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Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy

Insurrection and Commonwealth


Charles Reitz

Critical pedagogy, political economics, and aesthetic theory combine with dialectical and materialist understandings of science, society, and revolutionary politics to develop the most radical goals of society and education. In Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy: Insurrection and Commonwealth, Marcuse’s hitherto misunderstood and neglected philosophy of labor is reconsidered, resulting in a labor theory of ethics. This develops commonwealth criteria of judgment regarding the real and enduring economic and political possibilities that concretely encompass all of our engagement and action. Marcuse’s newly discovered 1974 Paris Lectures are examined and the theories of Georg Lukács and Ernest Manheim contextualize the analysis to permit a critical assessment of the nature of dialectical methodology today. Revolutionary strategy and a common-ground political program against intensifying inequalities of class, race, and gender comprise the book’s commonwealth counter-offensive.
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Chapter 7. The Labor Theory of Ethics and Commonwealth


← 124 | 125 →·7·


My research seeks to develop a viable theoretical paradigm for social science and philosophy which obviates postmodern moral relativism and nihilism and builds an intercultural sense of human solidarity and commonwealth —underpinning in ethics, economics, and education the “radical” telos of human flourishing. Charles Woolfson, Professor Emeritus of Labor Studies, Linköping University, Sweden, has furnished a dialectical materialist philosophical perspective in The Labour Theory of Culture (1982). We are both oriented within a world-historical frame committed to understanding the multiple wisdom traditions of a globally diverse humanity.1

This chapter utilizes a dialectical and materialist perspective to develop its understanding of an ethical core common to the wisdom traditions of the world’s major religions as well as non-theistic humanist philosophy. Through an examination of the essentially economic features of the human condition ← 125 | 126 →and the history of our species as socially active human beings, I have sought the pivotal criteria of conscience that can ascertain the concrete unity-within-multiplicity, i.e. the common goods, undergirding the evaluation of moral practice. These are theorized as emerging from our sensuous practical activities, our subsistence strategies, and our earliest forms of communal labor in egalitarian partnership societies.

Our humanist ethical sensibilities arise within the fundamentally social and economic dimensions of our being. The theoretical starting point for this study is a critical examination of two of Herbert Marcuse’s earliest essays, “On the Philosophical Foundation of the...

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