Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Saturday, September 27, 2014

ANALYTICAL MARXISM

Enzo Rossi asked me about Analytical Marxism, and I replied.  Now, one of the oddities of old age, I find, is that although I seem to be able to recall in excruciating detail experiences I had sixty years ago and more -- hence my endless story-telling -- I seem not to be able to recall what I have written and published with anything like the same precision.  Having arisen at a bit after midnight, as I do most nights for an hour or more, I thought to re-read an essay I wrote about Jan Elster's book on Marx twenty-five years ago or so.  It is, I say without a shred of false modesty, a brilliant critique of Analytical Marxism.  If anyone is still interested in the subject, I strongly recommend it.  It can be found archived at box.net by following the link at the top of this page.  Inasmuch as I wrote it but did not remember its contents, it is an interesting question whether I can be said to have known what the article said before I re-read it.

8 comments:

enzo rossi said...

Thank you very much. Article downloaded and added to my to-read list.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Professor Rossi, thanks to Google and such, I learned a bit about the work you do. It sounds very interesting, and clearly intersects with much that I have written over the past fifty years or more. Delighted to have you visiting the blog.

Chris said...

I've been reading A LOT of Cohen recently, specifically two of his books in the past two weeks, and some of the work of Elster and Roemer, and I'm confident that without committing a no true Scotsman fallacy, these fellas simply aren't marxists. The first dead give away is that they are quite committed to rational choice theory, and proceed to explore Marx's theory from that perspective, but as Wolff rightly points out, capitalism is so godamn mysterious and borderline mystical, that the decisions we make within it cannot possibly be reduced to individual rational choice.

There's a series of other odd choices they make that are characteristically not Marxian in temperament, that is to define many of Marx's categories in fastidious ways, show how they must be false and then attempt to redevelop those categories in efforts that usually fail since they're under-girded by rational choice. Whereas if they just suck to Marx's categories as is, the explanatory power is more significant.

Chris said...

Whoops, I see you say exactly what I just said in your Elster paper! Sorry to beat on a dead horse (unless of course it's not dead yet...in which case, let the beatings continue).

Tony Couture said...

To enzo rossi, in case you do not know, the revised edition of Cohen's A defence of Karl Marx's Theory of History has an extensive discussion of analytical Marxism. I have read Prof. Wolff's article on Elster's Marxism, and understand better now why I have always worried about the game theorist in my own philosophy department. A version of analytical Marxism that does not depend as far as I can remember (the book is at my office, not here) on rational choice theory is found in John McMurtry's The Structure of Marx's World View. Scientific socialists want to be clear about the structure of social reality and how to best change it requires analysis that gets to the bottom of things.--Also I would ask Prof. Wolff if he thinks there is anything from his 1969 essay "On Violence" in his archive that is relevant to any of his readers thinking about the coalition of legitimate political authorities bombing the Islamic State/local religious groups of Iraq and Syria or violence in 2014 compared to 1969. What has changed on the violence front?

Chris said...

Andrew Levine also wrote a book that reviews analytical marxism, althusserian marxism, and then comments on both. I hear it's great.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Well, he wrote his doctoral dissertation with me. It should be. :) I had better look at it.

enzo rossi said...

Many thanks for the nice words, prof. Wolff. I'm a longtime reader, but comment-shy. I was originally drawn here by your discussion of Rawls -- I find that your critique of him chimes with some anti-moralistic/anti-ideological themes from the realist revival initiated by Bernard Williams and Raymond Geuss.

I'm inclined to agree with the various points made here about the incompatibility of methodological individualism (and so standard rational choice theory) and Marxism. But the issue of clarity of expression remains. I agree with prof. Wolff that Marx wrote in the way he wrote because that was his way of engaging with the mysteries of capitalism. But is it the only way? That's a genuine question.

And sorry for the slow response -- swamped with deadlines.