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Marxist Jurisprudence: Historical Necessity and Radical Contingency

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2015

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Extract

Rather than advancing a refined theory of judicial decision making or puzzling over the nature of law, Marxist jurisprudence offers a critique of liberalcapitalist conceptions of law. As part of its general undermining of bourgeois consciousness, Marxism aspires to manifest the legitimating functions of law as a contributor to ideological distortion and as a solidifier of the political status quo. Accordingly, there is not so much a Marxist theory of law as there is a Marxist unmasking of law’s alleged unsavoury participation in domination and oppression.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 1991

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References

1. See Marx, K., “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts” (1844)Google Scholar and Marx, K.Excerpts from James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy” (184) in Marx, K., Early Writings, trans. Livingstone, R. & Benton, G. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975);Google Scholar Schmitt, R. Introduction to Marx and Engels: A Critical Reconstruction (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987) at 151–59.Google Scholar

2. See “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts”, ibid.; Conway, D. A Farewell to Marx: An Outline and Appraisal of His Theories (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987) at 3441.Google Scholar

3. See Marx, K. The Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (1857-58), trans. Nicolaus, M. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973);Google Scholar Elster, J. An Introduction to Karl Marx (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) at 4156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4. SeeSee Marx, K. & Engels, F.The German Ideology” (1845) in Marx, K. & Engels, F. Collected Works (London: (1976);Google Scholar Marx, K. Capital, (1867) trans. Fernbach, D. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976) vol. 1;Google Scholar Singer, P. Marx (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) at 2534.Google Scholar

5. Ibid.

6. Capital, vol. 1, supra, note 4; Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 74-85; Conway, supra, note 2 at 98-106; Elster, supra, note 3 at 81-101; Singer, supra, note 4 at 23-25, 50-54.

7. Ibid.

8. See Conway, supra, note 2 at 98-106; Buchanan, A. Marx and Justice : The Radical Critique of Liberalism (London: Methuen, 1982), c. 5;Google Scholar Wood, A.The Marxian Critique of Justice” in Cohen, M. Nagel, T. & Scanlon, T. eds., Justice and History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980) 341.Google Scholar

9. Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 30.

10. ibid.

11. Ibid, at 36-38.

12. Collins, H. Marxism and Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984) at 78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13. Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 36; Larrain, J.Base and Superstructure” in Bottomore, T. ed., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983) at 44.Google Scholar

14. Hyden, T.M.A Critique of Marxist Legal Theoretical Constructs” (1984)) 28 Studies in Soviet Thought 345 at 351.Google Scholar

15. Larrain, J.Base and Superstructure” in Bottomore, ed., supra, note 13, at 43.Google Scholar

16. Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 35.

17. Ibid. at 36.

18. Ibid. at 36-38.

19. Ibid. at 36.

20. Ibid. at 37.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid. at 38.

23. Ibid.

24. “The German Ideology”, supra, note 4; Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 54-56; Conway, supra, note 2 at 170-77; and Elster, supra, note 3 at 168-73.

Engels explicitly used the term “false consciousness” in his letter to Franz Mehring, July 14, 1893, in Marx, K. & Engels, F. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968) at 690.Google Scholar (“Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, it is true, but with a false consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to him; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or seeming motive forces.”)

Some theorists claim that Marx never explicitly used the term “false consciousness,” but they admit that no substantive implications follow if they are correct. Thus, Seliger, M. The Marxist Conception of Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977) at 3031 asserts that ‘It seems that Marx himself did not use the phrase “false consciousness.” This makes no difference as far as his conception of ideological thought is concerned since instead of “false,” Marx used “incorrect,” “twisted,“D “untrue,” and “abstract” besides nouns like “illusion,” “block,” etc. We may thus take “false consciousness” to denote Marx’s view as well.’Google Scholar

25. See Larrain, Ideology,” in Bottomore ed., supra, note 13 at 218–20; Collins, supra, note 12 at 40;Google Scholar Larrain, R.G.Morality and the Marxist Concept of Ideology” in Nielsen, K. & Patten, S.C.eds., Marx and Morality (Guelph, Ont.: Canadian Association for Publishing in Philosophy, 1981) at 6791.Google Scholar

26. Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 58.

27. Ibid. at 45.

28. Ibid. at 47.

29. Collins, supra, note 12 at 95.

30. Ibid. at 11-12.

31. Ibid. at 11.

32. Ibid.

33. Ibid. at 13.

34. Ibid. at 136.

35. Ibid. at 14.

36. Ibid. at 48-49.

37. Ibid. at 67-68.

38. Ibid. at 72-73.

39. Ibid. at 105.

40. Ibid. at 106.

41. Belliotti, R.A.The Rule of Law and the Critical Legal Studies Movement” (1986) 24 University of Western Ontario Law Review 67.Google Scholar

42. That is Marxism cannot deny automatically the veracity of a perception or experience which does not support the conclusions of Marxism. On the other hand, critics of Marxism cannot accept automatically the veracity of such perceptions and experiences as evidence refuting Marxist conclusions.

43. Schmitt, supra, note 1 at 37-38.

44. Ibid. at 37.

45. Collins, supra, note 12 at 137.

46. Ibid. at 31.

47. Ibid. at 43.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid. at 106.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid. at 107.

52. E. Kamenka, “Law” in Bottomore, ed., supra, note 13 at 276.

53. Sinha, S.P. What is Law?: The Differing Theories of Jurisprudence (Paragon House, 1989) at 218.Google Scholar

54. See Belliotti, supra, note 41; Belliotti, R.A.Is Law A Sham?” (1987) 13 Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 25;Google Scholar Critical Legal Studies: The Paradoxes of Indeterminacy and Nihilism” (1987) 13 Philosophy and Social Criticism 145;Google Scholar Belliotti, R.A.Radical Politics and Nonfoundational Morality” (1989) 29 International Philosophical Quarterly 33;Google Scholar Belliotti, R.A.Beyond Capitalism and Communism: Roberto Unger’s Superliberal Political Theory” (1989) 9 Praxis International 321.Google Scholar

55. Tushnet, M.V.Marxism as Metaphor” (1983) 68 Cornell Law Review 281 at 290.Google Scholar

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