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200 × 130 × 14 mm
192 pages
38 illustrations
01 Feb 2012
Critical Lives
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Karl Marx Paul Thomas

As one of the most influential thinkers of the modern age, Karl Marx’s political philosophy has resounded throughout politics and history, from the nineteenth century to the present day. In recent times, however, the concept of Marxism has become a vague term, of uncertain and contestable definition, increasingly inaccessible to those new to Marx’s writings. How are we to understand Marxism when it has become so open to appropriation?

In Karl Marx, Paul Thomas introduces the reader to Marx’s life and writings, to show how each cast light on the other. Concise yet detailed, Thomas concentrates directly on Marx’s nineteenth-century life and works to give a clear, precise guide to Marx’s own thought and action. The book relates Marx’s development as a critical thinker and revolutionary politician to events that took place in his own lifetime, events that strongly influenced his doctrines.

A cogent, jargon-free introduction, Karl Marx welcomes those new to Marx’s life and work, as well as having much to say to students and scholars of political theory and history.

‘an engaged and passionate book’ — Slavonic and Eastern European Review

‘Whereas other studies of Marx tend either to be framed around key concepts or theories or to provide a more or less substantial biography, this work nicely situates a number of Marx's key works within their historical and biographical context . . . This introduction to Marxs ideas is highly recommended.’ — Political Studies Review

‘while [Marxist] philosophy has reverberated across most societies on earth in some form or another, his own life experiences and the context within which his thought evolved has been left arguably unattended as an area of study. Paul Thomas helps to fill this gap with an overview of the key circumstances and characters in Marxs own life. Beyond this he presents an authoritative and energetic take on the man, Karl Marx, and the environment in which his thought developed. Thomass turn of phrase makes compelling reading in his homage tothe anatomist of Victorian capitalism—an intestate, staatenlos exile and freethinker . . . The book shares a pleasant mix of theory and narrative, a blend of philosophical analysis which looks in some detail at Marxs key works, but never loses track of the world in which Marx lived.’ — Socialist History

‘Paul Thomas quotes Marx, in the years before he died, saying he was glad to be appreciated, yet I am not a Marxist. Thomas helps us unravel this paradox. For most of a century, Karl Marx became an advertisement for a country that would have killed him if it could have. Thomas introduces us to a post-Cold War Marx, who can breathe, and we can breathe along with him. Thomas conveys Marxs immense horizon, originality and imaginative power. Marx may be the world's first global writer, and Thomas helps us share this world with him.’ — Marshall Berman, author of All That is Solid Melts into Air and Adventures in Marxism

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Paul Thomas is Professor of Political Science at University of California, Berkeley. He has published extensively on Marx including Karl Marx and the Anarchists (1985) and Marxism and Scientific Socialism From Engels to Althusser (2008).

1. Trier, Bonn, Berlin, Cologne, 1818–43
2. Paris, 1843–5
3. Brussels, 1845–9
4. London, 1849–83

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