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October 11, 2011

To use an example that Eagleton mentions, Aristotle argues that it is contrary to human nature to seek profit for its own sake. According to Aristotle, the virtuous person uses money only to the extent that it is necessary to provide the leisure he needs to pursue higher things. Although he acknowledges the principle in Aristotle, however, Eagleton denies that virtue plays any role in Marxism. Rather than calling upon moral ideals, he contends, Marx hoped to reorganize society on the basis of shared interest in establishing less burdensome economic and social arrangements.

The point is crucial because it allow Eagleton to deny that Marxism makes unrealistic demands on human behavior. In doing so, he aims to counter the “third way” objection that Marxism is utopian. By appealing to interest over virtue or justice, however, Eagleton embraces a model of rational calculation developed to justify 19th century capitalism. The result is only superficially Aristotelian, and a very weak alternative to postmodernism.

– Samuel Goldman, this month’s AmCon

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