Socialist literature

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folmerveeman
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Socialist literature

Postby folmerveeman » Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:45 pm UTC

Heya people, I'm looking for socialist literature to take on my trip to the USA next school year :)
To clarify, I'm looking for the political kind, not the 'free the animals' kind :P

Does anyone have any recommendations?

delusional
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby delusional » Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:16 am UTC

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by political vs 'free the animals' socialism, but you could try The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin and Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell - both offer political discussions of Anarchism with very different backgrounds.

johnny_7713
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby johnny_7713 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:33 am UTC

Are you looking for fiction or non-fiction?

For non-fiction you could start with the classics: Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto

folmerveeman
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby folmerveeman » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:23 am UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:Are you looking for fiction or non-fiction?

For non-fiction you could start with the classics: Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto


Either, really. However Das Kapital is a good recommendation! But I already read The Communist Manifesto (though I'll still buy it as a book).

Keep in mind, I have next to no knowledge about the socialist literature that is out there, I only know some names like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

ginroth
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby ginroth » Thu Jun 30, 2011 7:22 pm UTC

The author China Mieville posted this list of "fifty fantasy & science fiction works that socialists should read", it sounds pretty pertinent: http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/i/50socialist/full/

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:59 pm UTC

And I'm not really sure Das Kapital is probably the best thing to read without some backgrounding knowledge on it.

And to be honest, unless it's got Karl Marx as the author, most people in this country aren't going to understand the subtle play you're going for there. Hell, they don't even know what socialism or capitalism for that matter actually is.

But there's always your Upton Sinclair and your Harlem Renaissance writers.

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Ivor Zozz
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Ivor Zozz » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:24 am UTC

For a more recent socialist author, check out G.A. Cohen's Why Not Socialism? and If You're An Egalitarian, How Come You're So Rich?. Kind of catchy titles, too, hehe.
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folmerveeman
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby folmerveeman » Sat Jul 02, 2011 7:15 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:And I'm not really sure Das Kapital is probably the best thing to read without some backgrounding knowledge on it.

And to be honest, unless it's got Karl Marx as the author, most people in this country aren't going to understand the subtle play you're going for there. Hell, they don't even know what socialism or capitalism for that matter actually is.

But there's always your Upton Sinclair and your Harlem Renaissance writers.


I'm not (just) doing this to provoke people over there :P I am actually interested in socialist literature. G.A. Cohen seems quite interesting, I'll take a look at that, thanks Ivor :)

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Czhorat » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:39 pm UTC

ginroth wrote:The author China Mieville posted this list of "fifty fantasy & science fiction works that socialists should read", it sounds pretty pertinent: http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/i/50socialist/full/


You'd also to well to read Mr. Mieville himself. The New Corobuzon triptych (Perdito Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council ) are all explicitly socialist or communist. The last book is the most so and can almost be read as an anti-capitalist fable.

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Nattlinnen
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Nattlinnen » Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:27 pm UTC

If you are interested in a marxist view on history the following books would be of interest:

Capitalism and Slavery - Important history literature. Written by Eric Williams in 1944. Also interested to read a quite old yet modern work of history. Can be acquired freely from Archive.org

How Europe underdeveloped Africa - By Walther Rodney. Must read. Can be acquired freely but I don't remember where. Google!

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism - By Vladimir Lenin. I've only read parts of it and some commentary yet. Interesting take on Imperialism, Colonialism and Capitalism. Can be acquired freely at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/w ... 6/imp-hsc/

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:10 am UTC

As sort of hinted at, the set of people who will be offended by someone reading socialist literature and the set of people who will be that well versed in literature is pretty small. Honestly, I think that sentence can be generalized to any place and topic.
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Doom Shepherd » Fri Jul 08, 2011 1:52 pm UTC

Animal Farm by Orwell and Harrison Bergeron by Vonnegut. Also, any Star Trek novel featuring the Borg. :lol:

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby TheStrongest » Sun Jul 10, 2011 5:25 am UTC

There's always Noam Chomsky, who appears to be more of an anarchist than a socialist, but nonetheless sides with the leftist side of the spectrum. His books focus on all kinds of aspects from foreign policy, domestic affairs, economics, social issues, and more. I haven't read his stuff, but I've heard good things about it.

In addition, you could check out A People's History of the United States if US history interests you. Basically, it's what the title says: a retelling of US history from the common man's standpoint. It's not without it's critics, but the book has been used in history classrooms, so it must have some merit.

mmmcannibalism wrote:As sort of hinted at, the set of people who will be offended by someone reading socialist literature and the set of people who will be that well versed in literature is pretty small. Honestly, I think that sentence can be generalized to any place and topic.


Being offended by someone reading political literature that is the opposite of their own views leads me to believe that said person is unwilling or unable to argue against it.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:14 pm UTC

For me Chomsky isn't really an anarchist at all. He seems, if anything especially given his age, to be a proponent of the New Left and an opponent of neoliberalism. He's certainly very critical of western governments.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:22 pm UTC

And I'm not really sure Das Kapital is probably the best thing to read without some backgrounding knowledge on it.

I am not sure why you will want to read it at all.
The theories in it have failed numerous times in numerous places (greetings from the Eastern Block). Some of them are absurd, as the notion that the price of a good should be determined by the cost of the labour and materials, instead of the market.

The socialist idea is like religion, except it killed even more people.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:10 am UTC

Katt wrote:
And I'm not really sure Das Kapital is probably the best thing to read without some backgrounding knowledge on it.

I am not sure why you will want to read it at all.
The theories in it have failed numerous times in numerous places (greetings from the Eastern Block). Some of them are absurd, as the notion that the price of a good should be determined by the cost of the labour and materials, instead of the market.

The socialist idea is like religion, except it killed even more people.

Thank you for your completely cliche response to somebody mentioning something resembling the far left. I'm going to go ahead and make an assumption that you yourself have never actually read much of Marxist criticism, particularly because you insist that he posits a large amount of theories on how to structure a society--something he didn't actually do. What he actually did was write a critique of capitalism. But do go on to discuss an overly simplified narrative of a complex situation that even the theory you're disparaging considered problematic, especially given the particularly disdain among western critics for the version practiced in the East.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:21 am UTC

Is anyone else seeing that part where I insist about Marx having large amount of theories on how to structure a society?

P.S. Your last sentence doesn't make any sense for me.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby johnny_7713 » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

Katt wrote:Is anyone else seeing that part where I insist about Marx having large amount of theories on how to structure a society?

P.S. Your last sentence doesn't make any sense for me.


How about the part where you said: "The theories in it have failed numerous times in numerous places (greetings from the Eastern Block)."

Last I checked the Soviet Union wasn't founded by a spontaneous uprising of the working class; also it remained a state rather than dissolving into a classless society as soon as the bourgeoisie was stripped of it's possessions. Though in the interests of full disclosure I should mention I'm going off what I remember learning about Marx in history class, since I haven't read Das Kapital myself.

On a side note the cost of labour and materials determine the minimum price for which a good can be profitably produced, seems like a good staring point to me.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:33 pm UTC

How about the part where you said: "The theories in it have failed numerous times in numerous places (greetings from the Eastern Block)."

OK, let me rephrase myself - The theories in it turned out to be wrong at numerous times and in numerous places. See the example.

On a side note the cost of labour and materials determine the minimum price for which a good can be profitably produced, seems like a good staring point to me.

Yes of course it is the minimum price, but According to Marx, it should be the actual price. Acording to him, enterpreneurs should not be paid (should not take money from the working class). Does that makes sense? Suppose for example that you have a choice between a crappy computer,which is sold for 2000$ and its production costs 2000$ and a good one which costs 1000$ and has the production value of 500$. In Marx's views the person who makes the second computer is the bad guy, because it profits more.
And he backs this up with the notion that labour is the main source of wealth in a society. which again is clearly not true. And yes, I am allowed to say that because economics is a science and there are things that are true and things that are not.

In this case, the truth is that the price of a good is determied by the amount of money someone would pay for it. You may work on developing a product all your life, but if noone wants to buy it, it costs 0, not 1000 000 000 and vise versa.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby IcedT » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:15 pm UTC

I second the Harlem Renaissance recommendation. I don't know about socialist, but Ralph Ellison is a hell of a writer.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:27 am UTC

Katt: to rephrase: You keep using that summary. I do not think the book covers exactly what you think it covers. Nor do you seem very well versed in Marxist theory. So do us all a favor, either learn what you're talking about, or leave. After all, there are a shit ton of good reasons to read Marx--such as knowing what you're talking about--particularly if you're interested in leftist literature.

It's nice of you to rehash the platitudes of others, but I don't have much patience for this kind of nonsense. Just repeating the neoliberal lines about Marxism does not truth make.

As to economics being a science, there's a difference between a soft and hard science, particularly to the amount of truth they can claim.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:43 am UTC

It's nice of you to rehash the platitudes of others, but I don't have much patience for this kind of nonsense. Just repeating the neoliberal lines about Marxism does not truth make.


By the same token, just because I am repeating stuff that has already been stated numerous times, that doesn't mean I am wrong. And stop using ad hominem already, you are starting to sound stupid.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:27 pm UTC

Katt wrote:
It's nice of you to rehash the platitudes of others, but I don't have much patience for this kind of nonsense. Just repeating the neoliberal lines about Marxism does not truth make.


By the same token, just because I am repeating stuff that has already been stated numerous times, that doesn't mean I am wrong. And stop using ad hominem already, you are starting to sound stupid.

No, the naive simplicity in your statements is where you're wrong. By your own logic all of Capitalism is a discounted theory because not everything Mills, Stuart, and Benthem said was right. Fukuyama got a fair bit wrong as well, so there's modern neoliberal Capitalism discounted. Oh, and many ideas derived from Marx are doing just fine in Western society, looks like he must be completely right. Not to mention that your idea of what creates value is wrong in its simplicity. Many factors are considered, including labor costs.

Also, pointing out that you don't understand what you're talking about is not an ad hominem. And I'm not the one speaking for Marx without a clear idea of what he's said or that Eastern European Communism has far more owed to Lenin and Stalinist interpretations, something you've been conveniently leaving out, neglecting the different directions of Marxism advocated by Western Europeans. There's an allegory behind Animal Farm, but it isn't discounting socialism.

I might also point out that this was a discussion of somebody wanting advice on socialist literature to read--ergo, not reading Marx would be a huge oversight. There's plenty of other threads for you to throw your platitudes around in, but they really don't belong here.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby IcedT » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:21 pm UTC

I think Katt's confusing Das Kapital with the Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto doesn't spend much time on the nature of capitalism and focuses mostly on describing Communism, and yes it is riddled with problems and inconsistencies. Das Kapital is a detailed critique of industrial capitalism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_kapital

Wikipedia wrote:In Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867), Karl Marx proposes that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labour, whose unpaid work is the ultimate source of profit and surplus value. The employer can claim right to the profits (new output value), because he or she owns the productive capital assets (means of production), which are legally protected by the State through property rights. In producing capital (money) rather than commodities (goods and services), the workers continually reproduce the economic conditions by which they labour. Capital proposes an explanation of the "laws of motion" of the capitalist economic system, from its origins to its future, by describing the dynamics of the accumulation of capital, the growth of wage labour, the transformation of the workplace, the concentration of capital, commercial competition, the banking system, the decline of the profit rate, land-rents, et cetera.


I haven't read Das Kapital myself, but my understanding of Marx is that he was accurate in his observations but dead wrong in his predictions. The energies that he thought would turn into revolution and completely upend society turned into the progressive and social-liberal movements, and ended up moderating capitalism instead of destroying it. Marx underestimated both the benefits of capitalism's rapid economic growth and the costs of a workers' revolution. In the end, all labor really wanted was better wages, so his vision never came true.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Mambrino » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:25 pm UTC

Regarding the original question;

In the field of history, there's also of course Eric Hobsbawm, a marxist historian.

I second Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Though I'd recommend to first read something about history of Spanish Civil War beforehand, if the historical background isn't already familiar to you.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby hawkinsssable » Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:54 am UTC

There are a few fun, fairly light and easy to read books I'd highly recommend:

Paul D'Amato: The Meaning of Marxism
It's an enjoyable read, and a fairly comprehensive introduction to Marx and some contemporary Marxists. It also draws on a few interesting, easy-to-read non-Marxists (like Chalmers Johnson) who have also published other interesting non-fiction. The recommended reading at the end of the book is also great; it points out some good translations of Marx's work.

Francis Wheen: Marx's Das Kapital
It's very short, easy to read, and has a nice mixture of biography and summary. It also touches on Marx's legacy in a way that helps distinguish between the 'socialism' of, say, the USSR and the socialism of Marx. ("Marxism as practiced by Marx himself was not so much an ideology, as a critical process, a continuous dialectical argument"; Marx wasn't a 'Marxist'.)

Terry Eagleton: Why Marx Was Right
Probably the lightest of the three. Each chapter forms a counter-argument to some common argument or received wisdom of why Marxism is wrong / nonsensical / misguided / irrelevant. The arguments he addresses are always decently fleshed out; there are no convenient straw men. It skimps a bit on political economy, and many of Eagleton's responses (though well put) seem obvious to people familiar with socialist thought, but it's still worth a read.
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:21 am UTC

By your own logic all of Capitalism is a discounted theory because not everything Mills, Stuart, and Benthem said was right. Fukuyama got a fair bit wrong as well, so there's modern neoliberal Capitalism discounted. Oh, and many ideas derived from Marx are doing just fine in Western society, looks like he must be completely right.

Tell me that you don't see the difference. Yes, everybody is wrong sometimes, but Marx had made a crucial mistake in some of his core assumptions. From then on, even if his logic was flawless, his conclusions would be all messed up, as well as all possible interpretations be it from Stalin, Lenin, Mao, or anybody else.

Not to mention that your idea of what creates value is wrong in its simplicity. Many factors are considered, including labor costs.

What I said was "the notion that labour is the main source of wealth in a society (...) is clearly not true".

Also, pointing out that you don't understand what you're talking about is not an ad hominem.

It kinda is. And even if you don't count it as such you must agree that it is a much weaker argument than for example making a list of ideas derived from Marx which are currently being applied with success (your remark form the first paragraph).

On-topic. A would again recommend Thomas Sowell's work to anyone who wants to understand socialism as a phenomenon. It was an eye-opener for me. His theory is that capitalists and socialists see the world in rwo different ways. From then on, he elaborates the conflicts between those two visions and the implications of that conflict.

Here is a resume from Wikipedia.

The Unconstrained Vision
Sowell argues that the unconstrained vision relies heavily on the belief that human nature is essentially good. Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection. Sowell often refers to them as "the self anointed." Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, there must be some people who are further along the path of moral development and are therefore able to put aside self-interest and make decisions for the benefit and good of all.
The Constrained Vision
Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on belief that man is inherently and iredeemably selfish, regardless of the best intentions. Those with a constrained vision prefer the systematic processes of the rule of law and experience of tradition. Compromise is essential because there is no ideal solution and those with a constrained vision favor solid empirical evidence and time-tested structures and processes over innovation and personal experience. Ultimately, the constrained vision demands checks and balances and refuses to accept that any one person could put aside their innate self-interest.


Thomas Sowell on income distribution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERj3QeGw ... age#t=586s

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:38 pm UTC

Actually, Katt, I do see a stark difference in that you still as of yet don't understand what Marx was writing about. As Iced T has reiterated, Marx's work is primarily about a critique of capitalism, not a vision of how a communist society would work. His main work is not the Communist Manifesto, which was more a pamphlet for propaganda than a stinging intellectual work. Grundrisse is one of his more often looked at text in conjunction with Das Kapital. Quite frankly, you're making up what his core assumptions were and saying they were wrong. And, given your immediate leap to people who followed Marx are not very well considered scholars of Marxism, kind of points to your lack of knowledge of the field. I do, however, second reading Eagleton. He's got a particularly good sense of subtle snark that makes him occasionally hilarious if you pick up on it. I can't speak to that book in particular, but I've enjoyed his other work. Another person you might consider if you want to get more theoretical and have some psychoanalysis thrown in is Slavoj Zizek.

Now Katt, I will point out to you again. THIS IS A DISCUSSION OF SUGGESTIONS FOR SOCIALIST LITERATURE, not a debate thread for you to throw around your poorly formed ideas about what Marxism is (particularly rich given you're trying to bring in a laissez-faire advocate--who already lost Godwin's law--as if that doctrine wasn't discredited junk). You want to discuss that topic, there's general discussion or serious business. So either suggest some socialist literature or gtfo.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby hawkinsssable » Wed Aug 08, 2012 12:04 pm UTC

I do, however, second reading Eagleton. He's got a particularly good sense of subtle snark that makes him occasionally hilarious if you pick up on it. I can't speak to that book in particular, but I've enjoyed his other work. Another person you might consider if you want to get more theoretical and have some psychoanalysis thrown in is Slavoj Zizek.


Agreed re: Eagleton - he manages hilarious snarkiness incredibly well.

Zizek? I massively respect him, but I find it really difficult to find any through-lines in his writing to his main arguments. There are some amazing metaphors and fun little excursions into psychoanalysis and philosophy and pop culture, but he often assumes the reader knows much more about psychoanalysis and philosophy and pop culture than I do.
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Aug 08, 2012 3:16 pm UTC

hawkinsssable wrote:
I do, however, second reading Eagleton. He's got a particularly good sense of subtle snark that makes him occasionally hilarious if you pick up on it. I can't speak to that book in particular, but I've enjoyed his other work. Another person you might consider if you want to get more theoretical and have some psychoanalysis thrown in is Slavoj Zizek.


Agreed re: Eagleton - he manages hilarious snarkiness incredibly well.

Zizek? I massively respect him, but I find it really difficult to find any through-lines in his writing to his main arguments. There are some amazing metaphors and fun little excursions into psychoanalysis and philosophy and pop culture, but he often assumes the reader knows much more about psychoanalysis and philosophy and pop culture than I do.

Yeah, I probably should have made that caveat a little stronger.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:36 pm UTC

OK, you are right that I am off-topic. I will try to go back:

Can you recommend me a book which explores socialism from an economical standpoint. In particular I am interested in a work which adresses some of the well-known arguments against it, such as the one I pointed and analyses the faults of the Russian, Chinese and Cuban interpretations of the ideology. Thanks

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby hawkinsssable » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:05 am UTC

OK, you are right that I am off-topic. I will try to go back:

Can you recommend me a book which explores socialism from an economical standpoint. In particular I am interested in a work which adresses some of the well-known arguments against it, such as the one I pointed and analyses the faults of the Russian, Chinese and Cuban interpretations of the ideology. Thanks


I'd like to point out Eagleton again. He's a little fluffier and less sophisticated than a lot of socialists you'll come across in, say, pretentious philosophy journals, but if you haven't read much socialist stuff before (which seems the case, since there's piles upon mountains of work exploring the 'obvious' arguments against it) he's not a bad place to start. And even though he doesn't look at much political economy stuff, some of his chapters seem relevant to your question. For example, Chapter 2 aims to refute this argument:

Marxism may be all very well in theory. Whenever it hasbeen put into practice, however, the result has been terror,tyranny and mass murder on an inconceivable scale. Marx-ism might look like a good idea to well-heeled Western aca-demics who can take freedom and democracy for granted. For millions of ordinary men and women, it has meant fam-ine, hardship, torture, forced labour, a broken economy and a monstrously oppressive state. Those who continue to support the theory despite all this are either obtuse, self-deceived or morally contemptible. Socialism means lack of freedom; it also means a lack of material goods, since this is bound to be the result of abolishing markets.


Chapters 6 and 8 also explore the supposedly necessary relationship between Marxism and violent political action / materialism and the atrocities of Stalin et al.

From the conclusion:
So there we have it. Marx had a passionate faith in the
individual and a deep suspicion of abstract dogma. He had no
time for the concept of a perfect society, was wary of the
notion of equality, and did not dream of a future in which we
would all wear boiler suits with our National Insurance num-
bers stamped on our backs. It was diversity, not uniformity,
that he hoped to see. Nor did he teach that men and women
were the helpless playthings of history. He was even more
hostile to the state than right-wing conservatives are, and saw
socialism as a deepening of democracy, not as the enemy of it.
His model of the good life was based on the idea of artistic
self-expression. He believed that some revolutions might be
peacefully accomplished, and was in no sense opposed to so-
cial reform. He did not focus narrowly on the manual work-
ing class. Nor did he see society in terms of two starkly polar-
ized classes.
He did not make a fetish of material production. On the
contrary, he thought it should be done away with as far as
possible. His ideal was leisure, not labour. If he paid such
unflagging attention to the economic, it was in order to di-
minish its power over humanity. His materialism was fully
compatible with deeply held moral and spiritual convictions.
He lavished praise on the middle class, and saw socialism as
the inheritor of its great legacies of liberty, civil rights and
material prosperity. His views on Nature and the environ-
ment were for the most part startlingly in advance of his
time. There has been no more staunch champion of women’s
emancipation, world peace, the fight against fascism or the
struggle for colonial freedom than the political movement to
which his work gave birth.
Was ever a thinker so travestied?


In the D'Amato book there are also two chapters on the topic I remember being quite good (Russia: The God That Failed? and Marxist Economics: How Capitalism Works, and How it Doesn't.) D'Amato is always succinct and very readable, and a bit more serious than Eagleton.
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:08 am UTC

I went through it, but that is not what I am looking for. I was excited by the idea of a book which abolishes common arguments against socialism, but unfortunately I found it to be as out of touch with reality as any other book or on that subject. Can you imagine, for example, some hardcore conservative saying something like: "Marxism doesnt work, because it is a form of determinism. It sees men and women simply as the tools of history, and thus strips them of their freedom and individuality. Marx believed in certain iron laws of history, which...."(a refuted argument from the book). I do not think so. He is much more likely to say something like. "Marxism doesnt work, because you cannot artificially make everyone equal - there are and always will be people who are smarter and more talented than the others" or "Enterpreneurs shouldn't be stripped from their profit because it provides them with the necessary incentive to organize their business better"(just giving an examples here). Also I would like to be an ass one more time and point out that there were some really annoying inaccuracies in the book, as the repeated claim that socialism has been tried only in Russia (there were some 10 more countries in the Soviet Union besides Russia, not to mention the Eastern Block and East Germany, and all the other places). I don't know if the author is tryng too hard to make his point or is just incompetent, but in both cases I do not like it.

And like you mentioned, not much of the book was about economics.

Any other suggestions?

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby hawkinsssable » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:12 pm UTC

I'm not going to get sucked into this quagmire beyond pointing out one or two quick little things I hope aren't contentious and won't drag this thread further off-topic:

I went through it, but that is not what I am looking for. I was excited by the idea of a book which abolishes common arguments against socialism, but unfortunately I found it to be as out of touch with reality as any other book or article about the subject. Can you imagine, for example, some hardcore conservative saying something like: "Marxism doesnt work, because it is a form of determinism. It sees men and women simply as the tools of history, and thus strips them of their freedom and individuality. Marx believed in certain iron laws of history, which...."(a refuted argument from the book). I do not think so.


Chapter 3 isn't about the claim "Marxism doesn't work, because it's a form of determinism"; it's about the claim "Determinism (and by extension Marxism) are deeply offensive to human agency and human dignity, as are any states based on such a philosophy." This is a powerful argument I've read a few times (like in a very anti-Marxist introduction to a penguin, I think, edition of the Communist Manifesto) as well as heard it a few times irl in silly public debates about Marxism or when the socialists at my uni have been heckled at their stall.

He is much more likely to say something like. "Marxism doesnt work, because you cannot artificially make everyone equal - there are and always will be people who are smarter and more talented than the others"(just giving an example here don't jump on me).

Chapter 4 seems pertinent here: "The fact that we are naturally selfish, acquisitive, aggressive and competitive creatures, and that no amount of social engineering can alter this fact, is simply overlooked. Marx’s dewy-eyed vision of the future reflects the absurd unreality of his politics as a whole."

Also I would like to be an ass one more time and point out that there were some really annoying inaccuracies in the book, as the repeated claim that socialism has been tried only in Russia (there were some 10 more countries in the Soviet Union besides Russia, not to mention the Eastern Block and East Germany, and all the other places). I don't know if the author is tryng too hard to make his point or is just incompetent, but in both cases I do not like it.


For anybody put off from the book by these 'inaccuracies', please know that Kat must have misinterpreted something, because Eagleton doesn't say anything even close to this anywhere in the book, let alone 'repeatedly'.
Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:06 pm UTC

From a chapter where he explains why socialism in Russia had failed:
Nor did Marxists ever imagine that it was possible to
achieve socialism in one country alone. The movement was
international or it was nothing. This was a hardheaded mate-
rialist claim, not a piously idealist one. If a socialist nation
failed to win international support in a world where produc-
tion was specialized and divided among different nations, it
would be unable to draw upon the global resources needed to
abolish scarcity. The productive wealth of a single country
was unlikely to be enough. The outlandish notion of social-
ism in one country was invented by Stalin in the 1920s, partly
as a cynical rationalisation of the fact that other nations had
been unable to come to the aid of the Soviet Union. It has no
warrant in Marx himself. Socialist revolutions must of course
start somewhere. But they cannot be completed within na-
tional boundaries. To judge socialism by its results in one
desperately isolated country
would be like drawing conclu-
sions about the human race from a study of psychopaths in
Kalamazoo.

Also I would like to point out that Russia and the rest of the socialistic countries were never isolated from the rest of the world in therms of the free trade of goods. So this can never be a valid argument.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby hawkinsssable » Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:06 am UTC

In other words: In a discussion of Bolshevik Russia (before Stalin), Eagleton talks about Bolshevik Russia (before Stalin)
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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:10 pm UTC

It also points to part of the problem with your tying the failures of actually existing communism of the soviet model to the theories of Marx. As the passage points out, single state socialism was never what Marx had in mind, and, though not mentioned, Marx envisioned the transition happening, not in a backwater nation like Russia, but in the more developed nations of the West--as socialism was a transitional stage coming out of Capitalism.

As to your never isolated claim--you are familiar with the Cold War and what was going on during said time period, right? To say it had unfettered access to the markets of the world is not exactly a true statement.

Quite frankly, Katt, I think you're really being disingenuous here. You're not going to find much defense of Soviet Communism because it's a very bad application of theory in praxis. So to demand Marxists account for and defend that style of practice is A. not asking them to defend Marxism. B. Like asking Capitalists to defend the economic success of Somalia. You look at what Marx wrote and it does hint towards the soviet model failing.

Another part of your problem is this misunderstanding of ownership and entrepreneurship. They're not cut out of the system, they're just in a different place in the structure of a business. Marxism tends away from a feudalistic structure of a business to become more egalitarian.

You're never going to find the book you're looking for, because you're seemingly not willing to meet Marxism on its own terms, and quite frankly, because it seems what you really want is a Marxist to declare Marx wrong and all glory to unfettered Capitalism.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby IcedT » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:54 pm UTC

Katt, if you're interested in a Marxist-influenced model that actually performed pretty well for a while, look into Titoist Yugoslavia. Businesses were owned collectively by their employees and management was elected, although later on they became political appointments and the system went into decline.

Also, "Marxism in one country" is how the Bolsheviks defined their movement. The global proletarian revolution that Marx expected was nowhere near happening but Lenin & company thought they could amend the source material and create one Communist state in a world that was still mostly capitalist. It's not a historical misunderstanding on the author's part.

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby Katt » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:22 pm UTC

Businesses were owned collectively by their employees and management was elected

That sounds plausible. Though noone is preventing people from forming a collectively-owned businesses in a free market economy. There is even a modern name for that - "Bottom-up project management" (OK, not the same thing but kinda similar).

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Re: Socialist literature

Postby radams » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:55 pm UTC

Katt wrote:
Businesses were owned collectively by their employees and management was elected

That sounds plausible. Though noone is preventing people from forming a collectively-owned businesses in a free market economy. There is even a modern name for that - "Bottom-up project management" (OK, not the same thing but kinda similar).


They do indeed exist, and the name for them is worker cooperatives. There are many other alternatives to the shareholder business model holding their own in the market, including consumers cooperatives and mutual organisations, owned by their customers, or by both customers and employees.


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