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Could Marx Answer Acton?

In response to:

Inescapable Marx from the June 29, 1978 issue

To the Editors:

Though one hesitates to charge a reviewer with not having read a book he is reviewing, I so charge Robert Heilbroner in his review of The Structure of Marx’s World-View (NYR, June 29).

The reasons for so doing are numerous. But I shall attend to only a few.

First of all, not one of the basic and novel general arguments of the book are mentioned. For example, the extended arguments for the compatibility of Marx’s determinism and a free-will ethic, for the a-dialectical theory of correspondences regulating his entire mature work, for a different and more effectively explanatory concept of ideology than has been hitherto recognized, for a developed theory of mind not before identified in his work, for a set of strictly scientific and falsifiable Marxian laws of selection, for an economic-determinist critique of state-socialist societies, for the application of his model to women and children’s liberation, and so on—not one of these central and controversial positions developed in the SMW is even observed. Since most of them are quite new, and since every scholar of Marx’s work who has read the book has taken vigorous exception to at least some of them, they seem unlikely to all pass by one who has read what has been written.

Secondly, the very questions Heilbroner presses against Marxian thought—its “lack of a psychological core” (p. 36), its failure to provide any answer to “the tendency of power to corrupt” (p. 36), its want of the “courage” to ask whether its “liberating ideals” are compatible with collectivist organization (pp. 36-37)—all these questions are precisely and painstakingly met in the pages of the SMW (as a number of the arguments referred to above, which Heilbroner misses altogether, make evident)….

John McMurtry

University of Guelph

Ontario, Canaday

Robert Heilbroner replies:

I am at a loss to answer Professor McMurtry’s charge of not having read his book. I tried to read it. Obviously I did not succeed. Whether the fault is his or mine I shall leave to the judgment of others.

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