Story of an Intellectual Friendship
The Marxian Conception of Freedom 167
The Marxian Conception of Freedom I The conception of freedom has a rather peculiar status in Marx’s thought. It is its central question and simultaneously a marginal question—a central question on the philosophical plane, a marginal question on the legal and political plane. Con- trary to current opinion, the whole Marxian philosophy of history and man does not revolve around the problem of social justice but around the problem of free- dom1. If it is at all possible for a Marxist to speak of ‘the meaning of history’—in the sense of history having an immanent tendency for the better—then for Marx (who in this respect is faithful to Hegel) this meaning lies in the realization of freedom. At the same time, the Marxian philosophy of freedom is not directly translatable into the language of law and politics. It follows that legal and political conceptions and ‘guarantees’ of freedom are essentially a secondary matter for Marx, since freedom depends on the extent of man’s domination over nature and the degree of rational control of men over social relations, and not on this or that legal-political system; statehood as such is organized coercion and not the safe- guarding of freedom. More than that: Marxism proclaims that the most libertarian period of legislation, that of classical liberalism, was in the history of mankind a period of the greatest alienation and reification of social forces, of man’s least control over his fate and hence, from this point of view, a period...
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