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Marx on the compatibility of freedom and necessity: A reply to David James

Abstract

In a recent paper, David James argues for a new understanding of the compatibility of freedom and necessity in Marx's idea of a communist society. According to James, such compatibility has less to do with anything distinctive about the nature of labour and more to do with how communist producers organize the sphere of material production. In this paper, I argue that James provides a nuanced and plausible account of one part of Marx's story of the compatibility of freedom and necessity in communist society but that his account misses another, and, in my view, more fundamental part of the story. The part I have in mind centres on Marx's claim that communist producers achieve their freedom through the performance of necessary labour—by helping others to satisfy their needs. I argue that Marx is committed to a stronger claim than James wishes to make, namely, that freedom and necessity are not merely compatible but that participation in the realm of necessity is required for human freedom.

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