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Economic terms

In the Marxist thought classes are defined in economic terms, ownership to private property would then delineate those who have property from those who have not. Marxism defines classes economically in terms of their relationship to the means of production. Marx raises a number of legitimate concerns about capitalism which would be in fact addressed in a well-ordered society implementing the principles of justice as fairness.

The last, in its variant as a property owning democracy is such that it does not see property in productive assets as a fundamental right that cannot be regulated to secure citizens civil, political and social rights (although it allows for private property in productive assets, it prevents the concentration of property and inequality typical of laissez-faire and welfare state capitalism) and it secures the fair value of political liberty.

It also secures through the implementation of the principle of fair equality of opportunity and the difference principle, background conditions that protect people’s positive liberty to seek self-realization and it largely overcomes the negative aspects of division of labor. Marx condemns capitalism as unjust. Even though Marx did not develop a clear normative theory supporting the rejection of capitalism and the desirability of communism, I think that we can uncover a normative perspective underlying Marx’s critique of capitalism. Marx thinks that capitalist societies are seriously defective in three respects.

First, they generate ideological consciousness, including illusions bout the nature of economic interactions and false beliefs and how people are benefited by them. Second, they generate alienation amongst workers. The latter do not control the product of their labor, they do not exercise and develop their capacities in the practice of laboring and they find themselves estranged for other people, including other workers through competition and the employers to who’s surveillance and orders they are constantly subjected. Third, capitalist societies rest on exploitation.

Capitalists take unfair advantage of workers, using the superior bargaining power resulting from their exclusive control of the means of production to persuade workers to agree to arrangements under which they appropriate the workers. Marx’s ideological consciousness, alienation and exploitation and the basic structure of that society would be that everyone has an equal claim to access and to use society’s means of production and everyone has an equal right to participate in public and democratic procedures by which the economic plan is formed.

It would eliminate ideological illusions and delusions about the functioning and benefits of economic arrangements; would eliminate exploitation and working together would secure that alienation is overcome. To Marx communism demands two different stages. The first, in the higher stage, unlike in the lower stage, there is no material scarcity, division of labor is eliminated, and labor becomes inherently attractive. Second, distribution of consumption of goods in the higher stage tracks people’s needs, whereas in the lower stage it responds to workers productive contributions.

The lower stage distributes to each according to their contribution, the Contribution Principle. This is somewhat problematic as it unfairly privileges those whose greater natural endowments enable them to be more productive. Marx’s rationale for limiting the demanding of distribution in the first stage of communism is a pragmatic concern with feasibility, not a principled rejection of duties of assistance. But one must remember that Marx thinks that the Contribution Principle is only a transitional principle that regulates the exchange of commodities and is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation.

Plato has always included diverse traditions that are often in conflict with one another. But for much of the twentieth century, it also struggled to define itself in relation to two powerful ideologies. On the one side it faced the challenge from one of its own constituent elements, revolutionary Marxism, which argues that the capitalist system as a whole must be rejected and the political power is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.

On the other side, liberalism constantly insisted that democracy and progress must be understood in terms of liberty, justice and representation through contested elections. The differences between men on the one hand and our inanimate environment on the other are so many and so striking that the materiality of the mind has seemed to most people an obvious impossibility. Men can see and hear, ponder and resolve, suffer and enjoy. They have a language and a culture. They can make plans; solve problems and hunger and thirst after righteousness.

They can anticipate and regret, hope and fear. They can love, they can be amused, they can make music, they can worship. They can be heroic or cruel or ambitious. In all of this they are utterly different from the rocks and puddles, furniture and utensils and even plants and animals which make up our natural and artificial environment. These differences are all ones in which mind plays a crucial part. It is clear that men have got something that floorboards lack; “mind” is the name of this extra possession.

But floorboards are not deficient in materiality. They are fully and properly material things. What is more natural then, but to conclude that the mind is not material? So has the long Western tradition of contrasting man with the natural material realm. For Plato man comes into it as a prisoner, for contemporary existentialists he finds himself thrown amid alien things. Matter, to Plato, is brute, inert, blind, senseless and purposeless. Mind on the other hand is light, subtle, discerning.

Matter is stodgy; minds see vision and dream dreams. Matter is passive; minds create, act and strive. Our entire religious tradition with its huge impact on how men see themselves has made the spiritual character of the mind seem the plainest of truths. Although the estranged relationship between mainstream political science and mush of the subfield of political theory has been properly attributed to developments during the last half of the twentieth century, the roods of this alienation are historically deeper.

Marx reflections gave rise to the context in which he conceived the idea of treating the critique of religion as a starting point for the critique of bourgeois society in general. Plato would be inclined to doubt the difference in level among world religions, or the primacy of one. Marx underlines often that the bourgeois or capitalist mode of production rises above the lord bondsman relationships that are essential in other class societies. Reference: Morgan, M. L. (2001). Classics of moral and political theory. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publication.

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