Agenda for the ‘Nineties
Journal of Social Philosophy
As the new
editor of the Journal of Social Philosophy, Peter French has invited a
number of us to 'attempt to identify some of the major topics or issues or
questions to which those working in social, political, moral, or legal theory
ought to be addressing themselves in the next decade.' He does not ask us to
suggest answers to these questions, merely to identify the questions. Surely
this is, to quote Kant, 'a task which is rather an amusement than a labour. In that
spirit, let me try to identify the three theoretical problems whose solution,
or at least clarification, constitutes the agenda for social philosophers for
the nineties and some considerable time beyond.
speaking, social philosophy, or social theory [I make no distinction between
the two], does not exhibit a path of unbroken advance. Quite to the contrary,
the level of sophistication and insight of social philosophers seems to me to
have reached a peak roughly half a century ago, and, save in one crucially
important area, to have declined since. Hence, at least part of the task
confronting social philosophers in the coming decades is to recover what was
achieved by Max Weber, Karl Mannheim, Herbert Marcuse, and their fellow
theorists. The exception, as I shall argue shortly, is the dramatic rediscovery
of Karl Marx as an important economic theorist, thanks to the modern analytic
reinterpretation of classical and Marxian political economy during the sixties,
seventies, and early eighties.
Problem of the Union of Marx and Freud
us begin, then, with the problem which the social theorists of the Frankfort
school recognized to be the major intellectual challenge of early twentieth
century social theory, and to which they devoted their principal energies: the
working out, to put it emblematically, of a rapprochement between Marx and
singular power of Marx's critique of early capitalism lay in its attempt to
unite a moral and psychological critique of the destructive effects of
capitalism on the individual - the theory of alienation and false consciousness
- with a systematic analysis of the institutional structure and workings of the
capitalist economy as a whole, all in the service of demonstrating both
that capitalism rests on the exploitation of the working class and that
it is internally unstable and therefore progressively more likely to be
replaced by a humane and rational socialism.
was, of course, a long European tradition of critical analysis of the
conditions of individual human fulfillment, starting with Plato and continuing
in full strength in the writings of the utopian socialists. There was also a
newer tradition - but by Marx's day certainly a century old - of analytic
critique of the workings of a capitalist market economy. What made Marx's work
unique, and immensely powerful, was the attempt to unite these two in what
might somewhat cavalierly be called the Geisteswissenschaftlich version
of a 'unified field theory' of the individual and society.
theory of capitalist economic institutions and practices was on the forefronts
of the economic theorizing of his day, although as a consequence of the
three-pronged marginalist revolution of Jevons, Menger, and Walras in the
decade after the publication of CAPITAL, this fact was obscured until about
thirty years ago. But his theory of unalienated human nature, however inspiring
and insightful, was merely one more bit of armchair psychologizing. Marx
cannot be said to have been more of a theorist of the human condition
than Plato, Hobbes, Shakespeare, or Nietzsche - although that is, of course,
heady company in which to be placed.
remained for Freud to put the theory of human personality on a sound scientific
basis, and to inaugurate a process of progressively deeper understanding of
the formations and deformations of the human psyche that continues to the
present day. It is of no consequence that Freud's theories were tentative,
limited, to some extent constrained by cultural, sexual, and perhaps class
biases, and applicable, in the form in which he articulated them, only to a
fraction of the men and women even of his own turn-of-the-century Vienna.
Analogous limitations must be placed on the truth claims of all important
advances of knowledge. What matters is that with Freud, we move be- yond
armchair psychologizing to an irreversible advance in our understanding of
the same period of time - roughly the first third of this century - students of
economy and society, mostly in Europe, were advancing and refining, but also
seriously challenging, Marx's analysis of capitalism. We can identify four
developments which, in one way or another, called Marx's theories into
question. These were, First, the manifest willingness of the working classes of
France and Germany to go to war against one another in the trenches of World
War One, in clear contradiction to what any social critic thinking along
Marxian lines could see were their true class interests. Second, the failure of
the Great Depression - surely the terminal crisis predicted by Marx if anything
could be! - to bring about socialist revolutions in the advanced industrial
capitalist nations, Third, the growing evidence that capitalism was providing
an improving standard of living for the great mass of workers~ and Finally, the
unanticipated, and inexplicable, appearance, in the economically least advanced
country in Europe, of a regime that pronounced itself Marxist, and proclaimed
that it had instituted socialism in one country.
these four developments was a fifth, not particularly in contradiction with
Marx's analysis of capitalism, but in its enormity crying out for
understanding: the rise of Naziism from the ashes of Weimar Germany.
the late thirties, progressive social theorists had available to them an
increasingly sophisticated understanding of human psychopathology and a flawed,
but nonetheless .powerful, critique of the economic, political, and legal
institutions and practices of capitalism, but no way of relating these two
bodies of knowledge and insight to one another. Naziism, which at one and the
same time presented itself as an economic and political system [identified with
'socialism'!] and as a monstrous outbreak of criminal pathology, cried out
for a unified analysis grounded both in a theory of late capitalism and in a
theory of human personality.
number of the members of the Institute for Social Research - Theodor Adorno,
Max Horkheimer, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse - self-consciously undertook to
fuse the Marxian and Freudian traditions into a unified analysis of Naziism in
particular and late capitalism in general. The result was some of the most
exciting, original, and powerful social theory ever written. THE AUTHORITARIAN
PERSONALITY, ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM, EROS AND CIVILIZA- TION, ONE-DIMENSIONAL MAN,
together with such works as IDEOLOGY AND UTOPIA and BEHEMOTH, achieved a new level
of sophistication, breadth, power, and insight in social theory, a
level that has not again been reached.
first task facing social theory in the next decade, then, is to recover what
that generation of thinkers understood, and to carry their work forward. In
this effort, it will be necessary to rely both on the enormous advances that
have been made in the psychoanalytic and social analysis of personality
formation, and on the fullscale reconstruction of Marxian economic theory now
under way [see below]. What must be thoroughly eschewed is psychologizing that
is 'philosophical' in the bad sense - speculative, ideological, not based on
clinical experience. Equally to be avoided is an emphasis on cultural critique
to the exclusion of economic and institutional analysis. Too much of what
passes these days for radical social theory consists of the sort of
Kulturkritik with which Bruno Bauer and his compatriots would have felt right
at home. Novels, films, popular culture, and the grotesqueries of 'post-modernism'
are not the place to look for insight into what Marx called the laws of motion
contribution can philosophers make to this effort? For the most part, I
consider this question ill-conceived. There can be no division of labor that
leaves professional philosophers with purely philosophical questions nicely
dissected out of the body politic. But there are complex methodological and
epistemological issues complexly interwoven into the attempt to understand the
relationship between the institutional and the individual, and thoughtful,
knowledgeable philosophers can surely help to think them through.
why a union of Marx and Freud, rather than [say] Jung and Parsons, or Ricardo
and Foucault? Because Freud and Marx stand head and shoulders above all the
other theorists of the past century and a half, and because their work places at
the center of its investigations the mystifications, self-deceptions, false
consciousness, and ideological misrepresentations which are the defining mark
of the social in human experience.
Problem of Up-Dating Marx
second major problem, to which an enormous amount of highly creative
intellectual energy is now being devoted, is the full-scale re-thinking of
Marx's critique of capitalism so as to make it directly and usefully applicable
to the social and economic realities of the late twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries. This is an effort that must proceed on a number of
different fronts, theoretical, empirical, and historical, involving the labors
of thinkers in, at the very least, Economics, Sociology, History, Political
Science, and Philosophy.
was, first and foremost, a political economist, a theoretical economist seeking
to identify the statics and dynamics of the capitalist economic system as it
was developing in his day. His work was, quite self-consciously, at one and the
same time the completion of the classical system laid down by the Physiocrats,
Smith, and Ricardo and the creation of a new theoretical system, both through
the posing of new questions and by the introduction of new theoretical concepts.
the other theoretical economists of the first half of the nineteenth century,
Marx lacked the mathematical techniques for articulating the formal
relationships that constituted the heart of his economic theory. Consequently,
it was possible for early critics mistakenly to impute elementary internal
inconsistencies to his theories, particularly as regards the relationship
between the doctrines of Volumes One and Three of CAPITAL.
the success of marginalism after the eighteen seventies put the entire
classical tradition into eclipse. Not only Marx, but also Ricardo, Mill, Smith
and the other classical political economists ceased to be read as marginalism
established itself as the theoretical orthodoxy of western economics. By the
middle of the twentieth century, it was possible for so brilliant an economist
as Paul Samuelson to scoff at Marx as an 'autodidact' and a 'minor
the inadequacies of marginalism, manifested in its inability to explain the
persistant catastrophic unemployment of the Great Depression, together with the
application of new techniques of mathematical analysis to the internal
interconnections of the sectors of a developed capitalist economy, gave birth
to a rediscovery of Marx that has, in the past three decades, transformed the
theoretical landscape. Beginning with Wassily Leontiev's use of techniques of
linear analysis in his 'input-output' model of a capitalist economy, and
followed by the [apparently quite independent] working-out of a similar ·1inear
model by Piero Sraffa, mathematical economists around the world have
rediscovered in the classical school of Ricardo and Marx a formally sound
alternative to the orthodox marginalist model. Michio Morishima, Andras Brody,
Luigi Pasinetti, Pierangelo Garegnani, John Roemer, Stephen Marglin and scores
of other economists from a dozen countries have elaborated a theoretical model
that is beginning to rival marginalism not only in fundamental analytic power
but also in the complexity and diversity of its detail.
to one side the mathematics, the key to the difference between marginalism and
modern Marxism [if I may thus label the new model] is the nature of the
questions it asks about capitalism. Marginalism construes Economics as 'the
science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and
scarce means which have alternative uses.’
In other words, it looks at the economy from the point of view of a capitalist
trying to make a profit by choosing the right way to employ his capital.
Marginalism wants to know how the individual capitalist can maximize his
profits, how the individual consumer can maximize his or her satisfaction, and
what the systemic consequences will be of the interactions among large numbers
of similarly motivated choices by a society of capitalists and consumers. For
the marginalist, neither economic growth nor the society-wide shape of the
distribution of the social product is a matter of direct or central concern,
although marginalists will undertake, in a limited way, to infer conclusions
about those matters from their model.
classical economists conceive Economics quite differently. For them, it is
primarily the study of the way in which a society endlessly engaged in
reproducing itself divides up the social product, cycle after cycle, among the
several great classes of men and women that make up the social whole, and
secondarily the study of the way that this social division either promotes or
impedes economic growth.
one reflects on the nature of the economic problems that have confronted the
world in the post-World War II period, it is not surprising that an economic
theory centered on problems of distribution and growth should have generated
such wide interest. Nor ought we to be surprised that interest has waned in a model,
however sophisticated, that takes concepts of equilibrium and efficient
selection of alternative investment strategies as central.
as Marx's theories are as an instrument for analysing and criticizing
capitalism, there is obviously an enormous gap between any theory, however
successful, of mid-nineteenth century capitalism, and the reality of the late
twentieth-century world economy. In order to simplify matters somewhat and
organize what is really an enormous subject, we can identify three species of
inadequacy which Marxian economic theory exhibits, each of which calls for
major theoretical work in the years ahead.
and simplest, is Marx's failure to incorporate what he himself identified as
his major theoretical contribution into the formal structure of his own model.
According to Marx, the key to understanding the functioning of capitalism, and
to demonstrating that capitalist profits rest on the exploitation of the
working class, is the distinction between productive labor, or the purposeful
activity of transforming nature so as to make it into commodities capable of
being sold for a profit in the marketplace, and labor-power, or the worker's
capacity for productive labor. The worker sells his or her labor-power to the
capitalist, who then undertakes, in the workplace, to extract from that
labor-power as much productive labor as he possibly can. The secret to the
origin of profit, according to Marx, lies in the gap between the quantity of
past labor embodied in, or required to produce, that labor-power, and the
larger quantity of living labor that the capitalist extracts from the
labor-power when he puts it to work in his factory. Put somewhat less
abstractly, profit results from the fact that workers create more new value
than they consume to keep themselves alive and working for yet another day. The
capitalist appropriates the difference, and gets rich.
was not able to see, but we, with modern analytic techniques can now prove
rigorously, that this account of the origin of profit actually makes no use at
all of the labor/labor-power distinction on which, or so he thought, his entire
theory was based. The first task for modern Marxists, therefore, is to complete
Marx's own theoretical enterprise by successfully building the
labor/labor-power distinction into a formal model of capitalism in an
illuminating and theoretically significant way.
task is currently being carried out by several of the best Marxist economists
in the United States, among them Samuel Bowles of the University of
Massachusetts and Ed Nell of the New School for Social Research. Bowles, Nell,
and others have figured out how to make an analytic connection between the
theory of the origin of profit on the one hand, and Marx's brilliantly vivid,
but largely anecdotal accounts of the power struggle within the factory on
second inadequacy of Marx's economic theory - an inadequacy shared by all of
the classical theory of his day and the marginalist and neo-classical theory
that followed - is its failure to incorporate into its model of the functioning
of captalism any account of three essential institutional components of
capitalist society: the capitalist firm, the working-class family, and the
state. The state, the firm, and the family are obviously essential components
of any adequate model of a capitalist economy, but none of them is provided
with a theoretical analysis by Marx, or by any of his predecessors or
like the laisser-faire theorists, posited a state that was no more than a
night-watchman, or alternatively, a committee of the bourgeoisie. Marx
entirely failed to foresee the central role of the state as a fiscal and
monetary force in late capitalism. In recent years, a number of Marxist
economists have attempted to incorporate some conception of the state as an
independent center of decision and action into their theory of capitalism, most
notably James O'Connor. Clearly, a
great deal more needs to be done in the coming decades.
family poses an entirely different set of theoretical and -empirical problems.
As Marx recognizes, the family is the locus of the reproduction of labor-power.
Hence, its role is essential to the continued operation of a capitalist
economy. But despite his bitter and penetrating observations on bourgeois
family life in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, and the moving accounts of the effects
of capitalism on women and children in CAPITAL and in Engels' THE CONDITION OF
THE WORKING CLASS IN ENGLAND, there is no theoretical space in Marx's model of
capitalism for the family as a complex unit within which potentially
exploitative transfers of value take place. Marx was not simply personally
insensitive to the position of women [as painfully captured by Jerrold Seigel
in his brilliant biography, MARX'S FATE.]
His model of capitalist exploitation does not allow for an analysis of the
exploitation of women by men within the family. A number of Marxist feminists,
among them Nancy Folbre, have in recent years begun the complex task of
reconstructing Marxian theory in order to make room for a theoretical analysis
of the exploitation of women.
there is a pressing need for some theoretical analysis along Marxian lines of
the capitalist firm. In the past century and more, the firm has been
transformed from a small privately owned operation functioning essentially as
the extension of the will of the entrepreneur into an enormous bureaucratic
entity with inner dynamics and organizational imperatives that bear only a
glancing relationship to the simple profit maximatization posited by Marx, the
classicals, and the neo-classicals alike. John Kenneth Galbraith, Herbert Simon,
and other non-Marxist economists have done valuable work on the modern firm,
although little headway has been made in incorporating what are essentially
historical and anecdotal accounts of the firm into a theory of price formation
and profit. But Marxist economists have only begun the job of theorizing about
the firm. Notable, along these lines, is Stephen Marglin's classic essay.
more difficult even than correcting internal inadequacies in Marx's theory. or
broadening it to incorporate elements of the capitalist economy which he
ignored, despite the fact that they existed in his day, is the task of
transforming Marxian political economy to take account of the enormous changes
in capitalism since the middle of the nineteenth century.
me mention just four of these changes, by way of indicating the sorts of
theoretical and conceptual tasks that lie ahead for Marxian theorists.
striking. surely, is the reversal of the trend toward polarization between rich
and poor, capitalist and worker, which Marx observed and which he thought to be
one of the central tendencies of capitalist development. In the middle of the
nineteenth century, it was entirely plausible to claim, as Marx did, that
capitalism was destroying traditional crafts, erasing the distinction between
skilled and unskilled labor. driving small businesses to the wall,
proletarianizing the peasantry, capitalizing the landed aristocracy, and
progressively transforming bourgois society into two homogeneous and opposed
the past century has, quite to the contrary, seen the creation and preservation
of a highly pyramidal structure of inequality of income and wealth, in which
there are not two homogeneous classes but a hierarchy of strata or class
fragments defined by the inequality of their shares in wages and salaries
rather than merely by the inequality in their ownership of the means of
production. The shares of national income going to the different deciles, or
income tenths, in the United States, for example, has not changed notably in
the past eighty years, save for a slow erosion in the share going to the
poorest tenth, and a small increase in the share going to the richest tenth.
consequence, it begins to make sense to talk not only about capital's
exploitation of labor, but also about salaried workers' exploitation of wage
laborers, and union laborers' exploitation of the non-unionized. A number of
Marxist economists have begun to analyze the phenomenon of relative
exploitation, but there is a good deal more work that needs to be done.
second major development in the past century is the evolution of the financial
system, and the emergence of forms of money which were unknown in Marx's day.
Money remains a problem for economists, both orthodox and Marxist. Marx himself
set forth a quantity theory of money that would sound comfortable coming from
the mouth of Milton Friedman. Although he recognized, more perhaps than any
other classical economist, the central conceptual and theoretical role of money
~ such in a capitalist economy, his own theory never gets beyond a commodity
theory of money [i.e., money=gold as a reproducible commodity). Recent Marxist
theorists have been no more successful in their efforts to understand the
nature of money. Monetary theorists like Suzanne de Brunhof can advance very
little beyond an explication of Marx's own texts.
and modern general equilibrium theorists, of course, make no place at all for
money as such in their models, a fact which rather puzzled me when I first
encountered them. Ironically, the linear reproduction models of Leontief,
Sraffa, et al. make no place for money either. The formal implication of
their analyses is that money is merely accidental to the operations of a
capitalist economy, a proposition which Marx would have insisted was absurd.
Nevertheless, insisting is no substitute for theorizing, and an adequate
Marxist understanding of money still waits to be advanced.
third dramatic change in capitalism between Marx's day and ours is the
through-going internationalization of the world capitalist economy. Marx
foresaw this, of course, predicted it and insisted upon its inevitability. But
the process was barely begun in his own day, and we need, today, a full-scale
Marxist theory of the international economy. The most interesting attempts in
this direction are the many works in recent years devoted to the relationship
between the capitalist nations and the primary-producing nations of the
so-called Third World.
internationalization of capitalism requires not only a re-thinking of the
relationship of national economies to the world economy, but also a reanalysis
of the structure of exploitation within individual countries. It is by now a
commonplace that all of us in the affluent First World, workers and capitalists
alike, enjoy the standard of living we do in part because we - all of us -
exploit the working classes of the primary-producing Third World nations. The
gap between the standard of living of First and Third World workers - greater
by far than the gap between the well-off and the less-well-off within the First
World - poses moral as well as conceptual questions about the appropriateness
of the term 'exploitation' as a description of the relationship between rich
and poor in the developed nations.
contemporary Marxist theorists must come to terms with the manifest fact that
the conditions of existence of workers in the bourgeois capitalist nations have
improved dramatically in the past century, contrary to the confident
predictions of Marx and Engels. Sophisticated discourses about 'relative
immiseration' and 'repressive desublimation' cannot conceal the fact that both
the daily work and the real [i.e., material] rewards of the great mass of
working people have improved greatly since Marx wrote, Stripped of all its
theoretical trappings, CAPITAL is a book about the manifest human misery of
early capitalism. When Marx and Engels cry out, 'The Proletarians have nothing
to lose but their chains!,' they do not have in mind workers who have achieved
home ownership, some measure of old age security, at least partial medical
insurance, and the possibility of sending their children to the local Community
of us, like myself, who believe that the concept of exploitation remains
the central theoretical tool for understanding capitalism are under a heavy
obligation either to justify the moral baggage carried by that term in
contemporary capitalism or else to stop using it.
will be noted that I have not included, in my list of changes re-
quiring theoretical rethinking, the appearance on the world scene of a number
of major and minor national economies proclaiming themselves Marxist,
socialist, or communist. None of them bears any more relation to what Marx had
in mind than modern Christianity does to the pronouncements of Jesus. Indeed,
the economies of the Soviet Union, China, and the other nations of the
so-called Socialist Bloc merely serve as a negative confirmation of Marx's
unwavering conviction that socialism could only emerge as an inner development
out of the late stages of the playing out of the logic of capitalism.
3. Methodological Individualism and the
Theory of Society
third major task facing social theory in the coming decade is at once the most intractable and the philosophically most interesting: the working out of the
ontological status of society, as an object of investigation, that preserves
the immensely valuable insights of the great continental tradition of social
theory while conforming to the dictates of a conceptually coherent
methodological individualism. Put somewhat more epigrammatically, we might
think of this as the task of making Marx lie down with Mill.
the first two thousand years and more of western philosophy, the admissible
elements of a defensible ontology - leaving to one side God - were nature and
the individual. Some, like Hobbes, might undertake to reduce the latter to the
former, while others - Berkeley comes to mind - could be construed as absorbing
the former into the latter. But even as late as the end of the
eighteenth century, society does not figure as an independent category of being
- a kind of thing sui generis, not to be reduced to, or explained in terms of,
either nature or the individual.
century later, all that has changed. Philosophy - like social theory, art
history, anthropology, and history - has discovered society as an autonomous
object of theoretical investigation. The most dramatic proclamation of the
ontological autonomy of the social occurs in the writings of Emile Durkheim,
for whom the existence of an autonomous realm of social facts is the necessary
precondition for the existence of Sociology as a genuine discipline.
Each individual drinks,
sleeps, eats, reasons, and it is to society's interest that these functions be exercised
in an orderly manner. If, then, all these facts are counted as 'social' facts,
sociology would have no subject matter exclusively its own, and its domain
would be confused with that of biology and psychology. But in reality there is
in every society a certain group of phenomena which may be differentiated from
those studied by the other natural sciences… Here, then, is a category
of facts with very distinctive characteristics: it consists of ways of acting,
thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of
coercion, by reason of which they control him••• [T]heir source is not in the
individual, their substratum can be no other than society, either the political
society as a whole or some one of the partial groups it includes…
have an existence of their own~ they are forces as real as cosmic forces,
though of an- other sort~ they, likewise, affect the individual from without,
though through other channels. The proof that the reality of collective tendencies
is no less than that of cosmic forces is that this reality is demonstrated in
the same way, by the uniformity of effects…
language is in fact ambiguous with respect to the actual independent
existence of a collective unconscious as the bearer of these collective
tendencies, but his insistence on the non-reducibility of the social to the
psychological [or, needless to say, to the physical] poses in a strong form the
fundamental epistemological and methodological problem for social philosophers.
problem can be put in this way: can we give an explication of social phenomena
which rigorously avoids the positing, either implicitly or explicitly, in an
ontologically queer manner such entities as collective mind, Geist, History,
Capital, The Proletariat, etc., while at the same time preserving all that is
legitimate and important about society and social phenomena in the tradition of
social theory growing out of Marx, Durkheim, Tonnies, Weber, and their
successors? Can we make sense of mystification without reducing it to
individual illusion, ideology without reducing it to individual false
consciousness? Can we find a way of expressing Mannheim's insights into
the social roots of knowledge that does not commit us to the existence of the
collective unconscious to which he refers in IDEOLOGY AND UTOPIA?
most sophisticated recent attempt to bring the insights of the Franco-German
tradition within the methodological purview of analytic philosophy is Jon
Elster's important book, MAKING SENSE OF MARX. Elster opens
with an admirably clear statement of the methodological principle involved, and
much of the more than five hundred pages that follow is devoted to detailed
explications and critiques of passages in Marx's writings which ap- pear, at
least at first reading, to violate the individualist precept. Here is Elster's
individualism] I mean the doctrine that all social phenomena - their structure
and their change - are in principle explicable in ways that involve only
individuals - their properties, their goals, their beliefs and their actions.
Methodological individualism thus conceived is a form of reductionism.
key to Elster's approach is modern rational choice theory, in particular Game
Theory [or at least the concepts and rhetoric of Game Theory - there is no
attempt actually to construct formally correct models of games or to invoke the
theorems, such as they are, of Game Theory.] Elster exhibits considerable
imagination and flair in his deployment of the notion of unintended
consequences. His particular target is functional explanation, embodying as it
does the assumption - illegitimate to a methodological individualist - of
teleology not grounded in the intentions or purposes of individuals.
Elster does yeoman service in demonstrating how far it is possible go in the
explication of group phenomena with nothing but the tools of individual
rational choice theory, he complete fails, in my judgment, to capture what is
distinctive about the social. By reducing mystification, and the opacity of
social phenomena, to one or another species of intellectual error or ignorance,
he allows to slip away precisely those features of collective life which are
definitive of our experience of the social.
course, Elster might quite legitimately reply that it is easy enough to reject
his explications and insist that something 'more' remains to be captured. It is
a good deal harder to say exactly what that something more is, and
how his explications have missed it. Perhaps any fully satisfactory
philosophical account of the category of mystification will leave us
vaguely dissatisfied precisely by virtue of having dispelled the mystery.
Nevertheless, I suggest that a fully adequate unpacking of the social remains
one of the most pressing tasks of social philosophy in the coming decades.
there it is, a budget of problems, tasks, and unanswered questions that should
do quite nicely to keep social philosophers busy until the end of the second milennium.
One might make two observations my selection of problems: First, they are all
just various ways of saying that we must think about Marx, and second, they
seem to require much more than a passing acquaintance with a variety of
theoretical and empirical materials not ordinarily considered to lie within the
borders of Philosophy.
of these observations are quite correct. I am convinced now, as I have been for
some years, that Marx is the most original social theorist ever to have lived,
and that we cannot do better than to carry forward the complex, many-sided
enterprise he began almost one hundred fifty years ago. Since Marx himself was
a thinker of enormous breadth, for whom disciplinary boundaries simply did not
exist, we must, in our effort to advance his insights, be equally universal
in the range of our learning, at least to the best of our ability [for few
among us will come close to matching his scope, let alone his power, as a
luck, and Peter French's careful guidance, the pages of this journal will be
filled, in the years to come, with essays and reviews that seek, one way or
another, to come to grips with the problems I have outlined here.
KrV., Axxi. Kant is there referring to the task of
providing a complete analysis of the derivative concepts of the system of the
Critical Philosophy - he has a rather heroic and Germanic notion of what counts
as an amusement!
Needless to say, these characterizations of Marx's
thought, like any that might be given, are highly controversial, and open to
powerful criticisms from a variety of points of view. My justification for the
account of Marx adumbrated in this essay can be found in two books:
UNDERSTANDING MARX, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1984 and
MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, MA.,
See, among many other works, Wassily
Leontief, THE STRUCTURE OF AMERICAN ECONOMY 1919-1929, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, MA., 1941, Piero Sraffa, PRODUCTION OF COMMODITIES BY MEANS
OF COMMODITIES, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1960, Michio
Morishima, MARX'S ECONOMICS, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 1973, Luigi
Pasinetti, LECTURES ON THE THEORY OF PRODUCTION, Columbia University Press, New
York, NY, 1977, Andras Brody, PROPORTIONS, PRICES, AND PLANNING, American
Elsevier, New York, NY, 1970, John Roemer, A GENERAL TIIEORY OF EXPLOITATION
AND CLASS, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1982, and Stephen Marglin,
GROWTH, DISTRIBUTION, AND PRICES, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA,
Stephen Marglin, ‘What do bosses do?
The origins and functions of hierarchy in capitalist production,' REVIEW OF
RADICAL POLITICAL ECONOMICS, Part 1, Volume 6, pp. 60-112, Part 2, Volume 7,
For an extremely suggestive formal
treatment, see Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, 'The Marxian theory of value
and heterogeneous labour: a critique and reformulation,' CAMBRIDGE JOURNAL OF
ECONOMICS, Volume 1 , pp. 173-192.
Emile Durkheim, THE RULES OF
SOCIOLOGICAL METHOD, eighth edition, trans. by Sarah A. Solovay and John
Mueller, ed. by George E. G. Catlin, Glencoe, Ill., The Free Press, 1938, pp.
Emile Durkheim, SUICIDE, trans. by
John A. Spaulding and George Simpson, Glencoe, Ill., The Free Press, 19S1, p.
Cf. Karl Mannheim, IDEOLOGY AND
UTOPIA, trans. by Louis Wirth and Edward Shils, Harcourt, Brace and Co., New
York, 1936, p. 31. But seep. 48: 'there is no such thing as a 'folk mind' and
groups as wholes are as incapable of self-clarification as they are of
thinking.' Mannheim is perhaps the most complex and rewarding student of this
central methodological problem.