Democratic Theory and Technological Society

By Richard B. Day; Ronald Beiner et al. | Go to book overview

HEGEL AND MARX: PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY

Richard B. Day

The struggle of the Solidarity trade union has brought into focus important areas of theoretical weakness in classical Marxism. At a time when many socialists are arguing the need to replace Stalinist planning with some form of market, the Solidarity program has tended to be interpreted in terms of two central themes. First, there is the demand that Stalinist bureaucrats respect their own constitution and the rule of law. And second, there is the related awareness that re-creation of civil rights appears to presuppose a new autonomy for civil society.1 The rule of law is normally understood to mean the absence of discretionary economic power in the hands of the political authorities. Yet to constrain the state in this way seems to imply, as traditional liberals would argue, that civil society has rights which are antecedent to the state and that economic actors should be essentially self-governing within a framework of established statutory rules. In the liberal interpretation the laws of the state should have the same objectivity as the laws of nature or the economic laws of the capitalist market.2 In that way individuals can plan their own economic activity, knowledgeable of the consequences and without fear of arbitrary intervention.

Marx believed that such a separation of the economic from the political was the essence of political alienation. Socialism was to be the transcendence of this contradiction, bringing the anarchic economic activities of individuals in civil society under the conscious communal control of the associated producers. Numerous critics, including many critical Marxists, have now come to the conclusion that Marx dealt with the society-state relationship in a tragically inadequate manner. On the one hand he believed the commune-state would provide the transitional form of political emancipation; on the other hand he charged the dictatorship of the proletariat with responsibility for overcoming economic scarcity through

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