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An Introduction to Karl Marx
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The impression throughout is of superficiality. I suspect much of this superficiality results from Elster's "methodological individualism" and fashionable reliance on game theory, the current paradigm of rationable behavior. Small wonder that Elster finds sympathy only in certain Marxian themes rather than specific results, given Marx's general allegiance to holistic forms of explanation. The book's unsatisfactory nature is almost redeemed by an outstanding chapter on self-realization as Marx's chief social value. The rest of the chapters pale in comparison to this little gem among the castoffs.
The book, as far as I can tell with my level of marxian scholarship, is a complete introductoin, and it suffered from none of the failings attributed by it below. Descriptions flowed easily and succintly and I had no trouble understanding them at all. Perhaps this is because I am more of an advanced marx scholar than our other reviewer friend.
But I suspect that the reason mr. Doepke is not happy with this book is because it is a disspasionate consideration of Marxian ideas from a supremely educated man who holds no special religious-kind of attraction to Marx, as so many Marx scholars do.
Let there be no doubt- the disspasionate nature of mr. Elster's analysis of Marx and his contributions is what makes him a rare find. Most all Marx scholars have some kind of agenda in approaching marx, and are colored accordingly (Tom Sowell and Edward Herman, for example).
To his undying credit, Mr. Elster is a leftist who seems to have no agenda in speaking about Marx. Stunningly, he without exception atomizes Marx's main theses and considers them both seperately and as a whole. The result is incisive and dead-on commentary that no other scholar alive has ever even approached, to my knowledge.
What George Orwell did for concretly existing communist governments Jon Elster has done for Marxian theory- a deadly accurate eye methodically slashing through to the real core.Read more ›
Marx is one of history's most fussed-over figures, and I'd prefer to see an introduction to him lay out the data a bit more disinterestedly -- in the first part of the book, anyway -- and in the second part announce, "Now here is where I stand." That is exactly Thomas Sowell's approach in "Marxism: Philosophy and Economics". Plus, between the two authors, Sowell seems to directly quote Marx & Engels twice or three times as much. Now there's novel idea -- Marx on Marx!
If I were making a reading list for a freshman intro course in social science, I'd pick Sowell's book.