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Marx and the Marxists: The Ambiguous Legacy by Sidney Hook (2011-08-10)

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  • By Steven H Propp on January 26, 2012

    Sidney Hook (1902-1989) was an American Pragmatist philosopher and well-known secular humanist.Although a lifelong democratic socialist and originally an enthusiastic proponent of Marxism, the Stalinist "Great Purge" turned him against Russian socialism, and he actually became a prominent anti-Communist during the 1950s.The first half of this 1955 book is expository, while the second half consists of brief readings from Marx, Engels, Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, etc.He notes in his evaluation that Marx's ideas "were not rigorously formulated," and that they contained a mixture of the true, the vague, and the false. (Pg. 35)In the chapter on Lenin, he observes that Communist conspirators are inspired by a "resolute fanaticism" to do what they regard as the work of History. (Pg. 87) He opines that they regard human compassion as "a sign of weakness and hypocrisy," and that they are rarely moved by argument or evidence.He notes that Socialism as a philosophy is more inclusive that the theories of Marx and Marxism alone, and that modern Socialism is a fusion of the ideas of modern democracy and modern scientific intelligence. (Pg. 125) He concludes his exposition by observing that "Each reader must therefore interpret the legacy of Marx and Marxists for himself... The sole aim of this study has been to aid him in making a wise decision." (Pg. 130)Hook's book is still a useful summary and critical analysis of Marx, Marxism, and its later developments.

  • By Steven Peterson on April 1, 2010

    For a person interested in a "quick and dirty" introduction to a wide range of Marxist theorists, this book is a nice, accessible entry into that world.Part I lays out, in Sidney Hook's words, key aspects of Marxist theory. The first segment focuses on Marx' contributions; the second part evaluates those contributions; part three considers what are called "Orthodix Marxists" (such as Kautsky and Plekhanov); the fourth part examines "revisionists" such as Bernstein; part five explores Lenin's work; Part 6 looks at Trotsky; part 8 is a consideration of Stalin; the ninth part summarizes some more recent Marxist work.The second main section of the book provides excerpts from the various thinkers, so that the reader can get a sense of their writing "first hand," in the theorists' own words.Overall, an older work, but one that provides a straightforward introduction to many thinkers' work within the Marxist tradition.


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