THE MEANING OF KARL MARX by Bruce Mazlish

THE MEANING OF KARL MARX

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Considering the 80-odd volumes of Marx's collected works, and the libraries full of Marxiana, the opening claim of MIT historian Mazlish (The Revolutionary Ascetic) to the effect that he has ""attempted a close textual analysis of both the life and the work"" of Marx in these 178 pages (including notes and bibliography) is not likely to be taken seriously by anyone, even before the discovery that two chapters are devoted to Marx's teenage poems and school essays. The analytical yield consists of some hackneyed themes: Marxism is the secular religion of the Industrial Revolution; Marx's Protestant upbringing is the source of his redemptive social theory; Marx's social science doesn't make the grade (for the same reasons that it counts as a religion). Marx's major work, Capital, is dismissed by reducing the entire study to the theory of surplus value; noting that non-Marxist economists have rejected the theory;and concluding that ""it cannot confidently be said to be an accepted contribution to social science"" (which is like saying that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is an unacceptable contribution to social science because non-classical economists have rejected the labor theory of value). No, Mazlish says, ""though it does employ social analysis, Capital is fundamentally a chosen instrument--the Worker's Bible, as Engels had said--in Marx's eschatological mission to spark a revolution."" Marx was spurred to become a prophet by Romantic visions of unbounded individual achievement, says Mazlish further, and as a reaction to his father's charge that young Karl was an egotist. Sure to join the legions of quickly forgotten Marx tracts. Turn instead to Gouldner's new study (p. 564) for a serious attempt to link the man and the work.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1984
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press