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Marx: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Marx: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Peter Singer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"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

Product Description

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 a social scientist. He explains alienation, historical materialism, the economic theory of Capital, and Marx's ideas of communism, in plain English, and concludes with an assessment of Marx's legacy.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 888 KB
  • Print Length: 124 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192854054
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (12 Oct 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003N19DQU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #119,300 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never mind the size, feel the quality 11 Feb 2011
By Derek Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER
After reading the "Manifesto", Engels' "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" and Lenin's "State and the Revolution" anybody embarking on a study of Marxism should read this wonderful little book by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer before proceeding further with Marx's works and academic commentaries on them.

I particularly like chapter 6 (Alienation as a theory of history) and his account of the development of the theory of the materialist conception of history. However, chapter 10 (An appreciation) is especially impressive - or thought-provoking if you happen to disagree with his assessments. Singer argues that Marx deserves to be ranked with the foremost philosophers for two reasons: (1) his critique of the liberal conception of freedom, and (2) his analysis of human nature.

Marx provided the most important of all critiques of the liberal conception of freedom, which is "negative" freedom (freedom from) as opposed to "positive" (freedom to). It sees freedom as non-interference by the state or other individuals. It embraces laissez-faire economics because it sees the market as impersonal, and anyway many supporters of "liberal" freedom believe that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" produces the best possible result. Marx's objections to "liberal" freedom are:
* The interests of individuals are not necessarily the same as the totality of individuals (i.e. the community).
* Markets force us to compete with others instead of co-operating for the good of all.
* Allowing ourselves to be shaped by the market is not true freedom: planning the economy is the first step to controlling our own destiny which is true freedom.

Singer explains Marx's position very lucidly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction 21 Aug 2011
If you're never going to have time to trawl through Capital and Grundrisse, then this book will give you a bluffer's guide in 100 pages. Well, not quite, but it does provide an excellent overview of Marx's life and works, and demolishes many of the myths extrapolated from the many mis-readings of his texts - explaining how much of his work is both more nuanced and sometimes less dogmatic than some popular perceptions would credit. He shows how Marx's critique of political economy has withstood the test of time - even if some of his predictions and his rather opaque summary of capitalism's successor remain less than convincing.

Written in 1980 (and revised in 2000), however, some of Singer's own assessments now begin to look premature. Taking issue with Marx's contention that the income gap between workers and capitalists would increase, with more independent producers swallowed up by a capitalist oligopoly, with workers wages barely covering subsistence, leading to capitalism collapsing under the weight of its contradictions, Singer argues that such predictions "are so plainly mistaken" that they are impossible to defend, with the income gap narrowing since Marx's time (though widening in the last decade of the 20th century), with real wages rising at the expense of profits, and capitalism suffering minor crises but no threat of collapse.

From the viewpoint of 2011, however, this seems more debatable. While it is true that inequality declined and social mobility increased in the years following Marx's death, this was largely due to the development of a social democratic movement, driven by the theories of men like L.T. Hobhouse, which sought to ameliorate the more rapacious extremes of capitalist development - if only to save capitalists from themselves.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent if you are a beginner 2 Feb 2006
By Lilly Penhaligon VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you don't know anything, or know very little about Marx and his ideas and you need to brush up but don't have the time to sit for hours in a library, then get this book. I am a complete beginner with Marx, I had heard of him but knew nothing about his ideas. I had to acquire this knowledge in a very short space of time for an essay that I was writing for my Masters. This book was perfect, just enough information to give me the basics without getting to indepth AND in an easy to read format.
It covers events in his life as well as his main achievements and ideas.
This book makes no assumptions that you know anythign about Marxism so it is very easy to follow whilst avoiding being patronising or school bookish. In fact the Very Short Introduction series are actually written by very eminent scholars in the field so it by no means superficial or textbook material.
This is an excellent introduction to Marxism, it will give you the basics and will help you identify areas of further reading or study if you are so inclined. If you need an indepth, detailed look at his ideas/theories/life, then this isn't the book for you.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting analysis of the great philosopher 11 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Written by a professor from Princeton University, this small 108 page book provides a useful anaysis of Marx's thinking and tracks how he gradually came to arrive at his influential revolutionary ideas. If you're wanting a quick read about the life of Marx that is jam-packed with anecdotes about his drinking at university, his deportations from France and Belgium, the hours spent in the reading room of the British Museum, and his affair with the maid ... then this is not the book for you. Instead "Marx: A Very Short Introduction" is much more of a quick fly-through of Marx's main ideas and literary output. This book then is more of a philosophical insight into Marx (facilitated, for example, by discussing the early influences upon him such as Hegel and Feuerbach).

The book is split into the following chapters:

*A Life and its impact
*The Young Hegelian
*From god to money
*Enter the proletariat
*The First Marxism
*Alienation as a theory of history
*The goal of history
*An assessment

If you have no background in philosophy then you'll probably find this a tough (but worthwhile) read. If you're a Marxist you'll probably also take issue with some of the author's summary views in the final chapter.

Overall, this very short introduction is a good elementary grounding about Marx's ideas and is keenly priced.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly recommend for anyone who wants a brief
Small but perfectly formed. Peter Singer writes with such clarity, pulling together some complex ideas into a very useable grounding for the main ideas, works and thoughts of Marx. Read more
Published 10 days ago by MT
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good.
As someone who had always been interested in Marx but had never actually gotten around to reading his works, this was an excellent introduction to the man and the environments that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Dale Bray
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes it gets too deep for AVSI book
The book is nice, but sometimes it gets a little too deep and you somehow lose the focus.
It does lots of comparison with other Socialist philosophers, so I think you might... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Bruno Cavalcante
5.0 out of 5 stars marx made easy
If,like me,you've always had more than a passing interest in Marx but found Capital hard to tackle,this is a great book for beginners. Read more
Published 11 months ago by abcwarrior01
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful
For some reason a lot of introductions to Marx's work seem to be trying to hard to be quirky and different; perhaps it's a reaction against the dullness of some of his own prose. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Graham R. Hill
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not Great
The series of Very Short Introduction books are absolutely amazing. I brought this book along with Kant and Plato and found them informative and enjoyable. Read more
Published on 10 July 2012 by FiveDriedGrams
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful book
this book threatens everything we know as reality, as it is only a brief summary of Marx it is not fully detailed on all his ethics. Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2012 by jbugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written, Well Informed and Well Done
This book is well written, well informed and well done. It reveals the life of Karl Marx and his influences, amazingly only in approximately 100 pages. Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2011 by J. Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars VeRy UsEfUl book, especially for beginners who start to study Marx's...
This is a brief and a very well-done guide into the Marxist view of the society of his time.... if you want to understand The Capital, this book could be the right first step to... Read more
Published on 2 Dec 2010 by Federica
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a little on the short side.
I would praise Singer for expounding clearly and concisely his own unique unifying theory about Marx. Read more
Published on 14 Nov 2010 by T. Blackburn
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Popular Highlights

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Money is the universal, self-constituted value of all things. Hence it has robbed the whole world, the human world as well as nature, of its proper value. Money is the alienated essence of man’s labour and life, and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it. &quote;
Highlighted by 46 Kindle users
Since human alienation is not a problem of a particular class, but a universal problem, whatever is to solve it must have a universal character – and the proletariat, Marx claims, has this universal character in virtue of its total deprivation. It represents not a particular class of society, but all humanity. &quote;
Highlighted by 44 Kindle users
A consequence of this alienation of humans from their own nature is that they are also alienated from each other. Productive activity becomes ‘activity under the domination, coercion and yoke of another man’. This other man becomes an alien, hostile being. Instead of humans relating to each other co-operatively, they relate competitively. Love and trust are replaced by bargaining and exchange. Human beings cease to recognize in each other their common human nature; they see others as instruments for furthering their own egoistic interests. &quote;
Highlighted by 42 Kindle users

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