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Come the Basileia...

I think Daniel Little (and John Rawls) do not fully grasp Karl Marx's critique of the Ricardian socialists. It is easy to understand if you grasp that Marx is really a follower of Saul of Tarsus. The Ricardian socialists demand justice. But, says Marx, you already have justice, in fact you have your fill of justice--and it is not at all pretty.

What we need--and what we will have come the New Jerusalem--is not justice but Mercy.

Marx's views of justice make no coherent sense if interpreted in any other way.

Daniel Little:

Rawls on Marx; December 1973: I served as graduate assistant in Rawls's lectures on this subject in fall 1973....  Here are my notes of a particularly important lecture towards the end of the course: Rawls's treatment of Marx's ideas about economic justice.... [Quoting Rawls:]

Capital seems to be a description of an unjust society. The owners of the means of production live in relative abundance and idleness at the expense of the ever-growing class of wretched laborers. But Marx doesn't make any attempt to present an argument that capitalism is unjust, nor any concept of justice which would back up such an argument. Moreover, we have vitriolic criticisms of utopian socialists who did condemn capitalism on the grounds of justice. Marx asserts on the contrary, that capitalism is perfectly fair, perfectly just.  Why so? (a) It is not enough to say Marx is averse to preaching or moralizing. He is so averse; but judgments of justice can be reasoned and hence not properly described as "preaching". (b) It is not enough to say that he didn't want the critique of capitalism to rest on some social ideal. He does reject the utopian socialists' program; but that would not prevent him from stating his own opinion. And he doesn't do that either. He reproaches the utopians for not realizing that some major social change must precede an adjustment along moral lines.

Here is my conjecture as to why Marx didn't judge capitalism unjust. He thinks of justice as a political and juridical conception which is associated with a particular conception of the state and society; so it belongs to the prehistory of mankind.... For each mode of production there is a conception of justice appropriate to it, at least in prehistory.... This view seems to suggest a sort of relativism; but this would be a faulty conclusion. We have a theory matching theories of justice with modes of production, and we might at some time find a function systematically linking them. Let's now try out this suggestion on the conception of surplus value. The utopians argued that workers ought to be paid the value of their contribution to the firm. Since they are not, capitalism is unjust. Marx rejects this view. It makes the appropriation of surplus value appear accidental -- as if the capitalists could act differently.... Marx distinguishes between the product of labor and labor power. The worker is given the value of his labor power, not his product. It is on this ground that he is fairly treated. Thus he is undercutting the Ricardian socialist position by rejecting and replacing the principle of contribution. It is the system itself which brings about surplus value, not the behavior of individuals who violate moral principles. Surplus value is an intrinsic part of the working of the social institutions of capitalism....

Summing up. (1) Marx views the notion of justice as a virtue of legal forms and institutions, and thus perhaps it is a notion which belongs to prehistory.... (2) Marx doesn't deny that the various conceptions of justice have formal features in common -- exchange of equivalents for equivalents -- but the notion of what is equivalent is determined in different ways. Marx would be prepared to admit that capitalism in its high period is just. One reason he rejects the utopian's argument is that it is misleading. It rests on a misapprehension of where the essential problem lies: not in the superstructure, but in the mode of production. He felt that the key enterprise is to give a scientific theory of the mode of production...