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Marxism: Philosophy and Economics

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  526 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Sowell leads the listener through the Marxian scheme of ideas, shattering some existing interpretations of Marx which have developed through repetition rather than through scholarship. 6 cassettes.
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published March 1st 1985 by William Morrow & Company (first published January 1st 1985)
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Riku Sayuj
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, r-r-rs

A subtle paean to Engels. Paints a picture of Engels as the precursor, refiner and ultimately the author of most of what today bears Marx’s name. I exaggerate but it is only because this take amazes me. The book is a great intro to Marxism and takes special care to interpret Marx on his own terms and to stick to all his terminologies and conventions and thus resolve some of the apparent contradictions. This is definitely a work I will keep in mind during my soon-to-begin exploration of Marx’s wo
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those Interested in an Introduction to Marxism but Wary of Marxists
You can't get away from the importance of Karl Marx to culture, history and politics. So I decided I'd read Marx's Das Kapital. I tried. It's impenetrable, turgid, truly painful reading. Mind you, I don't mean that in and of itself is a refutation of Marx's claims. Human Action, the magnum opus of Ludwig Von Mises, the economist arguably most revered by free market advocates, is easily as impenetrable and painful to read. Sometimes it's just the case that some subjects (such as the Theory of Rel ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful and concise overview of Marxist thought. If you'd like to learn about Marxism, don't start with Das Kapital or Theories of Surplus Value, start here. ...more
Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, by Thomas Sowell, is a collection of essays breaking down Marx and Engels philosophic and economic principles and ideas. The book looks at dialectics, philosophic materialism, theories of history, capitalist economy theory, theories of economic crisis, Marxian value, political systems and revolution, and a short blurb on Marx himself and the legacy of Marx's political theory. Sowell's book looks closely at Engels as one of the main proponents of Marx's thought, ...more
Catharine Davenport
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Chapters one through nine - 3 stars
Last chapter - 5 stars.

Most of this book is Sowell explaining Marx’s doctrines, philosophy, and economic policies. I listened to instead of read the majority of this part, and I found it fairly difficult to follow. It read much more like a textbook than Sowell’s other books, and was pretty technical and detailed. This section is definitely easier to understand if you have some previous knowledge of communism and economics. I think part of my issue in following
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fair and objective writing by Sowell, a great place to start for anyone curious about Marx
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Sowell’s critique of Marxism is damning precisely because it is so scrupulously fair. He has no time for strawmen, which is why a good 80% of this book is dedicated to shooting down misinterpretations - willful or otherwise, well-meaning or otherwise - of what Marx and Engels actually wrote. Imagine helping your opponent up off the ground, straightening his tie, and glaring at anyone who is rude to him... right before you turn around, tip your hat, and knock him down yourself. That’s what Sowell ...more
Nathan Albright
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book is a heady one, one of the earlier written books by the author, and one that seeks, through a close reading of the writings of Marx and Engels, to explain what Marx was really saying (sadly, not a straightforward task) as well as the contradictions within his own doctrine and practice, and the way that it greatly influenced the world.  The book was written during the Cold War, so the way that the book deals with the abstractions and flaws of Marxism is done in such a way that avoids th ...more
Josh Broccolo
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An interesting look at Marx and his ideas. Unfortunately his ideas have morphed in our modern day, but this book gives a good grasp on the foundation of his philosophies.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent review of Marx’s economic theory and its influences and development, with a particular focus on Hegel’s influence as well as that of the classical economists such as Smith, Ricardo, and others. Sowell is an excellent writer on economics, but this book is more academic than most of his work.

I’m very familiar with Marx’s work, having read CAPITAL, THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO and THEORIES OF SURPLUS VALUE, as well as selections from various other works (one of my areas of specialization in
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I bought this book because I enjoy Dr. Sowell‘s writing style and I wanted a deeper dive into contrast between capitalism & Marxism without having to study Das Kapital or the Communist Manifesto. I don’t have time for that.

If you think that you’ll be able to logically work your way through the labyrinth of Marxism from A to Z just by reading this book, you are mistaken. The mental gymnastics required to make any sense out of Hegel, Marx, and Engels limits the effectiveness of even the best econo
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it
An obviously well-researched book, although perhaps more scholarly than necessary (or maybe I've just been spoiled by Dr. Sowell's more accessible works). It starts with a detailed description of the philosophy that inspired Marxism, followed by the philosophy of Marxism. I wouldn't say this is a basic intro to the basics of Marxism, but a deeper analysis of philosophy behind the man.

The book is very even-handed and uncritical until the final two chapters, that's when Sowell's usual no nonsense
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was the first Sowell book I read and I read it without knowing anything about the man (Sowell) or his personal beliefs. It was interesting to read and constantly wonder what his true feelings about Marxism were. I can honestly say it wasn't until the end - chapters where he warned he would be more than objective - when I figured it out. I knew that was the mark of a great book on a complex and controversial subject.

This book is a good, solid introduction to the concepts of Marxism.
Sylvester Kuo
Dr. Sowell was a young radical in the past, hence why he also had read Marx and Engel's works. In this volume, he explained the entire ideology behind Marxism (it is actually mostly "Engelism") and the life of this intelligentsia. Many of the popular misconceptions were dispelled, such as quotes attributed to Marx were actually from Fabian socialists and Marx's distinction of his ideas from socialism. Although generally nonsensical, Dr. Sowell has explained the writing in great details (over 100 ...more
Sydney Smith
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: post-graduation
3.5... Some parts were informative, and the criticism he had for Marx personally was well-founded. I especially enjoyed the little biographies of Marx & Engels toward the end. A lot of the early parts of the book were hard to understand and boring, but the nuggets of information (that were few & far between) were worth it, especially since it wasn't a very long book. Just started Capital in the 21st Century and it is much better at explaining similar topics so far ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sowell wrote this in the 80’s as even then this far reaching economic ideology, mired in various interpretations and live case studies around the world, was being appropriated and applied ad nauseum without proper context. He surveys the writings and biography of Marx himself, his isolation as a thinker, and the impact of his ideas and their popularizers. I can completely understand anyone seeking to make improvements in the systems that run their nations, but that anyone would think Marxism or ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is meticulously researched and possibly the most well cited book I've ever read at nearly a thousand citations in under 300 pages. Sowell does us all a favor combing through everything Marx ever did, said or thought so we don't have to. Learning that "religion is the opiate of the masses" is not an actual Marx quote was a crazy revelation to me. It's amazing what you can get people to believe if you say it enough repeatedly.


Marxian philosophy looks at the world as a set of
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
November 12,2015


By Ty W. Foster

Marxism Philosophy & Economics By Thomas Sowell. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Thomas Sowell culminates all the ideas of Marxian economics, while dispelling the lies you've been told about Marx's ideas.

The author uses the first chapter to previewing things to come in future chapters, like the similarities of Marx and his close colleague Friedrich Engels and how earlier philosophers influenced Marx's ideas. The author then proceeds to tell
Grig O'
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
The main body of the book is a very lucid and thorough exposition of Marxism, and I could find very little fault with it (for what that's worth) - it did a great job clarifying things such as Marx's dialectical method for me.

The penultimate chapter is a biography of Marx, and the tone starts to change - you can start to see where we're heading. The final chapter, the "critique" of Marxism, has very little to offer. Disappointingly sweeping statements and cold war-type arguments against existing
"Marx and Engels argued that an individual or an era must be judged not by what they intend or conceive, but by what they actually accomplish. Marxism itself cannot be exempt from this standard."

Thomas Sowell was a Marxist for the whole decade of his 20's. One of his first scholarly publications in academia was a sympathetic examination of Marxist thought v. Marxist-Leninist thought. Then he interned for the federal government, and if that doesn't make you into to a free-market theorist, I don't
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Though in spots helpful in understanding Marx, and clearly written, the author is simply wrong on the Marxian theory of value. Dead wrong. I have read enough of Das Kapital to know that Boehm-Bawerk's criticism of Marx is spot on. A quick search of Marx's big book can yield quotations from Marx that disprove Sowell's odd (and oddly defensive) thesis on Marxian value. Sowell's exposition is way too easy on Marx, especially regarding value theory, of which Marx adapted the biggest error of the cla ...more
Kurt Huizenga
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Marxist philosophy is blindingly confusing at first blush, and even this distilled and simplified exposition will be a very challenging read to the newcomer. That being said, the ideas and their implications are presented very fairly and succinctly by Sowell in this work. The final chapter in particular, which lays out Sowell's analysis of the implications and critical errors of Marx's lines of thinking are elegantly powerful in elucidating the reasons why this intentionally compassionate ideolo ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Self-congratulations! I understood (almost) every page - though I had to read some of them several times. From this book I realise there isn't a cat in hell's chance of me ever reading 'Capital'. It isn't easy but it is readable.

I can't discuss in depth the subject of the book, there are others far better qualified than I, but at least I can attack the proponents of Marxism on more equal terms - few of whom I now realise know much more than I anyway.

Actually, I'm cheating a bit writing this 'rev
Geno Lamb
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Marxism is one of those elusive terms that is so often misunderstood that many of the things pundits today either deride or champion as ``Marxist'' bear little resemblance to any of the original ideas of Karl Marx. Even among academic circles, according to Sowell, many caricatures of Marxism should be more accurately described as ``Samuelsonian'' Marxism, ``Sweezyian'' Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, and so forth. These derivative forms of Marxism are as different from Marxism as a modern Protestant ...more
Mark Schmidt
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've heard good things about the objectivity of the book, and only was able to detect slight jabs until the last two chapters. If I'm mistaken about the trustworthiness of the book, oh well. I know I got more out of this than I ever would have from reading Capital.

That being said, I got nothing but a few cliche phrases from the entire chapter on Value. From that I was able to gather that capital was very technically written whilst very sloppy intellectually. This seems to be an apt summary of th
Alex Shrugged
This is a big subject which the author condensed into the basics. Apparently there have been a lot of people claiming to be Marxists who have no idea what Marx said or meant. Marx himself said, "I am no Marxist" meaning that what passed for "Marxism" in his time bore little resemblance to what he wrote or intended. Since his death it has only become worse. The author (who was a Marxist until he actually studied it in college) clears up a lot of the misunderstanding and makes Marx clear. No one c ...more
Fred Grün
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is obvious throughout this book that Thomas Sowell is a very intelligent, rational and well-read man. The main elements of Marx's thought are clearly explained and he offers a well-argued criticism of the Marxist doctrine, exposing its shortcomings and ramifications in the 20th century with a brief chapter on Lenin.
Throughout the book, he talks a lot about the intellectual contribution of Friedrich Engels, who is perhaps too often forgotten. It may be argued after reading this book that Marx
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not light reading - more of an academic textbook. A terrific review of the writings of Marx and his contemporaries. Corrects numerous analyses of Marx from the 19th and 20th century. Roughly the 1st 80% of the book is simple exposition of Marx's writings, including the morphing of some of his ideas over time. A large portion of the book is direct translated excerpts from books, letters, and articles. The next 10% reviews his personal and family life. The final 10% is Sowell's critique of the sho ...more
Dennis Murphy
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Economists and those interested in Marxism, I suppose.
Shelves: on-economics
Marxism: Philosophy and Economics by Thomas Sowell is better than it thought it would be. I expected a hatchet job, but for the most part it was a reasonable overview of the doctrine and the men who made it. Most devoted Marxists probably won't have cause to complain until the last two chapters, and even then most of their criticism will fall on the last chapter, where Mr. Sowell takes the opportunity to discuss at length the empirical and philosophical failings of Marxism. Most of them were goo ...more
Tiara Lynn
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This will definitely not be the last book I read about Marxism. In exploring my own anti-capitalist feelings I'm trying to learn more about alternate economic theory and philosophy. There were some chapters that I had to listen to 2 and 3 times to understand, and others (usually the ones with the info that's most relatable to our economic and political climate) resonated with me a great deal. I certainly wouldn't call myself a communist, but the more I learn about socialist ideologies the more I ...more
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more

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Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
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“Reasoning systematically, Marx was one of the few socialists to understand that economic competition, motivated by "greed," was what drove prices down under capitalism, as capitalists ceaselessly searched for more profits by seeking cheaper ways of producing than those possessed by their fellow capitalist rivals. Mutual competition ensured that capitalists were in no position simply to tack higher profits onto production costs. Therefore, as production costs were driven down throughout an industry, prices tended to be driven down as well, to the benefit of the consuming public.” 0 likes
“Despite the massive intellectual feat that Marx's Capital represents, the Marxian contribution to economics can be readily summarized as virtually zero. Professional economics as it exists today reflects no indication that Karl Marx ever existed. This neither denies nor denigrates Capital as an intellectual achievement, and perhaps in its way the culmination of classical economics. But the development of modern economics had simply ignored Marx. Even economists who are Marxists typically utilize a set of analytical tools to which Marx contributed nothing, and have recourse to Marx only for ideological, political, or historical purposes.

In professional economics, Capital was a detour into a blind alley, however historic it may be as the centerpiece of a worldwide political movement. What is said and done in its name is said and done largely by people who have never read through it, much less followed its labyrinthine reasoning from its arbitrary postulates to its empirically false conclusions. Instead, the massive volumes of Capital have become a quasi-magic touchstone—a source of assurance that somewhere and somehow a genius "proved" capitalism to be wrong and doomed, even if the specifics of this proof are unknown to those who take their certitude from it.”
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