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Justice as Fetish: Marx, Pashukanis, and the Form of Justice

Dan Swain (University of Life Sciences, Prague)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought II, no. 2 (2018): 13–31

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Keywords: Marx, Pashukanis, Rawls, theories of justice, Soviet jurisprudence, ethics, commodity fetishism

This article considers the relevance of the ideas of Soviet jurist Evgeny Pashukanis for debates about the relationship between Marxism and justice. In particular, it employs these ideas as a criticism of those who seek to supplement Marx’s critique of capitalism with liberal theories of justice, paradigmatically those of John Rawls. Pashukanis’s analysis of the legal form as a kind of fetish, arising on the basis of capitalist relations of production, opens up the possibility of a similar criticism of theories of justice. This involves more than just the familiar critique that such theories are ideological; Pashukanis suggests an approach that recognises the practical eff ectiveness of theories of justice while also recognising their limits from the perspective of radical critique. Th is new approach allows for a better understanding of how theories of justice might form part of radical theory and practice today.

doi: 10.46957/con.2018.2.2

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