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date: 20 February 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Cohen’s book is one of the founding publications of Analytical Marxism, aiming to reconstruct and in some cases reformulate some of Marx’s core claims using the rigorous tools of contemporary philosophy. The first part of the chapter analyzes Cohen’s defense of the controversial idea of historical materialism. Can the idea that history follows some underlying law of progress, which is central to Marx’s writing, stand up to scrutiny? This part of the chapter discusses, first, the radical challenges to historical materialism formulated by rational choice Marxists such as Elster; second, a series of objections against functionalist explanation in the social sciences more generally; and, finally, some modifications Cohen made to his account of historical materialism in his later writings and in response to these critiques. The second part of the chapter analyzes Cohen’s conception of exploitation to illustrate the theoretical potential of Analytic Marxism more generally.

Keywords: Analytic Marxism, historical materialism, functional explanation, methodological individualism, exploitation, justice, self-ownership, luck egalitarianism

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