Karl Marx predicts that a communist society will be one in which work will come to resemble something close to art, in the sense that it will be creative, done for its own sake and provide an immense source of meaning to the worker. On Marx’s view, one of the main obstacles to aesthetic production is the division of labour. Thus, it is of little surprise that in those rare passages where Marx does provide an insight into the future communist society, he describes it as a society that has abolished the division of labour, thereby allowing individuals to develop and deploy their creative powers fully. Agreeable as this may sound, there are several problems with this argument. Most obviously, whilst the division of labour had an injurious effect on the individual, it had also tremendously increased the rate of production, thereby creating the type of material abundance that Marx thought necessary for communism. But more philosophically interesting is the Hegelian idea that the division of labour is both an identity-forming and solidarity-producing process. In the division of labour, Hegel argued, people are forced to focus on some things and not others in their lives, thereby particularizing themselves as persons, and also come to rely on another much more closely, in such a way that breeds a form of social solidarity. After making these criticisms of Marx, the paper ends on an optimistic note as I suggest that Marx’s notion of aesthetic production is in fact compatible with the division of labour, albeit one of a certain kind.
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