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Marx's concept of fettering: a critical review

Bowring, Finn ORCID: 2011. Marx's concept of fettering: a critical review. Critique 39 (1) , pp. 137-153. 10.1080/03017605.2011.537457

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The idea that capitalist society is plagued by insoluble ‘contradictions’ is such a commonplace textbook treatment of Marx that its precise meaning is often overlooked. Teaching Marx to undergraduate social science students over the last ten years has made the need for more clarity on this issue a pressing pedagogical concern for me. This article explains, to a non-specialist audience, the link between Marx's political economy and his materialist conception of history, using his neglected concept of ‘fettering’ to make sense of the role which contradictions play in the process of social and political change. Although ‘fettering’ had a specific meaning for Marx, I acknowledge that there may be sound reasons for advancing a more flexible interpretation of the concept, so long as it is handled in a careful and rigorous way. By drawing on the notions of ‘relative fettering’ and ‘use fettering’, I suggest that the concept can be prised free from its narrow productivist origins in order to demonstrate Marx's relevance to the broader public critique of the social and environmental irrationalities of modern capitalism.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
Uncontrolled Keywords: Marx; fettering; historical materialism
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0301-7605
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 08:29

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