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Why Marx Was Right Paperback – April 24, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Terry Eagleton takes on some of the most common objections to Marxism and answers each in turn, in a clear, non-technical and often humorous way."—London Review of Books
(London Review of Books)

About the Author

Terry Eagleton is currently Distinguished Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster, England, and Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He lives in Dublin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300181531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300181531
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

Customer Reviews

This is a good book for someone who is just getting into the Marx and/or Marxism.
Jcrock
I must admit I didn't get past page 100, and I'm writing this review before I finished the book because I don't think I'm going to finish the book.
Reasonably Happy Chemist who Plays the Oboe
When it comes to the argument that "Marx was right" in what he actually wrote, Eagleton's book is a failure.
Christopher Culver

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
"I am out to present Marx's ideas as not perfect but plausible": this caution opens ten chapters which refute standard criticisms. Eagleton reminds us how Marx celebrated as well as condemned what capitalism had achieved to unleash its energies on the modern world: "the system breeds freedom as well as barbarism, emancipation along with enslavement. Capitalist society generates enormous wealth, but in a way that cannot help putting it beyond the reach of most citizens. Even so, that wealth can always be brought within reach. It can be disentangled from the acquisitive, individualist forms which bred it, invested in the community as a whole, and used to keep disagreeable work to the minimum. It can thus release men and women from the chains of economic necessity into a life where they are free to realize their creative potential. This is Marx's vision of communism." (59)

As this excerpt demonstrates, it will not convert the skeptics and it will not overturn the empire. It posits a humanist Marx devotedly, and how this vision would be realized may be as much a question for seminars as Christianity is in seminaries. How this lofty aspiration relates to our everyday world needs explanation, and Eagleton for an open-minded reader may provoke more than soothe, as he sets out I suspect to do. My review comes from neutral territory if any still exists for a reader approaching Marx. I am not a political insider, a trained economist, or a tenured radical, so my interest in this comes from a layman's need for an accessible, cogent interpretation. Eagleton's coming to Marx from lit-crit and not poli-sci: this needs emphasis, given some hasty generalizations, logical weaknesses, and underdeveloped sections of what attempts to be a précis.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By whiteelephant on June 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Now in its fifth year, with no end in sight, the current capitalist crisis will undoubtedly renew interest in capitalism's greatest critic. Yet, as Eagleton asks, "was ever a thinker so travestied?" Marx's thought is now so buried beneath layers of distortion that the very thought of Marx leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many left-liberals, who as a result can see no further than social democracy. It is this sad state of affairs that Eagleton seeks to remedy, by addressing ten common liberal misconceptions about Marx and socialism more generally.

Thus, while the book is entitled 'Why Marx was right', a better title would be 'Why Marx wasn't wrong', since Eagleton is squarely on the defensive in each chapter. This is a little disappointing, as the current economic crisis makes a positive case for Marx's analysis easier than ever. Yet Eagleton does not really discuss Marx's 'Capital' and his analysis of capitalism in any depth, meaning that the reader will not be given much of an introduction to Marxist thought at all. Instead, Eagleton is more interested in extricating Marx from the disasters of Stalinism and Maoism, and from the conception that Marxism is hopelessly utopian, teleological, anti-humanist, economically determinate, and violently insurrectionary. This type of defense constitutes chapters 2-6 and 8-9, and Eagleton acquits himself ably in the role of defense attorney.

The other major theme of the book (Ch. 1,7,10) consists of Eagleton arguing for the continued relevance of Marx today. Here, Eagleton argues at length for the obvious fact that class is more relevant than ever, despite capitalism's ability to obscure this fact.
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160 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Gunlover on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terry Eagleton's "Why Marx Was Right" is a wonderfully written and accessible introduction to the thought of Karl Marx. It is fashionable to dismiss Marxism as "outdated" or "irrelevant" as it pertains to contemporary economic and political problems. Eagleton provides a much needed correction to this ignorant viewpoint.

Eagleton takes the many objections voiced by the enemies of Marxism (e.g. Marxism is "great in theory" but only leads to bloodshed; Marxism is utopian; Marxism reduces everything to economics; Marxism is deterministic, etc.) and demolishes them one by one. Here is Eagleton's take on those who hypocritically condemn Marxism as "bloodstained":

"Modern capitalist nations are the fruit of a history of slavery, genocide, violence and exploitation every bit as abhorrent as Mao's China or Stalin's Soviet Union. Capitalism, too, was forged in blood and tears; it is just that it has survived long enough to forget about much of this horror, which is not the case with Stalinism and Maoism." (p. 12-13)

Ever argue with someone who claims that socialism is an "unrealizable utopia"? Here's Eagleton's answer:

"There is good reason that there can never be any complete reconciliation between the individual and society....Marx's claim in the Communist Manifesto about the free self-development of all can never be fully realized. Like all the finest ideals it is a goal to aim at, not a state to be literally achieved....Those who scoff at socialist ideals should remember that the free market can never be perfectly realized either...Some of those who claim that socialism is unworkable are confident that they can eradicate poverty, solve the global warming crisis, spread liberal democracy to Afghanistan and resolve world conflicts by UN resolutions.
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