Social and Political Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction

By John Christman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

Radical critique

Marxism and post-modernism
The legacy of Marx and Marxism
Post-modern departures
Epilogue: The hope of liberalism
Chapter summary
Case to consider
Notes on further reading

The approaches to political philosophy discussed in this chapter represent a more ‘radical’ departure from not only liberalism specifically, but from the broad tradition of Enlightenment philosophy in general. There is some overlap between them (there are post-modern Marxists for example) and there are many strands of the critiques we examined in the last chapter that could easily fall under one or both of these headings. And certainly the labels ‘Marxist’ and ‘post-modern’ are disputed in their meaning and range of application. But in both cases, new and unique challenges to mainstream political philosophy are raised, ones that do more than offer a competing set of normative principles but also question both the methods and the proper subject matter of political philosophy.

In their paradigmatic forms, Marxism and (what usually falls under the label of) post-modernism are actually quite different families of thought. We discuss them here together if only because they each ask that mainstream political philosophy be altered fundamentally if not rejected altogether. Given their differences, however, I will consider the two in turn, with only passing reference to the ways that they overlap. I will then close the chapter with a brief discussion of liberalism in light of the various critical departures from it we will have examined. This will allow us to take stock of the most powerful lines of attack and to consider directions that defenders of liberalism might take in response.

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