Dismantling Domination: What We Can Learn About Freedom From Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818-1883)  Ills.: Ingrid Bouws

Over the years, especially following the latest global financial crisis that erupted in late 2007, there has been a renewed interest in the work of Karl Marx. Indeed, Marx remains essential for understanding capitalism, but his political project continues to produce conflicting interpretations. What really motivated Marx to undertake a massive study of the laws of the capitalist mode of production? Was Marx interested in liberty, or merely in equality? And did Marx’s vision of communism have any links to “actually existing socialism” (i.e., the socialist regimes of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc)?

Marx’s Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital, a recently published book by McGill University Professor William Clare Roberts, offers a rigorous and unique interpretation of Marx’s political and philosophical project. The book reveals why Marx remains extremely relevant today to all those seeking to challenge capitalism’s domination and violence — from its exploitation of labor power to the use of oppressive stage apparatuses as reflected in the exercise of police brutality. We spoke to William Clare Roberts about Marx’s project and vision of communism.

C.J. Polychroniou: In your recently published book Marx’s Inferno, you contend that liberty, rather than equality, was Marx’s primary politico-philosophical concern and, subsequently, claim that his work and discourse belong in the republican tradition of political thought. Can you elaborate a bit on these claims and tell us how they are derived from a particular reading of Marx’s work?

William Clare Roberts: I would say it a bit differently. Marx is certainly concerned with equality. Everyone on the left is. The question is: equality of what? This is where freedom, or liberty, comes in. In my book, I argue that Marx shared the radical republican project of securing universal equal freedom. When we talk about equality on the left today, this is too often assumed to mean equality of material wealth or equality of treatment, such that economic equality is the goal in itself. For Marx, economic inequality was not the main problem. It was a consequence and a breeding ground of domination. This was Marx’s prime concern.

To be dominated is to be subject to the whims or caprice of others, to have no control over whether or not they interfere with you, your life, your actions, your body. Republicans, going back to the Roman republic, have recognized that this lack of control over how others treat you is, of itself, inimical to human flourishing. [According to their philosophy], whether or not the powerful actually hurt you is actually less important than the fact that they have the power to hurt you, and you can’t control whether or not or how they use that power. It is in this space of uncertainty and fear that power does its work. So, for example, that an employer can fire a worker at will is usually enough to secure the worker’s obedience, especially where the worker doesn’t have many alternative sources of income. Likewise, that the police have the basically unchecked power to arrest, beat and harass people in many neighborhoods produces all manner of distortions in how people live, regardless of whether they have actually been beaten or harassed. To live free is to live without this fear or this need to watch out for the powerful. And this means being equally empowered.

Traditionally, republicans were concerned only to protect the freedom of a certain class of men within their own political community. In the 19th century, however, workers, women, escaped slaves — people who lived with domination — began to take over this republican theory of freedom and to insist that everyone should enjoy equal freedom. I read Marx as part of this tradition.

Marx’s major innovation in this tradition was to develop a theory of the capitalist economy as a system of domination. Radicals then — like many radicals today — assimilated capital to previous forms of power — military, feudal, or extortionary. They saw the capitalist simply as a monopolist, and the government as the enforcement squad of the monopolists. To Marx, this was insufficient as a critical diagnosis. The capitalists are, like the workers, dependent upon the market. They must act as they do or be replaced by other, more effective capitalists. Marx saw in this market dependence a new sort of all-round social domination. The livelihood of each depends upon the unpredictable and uncontrollable decisions of many others. This impersonal domination mediates and transforms the other forms of domination people experience.
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Omrop Fryslân ~ Niet geknecht ~ It ferhaal fan it Friesch Dagblad yn de Twadde Wrâldoarloch

Wat soesto as nijsmedium dwaan yn tiden fan oarloch? Hoe hâldst dy steande en hoe fier giest mei yn wat de besetter wol, sûnder datst dyn prinsipen los litst? It is wêr’t it Friesch Dagblad yn de Twadde Wrâldoarloch mei wraksele, lykas alle kranten yn Nederlân yn dy tiid. As iennige deiblêd hie it Friesch Dagblad de moed om de krante stop te setten yn 1941.

Ien fan de ferslachjouwers en plakferfangend haadredakteur by it Friesch Dagblad út dy tiid, Jan de Haan, hat as in deiboekferslach de ûntwikkelingen stap foar stap beskreaun. Hoe’t de krante hieltyd mear ûnder druk fan de Dútsers setten wurdt en hoe’t de meiwurkers dêr nachts wekker fan lizze. De dilemma’s dêr’t se mei te krijen hawwe en hoe’t dêr oer diskusjearre wurdt. Hoe’t der drige wurdt mei in ferbod op it útbringen fan de krante en it gefaar dat se op in stuit rinne om arrestearre te wurden. En dan hoe’t de krante him ‘niet geknecht’ wurde lit en de ear oan himsels hâldt troch de krante stop te setten.

De oantekeningen waarden nei de oarloch oardene en as brosjuere útbrocht: ‘Niet geknecht’. It Friesch Dagblad en Omrop Fryslân hawwe yn oparbeidzjen mei-inoar in film makke fan it ferhaal. De taal en wurden dy’t De Haan brûkt hat yn syn ferhaal, binne tekenjend foar de tiid en it grifformearde karakter fan it Friesch Dagblad fan doe, en hawwe liedend west foar it meitsjen fan de film. De orizjinele tekst is ynsprutsen troch Thijs Feenstra, dy’t we noch kenne as feedokter yn Baas Boppe Baas. De sênen binne tekene troch yllustrator Laurens Bontes fan Ljouwert. Dêrneist is der in nije útjefte makke fan de brosjuere, mei tekeningen út de film en in neiwurd fan Lútsen Kooistra, útsprutsen op syn ôfskied as haadredakteur fan it Friesch Dagblad op freed 21 april.

Sjoch: http://www.omropfryslan.nl/programma/niet-geknecht
Sjoch ek: http://interviewsdehaan.blogspot.nl/2015/04/niet-geknecht-van-jan-de-haan.html

Het verhaal van het Friesch Dagblad in de Tweede Wereldoorlog

Wat zou jij als nieuwsmedium doen in tijden van oorlog? Hoe houd je je staande en hoe ver ga je mee in wat de bezetter wil, zonder dat je je principes loslaat? Daarmee worstelde het Friesch Dagblad in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, net als alle kranten in Nederland in die tijd. Als enige dagblad had het Friesch Dagblad de moed om de krant stop te zetten in 1941. Omrop Fryslân maakte een film bij het verhaal, die zaterdag 22 april is uitgezonden.

Een van de verslaggevers en plaatsvervangend hoofdredacteur van het Friesch Dagblad uit die tijd, Jan de Haan, heeft als een dagboekverslag de ontwikkelingen stap voor stap beschreven. Hoe de krant steeds meer onder druk van de Duitsers wordt gezet en hoe de medewerkers daar ’s nachts wakker van liggen. De dilemma’s waar ze mee te maken hebben en hoe daar over gediscussieerd wordt. Hoe er gedreigd wordt met een verbod op het uitbrengen van de krant en het gevaar dat ze op een gegeven moment lopen om gearresteerd te worden. En dan hoe de krant zich ‘niet geknecht’ laat worden en de eer aan zichzelf houdt door de krant stop te zetten.

De aantekeningen werden na de oorlog geordend en als brochure uitgegeven: ‘Niet geknecht’. Het Friesch Dagblad en Omrop Fryslân hebben samen een film gemaakt van het verhaal. De taal en woorden die De Haan gebruikt heeft in zijn verhaal, zijn tekenend voor de tijd en het gereformeerde karakter van het Friesch Dagblad van toen, en zijn leidend geweest voor het maken van de film. De originele tekst is ingesproken door Thijs Feenstra, die we nog kennen als veearts in Baas Boppe Baas. De scènes zijn getekend door illustrator Laurens Bontes uit Leeuwarden. Tevens is er een heruitgave gemaakt van de brochure, met tekeningen uit de film en een nawoord van Lútsen Kooistra, dat ook wordt uitgesproken tijdens zijn afscheid als hoofdredacteur van het Friesch Dagblad op vrijdag 21 april.


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Prof. Jayati Ghosh On Economic Growth & Women’s Health – UCL Lancet Lecture 2011

Professor Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) delivered the 2011 UCL Lancet Lecture: ‘Economic growth and women’s health outcomes’. One of the most surprising features of the recent rapid income growth in emerging economies is how it has not been associated with significant improvements in women’s health outcomes. Professor Ghosh uses indicators (such as the infant mortality rate, the maternal mortality rate and the child sex ratio) to explore the specific experience of India over the past two decades.

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