Karl Marx by Gareth Stedman Jones

Fidel Castro died in Cuba in 2016. With his departure, the dream of communism as a political reality sank below the verge. China is ruled by a ‘communist’ dictatorship but in reality runs a form of state sponsored turbo-capitalism. Russia has reverted to type with a strong man Czar despotism, the Duma being a toothless talking shop. No-one is in any doubt where power really lies. Only the basket case North Korea remains avowedly communist, being upheld by a truly horrible form of repression.

It would be convenient to consign the theory behind the communist experiments of the 20th century to the dustbin of history. ‘It didn’t work out, so Marxist theory was flawed’. That would be an easy dismissal, and it would be wrong. Marx carved out profound insights into how the operation of capital works – tending to exploit the weak and vulnerable, plus getting concentrated into the hands of the few. His predictions about how history would play out in nation states have proved wrong, but much of his economic analysis rings true today.

Marx was the first to chart the staggering transformation produced in less than a century by the emergence of a world market and the unleashing of the unparalleled productive powers of modern industry. He also delineated the endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism as a phenomenon. He emphasized its capacity to invent new needs and the means to satisfy them, its subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs, its disregard of all boundaries, whether sacred or secular, its destabilization of every hallowed hierarchy, whether of ruler and ruled, man and woman or parent and child, its turning of everything into an object for sale.

What Marx failed to foresee was how older forms of life would be reinvigorated even as the world was being transformed. While village life has not been renewed, religion and nationalism have mutated into new and at times strikingly malignant forms. Capitalism may be a revolutionary force, as Marx believed. But for that very reason it cannot help creating powerful forces that resist and sometimes defeat it.

For a sound introduction to Marx and Marxism, Stedman Jones offers the best, latest single volume commentary. Plunge in.

Enquire at your local library to check if this important title is in stock.

768 pages in Allen Lane

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0713999044

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Professor Gareth Stedman Jones

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