Social Scientist. v 20, no. 235 (Dec 1992) p. 1.

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Rethinking Marxism and socialism today has become an important task for those who do not accept that the failure of a project is a necessary indication of the invalidity of its questions, analyses or visions. It is also an extremely difficult task since in the concrete historical situation following the collapse of the Soviet Union it has to find its bearings in a complex pattern of reaction. There is the nostalgia and melancholy of the depressed, there is the stubborn attempt to salvage, and there is the indifferent shrug of those who see no further point. Between the remembrance of things past, the muscology of {he collector and the migrants to new pastures there is often little to choose for those who see the necessity of coming to terms with each situation in a serious, realistic way. The need for discussion and debate here is urgent and corresponds to the function of Social Scientist.

G.A. Cohen's paper is a contribution to an international effort of a rigorous and complex re-reading of Marx and the history of socialism against the background of our present historical experience. This necessitates a reflection on the ideal posited by the socialist design or vision and the agency capable of achieving this ideal. Addressing himself to normative issues of socialist moral philosophy which have gained urgency now, Cohen re-examines ideals such as class exploitation versus economic equality, illusory versus real democracy, alienation characterised by greed and fear versus mutual service and the corresponding forms of organisation of economic life. Cohen's contention that there is no recipe which could identity an agency for socialism that could rival 'what the proletariat once appeared to offer* and that new demands for equality could be based on global ecological crises requires renewed consideration and debate.

That this debate should be based on a detailed study of the recent history of socialism is obvious and K.K. Dasgupta's reconstruction of the last decade of socialism (from roughly 1980-1989/91) serves the purpose of situating our contemporary discussions by taking into account the demand for socio-economic rationality in East European debates, perestroika, the 'New Thinking* and the relevant Polish and Hungarian experiences. Dasgupta's reconstruction is a critique of the

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 12, December 1992

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