Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Socialist Morality: Towards a Political Philosophy for Democratic Socialism*

Daniel Littlea1

a1 Philosophy, Colgate University

There has been much discussion in recent years of the role of moral ideas within Marxism. Marx's stringent criticisms of purely philosophical inquiry impose rather narrow limits on the form which a Marxian moral philosophy might take. For Marx often holds that moral ideas and moral theorizing are irremediably ideological. By this Marx appears to mean that moral ideas are part and parcel of a system of class domination, a way of preserving class domination through internalized norms. As many recent commentators have shown, however, these criticisms of moral reasoning, though present in Marx's system, cannot be the beginning and end of his stance on moral matters. For Marx himself is committed to making normative judgments about capitalism and socialism, and there is a richly textured set of normative ideas that run through his writings from early to late. Further, and perhaps more compellingly, there is a pressing need internal to Marxism for discussion of moral ideas in order to steer the course towards the attainment of socialism.


* I am grateful for comments received on earlier versions of this paper from Kenneth Winkler, Gerald Doppelt, Charles Beitz, and an anonymous reader for this journal.