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Dr Sandra Leonie Field (Yale-NUS)
‘Marx, Spinoza and True Democracy’
It is common to assimilate Marx's and Spinoza's conceptions of democracy. Indeed, Marx appears to have drawn his ideas of the naturalness of democracy and of the people's concrete power fairly directly from his study of Spinoza. In this paper, to the contrary, I draw a sharp distinction between Marxian and Spinozist democracy. Philosophically, I argue that both the naturalness of democracy and the people's concrete power mean something fundamentally different in the two authors. And as a matter of social theory, I argue that the gap between civil society and the state which so troubles Marx is a development of modernity that has not entered Spinoza's premodern field of view. The deep differences between the philosophers bring to the surface some critical questions for contemporary theorists of democracy trying to square the circle between popular power and rule for the common good.
Sandra Leonie Field is the author of Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020). She is Assistant Professor of Humanities (Philosophy) at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. Her research topics include early modern European political philosophy; democratic theory; and concepts of power. She has also written on non-Western political philosophy.
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