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Marx: A Very Short Introduction (Past Masters) [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Peter Singer

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20. März 1980 Past Masters
Peter Singer identifies the central vision that unifies Marx's thought, enabling us to grasp Marx's views as a whole. He sees him as a philosopher primarily concerned with human freedom, rather than as an economist or social scientist. He explains alienation, historical materialism, the economic theory of Capital , and Marx's idea of communism, in plain English, and concludes with an assessment of Marx's legacy. This book is intended for students from sixth-form upwards of politics, economics, philosophy, history, Marxism.

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"I always recommend that undergraduates should read Singer's book to get an overview. I find it a very useful introduction: succinct and sophisticated."--Professor Diana Coole, University of California, Irvine"[An] excellent brief presentation of Marx and his teachings, written with clarity and conciseness; up-to-date in its sources, dispassionate in its approach to [Marx] and balanced in its assessment."--Peter McConville, University of San Francisco"Clear, concise, insightful, and even-handed."--Susan Armstrong-Buck, Humboldt State University -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .


Peter Singer identifies the central vision that unifies Marx's thought, enabling us to grasp Marx's views as a whole. He sees him as a philosopher primarily concerned with human freedom, rather than as an economist or social scientist. He explains alienation, historical materialism, the economic theory of Capital , and Marx's idea of communism, in plain English, and concludes with an assessment of Marx's legacy. This book is intended for students from sixth-form upwards of politics, economics, philosophy, history, Marxism.

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.2 von 5 Sternen  21 Rezensionen
79 von 87 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An almost ideal introduction to the subject. 21. August 2003
Von Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. - Veröffentlicht auf
Peter Singer's "Marx: A Very Short Introduction" is a superbly lucid and concise introduction to the subject of Marx and Marxism. Assuming the reader has no background in Marx's thought, Singer covers most of the important issues of Marxism and then assesses Marx's achievements and shortcomings in a refreshingly balanced manner.
What makes this book such a valuable introduction is Singer's clear understanding of what lies at the heart of Marxism: the issue of human freedom. Too many works on Marxism reduce it to a merely economic philosophy, which has the destruction of capitalism (and subsequent liberation of the world's workers) as its end. This is a gross misrepresentation of Marx's thought. Marx saw the destruction of capitalism and the establishment of a classless society as means toward the true end which he sought: the liberation of humanity from oppression and exploitation and a return to our true nature as creative, self-actualizing beings rather than mere laboring appendages to an economic machine. Marx envisioned a world in which humanity toiled with its individual and universal fulfillment as the goal, rather than a world in which a few grow rich while the many dig ditches or work in Asian sweatshops for Nike. Freedom, true freedom, was the purpose behind Marx's work and also his life.
I highly recommend this book as a serious, thorough, and fair introduction to this complex subject. Apart from Terry Eagleton's "Marx," there is no better guide than this.
39 von 45 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Indispensible - Unlike Marxism 15. Mai 2000
Von Matt Hood - Veröffentlicht auf
Marx is a highly complex character, whether studied historically, politically, sociologically or (as I had to) all at once. This brief but concise guide to the life and works of Marx is one I have found frankly indispensable. Working chronologically through his life, listing events and ideas, it both explains difficult concepts with clarity and provides context, which makes some of Marx's abstract works spring to life. Singer is almost totally non-judgmental about Marx and his ideas and this adds to the crucial nature this book holds amongst my key reference works.
26 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen An easy to follow introduction 13. April 2005
Von Marc Honore - Veröffentlicht auf
I am doing an MA in political science and my professor screwed his nose up a bit when I showed him this, because Singer is not a name that one associates with Marxism. I bought it because I liked his anthology on Ethics so much. I must say that I don't agree with some of the conclusions that Singer draws in his assessment of Marxism at the end of the book, but his strength is his ability to write at a level that is easy to understand. He avoids jargon where possible and that in itself takes a lot of the mystery out of this stuff. I recommend this book as a good place to start when looking at Marx.
12 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A superb introduction to Marx's thought 25. Dezember 2008
Von Robert Moore - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
This is a remarkably clear introduction to the thought of Karl Marx. I was a little dubious when I picked it up (I read 3 or 4 of the Very Short Introduction books each year), since most of my knowledge of Singer is through his work either on Animal Ethics, Utilitarianism, or his critique of George W. Bush. In fact, I became a vegetarian 25 years ago after reading Singer and Gandhi at the same time. Marx, though, is a horse of a different color. I was simply not confident that he would write as well on the founder of Marxism as well as he did on practical ethics. If anything, he turned out to write even more clearly on Marx than anything else I've read.

The problem with Marx is that he wrote so much, much of it in advanced draft form, that one can extract several different Marx's from his pages. It isn't that he is inconsistent that his thinking is constantly in flux as he considers one or another aspect of the issues surrounding capitalism. There truly is no final version of Marx's thought, but rather interim versions. The various books and manuscripts almost serve as commentaries on the other books and manuscripts. The trick is to extract the core of what Marx thought without unduly distorting his work as a whole and without reducing him to a caricature. Singer does a great job of highlighting major themes and trends in Marx's thought while not losing the sense of the difficult of determining with finality precisely what Marx wrote.

The importance of a book like this cannot be overstressed. Anyone who knows anything at all about Marx knows that he would have been appalled at the Communist revolutions of the twentieth century. As Singer rightly points out, Marx would unquestionably have been a victim of one of the purges. Whatever complicity Marx had with the excesses of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is tenuous and debatable (though given that all three cited Marx as their inspiration means that Marx's responsibility for what followed can be legitimately discussed, even if he is exonerated). Not everything he wrote about Capitalism (a term he invented) has proven to be true (though a great deal that he wrote remains shockingly relevant). Those who in 1989 delightedly proclaimed that history had refuted Marx got it all wrong. The fact is that all of us today, even political and economic conservatives, have had our consciousness completely altered by Marx. Nearly all history is done today with unexamined assumptions that we took from Marx. No one would undertake a study of any historical topic without a consideration of the socio-economic factors involved. Sociology, philosophy, political science, economics, and virtually every subject one can consider has been deeply informed by Marxist ideas. Those proclaiming Marx the loser in 1989 got it all wrong: he had won way before then. He has shaped the modern mind as fully as Freud, Martin Luther, Newton, or Darwin. We think through Marxist categories, even when we oppose him.

This is just one reason why it is so important to understand what he was about. There are many other very good elementary intros to Marx's thought. Robert Heilbroner's book on Marx is a great one. Ernest Mandel has an excellent short introduction to Marx's economic theory. But I would put Singer's book up there with those. If you are looking for a clear first introduction to Marx, you can do far worse than this.
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Short and sweet 12. Dezember 2009
Von Eric Balkan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Probably no name turns off more Americans than "Marx". That's unfortunate, because the 20th century communism associated with Karl Marx is not really a fair representation of Marx's ideas. Not that Marx wasn't wrong on a number of key issues, such as thinking that eliminating private property would produce true individual freedom. But Marx didn't have much use for government, so it's ironic that he's associated with a Leninist-Stalinist model that attempted to put all aspects of life under government control.

Besides Marx the political revolutionary who felt compelled to correct the dreadful condition of the 19th century working class, there's the Marx who's regarded as one of the founders of sociology. "Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness." (C.f. the then-current Enlightenment view that every decision we make can be as rational as we want it to be, and thus every individual is responsible for his own state in life.)

But on to the review. There's a ton of books about Marx available, as well as pounds of Marx's own writings, so why read this book? Because Prof Singer has written a very readable, very understandable description of Marx's thinking: contradictions, mistakes, and all. And done it concisely.

Prof Singer is sympathetic to Marx the philosopher -- no philosopher ever gets it all right -- and less sympathetic to Marx the economist and "scientific historian". But Singer presents it all in a very well organized fashion, with lots of references to Marx's writings, so that the reader can easily follow along with the main ideas as well as continue on his own.

Personally, I think Singer is too harsh towards Marx the economist, e.g. Marx's prediction that a capitalist system must eventually collapse. Whereas Marx recognized that government would side with the ruling class, i.e., the capitalists, he couldn't have predicted that government would grow powerful enough to bail out the economic system whenever it was near collapse. I doubt if any 19th century economist could have guessed that. Marx also failed to note, as Karl Polanyi did much later, that the general public would require government to restrict the worst activities of the capitalists, e.g. child labor, monopolies, pollution, near-zero wage rates. And this would make society more livable for workers -- thus postponing, perhaps permanently, capitalism's end. Singer, interestingly, shows that Marx may have overstated his case intentionally at times, in order to have more effect. We can certainly see that among modern writers, who know that the more extreme the statements they make, the more attention they get and the more books they sell.

Despite the things that Marx got wrong, he got many things right: the boom-bust cycle of capitalism, the alienation of factory workers from their work, the need for capitalists to find ever- wider markets, the growing disparity (though irregular) of income between capitalists and workers, the concentration of economic power into fewer and fewer hands, the influence of someone's economic situation upon the decisions he makes.... A basic knowledge of Marx is really a prerequisite for understanding many of the issues and conflicts that we still deal with today. Prof Singer's book provides that introduction in the most easily-digestible form that I've seen.
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