Marx’s Critique of Political Economy as a Social Ontology: Totality, Alienation and History
Kingston University, London
This research will provide a critical analysis of the social ontology developed by Marx in the mature texts of his Critique of Political Economy (CoPE). By offering a philosophical reading of Marx’s CoPE as a systematic theory of the nature of social reality, the research will assess the ontological status of capitalist social relations of production. It will do so by focusing on the three interrelated concepts of totality, alienation, and history. It will argue that these three concepts are constitutive of Marx’s ontology as a critical-social discourse that attempts to formulate: first, the most essential determinations of social life (i.e., the totality that arises from the social modeof production); second, the form of labour and the social character of its products (alienation); and third, the nature of social change (history). The research thereby asks three central questions: Can capitalist socialist relations be understood as a totality and, if so, what constitutes their totalizing character? How and to what extent are these relations alienated? What is Marx’s understanding of social change?The hypothesis is that Marx’s ontology can be adequately grasped neither as a Hegelian dialectical whole – where all beings are mediated by a homogenous totality as the ‘essence of essences’ – nor as a Spinozist immanence where beings exist for themselves, in their singularities, without being mediated. The intention will be, first, to critically problematize and reconstruct the ontological principles and claims of Marx’s CoPE and, then, to produce a new interpretation of Marx’s ontology. To do so, the research will draw on subsequent philosophicaldevelopments in critical theory in the tradition that runs from Georg Lukács to the Frankfurt School, as well as subsequent critical theories developed in the 1960s, particularly those of the Neue Marx-Lektüre (New Reading of Marx) and Italian Workerism and post-Workerism.