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Karl Marx's political epistemology: Subjectivity, abstraction and the state in the writings of the early 1840s.

McIvor, James Martin (2004) Karl Marx's political epistemology: Subjectivity, abstraction and the state in the writings of the early 1840s. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

This study of Karl Marx's pre-1844 writings argues that the crucial link between his 'mature' social theory and preceding philosophical traditions lies in the elaboration in these early texts of what is here termed a 'political epistemology'. This can be summarised as a critique of laws and social institutions which treats them as human beings' operative conceptualisations of their practical interdependence. It is on the basis of this implicit equation that Marx transposes the terms of German Idealist investigations of consciousness and knowledge into an original analysis of political power and social conflict. The historical and philosophical background to this idea of a 'political epistemology' is sketched through a consideration of the neo-Scholastic rationalism of the eighteenth century, the critical idealism of Kant, and the post-Kantian idealism of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. Marx's student writings provide evidence of the importance of key post-Kantian themes and problems in shaping his early intellectual outlook. Marx's political journalism of 1842-3 takes forward these epistemological issues into an engagement with the social antagonisms of Vorm?rz Prussia. Finally, Marx's 1843 critique of Hegel is re-interpreted, not as an outright rejection of the post-Kantian project, but as an attempt to refound it upon new ground, with the aim of realising more adequately its original principle of understanding human experience and activity as radically self-determining. In conclusion it is proposed that a reading of Marx that attends carefully to his redeployment of post-Kantian arguments will help us to make clearer sense of the complex theorisations of society, history, and economy developed in his later writings. Such an interpretation suggests that Marx's central concern remains one of realising a self-conscious and self-determining collective agency in society, and an epistemologically informed diagnosis of the unbridgeable oppositions and illusory misrecognitions that result from the obstruction of this practical goal.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Epistemology, Political Science, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Government
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2304

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