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. Between his birth in 1818 and his death 65 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 20th-century totalitarian Marxist regimes.
Returning Marx to the Victorian confines of the 19th century, Jonathan Sperber, one of the United States' leading European historians, challenges many of our misconceptions of this political firebrand turned London 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 20th-century Marxists.
With unlimited access to the MEGA (the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, the total edition of Marx's and Engels' writings), only recently available, Sperber juxtaposes the private man, the public agitator, and the philosopher-economist. 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.
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Well written, poorly read
This book is an accessible account of Marx's life, including discussion of his major works and some key issues and controversies. The discussion is not aimed at a specialist audience, it provides enough background for a general reader with an interest in 19th-century philosophy and political history to follow Marx's development.
Unfortunately, the reader of this book is painfully slow. I say that as someone who does not necessarily need a fast-paced reader. I normally listen to audiobooks at 1.0x or 1.25x speed. This one I listened to at 2.0x speed, because I was driving, and I was afraid that the slow reading would put me to sleep. In addition, the speaker mispronounces some words that are pretty important to the subject matter of the book, like "emigre" and even "Hegel"! Hearing "Hegel" pronounced about 100 times with the emphasis on the second syllable drove me crazy. The reader also clearly has little or no knowledge of German. A few German terms (like "Wissenschaft") are pronounced correctly, but others are nearly unrecognizable.
Given that the audiobook is over 20 hours long, I can't quite imagine listening to it at one sitting, even at 2.0x speed.
This is a biography, not an overview of Marx's works. While there is significant discussion of the works, the focus is on his life, not on major issues of interpretation. If you're primarily interested in the philosophical issues in Marx's work, other works might provide a better overview.