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