The Politics of Character Development: A Marxist Reappraisal of the Moral Life

The Politics of Character Development: A Marxist Reappraisal of the Moral Life

The Politics of Character Development: A Marxist Reappraisal of the Moral Life

The Politics of Character Development: A Marxist Reappraisal of the Moral Life

Synopsis

Very little has been written on the political implications of diverse accounts of "virtue, "vice," and "moral character," and even less has been offered on this subject from any identifiably leftist perspective. This book begins by demonstrating the plausibility of a "Marxist ethics" in general; the author then proceeds to work out an understanding of moral character itself and its role in living a "good life," based on a historical materialist philosophical anthropology. This leads to an analysis of which character traits should be considered virtues and vices, and what would count as a successful or unsuccessful moral education, within the context of contemporary North American society. The text concludes by focusing on the problems associated with identifying real-life, useful exemplifications of such virtuous and vicious character.

Excerpt

The subject of this study is moral character development and its possible role in radical social change for the better. At least in the United States the issues associated with good and bad character, and the types of moral education that might enhance the former and suppress the latter, have received increased attention in recent times by people located all over the ideological spectrum, in response to the perceived continuing degeneration of social life in this part of the world. Not only moral philosophers, but also social and behavioral scientists, therapists, professional educators, parent groups, and government officials have entered the debate over appropriate moral development, and I believe with good reason. However, since the Marxist theoretical framework within which I will investigate a number of these issues is one that always has fallen outside mainstream public discourse in North American society, a few initial remarks to clarify what that approach does and does not entail and to show why it might provide a useful conceptual context for the following analyses are in order. To start with, there seems to be a set of cherished beliefs about Marxism widely embraced by Western academicians throughout most of the twentieth century, which not surprisingly has gained quite a bit of popular acceptance as well, and a which has its durability in spite of the fact that all these beliefs are false. These articles of faith state that Marxist theory is a seamless whole and a "closed system"; that its persuasiveness depends entirely on the political success or failure of revolutionary organizations and national governments which utilize some of its principles to justify their policies; that communist societies already have been created during this century on a vast scale, and in all cases have proven the inherent unworkability and oppressiveness of communism and/or socialism as such; and, that Marxism is no longer relevant in the contemporary world of international capitalism. Especially with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact states in recent years and the subsequent ripple effect that phenomenon has had globally, these beliefs about the structure, content, and future . . .

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