Friday, February 5, 2016


Bentham confined his discussion to the current society under which he lived. He never advanced the need for the replacement that system with communism. He did not base his ethics on the need for revolution. Revolution involves the existence of actors in the form of collective forces (classes). They are not grounded in players in the form of individuals. His ethics was reductionist and not holistic. A worker or a capitalist implies class. It is class that determines the nature of the individual. These are social not individual forms. Consequently to privilege the individual is to abstract from class. It is a Robinsonian view. It is social forms that determine the role of the individual --not the reverse. The transformation of social forms changes the character of the individual --not the reverse. The specific social relations of production are the drivers --not the individual. Benthamism, on the other hand, offers the individual as the driver which is why society is presented as constituted from the sum of individuals.

Should workers realise communism through social revolution they realise this project not as individuals but as workers --in the form of the working class --a social form. Nor is class consciousness the sum of the individual consciousnesses of workers. The latter is a contradiction. Class consciousness is exclusively a form of social (public) consciousness. The basic historical forms are class forms and social relations. Individuals cannot exist outside the social relations that connect them together. Individuals cannot exist independently of social relations or social forms. Bentham believed that individuals exist independently of social forms.

Under capitalism social relations of production are reified. It is this reification that imposes inherent limits on the working class. In other words the relations between producers, in the form of workers, assumes the form of relations between things. It is this reification that must be abolished if workers are to be emancipated.

Under reification it is not possible for workers to achieve "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." The latter is an ethical illusion presented by the ideology of utilitarianism. The latter misrepresents the character of capitalism. It suggests that capitalism is a natural, thereby eternal, system. Much of the radical Left misleadingly prescribe the greatest happiness principle under capitalism. They fail to acknowledge the limits of capitalism. This the ethical basis for its claim that the interest of the working class is achievable under capitalism.

Much of the radical Left is imprisoned by the Enlightenment tradition. In other words it has not transcended the limits of the Great French Revolution. This is partly because the programme of The Great French Revolution has not been realised by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie were so threatened by the modern working class that it feared it's own Enlightenment programme.

Much of the radical left seeks to complete the programme of the Enlightenment programme. It fails to comprehend that this programme is no longer realisable under capitalism. It is now an unrealisable Utopian programme -- an idealistic programme. Only under communism can the needs of the working class be met.

Utilitarianism, because of its individualist reductionism, precludes the necessity for social revolution. It is inherently anti-revolution. Since its slogan of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" is based on the individual utilitarianism precludes the role of social forms. Without social forms (as opposed to the individual) as driver revolution is impossible. Social revolution necessarily implies social forms as actors.

Clearly utilitarianism is an ideology that distorts the character of society thereby misrepresenting the way forward. It is a consequentialist ethics that denies the working class its historic role.

Utilitarianism And The Radical Left

In general the Left in Ireland is utilitarian in their moral and political philosophy. It is forever making demands for this and that. Generally its demands are not concerned with the need for the emancipation of the working class together with the need to eliminate alienation. This is because it does not seek the elimination of capitalism. Instead it seeks the Utilitarian increase in pleasure and reduction in pain. The greater happiness principle of Jeremy Bentham. The latter believed that “the greater happiness of the greatest number” was achievable within capitalism. This is essentially the position of much of the radical Left. This Left is not even reformist. Reformists claim that it is possible to incrementally turn capitalism into socialism by means of reforms. This Left’s call for socialism is at most aspirational. It does not dialectically tie it in with its Utilitarian Action Programmes. It's political philosophy is a vulgar version of Utilitarianism. It is not even aware of the Utilitarian moral assumptions underlying its political outlook.

Utilitarianism is a reductionist moral philosophy. For it the unit of society is the individual. Consequently it ignores class division and advocates cross class policies as does much of the Irish Left. It's active leadership of the anti-property tax and anti-water rates campaigns are an example of this. It's support for electoralism is another. The latter means the support of the atomisation of the working class though elections under representative democracy.