Analytical Marxism

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Analytical Marxism is an approach to Marxist theory that was prominent amongst English-speaking philosophers and social scientists during the 1980s. It was mainly associated with the September Group of academics, so called because of their biennial September meetings to discuss common interests. Self-described as "Non-Bullshit Marxism", the group was characterized, in the words of David Miller, by "clear and rigorous thinking about questions that are usually blanketed by ideological fog." Members of this school seek to apply the techniques of analytic philosophy, along with tools of modern social science such as rational choice theory to the elucidation of the theories of Karl Marx and his successors.

David Miller, is a British political theorist and academic. He is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford and an Official Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. He previously lectured at the University of Lancaster and the University of East Anglia. He received his BA from the University of Cambridge, and his BPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford. Previous works include Social Justice, On Nationality and Citizenship and National Identity. Miller is known for his support of a modest form of liberal nationalism.

Analytic philosophy style of philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:

Rational choice theory, also known as choice theory or rational action theory, is a framework for understanding and often formally modeling social and economic behavior. The basic premise of rational choice theory is that aggregate social behavior results from the behavior of individual actors, each of whom is making their individual decisions. The theory also focuses on the determinants of the individual choices.

Contents

The best-known analytical Marxist was Oxford University philosopher G. A. Cohen, whose Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (1978) helped start the school. In that book, Cohen attempted to apply the tools of logical and linguistic analysis to the elucidation and defense of Marx's materialist conception of history. [1] Other prominent analytical Marxists include the economist John Roemer, the social scientist Jon Elster, and the sociologist Erik Olin Wright. They all have attempted to build upon Cohen's work by bringing to bear modern social science methods, such as rational choice theory, to supplement Cohen's use of analytic philosophical techniques in the interpretation of Marxian theory.

Gerald Allan Cohen, known as G. A. Cohen or Jerry Cohen, was a Canadian Marxist political philosopher who held the positions of Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, University College London and Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, All Souls College, Oxford.

<i>Karl Marxs Theory of History: A Defence</i> book by Gerald Cohen

Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence is a 1978 book by G. A. Cohen, the culmination of his attempts to reformulate Karl Marx's doctrines of alienation, exploitation, and historical materialism. Cohen, who interprets Marxism as a scientific theory of history, applies the techniques of analytic philosophy to the elucidation and defence of Marx's materialist conception of history.

John E. Roemer is an American economist and political scientist. He is currently the Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, he was on the economics faculty at the University of California, Davis, and before entering academia Roemer worked for several years as a labor organizer. He is married to Natasha Roemer, with whom he has two daughters, and lives in New York City.

Cohen would later engage directly with Rawlsian political philosophy to advance a socialist theory of justice that contrasts with both traditional Marxism and the theories advanced by political philosophers such as the left-liberal John Rawls and the right-libertarian Robert Nozick. In particular, he points to Marx's maxim of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

John Rawls American political philosopher

John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls's work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Origin

Analytical Marxism is understood to have originated with the publication of G. A. Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (1978). [2] Cohen's book was, from the outset, intended as a defence of historical materialism. Cohen painstakingly reconstructed historical materialism through a close reading of Marx's texts, with the aim of providing the most logically coherent and parsimonious account. For Cohen, Marx's historical materialism is a technologically deterministic theory, in which the economic relations of production are functionally explained by the material forces of production, and in which the political and legal institutions (the "superstructure") are functionally explained by the relations of production (the "base"). The transition from one mode of production to another is driven by the tendency of the productive forces to develop. Cohen accounts for this tendency by reference to the rational character of the human species: where there is the opportunity to adopt a more productive technology and thus reduce the burden of labour, human beings will tend to take it. Thus, human history can be understood as a series of rational steps that increase human productive power.

Historical materialism Marxist historiography

Historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, is a methodology used by some communist and Marxist historiographers that focuses on human societies and their development through history, arguing that history is the result of material conditions rather than ideas. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the "materialist conception of history." It is principally a theory of history which asserts that the material conditions of a society's mode of production or in Marxist terms, the union of a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Historical materialism is an example of Marx and Engel's scientific socialism, attempting to show that socialism and communism are scientific necessities rather than philosophical ideals.

Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that assumes that a society's technology determines the development of its social structure and cultural values. Technological determinism tries to understand how technology has had an impact on human action and thought. Changes in technology are the primary source for changes in society. The term is believed to have originated from Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist. The most radical technological determinist in the United States in the 20th century was most likely Clarence Ayres who was a follower of Thorstein Veblen and John Dewey. William Ogburn was also known for his radical technological determinism.

Relations of production Concept in Marxism

Relations of production is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in Das Kapital. It is first explicitly used in Marx's published book The Poverty of Philosophy, although Marx and Engels had already defined the term in The German Ideology.

Theory

Exploitation

At the same time as Cohen was working on Karl Marx's Theory of History, American economist John Roemer was employing neoclassical economics to defend the Marxist concepts of exploitation and class. In his A General Theory of Exploitation and Class (1982), Roemer employed rational choice and game theory to demonstrate how exploitation and class relations may arise in the development of a market for labour. Roemer would go on to reject the necessity of the labour theory of value to explain exploitation and class. Value was in principle capable of being explained in terms of any class of commodity inputs, such as oil, wheat, etc., rather than being exclusively explained by embodied labour power. Roemer was led to the conclusion that exploitation and class were thus generated not in the sphere of production but of market exchange. Significantly, as a purely technical category, exploitation did not always imply a moral wrong (see section Justice below).

Neoclassical economics is an approach to economics focusing on the determination of goods, outputs, and income distributions in markets through supply and demand. This determination is often mediated through a hypothesized maximization of utility by income-constrained individuals and of profits by firms facing production costs and employing available information and factors of production, in accordance with rational choice theory, a theory that has come under considerable question in recent years.

Exploitation of labour is the act of treating one's workers unfairly for one's own benefit. It is a social relationship based on an asymmetry in a power relationship between workers and their employers. When speaking about exploitation, there is a direct affiliation with consumption in social theory and traditionally this would label exploitation as unfairly taking advantage of another person because of his or her inferior position, giving the exploiter the power.

Marxian class theory asserts that an individual’s position within a class hierarchy is determined by their role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is determined by class position. A class is those who share common economic interests, are conscious of those interests, and engage in collective action which advances those interests. Within Marxian class theory, the structure of the production process forms the basis of class construction.

Rational choice Marxism

By the mid-1980s, "analytical Marxism" was being recognised as a "paradigm". The September Group had been meeting for several years, and a succession of texts by its members were published. Several of these appeared under the imprint of Cambridge University Press's series "Studies in Marxism and Social Theory", including Jon Elster's Making Sense of Marx (1985) and Adam Przeworski's Capitalism and Social Democracy (1985). Among the most methodologically controversial were these two authors, and Roemer, due to their use of rational-actor models. Not all analytical Marxists are rational-choice Marxists, however.

Elster's account was an exhaustive examination of Marx's texts in order to ascertain what could be salvaged out of Marxism employing the tools of rational choice theory and methodological individualism (which Elster defended as the only form of explanation appropriate to the social sciences). His conclusion was that – contra Cohen – no general theory of history as the development of the productive forces could be saved. Like Roemer, he also rejected the labour theory of value and, going further, virtually all of Marxian economics. The "dialectical" method is rejected as a form of Hegelian obscurantism. The theory of ideology and revolution continued to be useful to a certain degree, but only once they had been purged of their tendencies to holism and functionalism and established on the basis of an individualist methodology and a causal or intentional explanation.

Przeworski's book uses rational choice and game theory in order to demonstrate that the revolutionary strategies adopted by socialists in the twentieth century were likely to fail, since it was in the rational interests of workers to strive for the reform of capitalism through the achievement of union recognition, improved wages and living conditions, rather than adopting the risky strategy of revolution.[ citation needed ] Przeworski's book is clearly influenced by economic explanations of political behaviour advanced by thinkers such as Anthony Downs ( An Economic Theory of Democracy , 1957) and Mancur Olson (The Logic of Collective Action, 1965).[ citation needed ]

Justice

The analytical (and rational choice) Marxists held a variety of leftist political sympathies, ranging from communism to reformist social democracy. Through the 1980s, most of them began to believe that Marxism as a theory capable of explaining revolution in terms of the economic dynamics of capitalism and the class interests of the proletariat had been seriously compromised. They were largely in agreement that the transformation of capitalism was an ethical project. During the 1980s, a debate had developed within Anglophone academia about whether Marxism could accommodate a theory of justice. This debate was clearly linked to the revival of normative political philosophy after the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971). Some commentators remained hostile to the idea of a Marxist theory of justice, arguing that Marx saw "justice" as little more than a bourgeois ideological construct designed to justify exploitation by reference to reciprocity in the wage contract.

The analytical Marxists, however, largely rejected this point of view. Led by G. A. Cohen (a moral philosopher by training), they argued that a Marxist theory of justice had to focus on egalitarianism. For Cohen, this meant an engagement with moral and political philosophy in order to demonstrate the injustice of market exchange, and the construction of an appropriate egalitarian metric. This argument is pursued in Cohen's books, Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality (1995) and If You're an Egalitarian How Come You're So Rich? (2000b).

Cohen departs from previous Marxists by arguing that capitalism is a system characterised by unjust exploitation not because the labour of workers is "stolen" by employers, but because it is a system wherein "autonomy" is infringed and which results in a distribution of benefits and burdens that is unfair. In the traditional Marxist account, exploitation and injustice occur because non-workers appropriate the value produced by the labour of workers. This would be overcome in a socialist society where no class would own the means of production and be in a position to appropriate the value produced by labourers. Cohen argues that underpinning this account is the assumption that workers have "rights of self-ownership" over themselves and thus, should "own" what is produced by their labour. Because the worker is paid a wage less than the value he or she creates through work, the capitalist is said to extract a surplus-value from the worker's labour, and thus to steal part of what the worker produces, the time of the worker and the worker's powers.

Cohen argues that the concept of self-ownership is favourable to Rawls's difference principle as it ensures "each person's rights over his being and powers" — i.e. that one is treated as an end always and never as a means — but also highlights that its centrality provides for an area of common ground between the Marxist account of justice and the right-libertarianism of Robert Nozick. However, much as Cohen criticises Rawls for treating people's personal powers as just another external resource for which no individual can claim desert, so does he charge Nozick with moving beyond the concept of self-ownership to his own right-wing "thesis" of self-ownership. In Cohen's view, Nozick's mistake is to endow people's claims to legitimately acquire external resources with the same moral quality that belongs to people's ownership of themselves. In other words, proprietarianism allows inequalities to arise from differences in talent and differences in external resources, but it does so because it assumes that the world is "up for grabs", that it can be justly appropriated as private property, with virtually no restriction(s).

Criticisms

Analytical Marxism received criticism from a number of different quarters, both Marxist and non-Marxist.

Method

A number of critics argued that analytical Marxism proceeded from the wrong methodological and epistemological premises. While the analytical Marxists dismissed "dialectically oriented" Marxism as "bullshit", others maintain that the distinctive character of Marxist philosophy is lost if it is understood "non-dialectically". The crucial feature of Marxist philosophy is that it is not a reflection in thought of the world, a crude materialism, but rather an intervention in the world concerned with human praxis. According to this view, analytical Marxism wrongly characterizes intellectual activity as occurring in isolation from the struggles constitutive of its social and political conjuncture, and at the same time does little to intervene in that conjuncture. For dialectical Marxists, analytical Marxism eviscerated Marxism, turning it from a systematic doctrine of revolutionary transformation into a set of discrete theses that stand or fall on the basis of their logical consistency and empirical validity.

Analytical Marxism's non-Marxist critics also raised methodological objections. Against Elster and the rational choice Marxists, Carver argued that methodological individualism was not the only form of valid explanation in the social sciences, that functionalism in the absence of micro-foundations could remain a convincing and fruitful mode of inquiry, and that rational choice and game theory were far from being universally accepted as sound or useful ways of modelling social institutions and processes.

History

Cohen's defence of a technological determinist interpretation of historical materialism was, in turn, quite widely criticised, even by analytical Marxists. Together with Andrew Levine, Wright argued that in attributing primacy to the productive forces (the development thesis), Cohen overlooked the role played by class actors in the transition between modes of production. For the authors, it was forms of class relations (the relations of production) that had primacy in terms of how the productive forces were employed and the extent to which they developed. It was not evident, they claimed, that the relations of production become "fetters" once the productive forces are capable of sustaining a different set of production relations. Likewise, Cornell political philosopher Richard W. Miller, while sympathetic with Cohen's analytical approach to Marxism, rejected Cohen's technological interpretation of historical materialism, to which he counterpoised with what he called a "mode of production" interpretation which placed greater emphasis on the role of class struggle in the transition from one mode of production to another. The Greek philosopher Nicholas Vrousalis generalized Miller's critique, pointing out that Cohen's distinction between the material and social properties of society cannot be drawn as sharply as Cohen's materialism requires.

Other non-Marxist critics argued that Cohen, in line with the Marxist tradition, underestimated the role played by the legal and political superstructure in shaping the character of the economic base. Finally, Cohen's anthropology was judged dubious: whether human beings adopt new and more productive technology is not a function of an ahistorical rationality, but depends on the extent to which these forms of technology are compatible with pre-existing beliefs and social practices. Cohen recognised and accepted some, though not all, of these criticisms in his History, Labour, and Freedom (1988).

Roemer's version of the cause of change in the mode of production as due to being inequitable rather than inefficient is also the source of criticism. One such criticism is that his argument relies of the legal ownership of production which is only present in later forms of class society rather than the social relations of production.

Justice and power

Some Marxists argue, against analytical Marxist theories of justice, that it is mistaken to suppose that Marxism offers a theory of justice ; others question analytical Marxists' identification of justice with rights. The question of justice cannot be seen in isolation from questions of power, or from the balance of class forces in any specific conjuncture. Non-Marxists may employ a similar criticism in their critique of liberal theories of justice in the Rawlsian tradition. They argue that the theories fail to address problems about the configuration of power relations in the contemporary world, and by so doing appear as little more than exercises in logic. "Justice", on this view, is whatever is produced by the assumptions of the theory. It has little to do with the actual distribution of power and resources in the world.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Acton, H. B. (1955). The Illusion of the Epoch: Marxism-Leninism as a Philosophical Creed, Cohen and West.
  2. ^ Cohen 2000a.
  3. ^ Cohen, G.A. (1978), ix. Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence, Clarendon Press, Oxford. ISBN   0-19-827196-4.
  4. ^ Miller 1996.
  5. ^ Roemer 1986.
  6. ^ Veneziani 2010.
  7. ^ Wood 2004.
  8. ^ Cohen 1995.
  9. ^ Cohen 1995.
  10. ^ Carver and Thomas 1995; Roberts 1997.
  11. ^ Levine and Wright 1980.
  12. ^ Miller 1984.
  13. ^ Vrousalis 2015.
  14. ^ Carter 1988.
  15. ^ Hirst 1985.
  16. ^ Wood 2004.
  17. ^ Furner 2018.

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Communism socialist political movement and ideology

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<i>A General Theory of Exploitation and Class</i> 1982 book by John Roemer

A General Theory of Exploitation and Class is a 1982 book about the exploitation of labour and social class by the economist and political scientist John Roemer. The book was first published in the United States by Harvard University Press.

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<i>Das Kapital</i> Book by Karl Marx

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Orthodox Marxism body of Marxist thought that emerged following the death of Karl Marx which became the official philosophy of the socialist movement

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Marxs method

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References

  1. http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/farmelant080809.html
  2. Levine, A. and Olin Writght, E., 1980. Rationality and Class Struggle in New Left Review, I/123, September–October 1980

Bibliography