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Marxism and the Moral Status of Animals

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Perlo's engagement with the complex and ambiguous relationship between Marxism (and, more broadly, the socialist traditions) and the moral status of animals is very much to be welcomed. This sort of engagement is valuable for three main reasons. First, the more narrowly focused social movement activity—whether committed to animal rights, social justice in the workplace, or advancement for women—is liable to cut itself off from critical insights created in the context of other movements. I became aware of this, particularly during the 1980s in relation to radical green politics, as both deepening and widening the already existing socialist case against neo-liberal capitalism, just as the women's liberation movement had done a decade or more earlier. Second, this sort of analysis is valuable because without it "single-issue" movements run a serious risk of advancing the claims of their own preferred social group at the cost of (usually unknowingly and unintentionally) deepening the oppression or exploitation of other groups. Third, where radical social movements campaign for changes that conflict with the interests of wealthy and powerful interests, and are committed to democratic values, they need to be able to bring public opinion with them.

Single-issue movements rarely can do this on their own: Broad-based coalitions are needed. Moreover, the sources of radical thought and the range of justified grievances are now so diverse that the notion of a single, unified political party as the centralized vehicle of change is no longer viable (if it ever was). So, the broadly based coalition has to be diverse and difference-respecting. But can it be this while still maintaining enough unity of purpose and coordination of its actions to be effective?


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