Did Marx Contribute To Legal Theory?

1943 Words 8 Pages
(i) Preface: how did Marx contribute to legal theory?

According to Marx in Das Kapital, the capitalist mode of production, and indeed all precursory economic modes of production, precedes the “superstructural” social order. The prevailing legal system as an institution of the social order is consequently resultant of the wider, “infrastructural” economic requisites of the society. The social order is merely an economic subsidiary or, as Marx wrote in the latter work, merely its “ideological representative”. Though Marx was not disposed to the formal articulation of a legal theory, he and Engels addressed the law within the established economic treatise, and provided the groundwork for a Marxist theory of law. Throughout his analysis, Marx
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For example, its interpretation of legal systems and its laws is highly exclusive, as the theory only contemplates law within its accustomed dialectical framework. Moreover, Marx did not contemplate legal systems as institutions of discriminate coercive order - it was his theoretical descendants who initiated that project. The fulfillment of socio-economic exigencies under communism may abolish law as coercion, but that does not mean that the resultant “law” will not contain some compelling element. A society of any form will require civil rules ensuring the conformity to certain social precepts. These tacit rules may exist in the fabric of society itself, maintaining social obedience through, for example, the duress of public adversity or even ostracism. This “legal” development of communism closely resembles that of primitive communalism, which, similarly, was free from contemporary social class structures or systems of capital accumulation and private ownership. Though this system may not contain law as coercion, it upholds a coercive order nevertheless. However, Marx was aware of this theoretical development. He often referred to this compelling social structure as an expression of the ensuing “permanent revolution” subsequent to a proletariat accession. Though, interestingly, a category of this social duress-to-conformity does exist accessory to law in capitalist society in the form of ideology …show more content…
Though the spectre of communism may have dissipated following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the spectre of Marx still haunts us to this day. Many of the leftist political victories throughout Europe and the Anglosphere are undoubtedly symptomatic of the global recession and, though legitimate for this reason, are almost entirely sustained by the periodic revitalisation of Marxist critique and its contemporary relevance. Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and Alexis Tsipras, among others, are all political leaders legitimised by genuine, popular anti-capitalist resentment catalysed by a wider Marxist radical stimulus. This stimulus is typically the opposition to the conventional political, and hence legal, status quo. Though, this revitalisation has proven itself a double-edged sword. Much as the academic community remains resolute in its assertion of the relevance of Marxism and its indispensable critique of the political and legal system, the wider population has often mistaken populist ideologues for genuine anti-establishment dissidents. This is the imposition of a false consciousness propagated by capitalist ideology. The election of Donald Trump, for example, is a pertinent example of this. As Walter Benjamin noted, ‘every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution’. In other words, populist right-wing resurgence ensuing a

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