the neo-republican idea of "freedom as non-domination". Indeed, as Machiavelli had maintained, domination need not be merely inter-personal ; the grandi have the capacity to dominate the community as a whole and bend it to their will, take from it what they desire. Marx, too, sees the power that private property over collective productive resources and social wealth (that is, capital) as granting them an enlarged capacity to dominate not only the lives of workers at the individual level, but also the direction of the community as a whole. [...] The power of the capitalist extends over the inter-personal sphere of domination and into a structural mode where the shapes and forms of cooperative activity are generated and oriented by his will, his purposes. Private property over the means of production therefore constitutes a kind of corruption of the potential common bene ﬁts that cooperative activity can perform. The republican view of capitalism that Marx expresses here is one where private, particular interests shape and control investment decisions that affect the society as a whole." (p.402)
"Another of Marx’s central theses is that the relationship of capitalist and worker is an analogue to the relation between dominus and servus, of oppressor and oppressed. Beneath the veneer of the wage contract oreven an improved power of consumption for workers, there persists this essentialrelation of mastery and servitude:
The Roman slave was held by chains; the wage-laborer is bound to his owner by invisible threads. The appearance of independence is maintained by a constantchange in the person of the individual employer, and by the legal ﬁction of a contract. [Capital, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1977), p. 719]" (p.403)
"What is central now is an idea of freedom that entails self-governing not only in a narrow political sense, but in a fully social sense. This entails a notion of freedom in which society can direct its productive forces according to the ends and needs that they as a collective decide. This is itself a form of radical republicanism: a freedom from being determined by another, a freedom from the choices of the owners of capital, of the elites, and a freedom to direct the collective powers of society toward common ends and purposes."
"In contrast to the liberal-republican theory of freedom from domination as interference with your choices, we are now presented with a more radical understanding of republicanism: one where the freedom of any agent is functionally dependent on the structural relation of the interdependencies that constitute the society as a whole. The common good is therefore not an abstract moral ideal, buta concrete aim of the arrangement of our social relations and the aims and purposes of our common lives together." (p.408)
-Michael J. Thompson, "The Radical Republican Structure of Marx’s Critique of Capitalist Society", Critique, 2019, Vol. 47, No. 3, 391: https://www.academia.edu/36588469/The_Radical_Republican_Structure_of_Marxs_Critique_of_Capitalist_Society
« La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).
« Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.
« Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".