Marx and Self-Realization
Marx was notoriously vague about future society. It is ironic, then, that in the minds of most laymen he is often associated with a very specific utopian vision. As anyone familiar with Marx’s works will know, no blueprint for this vision actually exists. Nevertheless, it would be very misleading indeed to suggest that Marx left us no clues as to his thought on the future. The clues are there in much of what he wrote about the past and the present, in his analysis and criticism of class society, in his exposure and condemnation of exploitation. And the evidence is such that, despite all the feuds, debates and discussions about what Marx did or did not say or did or did not mean, there is almost universal agreement as to the value he hoped future society would promote: human self-realization. It is therefore important that advocates of Marx’s vision should take seriously and respond to criticism of this ideal. In his recent book, Making Sense of Marx, Jon Elster provides a list of eight objections which, though not exhaustive, includes most of the basic points raised by critics and constitutes a useful framework for assessment of the viability or non-viability of the self-realization ideal. Let us examine the eight objections in turn.
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