Liberty Matters

On Why Marx’s Theories of Alienation and Exploitation Are Ultimately Moral Critiques

The conversation has moved beyond this point, but I promised earlier to address Dave's earlier argument regarding whether Marx made a moral critique.
Dave correctly asserts that I argue (in my lead essay) "that Marx's analysis is ultimately engaged in moral critique or that, at the very least, it has normative implications." Dave also correctly argues that Marx did not see himself as making a moral appeal to our capitalist overloads and scoffed at those who believed that appeals to justice were a way to overcome alienation and exploitation. As Dave rightly concludes, "If Marx has a normative, moral mission in his lifework, it is fundamentally a revolutionary morality."
I don't know that I disagree. Marx believed that capitalism transformed us into a kind of monster. Human beings in a capitalist system would not and could not flourish. As I argued earlier, "[O]ne way to read Marx's moral critique of capitalism is that he is arguing that human beings are stunted in a capitalist system." There a sense in which this is an unavoidably moralized claim. 
Dave helpfully cited Engels on how we might think of morality from a Marxian perspective. According to Engels, in one of the works that Dave cites (Anti-Dürhing),
[A]ll moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed. That in this process there has on the whole been progress in morality, as in all other branches of human knowledge, no one will doubt. But we have not yet passed beyond class morality. A really human morality which stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life.
No one, certainly not the capitalist and not even the worker, can be a fully moral agent in a capitalist system. The morality that comes to be expressed in a capitalist context is not a "really human morality" but mere "class morality." To the extent that a fulfilled human existence is connected to and depends on the existence of a "really human morality," it is hard not to read this observation as anything other than a morally relevant criticism of capitalism. To be sure, this is a revolutionary moral critique. But, that does make it any less of a moral critique.