MARXISM AND SELF-OWNERSHIP: ASSESSING COHEN
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Keywords

Marx
Marxism
Self-ownership
Capitalism
Exploitation
Cohen

Abstract

This paper critically assesses G. A. Cohen’s view that Marx’s condemnation of capitalism, particularly, the exploitation of workers, rests on the notion of self-ownership. According to Cohen, Marx believes that the products produced by the workers in a capitalist system rightfully belong to them in line with the ideas of being a self-owner, having autonomy and not being used as a means to an end. Accordingly, Cohen affirmed that Marxism upholds the libertarian principle of self-ownership. Contrary to this view, this paper argues that Marx’s criticism of capitalist exploitation of workers does not necessarily imply an admission of self-ownership. Exploitation in Marx, is not necessarily wrong since it is a fundamental tenet of the capitalist mode of production. Marx’s notion of exploitation transcends the ordinary sense of it as conceived by Cohen. It is broader and more complex than seen in Cohen. More so, the means of production without which there can be no production, is not owned by the workers. Therefore, it is mistaken to affirm that the products produced under capitalism rightfully belong to the workers as argued by Cohen.

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