Norman Geras's writings on Marxist thought are appreciated for their clarity of presentation and power of argument. In this new book, he responds to two challenges facing socialists today: to remedy areas of theoretical deficiency, and to resist at the same time the less salutary pressures of intellectual fashion and reaction.
Discourses in Extremity first discusses the moral dimension of problems such as famine, injustice and tyranny, examining the balance of Marxism's strengths and weaknesses here by comparison with libertarian and liberal discourses. In a powerful new essay, Geras then exposes inadequacies in the socialist discussion of justifiable means of revolutionary change, suggesting as a remedy the need to learn from an alternative tradition of thought about human conflict. Geras engages both with classic statements of liberalism and socialism from Locke to Trotsky and with more recent argument by Steven Lukes, Robert Nozick, Peter Singer and Michael Walzer.
The second part of the volume enters a debate—over the status of Marxism and so-called 'post-Marxism'—that has aroused widespread interest. In a painstaking critique of ideas of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Geras rebuts their account of the Marxist tradition and the discourse-based perspective they would have displace it, criticizing the arbitrariness and excess within their own discourse.