Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life

Richard J. Evans writes:

Do we need another biography of Marx to go alongside the many we already have? The justification given by Jonathan Sperber is compelling. Previous accounts of Marx’s life have gone one of two ways. Either he is seen as a prophet of modern times, a seer whose theories help us understand the predicament we are in, especially in times of economic crisis, an inspiration to everyone who wishes to see state and society emancipated and transformed. Or, alternatively, he was a misguided and misguiding ideologue whose theories have been responsible for some of the worst crimes of the 20th century. This book aims to scrape away the patina of retrospective polemic to reveal Marx in the context of his own times. Sperber’s career as a social and political historian has centred on the Rhineland in the mid-19th century, but he has also produced wide-ranging and authoritative surveys of modern European history, including a comprehensive study of the 1848 Revolutions. It quickly becomes clear that he is ideally qualified to carry out the task he has set himself.

(LRB 23 May 2013)

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