- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Lifeby Jonathan Sperber
Synopses & Reviews
Between his birth in 1818 and his death sixty-five years later, Karl Marx became one of Western civilization’s most influential political philosophers. Two centuries on, he is still revered as a prophet of the modern world, yet he is also blamed for the darkest atrocities of modern times. But no matter in what light he is cast, the short, but broad-shouldered, bearded Marx remains—as a human being—distorted on a Procrustean bed of political “isms,” perceived through the partially distorting lens of his chief disciple, Friedrich Engels, or understood as a figure of twentieth-century totalitarian Marxist regimes.
Returning Marx to the Victorian confines of the nineteenth century, Jonathan Sperber, one of the United States’ leading European historians, challenges many of our misconceptions of this political firebrand turned London émigré journalist. In this deeply humanizing portrait, Marx no longer is the Olympian soothsayer, divining the dialectical imperatives of human history, but a scholar-activist whose revolutionary Weltanschauung was closer to Robespierre’s than to those of twentieth-century Marxists.
With unlimited access to the MEGA (the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, the total edition of Marx’s and Engels’s writings), only recently available, Sperber juxtaposes the private man, the public agitator, and the philosopher-economist. We first see Marx as a young boy in the city of Trier, influenced by his father, Heinrich, for whom “the French Revolution and its aftermath offered an opportunity to escape the narrowly circumscribed social and political position of Jews in the society.” For Heinrich’s generation, this worldview meant no longer being a member of the so-called Jewish nation, but for his son, the reverberations were infinitely greater—namely a life inspired by the doctrines of the Enlightenment and an implacable belief in human equality.
Contextualizing Marx’s personal story—his rambunctious university years, his loving marriage to the devoted Jenny von Westphalen (despite an illegitimate child with the family maid), his children’s tragic deaths, the catastrophic financial problems—within a larger historical stage, Sperber examines Marx’s public actions and theoretical publications against the backdrop of a European continent roiling with political and social unrest. Guided by newly translated notes, drafts, and correspondence, he highlights Marx’s often overlooked work as a journalist; his political activities in Berlin, Paris, and London; and his crucial role in both creating and destroying the International Working Men’s Association. With Napoleon III, Bismarck, Adam Smith, and Charles Darwin, among others, as supporting players, Karl Marx becomes not just a biography of a man but a vibrant portrait of an infinitely complex time.
Already hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a major work . . . likely to be the standard biography of Marx for many years,” Karl Marx promises to become the defining portrait of a towering historical figure.
"This superb, readable biography of the most controversial political and economic thinker of the last two centuries achieves what scholars have been hard-pressed to deliver in recent decades: a study of Marx that avoids cold war, ideological, and partisan commitments and arguments. A University of Missouri historian, Sperber (The European Revolutions: 1848 — 1851) achieves this aim by securing Marx firmly in his 19th century, and keeping him out of ours. Sperber brilliantly weaves life and ideas together in this sympathetic, if duly objective, portrait of a difficult man. Not shy of criticizing his subject's ideas and evaluating their limitations — both philosophically and as products of their particular time — Sperber provides lucid explanations of Marx's many complex theoretical formulations and arguments. Marx the man comes to life not only as a thinker always struggling to make ends meet, but also as a husband and father, philosophical combatant, activist, German patriot, and exile in London. Marx's contemporaries also make vivid appearances, resulting in a book that is as much a chronicle of the events and dense ideological fights of the time that so embroiled its principal subject as a biography. A major work, this is likely to be the standard biography of Marx for many years. 34 illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Jonathan Sperber's excellent biography succeeds splendidly in reshaping our image of the man and his thoughts."--Ian Kershaw
“Jonathan Sperber’s excellent biography succeeds splendidly in reshaping our image of the man and his thoughts.”—Ian Kershaw
Karl Marx is a magisterial and defining biography that vividly explores not only the man himself but also the revolutionary times in which he lived.
For nearly a century, Karl Marx, the German philosopher and political firebrand turned London émigré journalist, has been imprisoned by "isms," misinterpreted through the writings of Engels and the totalitarian aspirations of Lenin and Stalin. Challenging this antiquated portrait, Jonathan Sperber demonstrates that Marx had more in common with Robespierre than with twentieth-century Communists. Using the complete Marx and Engels database only recently opened, Sperber juxtaposes the private man against the public agitator who helped foment the 1848−49 Revolution and whose incendiary books inflamed the dissident world of Europe. Sperber not only animates Marx's personal life--his childhood, his loving marriage despite an illegitimate child with the family maid, his catastrophic financial woes--but also presents Marx's story against a backdrop of contemporaries, from Napoleon III to Bismarck, Adam Smith to Charles Darwin. Like Peter Gay's Freud and Ian Kershaw's Hitler, Karl Marx becomes the defining portrait of a towering historical figure.
About the Author
Jonathan Sperber, the author of The European Revolutions, 1848-1851, is the Curators' Professor of History at the University of Missouri. He has written extensively on the social and political history of nineteenth-century Europe.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like
Biography » Historical