POLI305: Modern Political Theory Part 1

Locate, and explain the specific conceptual and argumentative content of,

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negative liberty, ie.

freedom from x

Understanding freedom in this way is a total liberal fraud; the freedom to be left alone, abandoned, alienated, which only makes sense of you have stuff to take care of yourself.

Egoism (10)

Private whim

Isolated monad (16)

Right of self-interest

Right of Private property

‘Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is ours only if we have it” (74)




positive liberty, ie.

freedom to do y,

eg. to be happy,

moral, fulfill roles etc

Freedom to sell one’s labor-power is to become a ‘slave to his objects’ (60-1)

servant of wages’ (67)

wages then oppressed by bourg, landlord, shopkeeper, pawnbroker (165, 171)


Human (and not merely political) ‘emancipation’ (5, 14)


Free exercise of physical and metal energy to meet own needs (62)

free spontaneous activity’ (64)

what I make from myself I make for society, conscious of my nature as social’ (72)

‘Man appropriates to himself his manifold essence in an all-sided way, thus as a whole man’ (73)

cultivate talents in all directions’ (144)

labor as ‘self-activity’ (148, 151, 152)

complete individuals’ (152)

labor that is genuinely useful (289)











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socio-political equality of status

as subjects

as citizens                

as humans  

Claim of ‘Equality’, as ‘self-sufficient monads’ (17) is meaningless while subjects are vulnerable to alien powers of market (9)

‘Atomism’ (252)


Equality as citizens is schizophrenic hoax: be politically moral yet privately egoistic (21)

Equality must be as participants in the global reality of species-being who also organize themselves locally

political equality

direct participation  

indirect participation



Political emancipation (ie right to vote without property qualification) is a ‘great step forward’ (10) BUT it also obscures the extent to which private property, education, and occupation still dictate identity and power (8)




legal equality

equality under the law

equal protection

Law protects ‘freedom, equality, property’ (273)

Vested unproductive capitalists (175, 287-8) and the reactionary lazy (167, 172) or incomplete individuals may have to be overcome, or forced to work or transformed in their consciousness in order to obtain ‘equal liability of all to labour’ (176)



economic equality

of opportunity           

of subsistence

of condition/outcome

Eq of opportunity is hoax

Wage-worker suffers objectification, externalization, alienation (59-60)

Status quo is ‘domination of things’ (145)

Equality of opportunity to sell self or own ‘hide’ ie skin (265-6)

Logic of (profit-seeking, cost-minimizing) capitalism (261-2, 295, 299) pushes workers (with lower wages) to point of subsistence or starvation, ‘pauperism’ (60, 159, 168, 266, 268, 270) and robotic function as cog in machine (162, 172) with no hope of private property anyway (170, 171) [anachronistic in post-industrial age?]

‘Equality of wages’ still leaves workers in relation to state as a whole as abstract capitalist (67)

Crude communism, like community of women, is just universal possessiveness not transcendence of that acquisitiveness (69, 70, 173)

‘In Communist society, accumulated labour is but the means to widen, enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer’ (171)

‘Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation’ (172)

the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’ (176; 238)

transparent’ (239)











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independence interdependence intersubjectivity

Independence amounts to separation (3, 16)

Instead, Man should find his realization not limitation in other men (16)

Interdependence (individuals united by specific material interests) tends to play out as divisive class politics and struggle (36)

‘Species-being’ (62)

‘Social existence’ (71)

‘Society’ (72)

‘Individual communal being’ (73)

socialized humanity’ (101)

“Only when the actual, individual man has taken back into himself the abstract citizen and in his everyday life, his individual work, and his individual relationships has become a species-being, only when he has recognized and organized his own powers as social powers so that social force is no longer separated from him as political power, only then is human emancipation complete” (21)

Heterosexual relation of man to women epitomizes mutual meeting of needs as social beings (70)

‘Consciousness is thus from the very beginning a social product and will remain so as long as men exist’ (117)





Answered by

The most problematic politico-philosophical schools are ...



Every philosophical school insofar as it aggravates the alienation of ideas from matter and privileges the former (103), Hegel, Young H and ‘the rotting away of absolute spirit’ (104; 126); they are really conservatives (106)

Philosophies that ideologically legitimate the modern capitalist liberal-democratic status quo especially.

John Locke (250), Adam Smith, David Ricardo (240), Hegel (9, 21, 32, 56, 79, 82, dialectic 84)

Hegel is twice problematic: ‘Hegel’s standpoint is that of modern political economy’ (84)

Political economy – insights but takes for granted private property and competition (58)

[viewed favorably but also improved upon: Rousseau, 20; other socialists too, 56, 69; Proudhon 66; Young Hegelians esp Feuerbach’s materialism 80, 99, 104f, 127]

Other earlier forms of socialist theorizing (176f)


We can best know what we know by ...




Engaging in radical (radix, root) criticism (34)

Combining philosophy with proletariat (38)

Studying ‘political economy’ (56)

Under capitalism it is the thesis-antithesis of ‘labor and capital’ (68)

‘Dialectic materialism’ (87, 92) (deduction from materialist first premises or ‘presuppositions of political economy’ 58, 107) [problem of economic reductionism or determinism]

applied to ‘the entire movement of history’ (71), specific features of which can then be confirmed through empirical observation (56, 111, 112)

[problem of non-falsifiability remains];

the first premise …. The first fact’ is producing the means of subsistence (107, 115)

being aware that the ‘mode of production’ defines the ‘mode of life’ (107)

ideas are expressions of material mode of material life (111)

the production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness is directly interwoven with the material activity and the material relationships of men’ (111)

consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness’ (112; 174)

avoiding ideology: ‘in every epoch the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas’ (129; 174), ie those who control ‘means of production has also control over them means of intellectual production’ (129)

engaging in the ‘study of the real life-process and the activity of the individuals of any given epoch’ (112; 122)

real positive science’ (112)

mutual determinism (114)

all collisions in history have their origins in the contradiction between the productive forces and the form of interaction’ (142)

class struggles’ (158)

heeding positive socialist self-consciousness as ‘proof’ of truth of the view (78)

Just doing it (101)

Rare few, who are not workers, achieve this awareness, in advance, ie M& E (167) and real communists generally (170)

Economic ‘laws’ proceed with ‘iron necessity’ (217)

‘Political economy’ (219)

studying ‘commodity,’ ‘use-value,’ ‘exchange- value,’ (220-5), fetishism (230f), money as useful means but also commodity in itself (246, 249, 252)

focusing on ‘the secret of profit-making’ ‘surplus-value’ (273; 290, 293)


What is essential to human beings is ...




Their ‘species-life’ (8) or ‘species-being’ (17, 62) as agents who act upon material Nature to make that which is productively useful to man (60, 63, 87) [anthropocentric and environmental degradation].

‘Productive life’ (63)

‘Conscious life activity’ (63)

‘Inner wealth’ (74)

or rather under communism will be the sensory experience of reality as humanist not egoist (74), acting one one’s ‘human sense’ (75)

NOT mere self-consciousness as Hegel thought (85)


Ethics is best

determined through ...




Young Marx – attention to injustice which yields awareness of inequality, deception, oppressions, suffering, worker as ‘miserable commodity’ (58)

Old Marx – ethics and ideals are irrelevant to necessary dialectical logic of materialism; shift from moral prescription to scientific prediction.

Morality is ideological byproduct of economics of society (112)

‘Evils’ (218) v ‘labour-power withdrawn from the market by wear and tear, and by death’ (269)


Being communal/self-sacrificing is ...




The fulfillment of our human species-being; complaints about sacrifices involved are symptoms of the selfishness into which modern capitalism socializes us.

No tradeoff because ‘the individual is the social being’ (73), personal satisfaction is communal satisfaction

The optimal polity is ...




NOT liberal democracy presiding over a capitalist civil society.

NOT guarantor of egoism (16)

Communism (71)

Active ‘philanthropy’ (72)

Following the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat, the state as we know it will wither away to be replaced, perhaps, by the administration and coordination of things produced but not of comrades as producers.

Radical Democracy in its transparency (239)

Social Anarchism (146)

‘Communist society, ..., where nobody has an exclusive area of activity and each can train himself in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production, making it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, ...’ (119)

‘Not an ideal ...’ (120)

‘Only in community do the means exist for every individual to cultivate his talents in all directions’ (144)


Political violence or revolution is ...




Necessary to actualize human needs (35, 36)

Only true revolution when undertaken by class with a universal character, namely the proletariat on behalf of humanity (38, 67)

‘Revolutionary praxis’ (99)

And will likely be violent because it is unlikely that capitalists will relinquish their material vested interests nor refrain from summoning the legal and political superstructure to preserve the exploitative status quo.

Necessary to do away with all labor and classes (124, 152)

‘Not criticism but revolution is the driving force of history’ (124)

despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production’ (175)

sweeps away by force’ (176)

working men of all countries, unite!’ (186)


The challenge facing Modernity is ...         




‘The riddle of history solved’ (71)‘

The total redemption of humanity’ (38)

‘The overcoming of human self-alienation’ (71)

The transcendence of the gross dynamics of ‘alienation’ brought upon man by capitalism (63f, 121).

1. man from nature, 2. Man from himself, 3. Man from species-existence, 4. Man from man (63-64)

Completion of historical stages: 1 tribal foraging and agriculture, 2. Ancient communal and state ownership, 3. Feudal or estate ownership, 4. capitalism (108-11)

As the final dialectical stage of history, once (1) it reaches the fullest development of constantly revolutionizing productive forces (142, 161, 175-6) and cycles of crises (163); and (2) becomes genuinely global (121, 123, 125, 141, 160, 162, 174, 255); capitalism will unleash the ultimate class struggle of frantic profit-chasing capitalists against despairing proletariats otherwise it is premature and false, like ‘feudal socialism’ (177) [self-critique].

The latter, as workers of the world, will unite and overthrow the status quo in the name, not of some particular class interest, but of species-being (130, 144, 146, 152, 165-7)

Recovery of useful labor in age-old struggle with metabolic reality of material nature (227) [enlightenment assumption of human domination of environment]