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Marx’s Dream

From Capitalism to Communism

Two centuries after his birth, Karl Marx is read almost solely through the lens of Marxism, his works examined for how they fit into the doctrine that was developed from them after his death.

With Marx’s Dream, Tom Rockmore offers a much-needed alternative view, distinguishing rigorously between Marx and Marxism. Rockmore breaks with the Marxist view of Marx in three key ways. First, he shows that the concern with the relation of theory to practice—reflected in Marx’s famous claim that philosophers only interpret the world, while the point is to change it—arose as early as Socrates, and has been central to philosophy in its best moments. Second, he seeks to free Marx from his unsolicited Marxist embrace in order to consider his theory on its own merits. And, crucially, Rockmore relies on the normal standards of philosophical debate, without the special pleading to which Marxist accounts too often resort. Marx’s failures as a thinker, Rockmore shows, lie less in his diagnosis of industrial capitalism’s problems than in the suggested remedies, which are often unsound.

Only a philosopher of Rockmore’s stature could tackle a project this substantial, and the results are remarkable: a fresh Marx, unencumbered by doctrine and full of insights that remain salient today.

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2018

History: History of Ideas

Philosophy: General Philosophy, History and Classic Works, Political Philosophy

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


"Another book added to Tom Rockmore's impressive scholarship on 18th- and 19th-century German theory. In Marx’s Dream, he attempts to set the record straight on how best to interpret Marx, that is, through Marx's own voice or through Engels and the Marxist traditions. Rockmore's Marx is a profound philosopher in the spirit of Socrates, a man whose failures lie in his accounts of how to remedy the ills of industrialization rather than in his diagnosis of them. . . . Marx’s Dream is a must read for those studying Marx and Marxism or 19th-century German theory, and it will be of great interest to those working more broadly in economics, German history, philosophy, political theory, and sociology."

CHOICE, Essential

"A thought-provoking thesis. . . .Tom Rockmore sets out to show that Marx, throughout his work, strives 'to provide a distinctive new response to the ancient problem of human flourishing' (4) under the conditions of modern industrial society."

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Rockmore sees Marx as a philosopher in the Socratic mode, a political gadfly and social critic. Marx’s Dream locates us in the grand tradition of philosophical concern for human flourishing that never reconciles theory with practice. While focusing on Marx’s thought, independent of Engels and Marxism, Rockmore takes the reader from Hegel to Habermas, linking timeless questions with timely observations."

Terrell Carver, University of Bristol, UK

Marx's Dream is a pleasure to read. It's rather like an extremely well-informed monologue that stopped being a conversation when the other participants became aware that Rockmore had a very fine command of his subject and its surrounding literature, drawn from everywhere—Marx's sustained preoccupation with a largely moral question: the conditions of "human flourishing" in an industrial society—which, for its part, seems like an imaginary conversation chiefly engaging Hegel and Rousseau and the partisans of Marxism, who misunderstand Marx's actual views, and a stadium of others—draws us to consider how we might ourselves answer, under circumstances ranging over many worlds, including Soviet Russia and contemporary China. Rockmore traces Marx's answer in terms of the intended transition from capitalism to communism. Most instructive.”

Joseph Margolis, Temple University

"Marx’s Dream is a good guidebook on how to take Marx seriously without radicalizing his thoughts in either a hostile or a fetishistic manner. On the other hand, it is worrisome for a reader who expects a perfect philosophical (or political system) from Marx."

Atahan Erbas | Marx & Philosophy Society

Table of Contents

Part One     On Marx’s Theory of Practice
On Culture and Civilization
Plato’s Republic and Human Flourishing
Rousseau’s Problem
On Property, Private Property, and Human Flourishing
Hegel, Recognition, and the Modern State
Hegel on Human Flourishing in the Modern State
Hegel and Economic Flourishing
Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Marx on Theory, Practice, and Changing the World
On the Marxian Subject
Feuerbach, Fichte, and the Marxian Subject
On the Marxian Alternative to Modern Political Economy
Marxian Political Economy as Economic Constructivism
Marx on Human Flourishing and Communism
Human Flourishing as Social Freedom
Part Two    Marx and Marxism on Materialism, Feuerbach, and Hegel
What Is Materialism?
Materialism in Marx’s Early Writings
Engels’s (Marxist) View of Feuerbach
Materialism, Idealism, and The German Ideology
Marx’s (Non-Marxist) View of Feuerbach
Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach”
Vico, Materialism, and Constructivism in Capital
Materialism, Dialectic, and the Second Afterword to Capital
Excursus on the Reflection Theory of Knowledge
On Hegel’s Dialectical Theory of Cognition
Marx on Hegelian Dialectic
Part Three   On the Practice of Marx’s Theory, or the Transition from Capitalism to Communism
1. Transition through the Revolutionary Proletariat
2. Transition through Economic Crisis
Normal and Abnormal Economic Crises
Introduction to Marx on “Crisis” in Theories of Surplus Value
Marx Attacks Ricardo’s View of Profit
The Mature Marxian View of Economic Crisis
Financial Crisis and the Marxian Model of Economic Crisis
Economic Crisis and Value Theory
Limitations to the Falling Rate of Profit
Croce, Okishio, Piketty, and the Falling Rate of Profit
Critical Remarks on the Marxian Model of the Final Economic Crisis
An Excursus on Marx and Financial Crisis
3. Transition through Politics
On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
On the Practice of Proletarian Dictatorship
On the Withering Away of the State
Lenin on the Party as the Revolutionary Vanguard
Lenin on Democracy
Dictatorship over the Proletariat
4. Transition through Critical Social Theory
Hegel, Marx, and Critical Theory
Critical Theory, or Critical Social Theory
Excursus on Pollock and Critical Theory
Pollock, Habermas, and Critical Social Theory
Habermas on Historical Materialism
Conclusion: Marx’s Dream


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

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