Martin Moorby

Department: Politics
Discipline: Politics
Research Centre/Unit: Political Theory

Project Summary


My research examines the philosophical themes of alienation in Karl Marx's political writings.

Themes or motifs of alienation can often be found in Karl Marx’s writings on politics and the state. One motif is the estrangement of the state from its citizens, human beings, or society as a whole. The state or political association appears as a hostile entity, seemingly with a life of its own. The true relationship between creator and the creation then appears inverted as the state bears down on its citizens in an oppressive and hostile fashion. Another motif is the estrangement of human beings from their political consciousness. Political ideals, particularly concerning the mental conception of the state as an abstract political community, are presented as an illusion or a veiled truth, comparable to religion. A third motif is emancipation conceptualised as reunification of human beings with their political association so that it serves their ends rather than vice versa.

The problem is explaining what it means in the philosophy of Marx for the state and political consciousness to be alienated. One area of ambiguity concerns the different ways it is explained in Marx’s texts. While motifs of alien politics (alienation in a political context) appear again and again in Marx’s texts, the way they are explained or conceptualised appears differently from text to text - compare, for instance, the Young Hegelian defence of radical republican democracy in the 1843 Kreuznach manuscript to the critique of Bonapartism through the lens of class struggle and social formation in ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire’. Another area of ambiguity is the relation between alien politics and Marx’s other conceptions of alienation, especially the theoretically central alienation of the worker. The ways in which his conception of alien politics relates to, and departs from, Marx’s other conceptions of alienation, particularly of the worker - and is distinctive to the specific themes of Marx’s critique of the politics of capitalism - is unclear.

Supervisory Team

Professor Iain Hampsher-Monk (co-supervisor)

Dr. Dario Castiglione (co-supervisor)