This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, see our privacy statement

New Left Review I/184, November-December 1990

Ellen Meiksins Wood

Explaining Everything or Nothing?

Alan Carling accuses me of ‘everythingism’—that is, of believing that ‘you need a complete explanation of something before you can have any explanation of something.’ Do I really? I thought I was stating a rather more modest requirement, namely that a ‘paradigm’ like rcm, which claims to improve on, indeed to replace, ‘classical’ Marxism, ought to add more than it subtracts from existing explanations. It was, after all, not I who made extravagant claims for rcm, that ‘it is now only within the rational-choice context that some of the leading questions on the classical agenda of Marxist theory—historical explanation and the delineation of social form, the collective dynamics of class struggle, the evolution and evaluation of capitalism—can be fruitfully discussed.’ [1] Alan Carling, ‘Rational Choice Marxism’, nlr 160, November–December 1986, p. 55. If Carling now wants drastically to modify those claims, by effectively conceding my principal argument that all the important theoretical and empirical work needs to be done in advance of applying the rcm model, then that’s fine with me.

Subscribe for just £45 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3


Ellen Meiksins Wood, ‘Explaining Everything or Nothing?’, NLR I/184: £3

If you want to create a new NLR account please register here

’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’