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Oxford's Very Short Introductions series #28

Marx: A Very Short Introduction

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In Marx: A Very Short Introdution, 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. In plain English, he explains alienation, historical materialism, the economic theory of Capital, and Marx's ideas of communism, and concludes with an assessment of Marx's legacy.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

108 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1980

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About the author

Peter Singer

161 books6,085 followers
Peter Singer is sometimes called "the world’s most influential living philosopher" although he thinks that if that is true, it doesn't say much for all the other living philosophers around today. He has also been called the father (or grandfather?) of the modern animal rights movement, even though he doesn't base his philosophical views on rights, either for humans or for animals.

In 2005 Time magazine named Singer one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute ranked him 3rd among Global Thought Leaders for 2013. (He has since slipped to 36th.) He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life doctrine in bioethics, and for his writings on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty. 

Singer first became well-known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975. In 2011 Time included Animal Liberation on its “All-TIME” list of the 100 best nonfiction books published in English since the magazine began, in 1923. Singer has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, including Practical Ethics; The Expanding Circle; How Are We to Live?, Rethinking Life and Death, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), The Point of View of the Universe (with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek), The Most Good You Can Do, Ethics in the Real World and Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. His works have appeared in more than 30 languages.

Singer’s book The Life You Can Save, first published in 2009, led him to found a non-profit organization of the same name. In 2019, Singer got back the rights to the book and granted them to the organization, enabling it to make the eBook and audiobook versions available free from its website, www.thelifeyoucansave.org.

Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. After teaching in England, the United States and Australia, he has, since 1999, been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He is married, with three daughters and four grandchildren. His recreations include hiking and surfing. In 2012 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest civic honour.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
February 28, 2022
Marx: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #28), Peter Singer

From 1818 to 1883, Marx was the founder of material commentary on history, and the prime of class warfare, Marx's influence on economics, philosophy, and all branches of social and political thought was undoubtedly very profound.

From Singer's point of view, Marx's main concern was human freedom. The eye looks for a communist society that has to transform human nature.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «مارکس»؛ «اندیشه مارکس»؛ «مارکس - درآمدی بسیار کوتاه»؛ نویسنده پیتر سینگر؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش سال2001میلادی

عنوان: مارکس؛ نویسنده: پیتر سینگر؛ مترجم: محمد اسکندری؛ تهران، طرح نو، سال1379؛ در148ص؛ شابک9645625882؛ موضوع نقد و تفسیر کارل مارکس از نویسندگان استرالیا - سده20م

عنوان: اندیشه مارکس؛ نویسنده: پیتر سینگر؛ مترجم: محمد اسکندری؛ تهران، فرهنگ جاوید، سال1395؛ در144ص؛ شابک9786008209386؛

عنوان: مارکس - درآمدی بسیار کوتاه؛ نویسنده: پیتر سینگر؛ مترجم: لیلا سلگی؛ تهران، ثالث، سال1393؛ در137ص؛ شابک9645625882؛

فهرست: «زندگی و تاثیر مارکس»، «هگلی جوان»، «از خدا به پول»، «به میدان آمدن پرولتاریا»، «نخستین مارکسیسم»، «از خود بیگانگی همچون نظریه ی تاریخ»، »هدف تاریخ»، «اقتصاد»، «کمونیسم»، «ارزیابی»؛

مارکس از سال1818میلادی تا سال1883میلادی؛ بنیانگذار تفسیر مادی از تاریخ؛ و منادی جنگ طبقاتی است، تاثیر «مارکس» بر علم اقتصاد، فلسفه، و تمامی شعب اندیشه های اجتماعی و سیاسی، بی تردید بسیار ژرف بوده است؛ از دیدگاه «سینگر»، دلمشغولی اصلی «مارکس»، آزادی انسان بوده؛ چشم انتظار جامعه ای کمونیستی که میبایست سرشت انسان را دیگر کند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 13/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 08/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,057 reviews1,724 followers
September 11, 2017
بعد از گذشت بیش از یک قرن، اغلب پیش بینی های مارکس به قدری آشکارا نادرست از آب در آمده اند که آدم از دیدن کسانی که با مارکس همدلند و سعی می کنند نشان دهند که بزرگی مارکس در جنبه های "علمی" کارش نهفته است به تعجب می افتد. حوادث ایام بسیاری از پیش بینی های مارکس را باطل کرده است: این نظریه که دستمزدها همیشه تا حدی که کارگران تنها بتوانند زنده بمانند کاهش خواهند یافت، نظریۀ آهنگ نزولی سود، این نظریه که در دوران سرمایه داری بحران اقتصادی دم به دم حادتر می شود، این نظریه که سرمایه داری محتاج "ارتش ذخیرۀ صنعتی" ای از فقراست، و این نظریه که سرمایه داری پیوسته عدۀ بیشتری از مردم را به زور به صف طبقۀ کارگر می فرستد.
امروزه فاصلۀ میان فقیر و غنی در کل جهان صنعتی کاهش یافته است. دلیل این امر عمدتاً افزایش دستمزدهای واقعی است. امروزه درآمد کارگران کارخانه ها به مراتب بیش از آن است که برای "تنها زنده ماندن" به آن نیاز دارند. آهنگ سود به طور مستمر کاهش نیافته است. سرمایه داری بحران های متعددی را پشت سر گذاشته است اما هیچ کجا به خاطر به اصطلاح تناقضات درونی اش سقوط نکرده است. انقلاب های پرولتاریایی به جای کشورهای توسعه یافته تر، در کشورهای کمتر توسعه یافته اتفاق افتادند.

بهتر است مارکس را فیلسوف - به عام ترین معنای کلمه - بدانیم تا دانشمند. پیشتر دیدیم که چگونه پیش بینی های مارکس از استفاده ای که او از فلسفۀ هگل در زمینۀ پیشرفت تاریخ انسان و اقتصادیات سرمایه داری کرد ناشی شد. هیچ کس امروز هگل را دانشمند نمی داند، هرچند هگل هم مانند مارکس کار خود را "علمی" می نامید. لفظ آلمانی ای که هگل و مارکس به جای "علم" به کار بردند، بر هر مطالعۀ جدی و نظام مند دلالت می کند، و البته به این معنی مارکس و هگل هر دو دانشمند بودند.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews7,021 followers
March 15, 2015

Singer looks at Marx, the Philosopher, and relegates Marx, the Economist to the background. This allows Singer to put aside all the 'refuted' aspects of Marx and focus on the key and relevant ideas. Singer discusses alienation and historical materialism in some detail and tracks their evolution in Marx's thought, but the most interesting segment is when he tries to pin down marx's own conceptions of what a communist utopia should be like. Turns out Marx was extremely pragmatic about it and let slip such ideas only in moments of weakness. As I always like to say to anyone discussing Stalinism wrt Marxism -- just because the prescribed treatment turned out to be off the mark, the diagnosis is not to be dismissed (and that is if the Soviet Russia was even remotely Marxist! Marx must have anticipated all this and is known to have cried out in later life: "All i know is that I am not a Marxist!").

Marx is strongest when he is identifying the deficiencies of capitalism, not when he is trying to propose solutions. Those are our responsibility too. After all, we shouldn't leave everything to one man.
2 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2012
This is rather a misleading guide to Marx. The author's opinion is not only heavily loaded against Marxist school of Economics but also misguide the reader on the truthfulness of several important assertion of Marx on the basic contradiction of Capitalism .

The Author claims that the rate of profit has not fallen , as was predicted by Marx, and wage rate in Advanced Capitalist countries has rather gone northwards. Only after the great recession has struck us do we find that the this assertion is empirically flawed. The rate of profit of core manufacturing companies in the West has drastically fallen - which was often masked by Financialization- and wage rate in Advanced Capitalist countries ,especially USA and UK, has not only stagnated but at times has gone southwards. Lured by Neo-liberalist and utilitarian doctrine the Author has failed to appreciate the prognosis of Marx about the dynamics of Capitalism. He has committed a great blunder - often evident in Western Intelligentsia - of identifying Marxism with Soviet Totalitarianism.

I hope the author may consider rewriting this book in the light of the Great Recession.

If you need a comprehensive and condense view of Marxism, you must pick Harvey's A Comapnion to Marx's Capital.

Profile Image for Lea.
852 reviews177 followers
July 26, 2022
It's a very good introduction to Marx and Marxism, but very short, as the title says. I thought his explanation of Hegel was really clear and I will read Singer's short introduction to Hegel as well, as I never understood it before and Singer, as always, writes very clear and is easy to understand.

My main criticism is that I found Singer's arguments against Marx at the end of the book very lacking and a bit too harsh.
Profile Image for محمد شکری.
171 reviews136 followers
April 10, 2017
نسبت به حجم 140 صفحه ای آن، کتاب بسیار خوبی است: کتابی از سری «مقدمه بسیار کوتاه» آکسفورد که نشر ماهی کمر به ترجمه آنها بسته است
لب کلام نویسنده این است که مارکس را باید به عنوان یک فیلسوف منتقد مهم دانست، اما به عنوان یک دانشمند علم اقتصاد که با علمی دانستن نظریه خود پیشگویی هم کرده است نباید به او دل بست. این رویکرد را بسیاری به مارکس دارند. به عبارت دیگر، جنبه سلبی آثار مارکس (تحلیل اقتصاد سرمایه داری و روابط اجتماعی برآمده از آن)، بسیار بسیار مهم تر از از جنبه ایجابی آنها (پیش بینی و تجویز انقلابهای کارگری و تاسیس جامعه کمونیستی) است

سینگر درتبیین نظریه مارکس، از نقد دین تا نقد اقتصاد و اخلاق سرمایه داری و از هگلی بودن تا هگلی ماندن و شرح کلیت مارکسیسم تا تبیین برخی موارد جزئی در اندیشه مارکس موفق است. شاید با تمامی شروح و انتقادات او نتوان همدل بود اما بی شک کتاب او برای شروع آشنایی با مارکس از هر نظر کتاب خوبی است
Profile Image for Hrishabh Chaudhary.
37 reviews37 followers
September 10, 2019
A book about Marx and Marxism, more about Marx than Marxism. OK, OK, you got that from the title, I just wanted to underscore the point that the book is a cross between a short biography and an introduction to Marxism, which I think is the winning-point for this book; it doesn’t bore you with awful lot personal life details or overwhelm you with too much political and economic stuff. Rather it starts with a brief account of Marx’s life and impact of his ideas, and goes on to trace genesis of Marx’s philosophical ideas. This, I think, is a good approach for ‘A Very Short Introduction’.

I remember how helpless one of my college professors looked when he tried to expose evils of capitalism and make our ignorant class appreciate the beauty of independent labor( of course, with me as the most ignorant one). I now realize that he had no chance of success. In his mind he was thinking of how incessant competition and monetary evaluation have alienated humans from their essence; in our mind we were thinking of how he was alienating us from the fun time we could have had instead of listening to his philosophy of life (which was not even in the syllabus!). To grasp the core of Marx’s -and for that matter anyone’s- thought, you ought to know the influences which led him to arrive at his conclusions and this is where Singer focuses.

The reader learns about Hegel’s theory of alienation and subsequent reinterpretations by Bauer and Feuerbach, who used it against religion, and then by Marx, who replaced religion with money as the alienating force.

Money, Marx says, is the universal, self-contained 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 the men’s labor and life, and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it.

This is the first of the two tenets of Marxism. The second is Materialist Theory of History:

The materialist conception of history is a theory of world history in which practical human activity, rather than thought, plays the crucial role.

This is where Marx inverts the theory of Hegel (in a sense).The second half of the book is mostly devoted to economic and political theories of Marx, based on the above mentioned ideas, and his criticism of capitalism. Although Marx believed his theories to be scientific, there are plenty of contradictions and historical evidence against them, but the significance of Marx’s theories, author says, lies not in their accuracy but in the picture they paint.

It is a work of art, of philosophical reflection and of social polemic, all in one, and it has the merits and defects of all three of these forms of writing. It is a painting of capitalism, not a photograph.

After all that I have written 3 stars appear to be inconsistent with the review, because although when I mouse-over the 3rd star, the pop-up description says, ‘I liked it’, it doesn’t give a very good impression of the book, so make it a 3.6.

It’s not the book, it’s me. :)
Profile Image for Phil.
103 reviews58 followers
April 27, 2021
A 2018 post on the Leiter Report, “the world's most popular philosophy blog, since 2003,” bears the amusingly aggressive title ��Peter Singer's Understanding of Marx is Incompetent But Certainly Reveals Him To Be a Right-Wing Apologist For Capitalism.” I adore Brian Leiter. I really do. He is one of the few voices of reason in a profoundly unreasonable Internet landscape. However, his reaction to Singer’s book on Marx is outrageously hyperbolic. To call Singer—who calls himself a Leftist and who might best be described as advocating for social democracy—a right-winger is silly enough. To indict Singer’s reading of the materialist conception of history as “essentially a story of alienation” on the grounds that he “never read G.A. Cohen's 1977 book,” Karl Marx’s Theory of History (actually 1978) or that “ if he did, he didn't understand it” is just absurd—especially considering not only that there is a published exchange between Singer and Cohen about that very book, but also that Singer credits Cohen for reading a draft of his own book and enabling him to “correct several errors.” Whatever the defects of Singer’s book—and there are several—failing to understand G.A. Cohen is not one of them.

Although it is marketed as a Very Short Introduction, Singer’s book is, in fact, a piece of scholarship in its own right insofar as it proposes a novel interpretation of Marx, and in particular of the materialist conception of history. This interpretation locates the driving force of Marx’s historical theory in the Hegelian concept of alienation. On Singer’s reading of Hegel, mind or spirit (Geist) is “inherently universal”; individualized minds—your mind, my mind—are merely instantiations of one and the same overarching entity. Mind is alienated from itself when individuals, who are manifestations of the same universal mind, see each other as “something foreign, hostile, and external to themselves” instead of seeing each other as “part of the same great whole.” As long as mind is alienated from itself in this way, it encounters itself as an obstacle. It cannot fully develop its inherent tendency toward consciousness of its own freedom. Human history, as Hegel says in the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) is “none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom,” the overcoming of alienation.

On Singer’s reading, the materialist conception of history must be understood as one of the various attempts by the Young Hegelians at “bringing Hegel down to earth” by rewriting his theory of history “in terms of the real world instead of the mysterious world of mind.” Human history is not the story of an abstract universal mind progressing toward the consciousness of freedom, but is instead the story of concrete human beings progressing toward liberation through self-understanding. However, where other Young Hegelians attributed human alienation to religion, Marx locates them instead in economic life. As Marx writes in On the Jewish Question (1843), “Money is the alienated essence of man’s labour and life, and this alien essence dominates him as he worships it. It is money that alienates human beings from each other and poses a barrier to their freedom. Accordingly, liberation cannot be achieved, as the Young Hegelians believed, through philosophical critique alone. Only political action can transform concrete economic circumstances.

But what is to emerge from this transformation? Here again, the concept of alienation plays a key role. According to Marx, the economic forces to which human beings are subject in capitalist society and that appear as “alien and outside them” are, in fact, nothing more than their own productive powers. Future socialist society will abolish private property and regulate production in such a way that human beings will “regain control of exchange, production and the mode of their mutual relationships,” thus putting an end to their alienated state. In Singer’s view, this future socialist society is not merely a predictable outcome based on facts about human needs and about the miserable conditions imposed on the majority by capitalist society. Instead, it is a teleological “goal of world history” that instantiates the “real nature of human beings.” Accordingly, the materialist conception of history must be regarded as a philosophical outlook. It cannot be understood as “a modern scientific account of how economic changes lead to changes in other areas of society.”

Singer appeals to the same concept of alienation to illuminate Marx’s economic work. The capitalist economic system is not “natural and inevitable,” but is rather “an alienated form of life.” It forces workers to sell their labour—the very essence of their humanity—to another to secure their continued existence. The specific form of the worker’s exploitation under capitalism is captured by what Engels called Marx’s “discovery of surplus value.” The capitalist pays for “objectified labour,” i.e., for a definite amount of labour-power, but receives “living labour,” i.e., an indefinite productive power. The capitalist’s game consists in extracting from living labour more value than the cost of objectified labour, often at great cost to the worker. Despite the centrality of Marx’s economics to his project, however, Singer maintains that his economic doctrine “does not stand up to scientific probing.” Marx’s Capital (1867) is unconvincing as “a contribution to the science of economics.” Instead, it should be read as “a picture of human alienation”—as “a work of art, of philosophical reflection and of social polemic.”

As noted above, Singer’s book has several defects. These pertain especially to the various critical comments scattered throughout. I am certainly not saying that he is wrong on all counts. For instance, I don’t know enough to judge Singer’s negative assessment of Marx’s economic doctrines, but I know that several of them are criticized by contemporary economists. However, his indictment of Marx’s view of human nature on the grounds that the Soviet Union never succeeded in “abolishing the distinction between ruler and ruled” is ridiculous. However exaggerated I might find Leiter’s above-quoted attack on Singer, he is right that this is “the kind of stuff one expects on Breitbart, not from an alleged scholar and philosopher.” I am also inclined to agree with Leiter about Singer’s dismissal of the materialist conception of history as unscientific. As per G.A. Cohen's masterful reconstruction in Karl Marx's Theory of History and History, Labour, and Freedom (1988), it seems to me that it is best interpreted as a set of perfectly respectable and at least plausible set of empirical hypotheses, not as the kind of metaphysical extravaganza Singer takes it to be. A couple of egregious comments aside, though, Singer presents a mostly well-supported and admirably accessible little book, and while I may disagree on certain points, it is well worth reading for anyone interested in Marx.
Profile Image for Peiman.
283 reviews49 followers
July 2, 2022
کتاب خیلی اطلاعات خوب و مختصر و مفیدی راجع به مارکس داره و کمی در مورد کمونیسم صحبت میکنه. اگه حوصله تون سر میره برای خوندن کل کتاب پیشنهاد میکنم فصل آخر به اسم ارزیابی رو بخونید
Profile Image for Z. F..
297 reviews94 followers
January 27, 2022
Four stars because this does provide a short and easily-graspable summary of Marx's biography, intellectual development, major works, and key ideas, exactly as advertised. Singer gives welcome context to most of the common terms and concepts I've come across in leftist discussions about Marx online, most notably—for me—the relationship between his ideas and Hegel's, as well as some of the intimidating economics stuff. (Though I am starting to fear that I'll never get my head around what "dialectics" actually means.) Singer's writing is lucid and proceeds in a sensible, linear manner, and I feel more confident approaching Marx's own work and discussing his ideas having read this.

In a less charitable mood I might dock another star for the fact that Singer is not himself a Marxist thinker, and can't resist editorializing—inappropriately, I think—whenever he feels that Marx is, well, off the mark. ("In this concluding section I shall state my view of which elements of Marx's thought remain valuable, and which need to be revised or scrapped.") Opinions will differ about what sort of author should handle political topics in a series like this, but even if the goal here is "objectivity" Singer pretty obviously fails. All the more so given that his post-Cold War, pre-Great Recession optimism about shrinking income gaps and stable neoliberal economies (this was published in 2001) has since proven every bit as wishful and shortsighted as he accuses Marx of being.

Even so, this was an undeniably helpful book which I'd recommend to discerning readers who, like me, are mostly looking for a launchpad into more advanced theoretical readings anyway. A much better overall experience than Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction , even if that one was by an actual anarchist.

I didn't know who Peter Singer was when I picked up this book, which I selected based on the general reputation of the Very Short Introductions series. I've since learned that Singer is some sort of utilitarian eugenicist(?) and seems like a pretty skeevy guy to say the least. Leaving my review as-is for posterity, but I want to say that I do not endorse Singer himself or his work.
Profile Image for Matt.
219 reviews
September 11, 2014
A great book. A lucid introduction to Marx. Easy to read and well structured.

Here are my reading notes.

# To Remember

- A lot of Marx's rhetoric comes from Hegel (a dialectic leading to historical progress)
- Marx was mostly wrong on his economic predictions
- He is to be treated as a philosopher more than an economist if we are to get value out of his thought
- For him, the really real was the economic powers that shape our societies

# Concepts

## Surplus Value

In classical economics, the capitalist hiring workers in a competitive market would have to pay their workers the exact same amount as the value they are getting from their work. But Marx did not see this: he saw capitalists exploiting workers and paying them the bare minimum. How could capitalists extract more value than the value given by each worker? The explanation uses the concept of surplus value.

Surplus value, according to Marx, is created by the capitalist when the value extracted from the worker is higher than the wage paid. This can happen when workers sell their capacity to work (paid per hour) rather than their output. If the workers are not in a position to bargain for a higher wage, then the capitalist pockets the difference between the output value and the wage paid.

## Dialectical Materialism

Marx never used that phrase but it came to denote his vision of history. He was a materialist: he held the view that all reality can be explained by matter and interactions of matter with matter. There is no other "substance".

The dialectical part comes in highly influenced by Hegel. Marx thought history progressed towards a state where humans would know absolute freedom—where self-contradictory capitalism would be replaced by a more consistent economic system.

## Alienated Labor

Marx calls labor alienated when the worker produces something for somebody else. The product of the work is taken away from workers. The work is considered a toil—there's no pride in it. And the relationship among workers is economic, not human.

Alienated labor is key to why Marx thinks capitalism is self-contradictory.

# Some Quotes

> More generally, Hegel and other German philosophers of the idealist school began from such conceptions as Spirit, Mind, God, the Absolute, the Infinite, and so on, treating these as ultimately real, and regarding ordinary humans and animals, tables, sticks and stones, and the rest of the finite, material world as a limited, imperfect expression of the spiritual world. Feuerbach again reversed this, insisting that philosophy must begin with the finite, material world. Thought does not precede existence, existence precedes thought.

> The final sentence points the way forward. First the Young Hegelians, including Bauer and Feuerbach, see religion as the alienated human essence, and seek to end this alienation by their critical studies of Christianity. Then Feuerbach goes beyond religion, arguing that any philosophy which concentrates on the mental rather than the material side of human nature is a form of alienation. Now Marx insists that it is neither religion nor philosophy, but money that is the barrier to human freedom. The obvious next step is a critical study of economics. This Marx now begins.

> That, in brief, is Marx’s first critique of economics. Since in his view it is economic life rather than Mind or consciousness that is ultimately real, this critique is his account of what is really wrong with the present condition of humanity. The next question is: What can be done about it?

> The solution is the abolition of wages, alienated labour, and private property in one blow. In a word, communism. Marx introduces communism in terms befitting the closing chapter of a Hegelian epic: "Communism… is the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man; it is the true resolution of the conflict between existence and essence, objectification and self-affirmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. It is the riddle of history solved and knows itself as this solution."

> These are the essential points of ‘the first Marxism’. It is manifestly not a scientific enterprise in the sense in which we understand science today. Its theories are not derived from detailed factual studies, or subjected to controlled tests or observations.
The first Marxism is more down to earth than Hegel’s philosophy of history, but it is a speculative philosophy of history rather than a scientific study. The aim of world history is human freedom. Human beings are not now free, for they are unable to organize the world so as to satisfy their needs and develop their human capacities. Private property, though a human creation, dominates and enslaves human beings. Ultimate liberation, however, is not in doubt; it is philosophically necessary. The immediate task of revolutionary theory is to understand in what way the present situation is a stage in the dialectical progress to liberation. Then it will be possible to encourage the movements that will end the present stage, ushering in the new age of freedom.

> The eleventh thesis on Feuerbach is engraved on Marx’s tombstone in Highgate Cemetery. It reads: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is, to change it’ (T 158). This is generally read as a statement to the effect that philosophy is unimportant; revolutionary activity is what matters. It means nothing of the sort. What Marx is saying is that the problems of philosophy cannot be solved by passive interpretation of the world as it is, but only by remoulding the world to resolve the philosophical contradictions inherent in it. It is to solve philosophical problems that we must change the world.

> What is important is that Marx’s theory of history is a vision of human beings in a state of alienation. Human beings cannot be free if they are subject to forces that determine their thoughts, their ideas, their very nature as human beings. The materialist conception of history tells us that human beings are totally subject to forces they do not understand and cannot control. Moreover the materialist conception of history tells us that these forces are not supernatural tyrants, for ever above and beyond human control, but the productive powers of human beings themselves. Human productive powers, instead of serving human beings, appear to them as alien and hostile forces. The description of this state of alienation is the materialist conception of history.

> as Engels put it in his graveside speech: ‘mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.’ But if politics, science, art, and religion, once they come into existence, have as much effect on the productive forces as the productive forces have on them, the fact that mankind must eat first and can only pursue politics afterwards is of historical interest only; it has no continuing causal importance.

> The references to ‘mankind’s destiny’ and to England as ‘the unconscious tool of history’ imply that history moves in a purposive way towards some goal. (The whole paragraph is reminiscent of Hegel’s account of how ‘the cunning of reason’ uses unsuspecting individuals to work its purposes in history.)
Marx’s idea of the goal of world history was, of course, different from Hegel’s. He replaced the liberation of Mind by the liberation of real human beings. The development of Mind through various forms of consciousness to final self-knowledge was replaced by the development of human productive forces, by which human beings free themselves from the tyranny of nature and fashion the world after their own plans. But for Marx the progress of human productive forces is no less necessary, and no less progress towards a goal, than the progress of Mind towards self-knowledge is for Hegel.

> If this interpretation is correct the materialist theory of history is no ordinary causal theory. Few historians – or philosophers for that matter – now see any purpose or goal in history. They do not explain history as the necessary path to anywhere. They explain it by showing how one set of events brought about another. Marx, in contrast, saw history as the progress of the real nature of human beings, that is, human beings satisfying their wants and exerting their control over nature by their productive activities. The materialist conception of history was not conceived as a modern scientific account of how economic changes lead to changes in other areas of society. It was conceived as an explanation of history which points to the real forces operating in it, and the goal to which these forces are heading.
That is why, while recognizing the effect of politics, law, and ideas on the productive forces, Marx was in no doubt that the development of the productive forces determines everything else. This also makes sense of Marx’s dedication to the cause of the working class. Marx was acting as the tool – a fully conscious tool – of history. The productive forces always finally assert themselves, but they do so through the actions of individual humans who may or may not be conscious of the role they are playing in history.

> In a society based on the production of commodities there is, Marx says, a ‘mystical veil’ over these ‘life-processes of society’ which would not exist if we produced ‘as freely associated men’, consciously regulating our production in a planned way. Then the value of a product would be its use-value, the extent to which it satisfies our desires. Classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo lifted the veil far enough to see that the value of a product (i.e. its exchange-value) represents the labour-time it took to produce it; but they took this as a law of nature, a self-evident necessary truth. On the contrary, says Marx, it bears the stamp of a society ‘in which the process of production has the mastery over man, instead of being controlled by him’.

> The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which is determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases.

> Marx, Engels, and later Marxists treat Capital as a contribution to the science of economics. Taken in this way it is open to several objections. For instance, Marx asserts that all profit arises from the extraction of surplus-value from living labour; machines, raw materials, and other forms of capital cannot generate profit, though they can increase the amount of surplus-value extracted. This seems obviously wrong. Future capitalists will not find their profits drying up as they dismiss the last workers from their newly automated factories. Many of Marx’s other theories have been refuted by events: the theory that wages will always tend downwards to the subsistence level of the workers; the theory of the falling rate of profit; the theory that under capitalism economic crises will become more and more severe; the theory that capitalism requires an ‘industrial reserve army’ of paupers; and the theory that capitalism will force more and more people down into the working class.

> It is a picture of human alienation, writ large as the dominance of past labour, or capital, over living labour. The value of the picture lies in its capacity to lead us to see its subject in a radically new way. It is a work of art, of philosophical reflection and of social polemic, all in one, and it has the merits and the defects of all three of these forms of writing. It is a painting of capitalism, not a photograph.

> mistaken that one can only wonder why anyone sympathetic to Marx would attempt to argue that his greatness lies in the scientific aspects of his work. Judged by the standards of Marx’s time, the gap between rich and poor has narrowed dramatically throughout the industrialized world. Though the gap has widened again in the last decade of the twentieth century, it is still nothing like what it was during the nineteenth century. This is largely because real wages have risen. Factory workers today earn considerably more than they need in order to remain alive and reproducing. The rate of profit has not gone into a steady decline. Capitalism has gone through several crises, but nowhere has it collapsed as a result of its alleged internal contradictions. Proletarian revolutions have broken out in the less developed nations, rather than the more developed ones.

> because we are not subject to deliberate interference by other humans, Marx says we are not free because we do not control our own society.

> The evidence is not yet all in; but we have enough to reach the provisional judgement that it will not be as easy as Marx thought to bring the conflicting interests of human beings into harmony.

> The tragedy of Marxism is that a century after Marx wrote these words, our experience of the rule of workers in several different countries bears out Bakunin’s objections, rather than Marx’s replies. Marx saw that capitalism is a wasteful, irrational system, a system which controls us when we should be controlling it. That insight is still valid; but we can now see that the construction of a free and equal society is a more difficult task than Marx realized.
Profile Image for Ehsan.
241 reviews81 followers
July 31, 2020
اشاراتی چند به کلیت آنچه که مارکس می‌گوید. هرچند نگاهیست گذرا و زودگذر اما قابل فهم. آشنایی مناسبی با کلیت فکری مارکس می‌دهد.
اما پرسش‌هایی که طرح می‌کند و ایراداتی که سینگر به مارکس وارد می‌داند، اغلب از ضعف فهم او یا اشتباهاتش در درک آن چه مارکس می‌گوید ناشی می‌شود.
و شاید بتوان بزرگترین ضعف این کتاب -و بزرگترین اشتباه تحلیلی سینگر- را رای قاطعی دانست که به غلط از آب در آمدن پیش‌بینی‌های مارکس می‌دهد.
Profile Image for Aron.
129 reviews19 followers
December 12, 2010
This is a highly readable introduction to Marx written by a philosopher who generally writes highly readable philosophical tracts.

As others have noted Singer too easily dismisses Marx contribution to economic theory. Classical economists appalling lack of success as "scientists" have once again been aired out in our most recent "crisis of capitalism." On the other hand, critics of classical economics such as Steve Keen, whose economic models accurately predicted the financial crisis, acknowledge their indebtedness to Marx' economic theories.

Aside from that, Singer hits just the right note by pointing out that Marx' enduring contribution is his ideas on freedom and his critique of capitalism as a social organization. Singer also is correct in emphasizing how Marx' belief in material dialectics and the inevitability of Communism inadvertently led to the militant utopian, authoritarian "communist" movements of the 20th century.

Be that as it may, the disdain for Marx in the US is just one more sign of the intellectual poverty prevalent in US culture. Singer is a good antidote.
Profile Image for Mahdi Ghasemi.
63 reviews15 followers
May 23, 2020
گرچه در شخصیت مارکس رگه ای از خودمحوری و آمریت به چشم می خورد ، اما به احتمال زیاد مارکس از اقتداری که لنین و استالین تحت لوای نام او برای خود دست و پا کردند به وحشت می افتاد. ( مارکس احتمالا در همان ابتدای تصفیه ها سر به نیست می شد ).
از کتاب

یک کتابِ کوچک و صد و اندی صفحه ای اما مفید برای دوستانی که قصدِ شناخت افکار و آثار مارکس را دارند. این دسته کتاب ها برای شناخت اجمالی موضوع مورد نظر ؛ و هم مطلوبه آن اراده ای ست معطوف به شناخت گسترده و پردامنه تر.
نقطه عطف کتاب تعریفِ بسیاری از اصطلاحات فلسفی و اقتصادیِ مارکس بود که نویسنده با مثال های روشنی به خوبی مخاطب را در آستانه درک قرار میدهد. با این حال کتاب از نظرهای انتقادی مولف ( پیتر سینگر ، فیلسوف مشهور قرن حاضر ) تهی نیست اما نه تند و افراطی.
در مواجهه با فلاسفی چون کارل مارکس که اصطلاحات فلسفی و اقتصادی اش در هم می آمیزند و همین ها کلیدهای درک عمق افکار اوست ، نمی توان ( به عقیده من ) مستقیم سراغ آثار خودِ مارکس رفت. بنابراین با این قبیل کتاب ها - گرچه زمان بیشتری لازم باشد - بهتر است که آغاز کنیم تا دچار فهم و درک غلط و شتابزده ای نشویم.

سوم خرداد نود و نه
Profile Image for Blair Hodges .
508 reviews76 followers
August 11, 2020
A readable, clear, concise overview of the development of Marx's thought. Singer discusses the many ways it is no longer relevant, but also includes a few fascinating and specific ideas about how it's still relevant today.
Profile Image for Dimebag.
76 reviews43 followers
April 17, 2021
"Marx did not just predict that capitalism would be overthrown and replaced by communism. He judged the change is desirable."

The prophetic nature of the aforesaid brief statement is evidently dangerous, furthermore, Marx claimed that his philosophy is 'scientific' as Hegel who claimed his philosophy 'scientific' before him. Which led Lenin among others to claim that "Marxism is a scientific system, free from any ethical judgements or postulates." Whereas Marx's favorite motto was 'De omnibus dubitandum' - 'You must have doubts about everything', but his flock thought otherwise and communism remained mostly unquestioned wherever it reigned and in some parts of the world it still is.

The undermining or the misinterpretation or lack of understanding of the flexible human nature contributed to the flaw in his theories. Additionally, Marx's failure to foresee or the lack of appreciation that his theories could mutate and lead to brutal authoritarian regimes is evident if you look at history.

His understanding or prediction if you will was that the industrialized nations will first embrace communism and then the rest of the world would adopt or follow the footsteps of the industrialized nations. In reality the opposite was true and again his 'prophecy' was not fulfilled.

Of course Karl Marx exposed the nature of the brutal capitalist system during his time and the time preceding his time, and it's a job well done. And also, Marx's emphasis on human freedom and attack on alienation was highly essential at the time.

Five stars because Peter Singer laid out Marx's ideas quite eloquently and his analysis/summation of Marx's theories is scholarly.
Profile Image for Vance Dubberly.
49 reviews1 follower
December 2, 2013
I guess I was expecting an introduction to Marxism, this is definitely no such book. The author spends almost as much time on his own opinions of Marxism as he does on Marx's philosophy. The book is a short crappy biography of Karl Marx that touches on his ideas only long enough to dismiss them as out of date and irrelevant. I expect better from this series. This book will give neither the curious reader, the anti-Marxist or pro-Marxist anything to chew on. Don't waste your time.
Profile Image for ali ammari.
108 reviews
July 10, 2017
من باب آشنایی اجمالی با متفکری که به قول روژه گارودی هرکس خواه نا خواه باید تکلیف خودش را با او روشن کند، بسیار کتاب خوبی است، سینگر نشان میدهد که چرا مارکسِ دانشمند پیشگوی تاریخ و اقتصاد در مقام تجویز، چندان اعتباری برای امروز ندارد و در عین حال متفکری که بصیرت هایش در باب فهم ماهیت نظام سرمایه‌داری، درک عمیقش از مفهوم آزادی و از خود بیگانگی انسان امروز، در مقام متفکری انتقادی، تا چه میزان دوران سازو شگرف بوده است.
Profile Image for Sumit Ghosh.
61 reviews15 followers
February 21, 2021
Peter Singer does it again!!

This is the second book from the Very Short Introduction series by Peter Singer I read, the first one was on Hegel, and both of them live up to the challenge of summarizing these giants without losing the essence of their ideas. It's a very short book, you can complete it in one sitting, so highly recommended for anyone and everyone.
Profile Image for Mohamed al-Jamri.
174 reviews116 followers
March 12, 2016
مقدمات قصيرة جدا سلسلة كتب متوسطة الحجم (مئة إلى مئتين صفحة) من اوكسفورد من تأليف متخصصين ولكنها موجهة نحو الجمهور العام - الكتب مبسطة والمفروض أي شخص يقدر يقراها بسهولة.

تتناول السلسلة موضوعات كثيرة جدا مثل التاريخ والفلسفة والاديان والشخصيات والمصطلحات السياسية وموضوعات أخرى كثيرة. حاليا هناك ثلاث مئة وتسعين كتابا في السلسلة ويتوقع اضافة ثلاثين كتاب اخر السنة القادمة.

طريقة الكتابة جميلة جدا تجعل القراءة ممتعة حتى النهاية. مثلا حينما قرأت الكتاب عن الفيلسوف الألماني المعروف ماركس تعرفت على ضروف حياته أولا ومن ثم تمت مناقشة أفكاره ومؤلفاته والصدى الذي كان لها وبعد ذلك تم تقييمها ونقدها. كل ذلك في أقل من مئتين صفحة.

يوجد هناك تورنت به حوالي مئة وسبعين كتاب من هذه السلسلة. وتستطيعون مشاهدة قائمة بأسماء جميع الكتب في ويكيبيديا تحت عنوان: Very Short Introductions
September 19, 2020
ব্যক্তি কার্ল মার্কসকে নিয়ে সংক্ষিপ্ত পরিসরে আলোচনাসহ মার্কসীয় তত্ত্বসমূহ নিয়ে আলোচনা করেছেন প্রখ্যাত অর্থনীতিবিদ পিটার সিঙ্গার। ইংরেজিতে অত্যাধিক দখল না থাকলে এই বইটি পড়ার চেষ্টা ব্যহত হওয়ার সম্ভাবনা প্রবল। একেই মার্কসের তত্ত্ব জটিল, উপরন্তু পিটার সিঙ্গারের লেখা বইটিকে জটিলতর করে তুলেছে। পুরো বইয়ের মধ্যে শেষের অধ্যায়টি ভালো লেগেছে। সেখানে আজকের যুগে মার্কস প্রাসঙ্গিক কিনা তা ব্যাখা করতে চেয়েছেন পিট��র সিঙ্গার।

সংক্ষেপে মার্কস নিয়ে জানতে পড়া যায় ( অবশ্যই কঠিন ইংরেজি হজমের ক্ষমতা থাকলে)।
Profile Image for Quentin Crisp.
Author 48 books178 followers
July 7, 2016
This was pretty good, except that Singer's treatment of Hegel seemed to me superficial and wrong-headed. Anyway, of the Very Short Introduction series that I've read so far, this is the one most like a satisfying work in its own right.
Profile Image for Jessica.
21 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2021
A short and succinct introduction to Marx that would benefit from some previous familiarity with philosophy, if not history. However, still relatively approachable for a beginner reader and well structured. Singer tells the story of Marx, as a philosopher, rather than a scientist and economist. He struck a nice balance between retelling his life and delving into theory. A bit unbalanced on the early years and the Hegel interpretation, which may be arguably more relevant to a historian - but felt I wanted more theory, especially on his later and most famous works.

Granted this book was written a while ago, and no one could have supposed this newer and later form of capitalism that has since emerged. It's hard to take away from this book a renewed belief in the practicality and realism of Marx's Communist ideal (and perhaps this is a bias of Singer's). However, I did come out of this with a deeper appreciation and understanding of Marx and what he truly stood for (blighted by the authoritarian regimes that followed, surely). More interestingly, the book leads me to question some dominant narratives around the liberal conception of freedom that we've adopted today. And maybe just intrinsic human goodness and togetherness, which I'll admit that I'm not as much of a romantic as Marx on this belief.

I have been raised in a society where capitalism and a focus on self (greed, ego, and money) has presided over other social and economic structures. It's hard to see anything else be practical unless there is a fundamental shift in the way humans re-evaluate their self-interest. I think we can all agree that there are seismic issues surrounding capitalism, but none that have since led to to its self demise, and rarely any that have proven Marx's suppositions true thus far. Unfortunately or not.

Important Concepts
#Materialist conception of history (state of alienation)
#Labour as a commodity and surplus value/objectified labour (exchange value vs real value); real labour vs wage labour
#Productive forces (foundation of the superstructure; economic base and proletariat governs superstructure)
Profile Image for Suppalerk Hello.
26 reviews1 follower
May 13, 2019
เพียงเพราะข้อสรุปผิด มิได้หมายความว่าระหว่างทางเขาไม่พบ “คุณค่า” อะไรเลย

1) ทฤษฎีที่ว่าเศรษฐกิจวัตถุของเรา คือปัจจัยสำคัญที่ก่อรูปความเชื่อ ศาสนา และการเมือง ฯลฯ ของเราขึ้นมา

2) ปรัชญาเฮเกลที่ตระหนักถึง “สิ่งแปลกแยก” ที่เราสร้างขึ้นเอง แต่กลับมาครอบ มาควบคุมเราเสียเอง

3) ปัญหารากฐานของสังคมที่ยังไม่มีใครแก้ได้ คือเรื่องความขัดแย้งระหว่างผลประโยชน์ของ “ปัจเจก” กับ “ส่วนรวม”

4) ปัญหาเรื่อง “เสรีภาพ” ที่บ่อยครั้งไม่นำไปสู่ผลลัพธ์ที่พึงปรารถนาของใครเลย

ในฐานะ a very short introduction นี่เป็นหนังสือที่ดีมากเล่มหนึ่งเลย
Profile Image for Pooya Khandel.
15 reviews4 followers
March 26, 2020
Short introduction, but a good representation of Marx's ideas in summary. I found it useful to find a general understanding of Marx's philosophical thesis based on alienation and his theory of history. The only point to mention, however, is that the critics on Marx's predictions could be more compelling if numbers and statistics were provided.
Profile Image for Daphne.
845 reviews13 followers
July 18, 2021
Kind of dense, but still very readable and fairly easy to understand. I didn't know much about Marx prior to reading this so I found this to be super interesting. Marxism (at least, the original kind) is very different than I thought! I definitely want to read more books in this series on different topics.
Profile Image for Summer SSS.
220 reviews24 followers
December 20, 2021
Hard to judge an introductory book when you know nothing about the subject, but I feel throughly introduced. This book feels like your favourite professor giving a great lecture, occasionally Singer notes his own thoughts but in a helpful, removed way. Would reread, probably in audio format.
Profile Image for Todd Wright.
100 reviews
August 19, 2018
A Very Short Summary- Marx was a philosopher not an economist. So far, Marx has been wrong in most of his predictions. Marx is still very influential.
53 reviews5 followers
March 23, 2019
مفيد للتعرف علي افكار ماركس لبدء قراءات اكثر تعمقا للمهتمين و كافي لمن اراد الرؤية العامة
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