Marx’s Social Republic: Political not Metaphysical

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

When Marx dissected the capitalist economy and intervened in the international workers’ movement, he did so in the service of freeing people from alien, uncontrolled power. His political project was the realisation of what he called the social republic, and his theoretical project was to identify the forces that promote or retard this political project. In order to bring out the specificity and cogency of the social-republican Marx, this essay uproots the positive-freedom reading that has overgrown the edifice of his thought. Marx certainly hoped for ‘real freedom’, which is a sort of self-realisation. He also hoped for a sort of collective self-determination. And he thought that collective self-determination was a prerequisite for general self-realisation. But Marx also thought that generalised freedom from domination was a prerequisite for collective self-determination.

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