Volume 41, 1998
Marx and the Two Enlightenments
The claim to rationality is disputed by two rival enlightenments, which collided in the dispute between Plato, Socrates and the Sophists, and which Marx united critically. He criticizes the capitalist system immanently as restrictive of production, and its market as not a case of freedom or equality (justice). However, Marx is most concerned with ontological injustice, coerced alienation of the human into being a commodity. He retains Promethean Enlightenment values however: technology, creativity, democracy, which should be economic, participatory and international. Marx criticized Hegel’s rationalization, idealization, ‘transfiguration and glorification’ of private property and the market. But he retains key elements of the idealist notion of human nature: that human is a ‘universal, therefore free being.’ The proletariat, with no other class to exploit, is therefore the philosophical ‘universal class.’ Freedom is class emancipation, justice is common ownership. There is an unwarranted skepticism about the rationality of such values and ideals. Rawls for instance misrepresents them by putting them in the same category as wants or preferences. Ideals, values, and enlightenments can and should be rationally argued over, in dialogue.