Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Habermas and analytical Marxism

Habermas and analytical Marxism
Joseph Heath

University College, University of Toronto, Canada

John Roemer once described the ‘intellectual foundations’ of analytical Marxism as the recognition that, despite having a valid core, Marxism rested upon outdated social science. The solution, he believed, was to update the theory ‘using state-of-the-art methods of analytical philosophy and "positivist" social science’. If one takes this definition literally, Jürgen Habermas’ early work qualifies as that of an analytical Marxist. Yet although he developed his project in a way that was independent of the self-identified analytical Marxists, there are important points of convergence in their views. In particular, in their efforts to update Marxism, both Habermas and the analytical Marxists managed to talk themselves out of being Marxists in any recognizable sense of the term. This is a noteworthy outcome, given the differences in their points of departure. This article tracks the intellectual history of these two movements, in order to identify the tendencies that pushed this rather disparate group of theorists in the same direction.

Key Words: analytical Marxism • capitalism • egalitarianism • exploitation • functionalism • Jürgen Habermas • rational choice theory

Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 35, No. 8, 891-919 (2009)

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