Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Barber, Michael. Review of Bill Martin's ETHICAL MARXISM. NDPR (May 2009).
Martin, Bill. Ethical Marxism: the Categorical Imperative of Liberation. Chicago: Open Court, 2008. Bill Martin seeks to restore to Marxist discourse, characterized often by an economic reductivism and philosophical positivism traceable to Karl Marx himself, neglected or even rejected ethical dimensions that have found a high point of expression in the ethics of Immanuel Kant. This admirable project of restoration recaptures ethical dimensions at least implicit in the work of Marx and more explicit in the early work, insofar as Marx's "fourth" formulation of the categorical imperative, namely to overthrow the conditions that degrade humanity, suggests how his project extends Kant's insights to the political and economic realm. This recovery of ethics also will entail that Marxists must address issues of subjectivity, intentionality, and normativity, which Marx may have thought his systemic analyses rendered irrelevant. It further entails that they must examine what is ethically required beyond simply advancing class interests, particularly of those to be found only in advanced capitalist nations. An ethical Marxism will also oppose any teleology or strict laws for history, in which humanity's goals could be achieved without any free, human effort and in which, as a result, such effort would seem no longer really to matter. At the same time, because ethics cannot transform society by itself, Martin wants to retain Marx's systemic analyses that begin with a primary focus on production and the commodification of labor, the producer of value. Marx, however, did not appreciate as well as Lenin did how capitalism was expanding globally through the colonial era until it reached its present imperialist status in which those who are competitively advantaged economically employ assorted strategies (including military force) to dominate others, instrumentalize their lives, and acquire resources, cheap labor, and markets. Since for Martin imperialism, with its devastating effects, is the ethical question of our time, he opposes Ronald Aronson's reformist and social-democratic post-Marxist foundationalism in favor of one that is revolutionary and communist. . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=16065.