File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1996/96-11-13.154, message 53

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 01:16:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Equality and civil society

On Sun, 10 Nov 1996, Anthony J Caruso wrote:

> >No. Interestingly that idea does not appear anywhere in marxism.
> 	I believe that you are quite right, however, if the world (or
> even a society) switched to a Marxist economy, then wouldn't this be the
> end result?  (Or at least one of them)  If you believe that the answer is
> "yes" or "possibly" then it would be logical that Marx also saw this as a
> possible outcome.  Besides, by "equal" I meant "un-oppressed."  (Sorry. 
> I should have pointed that one out.)

Chris B is right that equality is not an important goal of Marx, or not an
important ultimate goal, at least if by equality is meant rough equality
of material wealth. In the Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx says that
in the lower phase of communism, the principle of equal return for eqla
labor contribution will be realized. This will make real the bourgeois
ideal of fairness or justice, he thinks. But then he criticises that idea
for improperly equalizing people in respects in which they are not equal,
e.g., capacity to work or needs, which makes the bourgeois principle
internally incoherent. It cannoy be fair on its own terms, he supposes.
(This argument has a lot of holes in it.)

Then he says that in the higher phase of communism, the principle of
dustribution according to needs will supercede that of distribution
according to work. He supposes that this will involbve inequality, and of
course it will insofar as people have different needs or needs for
different amounts of material wealth. However, arguably Marx implicitly
appeals to a principle of equality after all: he might be invoking the
idea that under communism everyone's needs are entitled to equal respect,
presumably excluding any horrible needs we might have, such as for
instruments of torture to satuisfy our degraded sadism. (But of course no
one will have such perverse desires under the hugher phase of communism,
right? ;)) So maybe Marx believes in a kind of equality after all.

It is incorrect, however, to say that material equality has been
unimportant in MArxism. In fact, the idea of rough material eqyuality as a
goal has been very important to subsequent Marxists and is probably a
motivating force for most practical revolutionaries. Nor is this a
mistake. Ineqwuality of resources leads to inequality of power, and this
promotes oppression. So Anthony is probably right to point to
nonoppression as factor that makes material equality relevant, if not
right to call it equality itself.

Some modern Marxists argue that MArx himself was concerned with both
equality andjustice. The most impressive argument to this effect is Rodney
Peffer's Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice. In this book Rodney (a
friend of mine) argues that Marx is best read as nmaintaining a theory of
justice like that of John Rawls, the most important liberal political
theorist ofour own time, according to which inequalities must be justified
by their benefiting everyone and in particular the least well off. I have
criticized Rodney for this in print, but his argumebts are well worth

He might be right that MArxists should adopt some such
theory. Marx was wrong to reject justice (as I think he did.) At the very
least the burdens of society should be distributed fairly--what's the
alternative, distributing them unfairly?--and to know what is fair we need
a theory of justice.

Apropos of another thread, I will remark that I am proud to be a
Marxist-Hayekian and a market socialist, whether of not these views are
trendy or smelly. Che once said, It's not _my_ fault the world is Marxist,
It's not my fault, either, that Hayek was right about planning. 


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