Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Marx on Development

Winslow Ted, York University

In an 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge, Marx identifies “the socialist principle” with “the reality of the true human being.” By true human being, he means human being as fully developed. Human being in this sense actualizes self-conscious reason. Marx elaborates this as a particular kind of “individuality,” the “true individuality” of “universally developed individuals.” These ideas appropriate ideas of Aristotle. In particular, they critically appropriate Aristotle's idea of the virtue of "justice" as the practice of "complete virtue" in relations with others, a practice that, for Marx as for Aristotle, is itself eudaimonia as "the realization and perfect practice of virtue." Marx's idea of ideal social relations elaborates them as the reciprocal practice of justice in this sense. He conceives human history as an “educational” process that brings about the full development and actualization of true human beings and, with them, the ideal society. He critically appropriates from Hegel the idea that this process works through the “dialectic of negativity” functioning as “estrangement” within the labour process, in particular as estranged labour. In this form, labour ultimately works to bring about the full development and actualization of “universally developed individuals.” Marx claims the estranged labour of capitalism – wage labour – plays an essential development role in this sense. The transcendence of capitalism is accomplished by “revolutionary” labour. This brings about the further development necessary to make practicable the critical appropriation of the knowledge objectified in the productive forces of social labour developed within capitalism and, by this means, ultimately transform them into “social property,” i.e. into the form of property expressive of true human being as a “social being" whose social relations actualize the reciprocal practice of justice in the above sense. The paper aims to support these interpretive claims with textual evidence.


Keywords: Marx deveopment Aristotle Hegel estrangement labour "true human being" "social being" "social property"

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