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Making Sense of Marx (Studies in Marxism and Social Theory) 1st Published 1985 Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521297059
ISBN-10: 0521297052
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Editorial Reviews


'Making Sense of Marx is splendid; it is endlessly ingenious, inventive and imaginative; it is built on apparently inexhaustible reserves of textual scholarship; it is written in sober, lucid and careful prose; and it tackles issues whose intrinsic interest is undeniable. Making Sense of Marx is a monument to patience, open-mindedness, intellectual scrupulousness and straightforward intelligence.' Alan Ryan, The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Jon Elster is Professor and Chaire de Rationalite et Sciences Sociales at the College de France. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, he is a recipient of fellowships from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation, among many others. Dr Elster has taught at the University of Chicago and Columbia University and has held visiting professorships at many universities in the United States and in Europe. He is the author and editor of thirty-four books, most recently Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective, Elementary Social Science from an Advanced Standpoint, and Retribution and Restitution in the Transition to Democracy.

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Marxism and Social Theory
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st Published 1985 edition (May 31, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521297052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521297059
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Elster writes well and clearly and frequently suggests controversial but insightful readings of Marx. That said, there's not of Marx left when he's finished, and I think that is more Elster's fault than Marx's. Elster applies a "methodological" principle called methodological individualism, which he does not explain very well, and which is entirely antithetical to Marx's holistic ("dialectical") manner of analysis. Elster, in the name of wanting to explain the micromechanisms whereby things occur -- a laudable goal and one where Marx often falls down -- insist that social phenomena be explained by reference to individual and their properties individualistically described. It is doubtful that this is coherent, since many of the constitutive properties of individuals -- their class position, to take one example -- are inherently social. In general Elster, in this longish book, almost invariable takes as his target the less plausible and less sympathetic readings of Marx to attack, which makes his job easier but his attempt to make sense of Marx more quetionable.

Analytical Marxism -- the now largly moribund movement of which Elster was a founder -- has a lot to offer the understanding of Marx, but like some its advocates, Elster went overboard in getting rid of too much of Marx that did not fit his preconceptions -- many of which Marx himself criticizes without adequate recognition or response from Elster. Still, the book is important for serious Marx scholars. General readers might start with Elster's shorter version summarizing Elster's main conclusions -- and complement it with a more sympathetic though no less analytical book like Richard Schmitt's Introduction To Marx and Engels. (Schmitt does not think of himself as an Analytical Marxist.)
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Format: Paperback
Jon Elster has made his name among the best and brightest as one of the most usefull people in the social sciences. This is an excellent thing to be.
Making Sense of Marx was a beautifully portioned book that is hard to praise adequately. With scholarship five feet thick, Elster displays his full range of expertise in this book, bringing into play his vast learning from all the social and dismal sciences. Mostly picking apart Marx's main theories, he deftly displays what I can only call a complete Marxian understanding. The truly refreshing part of this book was its approach: Elster spoke using not philosophical or economic language, but the general social sciences language. I was hard pressed to disagree with any of his main notions, especially his quick and incisive dissections of Marxian notions of diminishing dynamic efficiency and the theory of history. While I am not a strict adherant of rational choice models, he structured the rational choice attacks as such to make them accessible to the non-believer as well. All in all, a perfect little book.
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