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Spring 2021 Dept Colloquium-Prof. Vanessa Wills (George Washington University)

Thursday, April 08, 2021, 03:00pm - 05:00pm

Spring 2021 Dept Colloquium-Prof. Vanessa Wills (George Washington University)

Thursday, April 08, 2021, 03:00pm - 05:00pm

Title: "'Heaven is a Place on Earth': Marxism and the Abolition of Morality"

Abstract: In The Communist Manifesto, Marx imagines a bourgeois interlocutor who poses a series of challenges to the communists. That interlocutor charges, “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.” (The German word translated as “abolish” here is “abschaffen” which connotes a more complete doing-away-with than the German word “aufheben” which is also sometimes translated as “to abolish.”)

Marx responds that indeed Communism does abolish morality, and that as morality emerges from the fact of exploitation, it is only fitting that it should “vanish” with the “total disappearance of class antagonisms.” However, Marx's criticisms of capitalism themselves often seem to have an ethical basis. What could Marx mean by his claim that communism abolishes morality, and what does it imply for long-standing debates about the possibility for a distinctively Marxist ethics?

Location via zoom; link TBA