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Building Power to Change the WorldThe Political Thought of the German Council Movements$
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James Muldoon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198856627

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198856627.001.0001

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Socialist Civic Virtues

Socialist Civic Virtues

(p.131) 5 Socialist Civic Virtues
Building Power to Change the World

James Muldoon

Oxford University Press

The German council movements struggled not only for the deepening of democracy and the social ownership of the means of production, but also for a broader project of human emancipation couched in terms of ideological transformation and cultural rejuvenation. An overlooked yet significant contribution to this debate was Rosa Luxemburg’s theorization of ‘socialist civic virtues’ as a key element of class struggle and socialist democracy. Luxemburg incorporated republican language and themes into a socialist political ideology of workers’ self-emancipation. She understood that worker-controlled institutions would need to be supported by widespread socialist norms that would be common knowledge and followed as a matter of habit. It would be necessary to direct workers away from the egoism, individualism, and competition that predominated in capitalist societies and towards a socialist culture of self-discipline, public-spiritedness, solidarity, and self-activity. She believed it was primarily through their own political activity and the experience of political struggle that workers could acquire the necessary habits and dispositions of self-government for living in a self-determining society. Her theory of socialist civic virtues helps provide content to the council movements’ vision of the institutional and cultural order of a future socialist society.

Keywords:   Rosa Luxemburg, socialist civic virtues, civic virtue, republicanism, socialism, ideology critique, workers’ councils

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