Authors: Anne F. Pomeroy
Addresses: Richard Stockton College, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, NJ 08205, USA
Abstract: Karl Marx held to a view of ontological difference. Prominent in the early writings, yet re-emerging at crucial junctures in his seminal work Capital, this ontological view is expressed primarily as a distinction between human being, animal being, and the being of objects (things). The difficulty with this view is that, if taken to articulate distinctions in kind, it may not adequately explain how it is that the activity of production on the part of human beings can simultaneously amount to a self-reproduction of the person as thing. Are we to understand reification as merely analogical or is it possible to understand Marx more literally? We will explore the latter possibility, suggesting that the ontological distinctions can be taken as distinctions of degree and not distinctions of kind, thereby demonstrating the way in which the capitalist labour market and sphere of production generate real ontological degradation - a transformation by degrees of human to animal and material being. Based upon this analysis, it becomes possible to speak of the capitalist economy as an 'economy of death' - as producing a world of increasing ontological stagnation.
Keywords: Marx; capitalism; alienation; critique of capitalism; Marxian ontology; ontological distinction; economy of death; reification; precarious lives; Marxist economics; Marxism; ontological stagnation.
International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, 2013 Vol.4 No.3, pp.296 - 309
Received: 08 May 2021
Accepted: 12 May 2021
Published online: 11 Dec 2013 *