An Introduction to Karl Marx by Jon Elster

By Jon Elster

A concise and accomplished creation to Marx's social, political and financial notion for the start pupil. Jon Elster surveys in flip all of the major issues of marxist idea: technique, alienation, economics, exploitation, old materialism, periods, politics, and beliefs; in a last bankruptcy he assesses 'what resides and what's lifeless within the philosophy of Marx'. The emphasis all through is at the analytical constitution of Marx's arguments and the process is right now sympathetic, undogmatic, and rigorous.

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40 3 ALIENATION INTRODUCTION M ARX found three main flaws in capitalism: inefficiency, exploitation, and alienation. These play two distinct roles in his theory. On the one hand, they enter into his normative assessment of what is wrong with capitalism and, as the other side of that coin, what is desirable about communism. On the other hand, they are part of his explanation of the breakdown of capitalism and the subsequent transition to communism. Clearly, the two roles are related. By and large, the various reasons why capitalism ought to be abolished also explain why it will be abolished.

First, although the standard theory presents constraints and preferences as independent of each other, either can in fact be shaped by the other. The constraints are shaped by the preferences if the person decides ahead of time to eliminate certain options from the feasible set, which one might do to avoid temptation or - more paradoxically - to improve a bargaining position. Conversely, preferences are shaped by constraints if the person consciously or unconsciously adapts what he wants to what he can get.

It is certainly arguable that the direct passage from the first to the third stage is impossible. Even more plausibly, there 35 Marxist Methodolo9Y is no going back from the third stage to the first. If we regard these as the salient features of the negation of the negation. it appears as a common although far from universal pattern. There is no "law" of the negation of the negation. but the concept has a certain value in directing our attention to problems we might otherwise have overlooked. There is no real connection between negation of the negation as a feature of thought processes and negation of the negation as a feature of historical processes.

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