Reconstructing Marxism

Science and Society 57 (2):133 - 159 (1993)
This paper has two interrelated aims. One is a criticism of the recent book by Eric Olin Wright, Andrew Levine and Elliott Sober, "Reconstructing Marxism". It is argued that many of the book's key concepts and premises are obscure; sometimes, when clear enough for logical relations to be established, inconsistent with one another; and nearly always open to objections. The same is true of the arguments (where they can be identified) to the conclusions. The book's basic philosophical stance is, in regard to its combination of essentialism and empiricism, Aristotelian. The second aim is to sketch an alternative view of the general character of historical materialism, based closely on Marx's "mature" practice as theoretician, and on many of his key statements of principle. This view involves a sharp distinction between the context of theory and the context of the real (the understanding and change of the latter being the point of the former), and, in the theoretical domain, a distinction among levels of abstractness or generality.
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