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BOOK REVIEWS 529 Philip j. Kain. Marx and Modern Political Thto~: From Hobbe5 to Contemporary Feminism. Studies in Social and Political Philosophy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, I993. Pp. xv + 4~7- Cloth, $62.5o. Paper, $94.95The first six chapters of this book discuss the political writings of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. Kain concentrates on the different concepts of sovereignty these thinkers proposed, and the divergent social theories underlying these concepts. For Hobbes, there are no social bonds holding people together in a civil body. Absolute sovereign power must therefore be located in the government, which alone can prevent a collapse to the state of nature. Locke, in contrast, asserted that property and commerce generate a significant degree of social cohesion, and so he could defend limited government and popular sovereignty. According to Kain, however , his legitimation of unequal property in effect shifts sovereignty to the propertied classes. Rousseau recognized this. The set of procedures he recommended to determine the general will are incompatible with extreme inequalities of property. But on Rousseau's own terms these proposals are not likely to be implemented, given what he regarded as the degenerate customs of the modern world. Kant's political theory aims at establishing how the general will can be institutionalized in modern conditions. Kain shows how Kant made use of Smith's notion of the invisible hand; for Kant too the pursuit of particular interests by individuals and nations brings about the common good. Hegel agreed with this perspective, arguing against Rousseau that modern customs are compatible with this. But both Kant and Hegel gave up Rousseau's insistence that citizens should give themselves their own laws. For Kain, Marx represents the culmination of modern political thought. He rejected both the absolutism of Hobbes and Locke's sovereignty of the propertied. Unlike Rousseau, Marx developed a theory of how to bring about an ideal society in the modern world. And Marx went beyond Kant and Hegel in his commitment to radical democracy. In the socio-political order Marx advocated, deputies are given strict voting instructions and are recallable by their constituents. For Kain, this is not so much popular sovereignty as the dissolution of sovereignty. These chapters can be recommended as supplementary readings for a course in modern political philosophy. The standard works of the above thinkers are discussed in detail, along with crucial lesser-known writings, such as Rousseau's Government of Poland. Kain also provides very helpful overviews of the scholarly literature, such as the critical response to Macpherson's controversial interpretation of Locke. The final chapters of the work concern Marx's relation to two contemporary topics in social theory. In Chapter 7 Kain presents a thorough refutation of the claim that Marx's perspective is inherently antipluralistic. While Marx certainly shared some of the ethnocentrism of his time, Kain documents a deep commitment to social diversity as a value. The concluding chapter discusses the relationship between Marxism and feminism. Kain convincingly argues that there is a broad complementarity between the two perspectives. These final two chapters are among the best essays on these topics I have seen. 53 ~ JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY or PHILOSOPHY 33:3 JULY 199 5 Kain's defense of Marx raises a number of issues, three of which will be briefly mentioned here. The first concerns his response to the charge that Marx was guilty of reductionism. Since Marx held that we cannot understand material conditions without the use of symbolic frameworks, Kain argues, the symbolic has priority over the material in his thought. This seems to overlook the distinction between the order of being and the order of knowing. Why should we assume that what has priority in the latter necessarily has priority in the former? Second, in Kain's view Marxian socialism is simply the institutionalization of Kant's categorical imperative. Many scholars have questioned whether Marxist theory rests on normative principles of justice, Kantian or otherwise. This work would have been strengthened had Kain attempted a response to their arguments. Finally, there is some tension in Kain's assessment of Marx's work. Marx is applauded on the grounds that he showed how "the ideal can be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 529-530
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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