The Politics of Socialism: An Essay in Political Theory

Jon Elster writes:

Optimism and wishful thinking have been features of socialist thought from its inception. In Marx, for instance, two main premises appear to be that whatever is desirable is possible, and that whatever is desirable and possible is inevitable. John Dunn’s short book is much concerned with the disastrous consequences of this Utopian strand in socialism. He argues that socialists, if they want to be taken seriously, must show that the society they propose is economically viable, and that the process of getting there is politically feasible. He also comes close to saying, without ever actually doing so, that neither demonstration will succeed. The cumulative impact of the difficulties that he urges socialists to confront is such that one wonders why he doesn’t simply tell them to pack it in.

(LRB 15 November 1984)

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