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Marx's genealogy of the idea of equality

Abstract Contrary to egalitarian readings of both Marx's critique of capitalist society and its replacement by communist society, his lack of commitment to the idea of equality has been emphasized. I argue that Marx's statements concerning the idea of equality, and especially how it would represent an inappropriate norm for genuine communist society, are ultimately to be explained in terms of its relation to the exchange value that governs acts of commodity exchange. Marx wants to show how general recognition of the idea of equality and the legal and political forms that it assumes have their origin in the way in which exchange value has come to dominate social relations, leading human beings to develop an abstract conception of themselves, others and how the world ought to be that is incompatible with the goals of communist society.

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