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Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy$
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Jonathan Wolff and G. A. Cohen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149004

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149004.001.0001

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Reply to Elster on “Marxism, Functionalism, and Game Theory”

Reply to Elster on “Marxism, Functionalism, and Game Theory”

(p.284) Chapter 10 Reply to Elster on “Marxism, Functionalism, and Game Theory”
Lectures on the History of Moral and Political Philosophy

G. A. Cohen

, Jonathan Wolff
Princeton University Press

In this chapter, the author responds to Jon Elster's criticism of his use of functional explanation in his account of historical materialism. Elster rejects the association between Marxism and functional explanation, arguing that there is no scope for functional explanation in social science. He therefore concludes that the Marxist theory of society and history should abandon functional explanation and that it should, instead, draw for its explanations on the resources of game theory. The author offers an explanation of historical materialist theory that he attributes, on a textual basis, to Karl Marx, and that he articulates and defends in his book Karl Marx's Theory of History. He asserts that game theory cannot replace functional explanation within Marxist social analysis and that it has no place at the heart of historical materialism, alongside functional explanation.

Keywords:   game theory, Jon Elster, functional explanation, historical materialism, Marxism, Karl Marx, Theory of History, social analysis

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