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    Cohen, Marx, and the primacy thesis

    Ruben, David (1981) Cohen, Marx, and the primacy thesis. British Journal of Political Science 11 (2), pp. 227-234. ISSN 0007-1234.

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    As Jon Elster remarked in an earlier review, G. A. Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence ‘sets a new standard for Marxist philosophy’. In one way, the praise is too faint. Existing paradigms of continental Marxist philosophy are marred by an absence of careful definition, clear and precise argumentation, and the sort of sustained discussion that is committed to the teasing out of the intellectual difficulties of the author's own position – in short, marred by an absence of those virtues in the attainment of which the philosophy practised in Britain, the United States, and the Scandinavian countries on the whole excels. Cohen would, presumably, agree that this has nothing intrinsically to do with Marx, or Marxism, but in the main arises from the fortuitous coupling of Marxism with continental philosophical fashions. If this sounds like some sort of cultural chauvinism, it also happens to be the truth. So the ‘new’ standards for Marxist philosophy, then, are only the same standards by which it is right to judge all philosophy, wherever it is written, and which any philosophy must pass in order to be accounted good. What is perhaps less faint praise of Cohen is to say that his book is good philosophy (without the qualifying adjective ‘Marxist’). It is an ingenious and imaginative volume, in which precision and detailed attention to argument count for everything.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2018 10:23
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:39


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