Making Sense of Marx

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Making Sense of Marx
Making Sense of Marx (first edition).jpg
Author Jon Elster
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Karl Marx
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 556
ISBN 978-0521297059

Making Sense of Marx is a 1985 book about Karl Marx by the social and political theorist Jon Elster, in which the author reevaluates Marx's ideas. The book has received a mixture of praise and criticism from commentators.


Elster reevaluates Marx's ideas from a rational choice perspective,[1] arguing that Marx at his most insightful was in some sense a methodological individualist.[2]


Making Sense of Marx was praised as "sharp" and "hard-headed" by the political scientist David McLellan in the 1995 edition of Karl Marx: His Life and Thought.[1] The political philosopher Richard W. Miller, writing in The Cambridge Companion to Marx (1991), called Elster's work "erudite".[2]

Conversely, the Marxist theorist Ernest Mandel gave the work a negative review entitled "How to Make No Sense of Marx",[3] while the philosopher Jan Narveson wrote that Making Sense of Marx was, "greeted with highly mixed feelings by those who had hoped the title meant that there was sense to be made" of Marx.[4]



  1. ^ a b McLellan 1995. p. 441.
  2. ^ a b Miller 1999. p. 77.
  3. ^ Mandel 1989. pp. 105-132.
  4. ^ Narveson 2001. p. 348.


  • Mandel, Ernest (1989). Ware, Robert; Nielsen, Kai, eds. Analyzing Marxism: New Essays on Analytical Marxism. Calgary: The University of Calgary Press. ISBN 0-919491-14-6.
  • McLellan, David (1995). Karl Marx: A Biography. London: Papermac. ISBN 0-333-63947-2.
  • Miller, Richard W. (1999). Carver, Terrell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Marx. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-36694-1.
  • Narveson, Jan (2001). The Libertarian Idea. Orchard Park, New York: Broadview Press. ISBN 1-55111-421-6.