[Report] Bill Martin "Another Justice, Another Communism"

20 December, 2010 Visiting Speaker Series

On December 1, 2010, Professor Bill Martin gave a talk on Marxism, morality and religion in Collaboration Room 1.


He claimed that while most Marxists have focused exclusively on political economy, he would like to bring the ethical and religious dimensions to bear on the Marxist project. Drawing on the works of Alain Badiou and Jacques Derrida, Professor Martin argued for a religious moment in Marxism. Defining the religious broadly, Professor Martin contended that the religious moment in Marxism implied that people were called on by a socialist future to act in the present. He claimed such a call is religious because it implies believing in meaning beyond one’s finite self and participating on a larger project that transcends the present. Even if one dies for the cause of socialism, there is a sense in which one lives on in the project.


After the talk, there was a lively discussion. Some people asked Professor Martin about whether his reading of Marx was overly deterministic, thus necessitating a moral and religious supplement. Professor Martin responded that the problem lay in theorists such as Eduard Bernstein. Professor Nakajima Takahiro asked about the problem of subjectivity, which was important in debates in early postwar Japanese Marxist debates about morality. Professor Martin retorted that other people are always discussing subjectivity and he is much more interested in the call from the future or from history than the subject. In short, Professor Martin posed an extremely important question for Marxism, namely the role of ethics and self-transcendence involved in the politics of Marxism. During a period when most people have given up on the hope of a future beyond capitalism, Professor Martin’s lecture was both insightful and inspiring. (Viren Murthy)


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