Marx, Aristotle and beyond : aspects of Aristotelianism in Marxist social ontology
Marx's debt to Aristotle has been noted, but inadequately. Usually commentators focus on the parallels between discrete ethical theories of both writers. However, for Marx, ethics is not a discrete field, but is founded on a conception of social ontology. This thesis links the two by showing that, precisely because of its Aristotelian roots, Marx's political economy of bourgeois society demands an ethical view arising from alienated labour. Marx conceives of bourgeois society as an organic whole. But this entails that is social matter can only exist potentially, and not fully setting up a tension that points to the eventual supercession of its social form. In this manner, Marx's Aristotelian hylomorphism provides the link between the early and the later Marx, between the critique of alienation and the mature works of political economy. This reading of Marx is facilitated by combining it with recent developments in philosophy. The works of Harré, Kripke and Wiggins, in particular have helped retrospectively to justify Marx's intuitive realism. Their contributions on explanation identity and sortals are applied in order to elucidate and justify his ontology. In the course of this, the problematic boundary between analytical philosophy and social theory is crossed. Marx restates ancient beliefs about the transitory nature of existence and the eternal nature of change. In particular, there are strong parallels between Marx's account of the decline and eventual fall of capitalism, and the Aristotelian message that all sublunary entities come to be and pass away. These parallels are sufficiently striking to allow us to recognise that Marx's account of the crisis ridden and ultimately doomed perspective for capitalism, overlooked by his protagonists, is but a variant of the Aristotelian theory of passing away or phthorá.