Posts Tagged ‘Karl Marx’

Marx’s Das Kapital: a biography

January 19, 2008

I finished reading the delightful little volume of Francis Wheen: Marx’s Das Kapital: a biography. It is a short book running into 120 pages or so (of a size, I think, called octavo); and, hence takes a couple of hours at the most to finish.

The quotes as well as some of Wheen’s sentences in the book are sharp, pungently funny, and, most of the times even politically incorrect; what is more, both Marx and his wife seem to have used a very colourful language. Here are a few samples:

  1. That last sentence, taken alone, could be adduced as another prediction of absolute financial impoverishment for the workers, but only a halfwit — or an economics lecturer — could hold to this interpretation after reading the thunderous philippic which proceeds it.
  2. ‘The secret hopes we had long nourished in regard to Karl’s book were all set at naught by the German’ conspiracy of silence,’ Jenny Marx complained. ‘The second installment may startle the slugabeds out of their lethargy.’
  3. ‘I am expanding this volume,’ he explained, ‘since those German scoundrels estimate the value of a book in terms of its cubic capacity.’
  4. Engel’s experienced eye immediately spotted certain passages in the text where the carbuncles had left their mark, and Marx agreed that they might have given the prose a rather livid hue. ‘At all events, I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles until their dying day,’ he cursed. ‘What swine they are!’
  5. As Marx knew, however, these dialectical dalliances had an extra use-value. After writing an article on the Indian mutiny in 1857, …, he had confessed to Engels: “It’s possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way.’
  6. Engels tried to stir up publicity by submitting hostile pseudonymous reviews to German newspapers and urged Marx’s other friends to do likewise. ‘The main thing is that the book should be discussed over and over again, in any way whatsoever,’ he told Kugelmann. ‘In the words of our old friend Jesus Christ, we must be as innocent as doves and wise as serpents.’
  7. Marx believed that ‘the peculiar gift of stolid blockheadedness was every Briton’s birthright, …

In the last few pages of the book Keynes and Shumpeter also make an appearance among others. The book ends with a suggestion that Marx could become the most influential thinker of this century. On the whole, an enjoyable and informative read.

PS: Here is an earlier post of mine with links to an excerpt from the book and a couple of blogposts as to why Marx was an effective blogger.

Karl Marx: as a journalist (and blogger)

November 30, 2007

Mark Thoma quotes from this NPR excerpt of a biography of Marx’s Das Kapital:

Marx’s journalism is characterized by a reckless belligerence which explains why he spent most of his adult life in exile and political isolation. His very first article for the Rheinische Zeitung was a lacerating assault on both the intolerance of Prussian absolutism and the feeble-mindedness of its liberal opponents. Not content with making enemies of the government and opposition simultaneously, he turned against his own comrades as well, denouncing the Young Hegelians for ‘rowdiness and blackguardism’. Only two months after Marx’s assumption of editorial responsibility, the provincial governor asked the censorship ministers in Berlin to prosecute him for ‘impudent and disrespectful criticism’.

No less a figure than Tsar Nicholas of Russia also begged the Prussian king to suppress the Rheinische Zeitung, having taken umbrage at an anti-Russian diatribe. The paper was duly closed in March 1843: at the age of twenty-four, Marx was already wielding a pen that could terrify and infuriate the crowned heads of Europe.

Thoma goes on to give a few of links to indicate how effective a blogger he was:

Marx was a pretty effective blogger. Here is a page from an archive of his posts, with more here.

Update: Andrew Leonard has more.

Take a look!