On Justice, Part Four

Hence, both the collective and individual ‘slow march’ towards truth and justice in the political and social domain has an overarching aim and objective, namely, the restoration of balance and fairness to one’s overall system on both a collective level and an individual level. Because the restoration of balance and fairness comes off the heels of a centuries-long imbalance in the relations between capital and virtually everyone else and on a global scale and scope, it follows that Marx is to be reckoned with to a certain extent, even though his main conclusion has yet to come to fruition. As one scholar argued:

“Marx’s work will be relevant as long as capitalism exists as a social order. As the social contradictions of neoliberal capitalism grow more intense – which is quite probable – it is certain that interest in Capital and other works of Marx will also grow worldwide. The capitalist class is not ready to make any significant changes in the relationship between labor and capital, thereby keeping Marx relevant.”

Moreover, there are numerous mischaracterizations and misunderstandings relating to Marx, one of them being the association of Marx with collectivism and authoritarianism and totalitarianism. In reality, Marx was advocating for a more democratic system where the freedoms and rights of regular people would be expanded and brought out of the grip and limitations of capital. 

Also, as mentioned before, the chief advocate of Marx’s arguments out of the European and Western world in the modern age and on an international level has been the former Soviet Union and its main successor, namely, Russia. As Odd Arne Westad argued, both the United States and Russia are hellbent on modernization, but what causes the rift between the two powers on the issue of modernity and modernization is an issue of interpretation:

“While US and Soviet ideologies had much in common in terms of background and project, what separated them were their distinctive definitions of what modernity meant. While most Americans celebrated the market, the Soviet elites denied it. Even while realizing that the market was the mechanism on which most of the expansion of Europe had been based, Lenin’s followers believed that it was in the process of being superseded by class-based collective action in favor of equality and justice.”

Westad added:

“Modernity came in two stages: a capitalist form and a communal form, reflecting two revolutions – that of capital and productivity, and that of democratization and the social advancement of the underprivileged. Communism was the higher stage of modernity, and it had been given to Russian workers to lead the way toward it.”

Whereas communism or socialism are seen as the higher stages of modernity from a Marxist point of view, the peak of capitalism – as we have seen now – is a kind of neoliberal “cruelty” that manifested in racial and religious stereotyping, unjustified wars, and so forth. Moreover, the capitalist revolution which led to the development of capitalism also had a dark side which included the exploitation of workers and environmental injustice among other things. 

In a sense, justice has both a universal meaning which includes the restoration of balance and fairness in the relations between capital and labor on one hand, and a local meaning which is distinct from place-to-place and country-to-country on the other hand:

“Justice is rooted in the distinct understandings of places, honors, jobs, things of all sorts, that constitute a shared way of life. To override those understandings is (always) to act unjustly.”

For instance, the imposition of “democracy” on Middle Eastern and Asian countries with their own distinct cultures and histories through military force and military invasions over the course of the last three decades is a form of injustice that needs correction. Likewise, the imposition of an Eastern religion on a Western society with its own culture and history would also amount to an injustice if it were to ever happen. The imposition of Marxist modernity on agrarian and traditional societies was also problematic and troublesome as evinced and obviated by the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, given that Marxism is tailor-made for Western societies who have already undergone a certain level of industrial and technological advancement and modernization. To achieve modernity, one must first develop to the point of modernity, and it is in the development towards modernity which Russia and China are now focused on as part of their relationship with developing nations.

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