Paul Reynolds on ‘Marx – an ethical thinker?’ (7 May)

Leeds Metropolitan University Politics & Applied Global Ethics Seminar Series

Marx: An Ethical Thinker?

 Dr Paul Reynolds

Wednesday 7 May, 3pm

Rose Bowl 231 (Woodhouse Lane, Leeds)

Click here to register


Marxism has traditionally been represented as a scientific approach to analysing and understanding society, as a prelude to changing it. From this perspective it is free from the ‘mawkish’ claims for morality and based upon a scientific dissection of class and capitalist society that promises the eventuality of a communist society. Marx’s own disparagement of philosophers as only having ‘interpreted’ the world, and his attacks on Hegel and the Young Hegelians seem to evidence this view. Even those who have argued an ethical dimension for Marx – from Wilde to Blackledge to Kemenka to Dunayevskaya to Fromm to Sartre – have to varying degrees accepted some of the premises that Marx proffered a scientific approach, whilst drawing an ethical strand in his thinking. Often this is represented in the Althusserian ‘two Marx’s’, where an epistemological break separates his immature philosophical work from his later political economy

I will argue, contra the conventional view, that Marx is an ethical thinker, and that it is critical to understanding the Marxist project and its relevance today to understand the centrality of ethics in Marx. Through a reading of Marx’s early and later work and subsequent articulations of Marx. I want to argue that it is imperative to read the ethics in Marx, to understand the intellectual contexts and political struggles that influenced Marx’s writings, and to recognise the relevance of class agency – as both political and moral agencies – to contemporary politics today


Dr Paul Reynolds is Reader in Sociology and Social philosophy at Edge Hill University. His current teaching and research reflects his main trans-disciplinary interest in the intersection of ethics and politics with identity and difference, with particular reference to sexuality.



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