LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
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 Relativity) are inherently difficult and not to be understood without a lot of work. Thus I picked up Sowell's Marxism. I hoped it might either save me from reading Marx or might make him more comprehensible next time I tried. I knew from other books by Sowell that he is an elegant writer, and that though he is now pro-free market, he once was himself a Marxist. It's evident reading this book that Sowell's reading of Marxist literature is exhaustive and that he spent decades thinking through the ideas of Marx. That doesn't mean all the ideas within this book are easy to digest, but that's not the fault of Sowell. Three-quarters of the book are a kind of "Marxism 101 for Dummies" that is free of any sniping or arguments--they're just an attempt to help people understand what Marxism is, and what it isn't, concisely, in lucid prose, with generous quoting from Marx and Engels--duly cited--and with summaries at the end of each chapter. I'm sure some Marxists would disagree with some of his interpretations of text--just as Orthodox, Catholics, Methodists and Baptists would disagree over the Bible despite all being Christians. But I was impressed by Sowell's tone in the explanatory chapters--measured, reasonable, objective. Quite unlike the rather tendentious, even acid Sowell I've found in his political columns. I bet if you gave the text of the explanatory chapters to a Marxist, he might disagree with some points, but he wouldn't guess this was by an opponent of Marx. And Sowell is careful to set before the reader Marx's influences from Hegel to Adam Smith, the differences between Marx and other contemporary socialists and his successors such as Lenin. Plenty of the things I learned about Marx's beliefs surprised me. (For instance, Marx supported religious freedom. He did not support banning religion. By saying religion was the "opium of the people" he meant that people used it to help blunt their pain over their circumstances, but not that it needed to be prohibited the way we prohibit heroin.) The last two chapters go beyond simple explanation and interpretation. "Marx the Man" is a short biography of Marx, that had its own surprises and ironies, and in the very last chapter, "The Legacy of Marx," Sowell finally unleashes his critique of Marx's system. All well-worth the read.
Review: Marxism: Philosophy and EconomicsUser Review - Goodreads
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 ...