Preferences, reductionism and the microfoundations of analytical Marxism

Bruce Philp, David Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Analytical Marxism has recommended that Marxian theory should conform to 'normal' scientific methods and that this should involve the development of micro-foundations. The latter has involved the adoption of rational choice theory and its corresponding assumptions regarding agents' behaviour. This paper seeks to question this position and highlight a number of problems which Analytical Marxism faces, particularly in the domain of economic theory. The different views of science espoused by Analytical Marxists display a tension between 'positivist' and 'realist' perspectives, and the arguments for individualist and anti-reductionist approaches to social and economic theory are also argued to be problematic. The approach of Analytical Marxism, it is suggested, can involve the uncritical adoption of many of the assumptions of standard economic theory and, as such, it is subject to a number of substantive criticisms, some of which have been elaborated from within mainstream economic theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-329
Number of pages16
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Marxism
  • Preferences
  • Reductionism
  • Scientific method


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