madison > marx

I was reading Federalist Paper #10, authored by James Madison, and I think it is very interesting to think about it from the perspective of social theory. Normally, sociologists don’t look at classic American political thought, but I think there is much to be learned as Madison has a specific vision of people and institutions. For example, let’s compare with Karl Marx.

Structure of government:

  • Marx: Socialist worker’s state followed by communism
  • Madison: A republic of multiple and conflicting governing bodies

Normative evaluation of interests

  • Marx: Labor good, capital bad
  • Madison: Everybody is in it to get their way, we have to watch out for that

Institutional design

  • Marx: He’ll get back to you…
  • Madison: Let’s divide up power via multiple bodies of elected representatives

Why things would work in his system:

  • Marx: real socialists wouldn’t be self-interested
  • Madison: If we pit people against each other, they might balance out.

Fundamental analysis of people/anthropology of man:

  • Marx: All interests are historically contingent. In the right system, we get the right people.
  • Madison: Factionalism is hard wired into people. The best we can do is control its bad effects.

As you can guess from the title of the post, you can guess which one I like better. Even though I am a market liberal, that’s not the main reason. I just think that Madison’s understanding of people as essentially self-interested and partisan seems more on target than Marx’s view that “it’s just capitalism, once we get rid of that, it’ll be good.” Use the comments!



50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

April 6, 2020 at 12:21 am

Posted in uncategorized

%d bloggers like this: