So what I am going to say in this book chapter I am working on right now? Certainly, I have thought about the topic a lot and thought about different interpretations of the topic a lot. Yet the approach I decided to take has led to some new insights on something I have been thinking about for more than 10 years.
I think there are several reasons I developed these insights. In the first place, the chapter needs to be succinct. In the second place, I didn’t merely want to do a review essay comparing traditional Marxist conceptions of class domination to critical theoretical notions of impersonal domination. In the third place, I also wanted to make the point about the necessity of accounting for personal relationships in impersonal theories of domination. Finally, as point 3 and my discussion of my other writing projects in the previous blog post indicate, rather than thinking of the critical theory elements of the New Reading of Marx as correctives to Adorno, I now think it is imperative to bring them together.
Consequently, I decided an approach that would emphasize that Marx’s theory of social domination is a double-faceted critical theory of social domination that (1) criticizes his interlocutors – German idealism, English political economy, and French Socialism – theories that argue that the social relationships and institutions of modern society would (if adhered to) lead to freedom by showing (2) that the even at their best, the social relationships and institutions of modern society realize unfreedom and antagonism.
Now I know what you’re saying; this sounds like a book what about the part about being succinct?
Well, the plan initial plan was focus on Marx’s criticism of Hegel, Smith, and Proudhon and to then discuss his critical theory of social domination from that perspective. I had certainly read Hegel and Smith as well as stuff from the critical theory strand of the New Reading I would use. However, although I was familiar with the technical aspects of Marx’s criticisms of Proudhon, I hadn’t read him, it was Roberts’ Marx’s Inferno and a short passage in Clarke’s Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology that made me want to dive into Proudhon in this manner.
Even though Proudhon’s writing is tedious as hell (I doubt it’s just the translation) I’m glad I did. This is because Proudhon develops the sort of immanent critique often ascribed to Marx: a crude account of progressive historical development driven by overcoming contradictions which in modern society point to the moral and institutional means that will realize Smith’s and Proudhon’s ideals. As this indicates, as Roberts shows, the critique of political economy is also a critique of Proudhon. I can’t recall whether Roberts also makes this argument, nor do I know if someone else does (I will look into this next) but I also think it further illuminates that Marx’s critique of political economy is a critical theory of society, which contra Proudhon’s traditional theory, shows that the organization of modern society can only realize itself in domination, antagonism and misery.