Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1994

Publication Title

Review of Politics






The central question guiding this essay is: what does Marx's socialism owe to classical antiquity? Underlying this question is the thesis that Marx's studies of classical Greece supply the angle of vision necessary to bring to light the hallmark of his conception of the socialist polity. The argument challenges a widespread interpretation of the connection between antiquity and socialism in Marx's work—that his socialist vision takes its bearings from the Aristotelian understanding of the relationship between necessity and leisure. In Marx's view, the fundamental legacy of antiquity was the notion of freedom as masterlessness. The roots of this legacy are in the political experience of the democratic polis, not in Aristotle's reflections on the ideal household. The core of Marx's project, then, is not to open a realm of freedom beyond necessity, but rather to create spaces for democratic action within the realm of necessity itself, to ensure that work is free and compatible with leisured activities.


Author Posting. © University of Notre Dame, 1994. This article is posted here by permission of the University of Notre Dame for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in The Review of Politics, Volume 56, Issue 2, 1994.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.