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In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own t In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own thought these assumptions are. In a world in which capitalism has been shaken to its roots by some major crises, Why Marx Was Right is as urgent and timely as it is brave and candid. Written with Eagleton's familiar wit, humor, and clarity, it will attract an audience far beyond the confines of academia.


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In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own t In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx's own thought these assumptions are. In a world in which capitalism has been shaken to its roots by some major crises, Why Marx Was Right is as urgent and timely as it is brave and candid. Written with Eagleton's familiar wit, humor, and clarity, it will attract an audience far beyond the confines of academia.

30 review for Why Marx Was Right

  1. 5 out of 5

    Martyn

    This is a fabulous book. It’s not an apology for Marxism but rather a reinvigoration of the original philosophy of the man, a philosophy which has been unfairly maligned over the last century due mainly to the twin state-capitalist monstrosities built in its name by Stalin and Mao. There is nothing in Marx’s writing that leads one to think of state terror and closed societies, quite the contrary. In this book, Eagleton takes a different, commonly held criticism about Marxism for each chapter head This is a fabulous book. It’s not an apology for Marxism but rather a reinvigoration of the original philosophy of the man, a philosophy which has been unfairly maligned over the last century due mainly to the twin state-capitalist monstrosities built in its name by Stalin and Mao. There is nothing in Marx’s writing that leads one to think of state terror and closed societies, quite the contrary. In this book, Eagleton takes a different, commonly held criticism about Marxism for each chapter heading and then explains why this view is misguided or, mostly, false. As usual his writing comes across as fully rounded and inclusive – he never backs away from admitting when the critics may have a point but neither does he shy away from slamming them when their facts are clearly awry. I was impressed at the careful and deliberate way in which the author picks through each explanation, each question that the text raises being fully answered at a later point in the chapter. Terry Eagleton also has a natural humor, which makes some of the more difficult themes seemingly easier to process. It’s fairly easy for modern Marxists to criticize Stalin’s Russia and Maoist China, as they clearly have more to do with right-wing totalitarianism than they have with true socialism. But what is more difficult for the average Marxist is to have the tools to argue down some of the more shrill criticisms that we have to endure – this book provides a great toolkit and allows the reader to think “No, I’m not abnormal for believing in these ideas”. It’s clear to me that the reason Marx’s ideas are slammed and ridiculed by the current ruling classes is not because they’re wrong but because the ruling elite, like Terry Eagleton, knows exactly ‘Why Marx Was Right’.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Randal Samstag

    Ever need a handy compendium to use when you were in discussions with tiresome right-wingers about how Marx and Marxism was a “Fatal Conceit” or “The Road to Serfdom”? (The quoted references are, of course, to anti-socialist tracts by F. A. Hayek.) Well, if you live in the United States, there would be plenty of individuals who would so debate you. But then again, probably not so many of you would want to. But, for those who would, Terry Eagleton has provided such a compendium. His new book, Why Ever need a handy compendium to use when you were in discussions with tiresome right-wingers about how Marx and Marxism was a “Fatal Conceit” or “The Road to Serfdom”? (The quoted references are, of course, to anti-socialist tracts by F. A. Hayek.) Well, if you live in the United States, there would be plenty of individuals who would so debate you. But then again, probably not so many of you would want to. But, for those who would, Terry Eagleton has provided such a compendium. His new book, Why Marx Was Right, provides thoughtful and often amusing responses to ten common objections to Marx and Marxism. Each chapter addresses one of these claims: 1) Marxism’s time has passed. We are in a post-industrial, classless world now. 2) Marxism may be well in theory, but whenever it has been put into practice, the result has been terror, tyranny, and mass murder. 3) Marxism is a form of determinism. It doesn’t allow for human freedom. 4) Marxism is a dream of utopia. It believes in the possibility of a perfect society. In reality, humans are naturally selfish, aggressive, and competitive. 5) Marxism reduces everything to economics. Marx was simply an inverted image of the capitalist system he opposed. 6) Marx was a materialist. He had no interest in the spiritual aspects of humanity. 7) Marx was tediously obsessed with class. Nothing could be more out-dated. 8) Marxists are advocates of violent political action. They reject a sensible course of moderate reform. The end justifies the means. This is why so many lives were ground out by the communist revolutions of the twentieth century. 9) Marxism believes in an all-powerful state. Liberal democracy may have its faults, but it is much better than being locked up in an psychiatric hospital for daring to criticize an authoritarian government. 10) The most interesting radical movements of the last four decades have grown up outside Marxism. Feminism, environmentalism, gay rights, ethnic politics, the peace movement; all of these have left Marxism behind. For each of these objections, Eagleton rehearses replies, often with great humor, always with great sympathy for the man, Karl Marx. His method usually includes one or more of the following: 1) Pointing out that the claim is irrelevant to what Marx actually said, 2) Recognizing the truth in the claim and demonstrating how this truth is compatible with what Marx actually said, 3) Pointing out that the negative consequences highlighted in the claim apply often more strongly to capitalism than to socialism, or 4) Pointing out that the claim is untrue. I won’t try to rehearse his replies to all of these claims but will focus in on two: Claim Number 8 and Claim Number 2. Claim Number 8 – Marxists are advocates of violence Eagleton’s full statement of this objection is as follows: "Marxists are advocates of violent political action. They reject a sensible course of moderate, piecemeal reform and opt instead for the bloodstained chaos of revolution. A small band of insurrectionists will rise up, overthrow the state and impose its will on the majority. This is one of several senses in which Marxism and democracy are at daggers drawn. Because they despise morality as much as mere ideology, Marxists are not especially troubled by the mayhem their politics would unleash on the population. The end justifies the means, however many lives may be lost in the process." Eagleton’s approach here is first to point out that many reform movements that did not lead to revolution, including the US civil rights movement and liberal reform movements in Latin America during the nineteenth century, in fact involved brutal violence initiated by the government to which the reform movement was opposed. In addition, many actual revolutions, including the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the subsequent fall of the Communist state in the Soviet Union 70 years later, were accomplished with little blood being spilled. Of course a bloody civil war followed the Bolshevik revolution, as the new social order came under attack by conservative forces in Russian society, with support from the Western powers. While Eagleton recognizes that Stalin and Mao Zedong were “mass murderers on an almost unimaginable scale” he points out that the severest critics of Stalinism have been Marxists (he is thinking of Trotsky). A general line of response that Eagleton doesn’t make much of is to consider the death and destruction resulting from NOT having a revolution. This is the tack taken by Barrington Moore in his study of revolutions, Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship. Moore’s book studied revolutions: Capitalist revolutions in Britain, France, and the United States; Fascist revolutions in Germany and Japan; and Communist revolutions in China and Russia. Moore compares the death and suffering resulting from the violent modernization instrumented by Mao to the equally destructive suffering that is still going on in India, where a socialist revolution has not (yet) taken place. Eagleton does mention the destruction of Dresden and Hiroshima (he doesn’t mention the bombing of Tokyo), bloody suppression of colonial uprisings in African and South Asia, and the million deaths in the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, which he attributes in large measure to the fact that “. . . the British government of the day insisted on observing the laws of the free market in its lamentable relief policy.” He writes that “Marx writes with scarcely suppressed outrage in Capital of the bloody, protracted process by which the English peasantry were driven from the land (during the enclosures of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century). It is this history of violent expropriation which lies beneath the tranquility of the English rural landscape. Compared to this horrendous episode, one which stretched over a lengthy period of time, an event like the Cuban revolution was a tea party.” A last line of discussion in this chapter is to the effect that Marx himself and many followers were not opposed to peaceful reform in countries like England, Holland, and the United States. Believing, as they did, that the best interests of the majority of the populations of these capitalist societies were not served by the ongoing march of capitalism to mechanization, unemployment, and regular crisis, Marx and Engels supported reform movements and at times allowed that these could lead to a non-violent revolution in the ownership of social production. The owners of these enterprises, however, protected by the state, have had no such intention. Claim Number 2 – Theory and practice of Marxism An important element of the argument in favor of capitalism is the claim that it has “delivered the goods”; that it is the most efficient system for generation of the surplus that can make mankind’s life on this planet less harsh. These goods include not just pop tarts and video games, but a heritage of “liberty, democracy, civil rights, feminism, republicanism, scientific progress, and a good deal more.” Marx, of course, agreed. He “never imagined that socialism could be achieved in impoverished conditions” nor that it could be achieved in isolated. backward countries in the face of imperialist capitalist opposition. And while the communist governments of Eastern Europe managed to provide “cheap housing, fuel, transport and culture, full employments and impressive social services for half the citizens of Europe, as well as an incomparably greater degree of equality and (in the end) material well-being than those nations had previously enjoyed” the “gains of Communism scarcely outweighed the losses. It may be that some kind of dictatorial government was well-nigh inevitable in the atrocious conditions of the early Soviet Union; but this did not have to mean Stalinism, or anything like it. Taken overall, Maoism and Stalinism were botched, bloody experiments which made the very of idea of socialism stink in the nostrils of many of those elsewhere in the world who had most to benefit from it.” Capitalism has worked to deliver the goods. But to whom, how, and at what cost? It has produced fabulous affluence very unequally divided. While multi-billionaires purchase islands in the Caribbean or (to their taste) mount widespread charitable campaigns, a staggering 2/3 of the world’s population today subsist on less than $2 dollars per day and, even in the richest capitalist country, the United States, immense wealth exists side by side with crushing poverty, made worse by periodic crises and an overarching tendency to unemployment for more and more members of the society. The question is rarely asked why a society that requires charity to feed its poor is justified in calling itself a successful one. Capitalism faces the greatest contradiction today that it, more and more, both does and does not need human beings. While it has delivered the goods outlined above, it has also brought us “a history of slumps, sweatshops, fascism, imperial wars, and Mel Gibson.”(!) What is worse, the un-checked greed for resources that capitalism celebrates is threatening today to consume the entire planet. Eagleton quotes economist Slavov Zizek to the effect that climate change may be seen as “the greatest market failure in history.” Eagleton’s closing consideration in this chapter is to try to visualize how the incentive qualities of the market could be combined with democratic control of socialized production. He considers a mixed socialist market economy in which “goods which are of vital concern to the community (food, health, pharmaceuticals, education, transport, energy, subsistence products, financial institutions, the media and the like) need to be brought under democratic public control, since those who run them tend to behave antisocially if they sniff the chance of enlarged profits in doing so. Less socially indispensable goods, however (consumer items, luxury products), could be left to the operations of the market.” In the end, Eagleton recognizes that this is a work in progress. “Socialists will no doubt continue to argue about the detail of a post-capitalist economy. There is no flawless model currently on offer.” Conclusion In his brief concluding remarks he summarizes his arguments. “Marx had a passionate faith in the individual and a deep suspicion of abstract dogma. He had no time for the concept of a perfect society, was wary of the notion of equality, and did not dream of a future in which we would all wear boiler suits with our National Insurance numbers stamped on our backs. It was diversity, not uniformity, that he hoped to see. Nor did he teach that men and women were the helpless playthings of history. He was even more hostile to the state than right-wing conservatives are, and saw socialism as a deepening of democracy, not as an enemy of it. His model of the good life was based on the idea of artistic self-expression. He believed that some revolutions might be peacefully accomplished, and was in no sense opposed to social reform. He did not focus narrowly on the manual working class. Nor did he see society in terms of two starkly polarized classes.” He ends his book with the question, “Was ever a thinker so travestied?” There are many possible alternate candidates here (Jesus of Nazareth, anyone?) but Eagleton has provided a brisk and convincing argument to for his case for “why Marx was right.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Helen Razer

    I have no notion why the publisher's sought to sell this perfectly reasonable book as "controversial". It is in no way shocking. It is a measured account of a very good thinker. It does contain some of Eagleton's (chiefly) decent jokes, which I always enjoyed as a student when reading his famous, and useful, companion to literary criticism. Otherwise, nothing outrageous to see here but a great synopsis for the Marxist beginner. This is a marvellous introduction to Marxist thought. I imagine it w I have no notion why the publisher's sought to sell this perfectly reasonable book as "controversial". It is in no way shocking. It is a measured account of a very good thinker. It does contain some of Eagleton's (chiefly) decent jokes, which I always enjoyed as a student when reading his famous, and useful, companion to literary criticism. Otherwise, nothing outrageous to see here but a great synopsis for the Marxist beginner. This is a marvellous introduction to Marxist thought. I imagine it would work especially well for those with an interest in moral philosophy and/or literary criticism. If you're approaching Marx from an artsy Western perspective, Terry is your guy. It ain't perfect for those seeking an economic synopsis of MCM and what-have-you. But for them, there's David Harvey. That there is minimal recourse to quotation and Marxist terminology here was a really good decision, I think. Eagleton lures you into the point where you *get* dialectical materialism, and by the time he mentions that phrase, you don't even mind it's so long. Because it makes perfect sense. Because Marx largely makes perfect sense. Make the idiot in your life read this today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David M

    Thing is, Eagleton tries to have it both ways when he says that the great thing about Marxism, more than any other theoretical system, has been its practical impact on the world and its influence on historical movements, but then goes on to completely disavow the most obvious, prominent case of this; Eagleton claims that what happened in Russia last century actually had nothing to do with Marxism, Stalin wasn't really a Marxist, etc. In my view, Zizek displays superior intellectual honesty in his Thing is, Eagleton tries to have it both ways when he says that the great thing about Marxism, more than any other theoretical system, has been its practical impact on the world and its influence on historical movements, but then goes on to completely disavow the most obvious, prominent case of this; Eagleton claims that what happened in Russia last century actually had nothing to do with Marxism, Stalin wasn't really a Marxist, etc. In my view, Zizek displays superior intellectual honesty in his strange attempt at a semi-rehabilitation of Stalin. It does no good to try and save your tradition by defining it in such a way to only include the good parts. Zizek is right to see this. However, his claim that Marxism is still worth preserving even though it contains Stalinism seems highly dubious.

  5. 4 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    2019 Re-read and review: First off: I could do with a less clownishly strident, destined-to-be-polarizing cover. I already own the more sedate earlier hardcover, and this one is fated to be given to a friend! Seriously now, though: this book aims to engage a particular kind of reader: one for whom Marx is neither an unquestioned (and unquestionable) star in the firmament of European intellectual history, nor an unreadable, unfathomable, aberrant abomination and father of unspeakable horror. The po 2019 Re-read and review: First off: I could do with a less clownishly strident, destined-to-be-polarizing cover. I already own the more sedate earlier hardcover, and this one is fated to be given to a friend! Seriously now, though: this book aims to engage a particular kind of reader: one for whom Marx is neither an unquestioned (and unquestionable) star in the firmament of European intellectual history, nor an unreadable, unfathomable, aberrant abomination and father of unspeakable horror. The potential reader of this book, then, may not have read much of Marx, but has read widely enough (or whose mind has nevertheless been opened widely enough) to know that (1) Marx is not responsible for Stalin and Mao, (& etc.), and that (2) Marx just might have something to say about what used to be called Political Economy and what now just goes by the misleading name of The Economy, as if it were as much a part of the natural order of things as those dang sun spots that seem to be causing all those hot summers that we've been strangely having lately. In short, the potential reader of this book has noticed that enough not-so-great stuff has been going on in the post-2008 (not to mention post-1989, -1973, -1968, -1929, -1919, -1865, -1848, -1789, etc. Etc. Etc) world to ask the question: well, was Marx right about much, if anything? To this question Terry Eagleton answers both an unqualified "You bet!", as well as a qualified "But...". He seeks to rescue Marx both from the hysterical claims made about him by foaming-at-the-mouth detractors on the right and from the pooh-poohing and tut-tutting types from the cultural studies/postcolonial/postmodernist so-called left. He also wants to defend him from his most ardent defenders, seeking to situate him as a, yes, Eurocentric, yes, patriarchal, yes Enlightenment-"blinded" dead white male who nevertheless still has a lot to teach us if we listen to him with a broad, healthily skeptical mind--and if we care about intellectual honesty enough to look dispassionately at what he wrote by reading him closely, but in the context of the world in which he operated, a world of industrial capitalism that was both good enough for its achievements to be rightly celebrated and bad enough for its atrocities to be justly and loudly condemned. He was a limited but brilliant man who started a long conversation about the relationship between economic class and political power which was also necessarily about ethics, (human) nature, gender, race and aesthetics. Crucially, it also was (and still is) a conversation that is necessarily ongoing, ambiguous, and contradictory--as well as one which is not served in any way whatsoever by the sound bite or by reflexive knee-jerky slogans. Principally, then, Eagleton wants to save this ongoing conversation from certain key errors, and accordingly addresses his attention to the most glaring of criticisms leveled at Marxist thought, at marx himslef, and at socialism in general over the decades since his career as a thoroughly engaged writer and activist was started. These are, in brief: (1) Marxism is an antiquated philosophy which is no longer "relevant" to 21C issues and concerns (2) However appealing Marxism may have been in theory, in practice it has been nothing short of a disaster (3) Since Marxist is a determinist philosophy, it is offensive to human freedom (4) Marxism is a Utopian dream that cannot adequately deal with the realities of human nature (5) Marxism erroneously reduces the plurality of human culture and history to one dimension: the economic (6) Marxism's materialism cannot speak to the whole of the human spirit, and dismisses religion as a mere pipe-dream or as wish-fulfillment (7) The very notions of economic class and class struggle are seriously out of date in a post-industrial, globalised world (8) Marxism is an inherently violent philosophy, one for which the end always justifies the means (9) Marxism happily jettisons individual liberty in favour of the dictatorship of an all-powerful, overarching State (10) Other criticisms of capitalism, patriarchy and racism have superseded Marxism, which is stuck in the Eurocentric, patriarchal, racist colonialist meta-narrative of the 18C Enlightenment. Eagleton is remarkably thorough and even-handed in dealing with all of these criticisms, and makes cogent, unhysterical, careful arguments in his responses to them--no straw men are erected to easily, hand-wavingly and dismissively dispatch in this volume, which is why I find it so exciting, as it opens up so many doors to further discussion and closes down none of them. What's more, wherever Marx is short-sighted, limited in his analysis or just plain wrong in his understanding of the world, Eagleton warmly and, er, eagerly reproves him for it, but never, not once, out of a spirit of one-upmanship or gainsaying. So this is not really the polemic that I thought it would be when I started reading it, and is less like The Communist Manifesto in style than an Apologia Pro Vita Sua written with the kind of scrupulous lack of axe-grinding that you find in, e.g. and John Stuart Mill's On Bentham and Coleridge. It just plain excites one's love of learning to read it, and begs you to go on to read other books by or on Marx and Political Economy after you have closed its pages. I can easily imagine it as serving as a prefatory book in a course called "An Introduction to the History*** of Political Economy" if such a one were to exist--if one did, in fact, it just might include such books as (in rough order of composition): Smith, Adam The Wealth of Nations Marx, Capital, Vol. 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production Weber, Max The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism and Other Writings Veblen, Thorstein The Theory of the Leisure Class Hayek, Friedrich The Road to Serfdom Polanyi, Karl The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time Braudel, Fernand Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 3: The Perspective of the World Harvey, David The Limits to Capital Perelman, Michael, The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation Brenner, Robert Property And Progress: The Historical Origins And Social Foundations Of Self Sustaining Growth Meiksins-Wood, Ellen Liberty and Property: A Social History of Western Political Thought from the Renaissance to Enlightenment I have read some of these books, and have dipped into others, but would love to take that course! (Feel free to add suggestions!) Would someone out there care to teach it? We can get goin on one of those online MOOC thingys (Massive Open Online Course) that all the kiddz these daze are into! ***In my impecunious post-student life I toiled away in a university bookstore, and one day was instructed to move all of the books on the history of economics out of the economics section and into the history section of the store: the professor teaching the course was, I was told, invited to move from the one department to the other because Economics no longer saw itself as a social science but as a science proper! This all occurred, of course, in the wake of a particular historical event (the fall of the Berlin Wall) and the spread of a particular idea (The End of History). We know far better now of course, with nearly 20 years between the beginning of permanent prosperity and its demise. This book is for anyone who has been trained by recent history to want to think historically, dialectically, subtly, measuredly, and critically on matters political, economic, and human. 5* of its kind, then minus 1/2 *, perhaps, for not including a chapter specifically on Marx's economics (Labour theory of Value etc. etc) [A "Digested Read" orMidrash or synopsis on this book is forthcoming on my personal site...]

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mizuki

    3.5 stars. The author shows his knowledge on Marxism and he answers a number of frequently asked questions concerning Marxism in the 21st century societies, he gives out understandable, reasonable explanation as much as he can. However, despite the author's reader-friendly and humorous tone, Marxism is complicated, it's still difficult to understand (you have to have basic knowledge about the topics to understand this book) and sometime the author sounds a bit too smug and sure of himself (I'm n 3.5 stars. The author shows his knowledge on Marxism and he answers a number of frequently asked questions concerning Marxism in the 21st century societies, he gives out understandable, reasonable explanation as much as he can. However, despite the author's reader-friendly and humorous tone, Marxism is complicated, it's still difficult to understand (you have to have basic knowledge about the topics to understand this book) and sometime the author sounds a bit too smug and sure of himself (I'm not bothered by his tone, but I'm sure some readers would), I have to wonder how many non-Marxists/non-socialists are going to agree Marx was right after they finish this book. Anyway, Marxism will still be around because capitalism is still alive and kicking and its many failures are still haunting our societies.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tim Pendry

    This is an Apologia for the unwitting founder of the latest but possibly not the last of the great ‘herd’ religions. The book itself is not a complete failure. If you are studying Marxism, it would be a good text that summarises the best case for it much as one might go to Tertullian or Augustine to get the best case for Early Christianity. Similarly, no babies should be thrown out with the bathwater of Communist history. Marx can be seen as analyst and as historical fantasist. As analyst, he off This is an Apologia for the unwitting founder of the latest but possibly not the last of the great ‘herd’ religions. The book itself is not a complete failure. If you are studying Marxism, it would be a good text that summarises the best case for it much as one might go to Tertullian or Augustine to get the best case for Early Christianity. Similarly, no babies should be thrown out with the bathwater of Communist history. Marx can be seen as analyst and as historical fantasist. As analyst, he offered superb insights into the nature of power and the construction of the social that will be timeless. As historical fantasist, lesser minds than his (amongst which we must include Professor Eagleton) have made a vicious stew that resulted in the ruination of many lives, not least that of the neurotic activists and martyrs of the religion created out of it. The book puts forward ten propositions against Marx in a series of chapters (and Eagleton does not stint on these) where he attempts with varying success, intelligence and good faith to counter them. The end result is unconvincing. Not that he does not write well or with logical argument but he constantly confuses categories, seeking to justify the history of Marxism, distance Marx from the history of Marxism and redraft our understanding of what Marx is supposed to have meant at different times and in different places. Because it is partly polemical, the final result reads like a desperate attempt to wean the Lefties whose progressive god has failed, the one that thought it could ride the capitalist and markets tiger, back into the fold. To take the religious analogy again, this is a subtle Jesuit trying to bring High Anglicans back home to Rome. But putting all this to one side (and it is noticeable that the one criticism he does not seek to counter is that Marxism is a religion in all but claim), the book is ultimately futile. Eagleton can argue until he is blue in the face but Marxism is a busted brand at three levels – - philosophically, it only works as essentialism in a world that is now too intelligent to take essences at face value, - politically, in the end, no Marxist state can exist until it happens by dint of a history that will not permit consistently Marxist actions and, - finally, at a human level, Marxists are often quite limited and neurotic people with a limited understanding of other persons and whose authoritarian instincts are only thinly veiled. Eagleton, though he writes well, cannot help being constantly snarky about individuals – whether Paris Hilton or Mick Jagger – whom he clearly despises with the sort of snobbery that made the Fabians and Raymond Williams so detached from the population they claimed to serve. He refuses to give respect to popular individual choices that might embrace these icons. He never really deals with sexuality or transgression except in ways that would make me fear a Cromwellian misery in his communitarian paradise. In the end, all I see is a sour intellectual of a failed political generation filled with resentment that the current crisis is not being interpreted according to a faith dearly holds. He wants everything – to show how superior he is, how he told us so and why his ancient ways are hip. The desperate attempt to ally Marx to the fashionable political cultures of feminism, anti-colonialism (with some justification in this one case) and environmentalism (pur-leeze!) shows an amazing lack of understanding. These deeply flawed identity and single issue movements represent the heart of conflict within but not against market capitalism. For this reason alone, the book may be placed in the library for reference but otherwise ignored. Marx may be studied as an authentic flawed genius with insights that match, say, those of Freud and Nietzsche but Marxism has little to teach us except to avoid intellectuals claiming to have a solution to our problems. In reality, Marx may have been right about ‘internal contradictions’ in capitalism but the handling of these contradictions will arise from the street and through cultural struggle and not through Marxism. On the contrary, Marxists are likely to be found up there trying to manage the State against us – that is certainly so across half Europe and in most of our ‘democratic’ centre-left parties where closet Marxists still hold sway. Eagleton repeatedly suggests that our choice is between ‘socialism and barbarism’ and this is where he frightens me because he places ‘socialism’ on the side of Rome and order against the free creativity of the general population as individuals. He claims otherwise but he is bluntly not to be trusted in this. In a stark choice between ‘socialism and barbarism’, one is tempted to choose barbarism as the lesser evil. Social revolution I still welcome (indeed, I think we are in the midst of it), but if you ever see a Marxist trying to take a lead within it, then remove them quickly, by any means necessary. If they do not kill you, they may end up killing your children.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maja Solar

    I really appreciate the ability to write (on difficult issues) clearly and simply + to write a popular but not vulgar book!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    The most refreshing and legitimately optimistic book I’ve probably ever read. Eagleton deftly rescues Marx from the dustbin to which right-wingers, postmodernists, silly liberals and capitalist triumphalists have consigned him. And he does it in such a chummy, cant-free style, while thoroughly answering one attack after another, that it’s like the lamplight from a cottage window on a foggy night. While this will always be contentious, he makes a strong case for the fallacy of blaming Marx’s thou The most refreshing and legitimately optimistic book I’ve probably ever read. Eagleton deftly rescues Marx from the dustbin to which right-wingers, postmodernists, silly liberals and capitalist triumphalists have consigned him. And he does it in such a chummy, cant-free style, while thoroughly answering one attack after another, that it’s like the lamplight from a cottage window on a foggy night. While this will always be contentious, he makes a strong case for the fallacy of blaming Marx’s thought for 20th century totalitarianism (any more, in my view, than you would blame Adam Smith for King Leopold, Bhopal, or the genocide of the plains Indians). And frees him from the cultish or clannish behavior of some Marxists as well. In the process, you get a good tour of what the man actually wrote, and why, for as long as capitalism exists, whether it is finally superseded by “socialism or barbarism,” Marx’s critique will be one of the best tools we have not for predicting the future, but for understanding the present. And I'm particularly grateful to him for citing Oscar Wilde: "The problem with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julian Worker

    I can't wait to read another book by Terry Eagleton as he is such an engaging writer. Some wonderful, amusing lines and quips as well as thought-provoking observations particularly about the victims of capitalism and the capitalist system. Some quotations for you without giving the game away: Successful revolutions are those which end up erasing all traces of themselves. Most political states came about through revolution, invasion, occupation, usurpation, or extermination. Successful states are th I can't wait to read another book by Terry Eagleton as he is such an engaging writer. Some wonderful, amusing lines and quips as well as thought-provoking observations particularly about the victims of capitalism and the capitalist system. Some quotations for you without giving the game away: Successful revolutions are those which end up erasing all traces of themselves. Most political states came about through revolution, invasion, occupation, usurpation, or extermination. Successful states are those that have managed to wipe this bloody history from the minds of their citizens. The bad news for socialists is that men and women will be extremely reluctant to transform their situation as long as there is still something in that situation for them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    As unfashionable as Marxism is these days, Terry Eagleton believes that the events of our time make a strong case for it. Why Marx Was Right is an argument on two fronts, one being that Karl Marx never advocated for much of what was attributed to him, and the other that what Karl Marx actually proposed is very appropriate for our age. When I read the book, I was open to giving Marxism a fair hearing, as I wonder if the technological developments and "post-scarcity" world of our time call for a ne As unfashionable as Marxism is these days, Terry Eagleton believes that the events of our time make a strong case for it. Why Marx Was Right is an argument on two fronts, one being that Karl Marx never advocated for much of what was attributed to him, and the other that what Karl Marx actually proposed is very appropriate for our age. When I read the book, I was open to giving Marxism a fair hearing, as I wonder if the technological developments and "post-scarcity" world of our time call for a new economic model to replace the various forms of capitalism dominant until now. Perhaps Marx was prescient enough to propose a communal system of transactions that could work smoothly and justly today with all our computers and automated manufacturing? Eagleton makes the case that Karl Marx's thought is not what most people assume it is from the use of Marxist rhetoric in the Soviet Union and China. Far from being responsible for gulags and famines imposed by a top-down state, Eagleton suggests that Marx called on workers to organize themselves, proposing bottom-up models of doing so that even supporters of a free market might be able to sympathize with. I'm not sure how reliable Eagleton's view of Marx is, but it definitely motivates me to read Marx's original works someday to see for myself. When it comes to the argument that "Marx was right" in what he actually wrote, Eagleton's book is a failure. As I said, I was hoping we would get a fresh argument for Marxism on the basis of the rapid technological progress we are experiencing today, but Eagleton just retreads old Trotskyist arguments from the first half of the 20th century, and omits anything that might complicate his case. For example, nowhere does Eagleton grapple with the issue of whether force on the part of the state is justified or not. Eagleton simply assumes that the dictatorship of the proletariat (as even our contemporary mixed-capitalists states do today) is right to redistribute wealth, taking private property away from the rich to give to the needy. I happen to agree with him on this point, but the book required some rebuttal of the libertarian argument for the inviolability of private property. Furthermore, nowhere does Eagleton discuss Marxism's oppression of religion, in spite of the general Western recognition of freedom of religion as a universal human right (as it is simply a consequence of the freedom of conscience and freedom of association that no one wants to do without). He repeatedly praises the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, claiming little blood was spilled, but ignores the fact that priests were imprisoned or murdered and churches blown up – and not just Christianity, but Russia's other indigenous faiths, namely Islam and Buddhism, also suffered. Curiously, Eagleton writes "The state as an administrative body would live on. It is the state as an instrument of violence that Marx hopes to see the back of." How would the state have the power to administrate if it does not have a monopoly on power, which is ultimately the barrel of a gun? The Russian Bolsheviks that Eagleton admires certainly used the state as an instrument of violence. As if to avoid the unpleasant thought that the Bolsheviks imposed themselves on the unwilling, he disingenously suggests that it was a society-wide movement, which doesn't square with the actual history of Russia in 1917: a fairly small group of Bolshevik agitators was able to seize key infrastructure and overthrew the multiparty system that Russia was enjoying from the beginning of that year. Finally, this book is written in too strident a tone, so Eagleton ends up turning off sceptical readers who want to give Marxism a chance, preaching instead to the choir. To end my review with just one example of the inflammatory rhetoric everywhere in this book: We will know that socialism has established itself when we are able to look back with utter incredulity at the idea that a handful of commercial thugs were given free rein to corrupt the minds of the public with Neanderthal political views.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donald Linnemeyer

    The title grabbed me, and it was well-worth the read. Great writing, and surprisingly, not at all dogmatic or shrill. You didn't get an impassioned, furious defense of Marxism against our capitalist overlords. Instead, Eagleton simply talks you through how Marx himself is grossly misunderstood and misconstrued in most popular criticisms. And he doesn't place Marx above reproach; Eagleton is perfectly willing to disagree with him. Interesting, readable, and balanced, at least for a book of this ti The title grabbed me, and it was well-worth the read. Great writing, and surprisingly, not at all dogmatic or shrill. You didn't get an impassioned, furious defense of Marxism against our capitalist overlords. Instead, Eagleton simply talks you through how Marx himself is grossly misunderstood and misconstrued in most popular criticisms. And he doesn't place Marx above reproach; Eagleton is perfectly willing to disagree with him. Interesting, readable, and balanced, at least for a book of this title.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    It has long been my policy that every once in a while, I confront myself with a book that I am almost certain I will disagree with. It is my firm belief that every conviction should be challenged and the other side of the debate heard, and afterwards, if your convictions are unshaken, or - better yet - shaken but then erected on a more solid foundation, you can go back to being smug. Or, you must admit you were wrong all along. That can also happen. Just ask all these blogposts on the merits of It has long been my policy that every once in a while, I confront myself with a book that I am almost certain I will disagree with. It is my firm belief that every conviction should be challenged and the other side of the debate heard, and afterwards, if your convictions are unshaken, or - better yet - shaken but then erected on a more solid foundation, you can go back to being smug. Or, you must admit you were wrong all along. That can also happen. Just ask all these blogposts on the merits of atheism that I never published. While you can find plenty of debating opportunities online whether you try to or not, online debates are badly sourced, you rarely find experts in them, and even more rarely do people fire their best shots online. When you do stumble on a knowledgeable, intelligent opponent with impeccable arguments, chances are that person has published them somewhere before, in a more didactically and academically sound manner. That is one reason why I prefer to go with books if I need a devil's advocate, the other is that the dynamics of a debate incline both parties to try to win at any cost. Sophistry can earn you these nice points for your ego, openmindedness usually can't. With Why Marx Was Right, I intended to challenge my libertarian convictions, something I haven't done in a while. Did this book succeed where The Communist Manifesto, Towards a New Socialism, Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It, Marxistisch-Leninistische Staats- und Rechtstheorie and the first few hundred pages of The Capital failed? The brief answer is, no. It didn't. The longer answer is that Terry Eagleton is sometimes badly wrong, at other times he is right either on trivial points, or right only because he abandons a hundred years of Marxist tradition, and instead establishes what Marx "really" meant. Of course, this also implies that no one understood Marx until Eagleton came along, and not only did they not understand him, they misunderstood him so spectacularly that it caused around a hundred million deaths. That is not a flattering conclusion, either. The bulk of the book consists of Eagletons attempts to debunk ten popular claims made about Marxism. The first of these claims is this: Marxism is finished. It might conceivably have had some relevance to a world of factories and food riots, coal miners and chimney sweeps, widespread misery and massed working classes. But it certainly has no bearing on the increasingly classless, socially mobile, postindustrial Western societies of the present. It is the creed of those who are too stubborn, fearful or deluded to accept that the world has changed for good, in both senses of the term. Marx, Eagleton says, was perfectly aware that capitalism was constantly changing, and in fact his theory assumes that capitalism is dynamic and not static. Eagleton does not quite put it this way, but he does basically say that what changed are merely accidents, whereas the essence of capitalism has remained ever the same, and thus, Marxism remains as relevant as it was at its conception. QED. Now, first of all, Marxism was never a good or even a decent theory. Marx never defined the concept of class himself, and every definition of it that I have found could not be applied to real situations without creating a host of ambiguities. He never justified his use of the labor theory of value against the competing utility based theory of value. In fact, his argument against the latter was that it was not the labor theory of value; I have read the relevant passage in his magnum opus at least two or three times over to see if I was missing something, because I could not believe such a huge blunder could have happened, but no, I did not miss anything, his argument really was that unintelligent. (For that matter, Adam Smith did not do a much better job justifying it, which I will talk about in my upcoming review of his book.) As David Osterfeld has pointed out in Requiem for Marx, the stages of history, supposedly a clear-cut model, underwent constant revision by him and Engels. And do I have to say anything about this weirdest of life-forms, the alienation-theory? At least that one has some logical derivation, unlike the social necessity-criterion, which Marx created ex nihilo to make his labor theory of value operable. This neatly brings me to my second argument against Eagleton, which is that if Marx' theory is so bad, then it's hard to make out the essentials. Personally, I regard Marxism as the intellectual superstructure of a mindset characterized by rampant envy and misguided, sentimental "compassion" (God, save us from the compassionate!). The marxist mythology of capitalism is much more important to this mindset than the precise details of Marx' theoretical framework, and this mythology is based on historical data. This data has not only changed - we don't see many british kids in steel factories, do we? - it was never accurate to begin with, as Terence Kealey has pointed out in The Economic Laws of Scientific Research: Engels, unaware of Eagletons pleading that Marxism understands capitalism as a dynamic system, at one point forgot to mention that the terrible workshops he described had been supplanted years ago by factories which offered safer and better working conditions. Creating a still-picture of a dynamic system from a wild array of data, some contemporary, some long outdated, is just one of several falsifications he engaged in. The second claim begins thus: Marxism may be all very well in theory. Whenever it has been put into practice, however, the result has been terror, tyranny and mass murder on an inconceivable scale. The response to that is one part tu quoque, one part extolling the many achievements of socialism. On the first part, I'd really like to see the breakdown of Eagletons numbers. He claims that tens of millions died of preventable famine in the late nineteenth century, and that many of them were the result of "free market dogma", such as allowing grain prices to rise uncontrollably (which pretty clearly indicates there isn't enough grain to go around, as he'd know if he had ever learned about supply and demand). Whenever I looked at such a famine in detail, I found that the culprit was either a natural catastrophe or bad economics, but usually a mix of both. Quite often, war also played a role. Not a single famine I have ever looked into was caused by laissez-faire policies, however. Even if you disregard that, however, you will probably find that socialism has killed more people than any other ideology or than any religion: One hundred million, if I am not mistaken, although from the top of my hat, I don't know if Nazi Germany was counted among them. Supposing it isn't, I strongly doubt any other ideology or religion can compete with eighty million corpses. Not just that, the crimes of communism reached a cruelty and intensity that I have seldom heard of elsewhere. You have to look deep into the history of the witch hunts, or into the basements of serial killers, to find atrocities that rival the sheer inhumanity of Pitesti or Tuol Sleng. Space does not permit me to talk in detail of the achievements of communism. Those seem to be chiefly a higher literacy rate, better healthcare, and an improved economy. The former is a little funny, in light of the abysmal record in communist countries at fostering open discourse. The price goes to Hoxhas Albania, which apparently had libraries filled with endless copies of a single book. Not only does not everyone have to be able to read (not every worker is secretly crying over not being an academician, believe it or not), but if the only reading material are Hoxhas collected works, then being illiterate is probably a mercy. Healthcare is mostly a function of economic growth, and that communist countries are improving economically should not surprise us when the entire world does. A beggar in a rich city lives better than one in a poor village, because even the scraps he gets are superior to what a very poor villager might have for dinner. Likewise, a communist country surrounded by capitalist countries can get by, and even grow, on the scraps of capitalism. The real prices of goods (not the nominal prices!) are constantly decreasing when the economy improves, and that means a country may afford goods, including capital goods, that were previously unavailable, despite having abysmal economic policies that sound like a recipe for stagnation. The third claim is that Marxism is deterministic. Eagletons rebuttal is uninteresting. He partially engages a strawman, and partially simply applies a common sense to Marxism that has simply not existed in it for a good hundred years. Yes, it obviously makes no sense that people would fight so hard to establish something that will arise of its own (although to me, it does make some sense, just not in the Marxist ethical framework). Still, didn't Marx' followers act as if his socialist dream would inevitably become reality whenever that was opportune? If the Marxist tradition is so poisonous, then I don't see why we should try so hard to revive it, even if Marx really was smarter than his followers. Whether he was is an academic question, it shouldn't be a political one. The fourth claim is that Marx was a utopian, which Eagleton informs us is not the case. I don't find his arguments at all convincing. His main argument, from what I recall, is that Marx never painted a rosy, detailed picture of the communistic future. He did, however, paint a rosy picture, of mankind reaching ever new heights and finally overcoming the class conflict that has divided it since primordial times. He didn't promise an immediate end to disease and bad dreams and that we would all ride superlions, but his vague description combined with his entire theory could only impregnate his followers with the idea that he'd bring the end of history and the end of all strife and conflict. This utopianism doesn't come from nowhere, and I am not even convinced Marx himself didn't suffer from it. The fifth claim is that Marxism reduces everything to economics. This, Eagleton informs us again, is not the case, because it would be silly if it were. So yes, more of the same: Him applying common sense to Marxism. If all Marxists before him lacked it, maybe Marx taught them wrong, after all? At the very least, we can charge him with not making himself understood very well. I'd excuse that if he was a more contemplative author, but he aimed to change the world by sparking a global revolution. A blueprint or a legal code is not the place for the kind of ambiguity that is at home in a train-of-thought essay. So much about common sense and Marxism, and hopefully for the last time in this review. Now, Eagleton also counters the claim that Marxism is reductionist by saying that actually, capitalism reduces everything to economics, and Marxism will free us of that. Under capitalism, production serves itself, not the people. In other words, production is seen as a good in itself, not as a means to an end. Personally, I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. Aren't capitalists manufacturing precisely the goods we want? If they didn't, if they baked useless mudpies for the sake of producing mudpies, they'd quickly be out of business. Yes, I am aware you can tiptoe around that, say that capitalists create their own demand or, less scientifically, that we don't really "need" all this useless stuff. The former is nonsense, but I can't address it in detail here, although I might have reviewed Galbraiths book by now. The latter is not nonsense, but it misses the point. If people demand useless consumer stuff, then you should take that up with them first, not with the capitalists. And if you do that, judge consumers for their bad taste, maybe start with yourself? If you cannot stop buying accessories and merchandise and lootboxes, then maybe you are part of the problem and should not judge others so harshly? And a judgement is all that is. It does not answer the question of how we differentiate what we need and what we want with the level of clarity that a legal framework for an economic order demands, or how we can do so without reducing individuals to templates. The law is based on generalization and categorization, so I would say the latter is impossible. One mans necessity is anothers luxury. The sixth claim is quite closely related: Marxism is materialistic and atheistic. Eagletons thoughts on this are not terrible, but they miss the mark. If he manages to cram a vision of the soul and human dignity into his materialism, good for him. I am not even being sarcastic here, there is a reason why I rated this two stars and not one. This does not alleviate my fear that Marxists will burn my church down, as they historically did. Besides that, Eagleton, while spiritually richer than other Marxists, still did not impress me. Spiritual matters are not disembodied, otherworldly affairs. It is the prosperous bourgeois who tends to see spiritual questions as a realm loftily remote from everyday life, since he needs a hiding place from his own crass materialism. It comes as no surprise that material girls like Madonna should be so fascinated by Kabbala. For Marx, by contrast, ‘‘spirit’’ is a question of art, friendship, fun, compassion, laughter, sexual love, rebellion, creativity, sensuous delight, righteous anger and abundance of life. (He did, however, sometimes take the fun a bit too far: he once went on a pub crawl from Oxford Street to Hampstead Road with a couple of friends, stopping at every pub en route, and was chased by the police for throwing paving stones at street lamps. His theory of the repressive nature of the state, so it would seem, was no mere abstract speculation). I think contemplation of the eternal and divine and its relation to our temporal existence is a tad more spiritual than emotionalism and hooliganism. To admit this is not to view spirituality as "loftily remote" from our life on this earth. Personally, I see the unceasing prayer of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 as a life with God in mind, whatever we do. Even when you just booze it up with your friends, you can take a moment to thank God for having created alcohol for our pleasure (ask Psalm 104:14-15). The ascetic lifestyle is superior, but it is not for everyone. If it isn't for you, the alternative is to be joyful, not a miser. Besides, the Bible is full of calls to action, and Catholicism is more vibrant than Marxism ever was. I am running out of characters, but have enough for a remark on Eagletons "humor": Snarky remarks about celebrities like Mel Gibson don't make you funny, they only make you sound bitter and slightly envious.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton seems to me to be a good candidate for required reading for all high school students-as well as people my age looking for a good introduction to Marx. It doesn't hurt to be a little left of center but it's not a prereq. Well-written, well-reasoned, the book is a welcome introduction to an important figure by an excellent writer. Eagleton is not rabid on his subject and is able to see flaws in his subject. And while this book won't tell someone all they need t Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton seems to me to be a good candidate for required reading for all high school students-as well as people my age looking for a good introduction to Marx. It doesn't hurt to be a little left of center but it's not a prereq. Well-written, well-reasoned, the book is a welcome introduction to an important figure by an excellent writer. Eagleton is not rabid on his subject and is able to see flaws in his subject. And while this book won't tell someone all they need to know about Marxism (could any one book?), I found it accessible and interesting (always a great combination of traits in a non-fiction book on a dense subject. I personally think everyone should read it. And I would welcome any suggestions for other accessible books on the topic, not necessarily "pro" but not impassioned "anti" either.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hunter

    I have qualms about certain parts of this book - as a staunch opponent of Mao and Stalin, as someone who thinks anyone trying to rehabilitate them is a dipshit and enemy of the working class, I still think Eagleton goes to far in describing them as mass murderers. There are also times where he will accept a critique of Marxism as valid without mounting a defense against it - at the end of the third chapter, he ponders that socialism could have been achieved had history happened differently, as i I have qualms about certain parts of this book - as a staunch opponent of Mao and Stalin, as someone who thinks anyone trying to rehabilitate them is a dipshit and enemy of the working class, I still think Eagleton goes to far in describing them as mass murderers. There are also times where he will accept a critique of Marxism as valid without mounting a defense against it - at the end of the third chapter, he ponders that socialism could have been achieved had history happened differently, as if this is a valid critique of Marx's so called "economic determinism." This question is utterly meaningless, as it so happens that history played out exactly how it has, and, while it may be fun and interesting to ponder other possibilities, this is at the final analysis mere idle speculation. With this criticism in mind, as well as other minor criticisms, I found this book a joy to read. Eagleton is first and foremost a master of style, at turns cheeky without ever being less serious than his task requires. He systematically refutes all of the commonly heard bitchings about Marx being a statist, Marxism being deterministic, authoritarian, anti-individual, etc., and I'd recommend giving your copy of this book to someone you know who isn't yet a socialist - this book might just lay the groundwork for turning them into a comrade.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Prithvi Shams

    This book is structured as a point by point refutation to some of the major criticisms of Karl Marx, such as apparent disappearance of "labor class" in Post-Industrial Technocrat society, supposed animus between Socialists and the State, Marx's views on revolution and violence, Marx's deterministic view of history and social change etc. This is a great read for the uninitiated , and I've personally found the arguments compelling. This book is structured as a point by point refutation to some of the major criticisms of Karl Marx, such as apparent disappearance of "labor class" in Post-Industrial Technocrat society, supposed animus between Socialists and the State, Marx's views on revolution and violence, Marx's deterministic view of history and social change etc. This is a great read for the uninitiated , and I've personally found the arguments compelling.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Caterina

    An easy and entertaining read, even for those not familiar with Karl Marx's work. This is actually a Marxist's view on Marxism, so expect it to be a bit biased. If you are looking for a simple and well-written approach, do read this, especially, if Gramsci and Adorno are not your average fun read! An easy and entertaining read, even for those not familiar with Karl Marx's work. This is actually a Marxist's view on Marxism, so expect it to be a bit biased. If you are looking for a simple and well-written approach, do read this, especially, if Gramsci and Adorno are not your average fun read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    A refutation of the various criticisms of Marx's work. This is great for those who want to be able to highlight differences between Marx's theories and the negative ways the leaders of various communist countries act. And easy read for such a difficult topic, written in an entertaining style. A refutation of the various criticisms of Marx's work. This is great for those who want to be able to highlight differences between Marx's theories and the negative ways the leaders of various communist countries act. And easy read for such a difficult topic, written in an entertaining style.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chrysoula

    "I am out to present Marx's ideas not as perfect but as plausible. To demonstrate this, I take in this book ten of the most standard criticisms of Marx, in no particular order of importance, and try to refute them one by one." I found these counterarguments mostly convincing and undeniably thought-provoking. "Eh, Chris", you might wonder "wasn't Eagleton preaching to the choir though, sort of, in your case?" Yes, but that wouldn't stop me from questioning his claims. I also wouldn't stubbornly re "I am out to present Marx's ideas not as perfect but as plausible. To demonstrate this, I take in this book ten of the most standard criticisms of Marx, in no particular order of importance, and try to refute them one by one." I found these counterarguments mostly convincing and undeniably thought-provoking. "Eh, Chris", you might wonder "wasn't Eagleton preaching to the choir though, sort of, in your case?" Yes, but that wouldn't stop me from questioning his claims. I also wouldn't stubbornly resist change or tenaciously adhere to a seemingly hopeless or outdated cause. I've been disillusioned often enough, I won't deny it, but it always comes down to this: have you seen the state the world is in? What we've currently got isn't working. Maybe it's time we revisited Marxism on terms that are considerably more faithful to the man's actual views. After all... "Was ever a thinker so travestied?"

  20. 5 out of 5

    Public_enemy

    Another flabby book with shallow and unconvincing arguments that attempts to show communism in better light. The only communism we know is the one which was represented in the history; there is no some kind of "misunderstood, not-yet-happened communism". Even if it could have happen differently, the true definition of communism is that it is the ideology of weaklings (Weaklings of the world, unite!)(Revenge of the nerds!). I will always be against that. The only reason why I gave 2 stars for thi Another flabby book with shallow and unconvincing arguments that attempts to show communism in better light. The only communism we know is the one which was represented in the history; there is no some kind of "misunderstood, not-yet-happened communism". Even if it could have happen differently, the true definition of communism is that it is the ideology of weaklings (Weaklings of the world, unite!)(Revenge of the nerds!). I will always be against that. The only reason why I gave 2 stars for this book is for by reading it I have learned how my enemies think. This guy, Eagleton, is useless and ridiculous, as are all other "intellectual elites" of today. Some rare okay insights in the book are obvious things, and in the end they are regularly misrepresented. His sense of humor is just terrible.

  21. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'In Why Marx Was Right, the British literary critic Terry Eagleton encourages [a] shift from Marx the satanic revolutionary to Marx the digital sage. As its title suggests, the book sets out to tell us not only what Marx would think, but also why he should be believed. Eagleton, who has also written recent essays on evil and atheism, is not very successful on either score. On a more subterranean level of argument, however, Why Marx Was Right is an acute, if partial, diagnosis of the bankruptcy o 'In Why Marx Was Right, the British literary critic Terry Eagleton encourages [a] shift from Marx the satanic revolutionary to Marx the digital sage. As its title suggests, the book sets out to tell us not only what Marx would think, but also why he should be believed. Eagleton, who has also written recent essays on evil and atheism, is not very successful on either score. On a more subterranean level of argument, however, Why Marx Was Right is an acute, if partial, diagnosis of the bankruptcy of the European and British left.' Read the full review, "Baby Boomers Make Their Marx," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    An excellent primer for reconsidering Marx in light of the 21st century. It is extremely unfortunate that citizens of the global west hear the name Karl Marx and think only of the horrors committed by Stalin, et al. This is akin to judging Christianity only based on the crusades, or on hate groups like Westboro Baptist. Or perhaps using 9/11 as the only means for understanding Islam. I.E. focusing on horrific historical distortions of concepts, rather than considering faithful engagements. To qu An excellent primer for reconsidering Marx in light of the 21st century. It is extremely unfortunate that citizens of the global west hear the name Karl Marx and think only of the horrors committed by Stalin, et al. This is akin to judging Christianity only based on the crusades, or on hate groups like Westboro Baptist. Or perhaps using 9/11 as the only means for understanding Islam. I.E. focusing on horrific historical distortions of concepts, rather than considering faithful engagements. To quote Eagleton, “was ever a thinker so travestied?”

  23. 4 out of 5

    The Lazy Reader

    3.5 "Before we can think, we have to eat; and the word "eat" opens up the question of a whole mode of social production." A touch too flowery at times, but extremely readable nonetheless. Eagleton is unique among scholars for his ability to be equally profound and funny('When the novelist Marcel Proust was still in the womb, his genteel mother was greatly distressed by the outbreak of the socialistic Paris Commune; and some speculate that this distress was the cause of Proust's lifelong asthma.') 3.5 "Before we can think, we have to eat; and the word "eat" opens up the question of a whole mode of social production." A touch too flowery at times, but extremely readable nonetheless. Eagleton is unique among scholars for his ability to be equally profound and funny('When the novelist Marcel Proust was still in the womb, his genteel mother was greatly distressed by the outbreak of the socialistic Paris Commune; and some speculate that this distress was the cause of Proust's lifelong asthma.')

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sam Brown

    so fucking good. funny, insightful, surprisingly readable. a book for normies and IntellectualsTM alike! absolutely required reading. should be the first book on philosophy/social science curriculums when dealing with the issue of marx and marxism. want to reread immediately!

  25. 4 out of 5

    J.W. Horton

    If you know someone who is resistant to Marxism, who has at hand all the well-worn and complacent arguments against it, give this person Eagleton's book. WHY MARX WAS RIGHT is well argued and clearly written. (In fact, I've been noticing about Eagleton that he has a writing style rather similar to that of C.S. Lewis.) This book is very illuminating both for those on the Left, but especially for those who are not. Eagleton takes on in successive chapters each of the following arguments against Ma If you know someone who is resistant to Marxism, who has at hand all the well-worn and complacent arguments against it, give this person Eagleton's book. WHY MARX WAS RIGHT is well argued and clearly written. (In fact, I've been noticing about Eagleton that he has a writing style rather similar to that of C.S. Lewis.) This book is very illuminating both for those on the Left, but especially for those who are not. Eagleton takes on in successive chapters each of the following arguments against Marxism: 1) Marxism is simply over 2) Marxism sounds well in theory but leads to oppression and terror 3) Marxism is deterministic 4) Marxism is about utopian impossibilities 5) Marxism reduces everything to economics 6) Marxism is a soulless materialism 7) Marxism has an irrelevant obsession with class 8) Marxism is violent 9) Marxism wants authoritarian government 10) All the best radical movements in the last few decades have arisen outside Marxism.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Was Marx right? I don't know, but Eagleton makes a good case for him being anything but discredited and irrelevant 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eagleton's explication of Marx's voluminous writings reveals a complex and compelling thinker who bears little resemblance to the bloodless "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" caricature we learned about in high school. I found "Why Marx Was Right" more edifying than enjoyable because it is patently d Was Marx right? I don't know, but Eagleton makes a good case for him being anything but discredited and irrelevant 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eagleton's explication of Marx's voluminous writings reveals a complex and compelling thinker who bears little resemblance to the bloodless "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" caricature we learned about in high school. I found "Why Marx Was Right" more edifying than enjoyable because it is patently didactic, arranged as it is into 10 parts, each of which is dedicated to rebutting a common misconception about Marxist theory or its all-too-often miserable real-world implementation. Nevertheless, Eagleton has me itching to read some Marx for myself, to see if his ideas really are as sensible at firsthand as Eagelton's interpretation makes them appear to be.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Eagleton has compiled a wonderful guide on how to argue against the sweeping generalizations of anti-Marxists. It's important to discuss with those who completely dismiss the ideas of socialism and equality as too idealistic or too broad some of Marx's prescient and valuable ideas. Eagleton's book rejects the dominant notion that everything Marx wrote is no longer applicable and provides an invaluable resource to those who love to debate politics. Social classes still exist (though they are far Eagleton has compiled a wonderful guide on how to argue against the sweeping generalizations of anti-Marxists. It's important to discuss with those who completely dismiss the ideas of socialism and equality as too idealistic or too broad some of Marx's prescient and valuable ideas. Eagleton's book rejects the dominant notion that everything Marx wrote is no longer applicable and provides an invaluable resource to those who love to debate politics. Social classes still exist (though they are far more hidden by capitalism and consumerism than ever before), inequality has been revived to early 20th century levels, and the means of production have never been more concentrated. Eagleton's arguments show that there really does need to be a third wave or interpretation of socialism, if only to provide a framework to argue with and challenge today's dominant, oppressive system.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    The purpose of this book is to revive and popularize Marx; and to defend him against critics and postmodernists. This book reminded me of CS Lewis' defense and popularization of Christianity; both British professors of English literature that approached Marx's writings or the Bible as texts to be re-interpreted and made accessible to the public. The purpose of this book is to revive and popularize Marx; and to defend him against critics and postmodernists. This book reminded me of CS Lewis' defense and popularization of Christianity; both British professors of English literature that approached Marx's writings or the Bible as texts to be re-interpreted and made accessible to the public.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    For the politics book club, we (with some minor election fraud from me) voted on reading Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right, which I nominated because a handsome man on the internet said it was good, making this the second whole book that I have read because a handsome man on the internet told me to (it was the same handsome man, too: The Only YouTuber Whomst Reads). Back when I was PEWG co-chair, I spent a lot of time looking at very introductory books to recommend to new members. Some of th For the politics book club, we (with some minor election fraud from me) voted on reading Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right, which I nominated because a handsome man on the internet said it was good, making this the second whole book that I have read because a handsome man on the internet told me to (it was the same handsome man, too: The Only YouTuber Whomst Reads). Back when I was PEWG co-chair, I spent a lot of time looking at very introductory books to recommend to new members. Some of these were very short, like the Jacobin pamphlet The ABCs of Socialism. But I have also been looking for a good proper book-length book that is not too daunting and not too dated, and Why Marx Was Right seems like a decent candidate. It’s funny, accessible, and, at about 250 pages, long enough to get a little more detailed than a pamphlet and make you feel like you read a Real Book, but it probably won’t take you too long to get through.  There were a couple things I bounced off, some of which are highly specific to me as a reader and my very particular political media diet. One of these is the framing device — the book uses a mythbusting framework, with each chapter headed by a common anti-socialist talking point or misconception about Marx, and the chapter dedicated to setting the record straight on the issue. It is a sensible framework to use for a philosophy as misunderstood and propagandized against as Marxism, especially a few years ago when this was written. As such, Eagleton is hardly the only person to have used it, and it is a common, possibly even the default, approach to explaining the basics of socialism to squeamish but potentially sympathetic liberals to spend at least as much time explaining what socialism is not as explaining what it is. In pieces for a more mainstream or beginner audience who may be very scared of the Unreasonable Leftists one hears so much about, this approach is likely to be coupled with a lot of soothing noises about how not all socialism is quite as Out There as you’ve heard and of course some people take it too far, but we’re not those leftists, we’re the reasonable leftists. I have two main issues with this framing. The first is simply a matter of overexposure: I am tired of the defensive crouch of so much introductory socialist writing, especially introductory demsoc writing. Probably readers who only read one or two intro books before moving on to more intermediate theory, instead of becoming connoisseurs of the Baby’s First Socialism genre, would not end up reading enough of this to get bored with it. The other is sort of the opposite; I have certainly had my experiences with unreasonable leftists, but I have found that it is not nearly as simple as that people who are more ideologically extreme are less reasonable. Specific organizing models that make dealing with political difference as unpleasant as possible are often associated with specific tendencies; sometimes these are justified by theory, sometimes they're just legacy organizing habits, and they can easily be ported over from one theoretical tendency to another if someone gets the bad idea to do so (as in the case of DSA's own infamous "socdemcentralist" Caucus of Constant Rebranding). More often, I've found unreasonable leftists to just be individually unreasonable people who then blame their behavior on some dead theorist because they don't want to admit that they're behaving the way they are because they goddamn well want to. I worry that when you sort of vaguely present the figure of the Unreasonable Leftist to socialism-curious left-liberals without any sort of detail, they're just going to fill in "the ones that are more ideologically far from the center," as we have all been primed to, rather than any particular counterproductive organizing behavior or organization that they do not yet have any knowledge of because this is explicitly a Baby's First Socialism book. Relatedly, I wasn't a huge fan of the dunks on postmodernism either; I don't know why you'd expect someone who doesn't know what Marxism is to have a detailed theoretical understanding of the excesses of academic postmodernism as a field, and without it, content-free dunking on postmodernism just reads like a right-wing dogwhistle. At least it establishes that postmodernism and Marxism are very much not the same thing, which is more than many current right-wingers can grasp. But it still reads poorly, especially alongside the specifics-free gestures toward Too Radical leftists and the explicit rejection of police abolitionism. I know Eagleton is British and the UK doesn't have every single traffic cop armed to the teeth at all times, but their cops are still cops, and they do have a long and extensively documented history of surveilling, infiltrating, and sabotaging left-wing activist movements, so... what do you mean you don't support getting rid of the police, my dude? And if you're not up for correcting liberal misconceptions about police abolitionism — which, given the number of people who, when they hear the term "police abolitionism," begin attempting to logic out what the phrase means from first principles instead of looking it up, and assume that it means that every single social function currently placed under police jurisdiction will be carried out by nobody at all, is certainly a big task — then maybe just... don't go there? Despite the amount of ink I've just spilled on these three objections, they are fairly minor quibbles about jokes and off-hand comments that didn't land. Overall, the book hits a lot of tricky balances pretty well. Eagleton neither attempts to cut the entire Leninist wing off of "real" leftism (which some works I've read do) nor pretends that everything was just fine in the Soviet Union, but instead discusses the propagandized way we're taught to look at other country's histories in Western capitalist countries and the left's record of attempting to actually, seriously grapple with the political and economic problems of the USSR. He also does a pretty decent job of explaining the difference between a grand narrative, which, as a modernist theory, Marxism is, and a unified theory of everything, which it is not. We get solid, readable primers on class struggle, class formation, modes of production, base and superstructure theory, utopianism, economic determinism, what "materialism" means in political science, statism and democracy, the relationships between Marxism and other left-wing movements (frequently fraught, but definitely there), visible and invisible violence, reform and revolution, and a bunch of other concepts that you'll likely want at least a passing familiarity with if you want to be able to follow conversations among Marxists. And since Marxists have the most interesting conversations (or at least, they do when they're not just being personally nasty to each other and blaming it on Lenin), I'd overall recommend this book both for new socialists and for left-liberals who might be working in coalition with socialists, even if they're ultimately not quite convinced. I also largely appreciate that the book has lots of jokes; I am a big fan of jokes, and Eagleton tells them in a dry, occasionally absurd way, and more often in a dry, completely serious observational way, like when he refers to pharmaceutical company owners as "a bunch of unscrupulous sharks who would probably charge their own toddlers ten dollars for an aspirin" in a section explaining the difference between personal morality and the structural functions of institutions. I am very, very much looking forward to discussing it at book club in January, although I admit I am somewhat less looking forward to having to come up with discussion questions since there are so many things we could cover. Originally posted at In which we listen to Uncle Karl.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Not terribly convincing. Eagleton is a good enough writer, I bet he’s better with other subjects. One major problem is that it’s unclear if he’s defending Marx or Marxism, and either way the subject matter is so wide and such a hodgepodge that it’s not at all clear to me that there’s a single underlying essence that can be defined and then defended. So he hops all around tons of different topics, lists what he says the critics say, and then defends. At least it was fairly short...

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