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Marx and Morality

Wills, Vanessa (2012) Marx and Morality. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    Several influential interpretations of Marx claim his theory of social change is amoral, that Marx had only an incoherent moral conception, or that Marx had moral commitments early in his career but abandoned them, perhaps at the writing of The German Ideology but certainly before Capital. I argue that none of these is correct. Morality, for Marx, is thoroughly historical: it is produced through human activity; whether particular actions or social arrangements are moral or immoral varies at different historical stages; and its realization in human practice and the closure of the gap between "is" and "ought" would lead to the abolition of morality as the theorization of that gap. Marx determines what society would be best for human beings and which existing forces and historical processes could realize it. He morally evaluates social systems, theories, and human actions with respect to whether they promote or inhibit the increase of human beings' rational control over their own environment and social development, and the historical emergence of "rich individuals". Famously, Marx refers to morality as "ideology". Interpreters of Marx have assumed that ideology is always reactionary or misleading. However, ideology plays an important role in the development of revolutionary consciousness. Ideology can serve as a bulwark of reaction; however, Marx shows that the proletariat must develop its own ideology to theorize social contradictions and determine how they can be overcome to allow for a conscious, democratic, and rational control over human beings' social existence. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I provide a detailed overview of Marx's moral theory and its basis in his conception of human nature and alienation. The remainder of the dissertation follows the development of Marx's moral thought chronologically, starting with Marx's early works including The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology, continuing with the period including works such as The Communist Manifesto and On the Poverty of Philosophy, and ending with Marx's late work including the Grundrisse and Capital. I conclude by drawing together the study's main themes and suggesting avenues for further research.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    Creators/Authors:
    CreatorsEmailORCID
    Wills, Vanessavcwills@gmail.com
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmailORCID
    Committee ChairThompson, Michaelmthompso@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberMcDowell, Johnjmcdowel@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberShelby, Tommietshelby@fas.harvard.edu
    Title: Marx and Morality
    Status: Published
    Abstract: Several influential interpretations of Marx claim his theory of social change is amoral, that Marx had only an incoherent moral conception, or that Marx had moral commitments early in his career but abandoned them, perhaps at the writing of The German Ideology but certainly before Capital. I argue that none of these is correct. Morality, for Marx, is thoroughly historical: it is produced through human activity; whether particular actions or social arrangements are moral or immoral varies at different historical stages; and its realization in human practice and the closure of the gap between "is" and "ought" would lead to the abolition of morality as the theorization of that gap. Marx determines what society would be best for human beings and which existing forces and historical processes could realize it. He morally evaluates social systems, theories, and human actions with respect to whether they promote or inhibit the increase of human beings' rational control over their own environment and social development, and the historical emergence of "rich individuals". Famously, Marx refers to morality as "ideology". Interpreters of Marx have assumed that ideology is always reactionary or misleading. However, ideology plays an important role in the development of revolutionary consciousness. Ideology can serve as a bulwark of reaction; however, Marx shows that the proletariat must develop its own ideology to theorize social contradictions and determine how they can be overcome to allow for a conscious, democratic, and rational control over human beings' social existence. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I provide a detailed overview of Marx's moral theory and its basis in his conception of human nature and alienation. The remainder of the dissertation follows the development of Marx's moral thought chronologically, starting with Marx's early works including The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology, continuing with the period including works such as The Communist Manifesto and On the Poverty of Philosophy, and ending with Marx's late work including the Grundrisse and Capital. I conclude by drawing together the study's main themes and suggesting avenues for further research.
    Date: 01 February 2012
    Date Type: Publication
    Defense Date: 26 August 2011
    Approval Date: 01 February 2012
    Submission Date: 07 December 2011
    Release Date: 01 February 2012
    Access Restriction: No restriction; The work is available for access worldwide immediately.
    Patent pending: No
    Number of Pages: 269
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Marx, morality, moral philosophy, political philosophy, alienation, human nature, history of modern philosophy, Engels, Marxism
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
    Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2012 10:42
    Last Modified: 16 Jul 2014 17:04

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