Professor Paul Blackledge is a political theorist working within the classical Marxist tradition. His most recent works include a monograph, Marxism and Ethics: Freedom, Desire and Revolution, and a coedited collection, Virtue and Politics. In these books he articulated a Hegelian Marxist ethic through the lens of a neo-Aristotelian critique of liberalism and capitalism. The understanding of Marxism developed in these books builds upon arguments first presented in his second monograph, Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History, and in a series of related articles.
Beyond the Impasse of the Modern Moral Point of View: Towards an Ethical Marxism
The lecture takes as its starting point Raymond Geuss’s claim that contemporary moral philosophy “has little to tell us about real politics”. According to Geuss this failure stems from the way that the Kantian colouration of most modern normative theory informs a tendency to separate discussions of what ought to be from questions of what is. It is precisely because we live in a world in which ethics has been reduced to an emotivist caricature of itself that Marx was scathing in his criticisms of moral discourse. This has often led commentators to erroneously claim that he had no interest in ethical theory. The opposite is the case. It was because Marx understood the social basis for our emotivist culture that he was able to grasp that competing moral claims would tend towards incommensurability, and thus that moralistic politics would take the form of “impotence in action”. Unfortunately, because Marx’s critics largely naturalise the modern moral point of view they tend to interpret his rejection of the moral form as evidence either of a crude mechanical materialism or of simple incoherence. In contrast to these approaches, this lecture seeks to outline an interpretation of Marxism that is able to point beyond the impasse both of modern moral philosophy and of much of modern radical theory towards an ethically grounded criticism of, and alternative to, capitalism. Blackledge argues that, understood thus, Marxism provides indispensible resources for contemporary political theory (and practice).