on July 4, 1999
This is an excellent selection of the writings of Karl Marx. This includes many writings which do not make it into the usual Marx/Engels Readers; Writings including Marx's Letters, his criticism of Bakunin, more writings on economics than in the usual Reader, and so on. One flaw of it, though, is that it does not contain the later writings of Engels writen after Marx's death. I suppose this is to be expected; It is after all *Marx's* writings, not Engels. However, the loss does not affect it much, and the book is still one of the most valuable tomes of Marxism I've bought. I'd recommend anyone interested in the thought of Karl Marx to get this book; If one is interested in both the writings of Marx and Engels, I'd recommend they get this book and the Marx/Engels Reader to supplement it. I have both, and both are fascinating.
on September 16, 2000
This is the best Marx anthology available. Aside from selections taken from all of Marx's major works, it contains lesser-known selections on a variety of topics. The whole presents a steady stream of selections through Marx's life. Consequently, it gives the length and breadth of Marx's writing without burying you in a life-time of reading. Short explanatory introductions help place the selections in Marx's development and in broader history.
A good follow up is Main Currents of Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski (3 volumes). Unfortunately those books are out of print in America, but they can still be found in good libraries and in the used-book market.
When one considers the incredible influence that Marxism has had in the unfolding history of the later nineteenth and twentieth century, the beginning student of the combined writings of both Marx and Engels will find this collection of the essential works of these two pioneering socialists absolutely essential reading. Its list of included works covers the waterfront of all that is required to gain a fruitful first look at the wealth of their philosophical musings, and the nature of their revolutionary canon, as well. Reading this material is essential if one is to understand the depth of Marx's understanding and the detail of his genius, however discredited he may be in current estimations. Indeed, with the rise of international corporatism is so close to his prognostications regarding the final phases of capitalism that it is hard to deny his continuing relevance.
Included here is everything from the Communist Manifesto all the way to Volume One of Das Capital. One can gain a better appreciation for his ideas regarding the way in which the antagonism between the oppressed and the oppressors provides the motive force for history, and how all history is the history of such class struggles between the owners of the means of production, on the one hand, and the workers, who have nothing to barter with but their considerable capacity to accomplish labor. If one want to gain a better appreciation for the nuances regarding how alienation is created buy the organization of work, or the origin of property, or even the ways in which all of the aspects of a particualr society's culture are manifestations of the values of the ruling class, then a careful reading of the material found here will serve you well. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy!
on November 1, 2012
I teach a class on the the thinking of Karl Marx, and I must say that this is the best compilation of Marx that I have found to date. I feel that the work presents a very comprehensive look into the controversial and complicated thought that is Marx. The only problem I can see with it is the price, a little bit much, but definitely worth it if you can afford it. I would highly suggest it.
on February 1, 2006
This is a brilliant collection of some of the very best writings of Karl Marx. A must read for anyone with interest in Marx's early writings (non-Marxist period), letters, essays, his Doctoral thesis, and then later on his political writings forming the `theory of historical materialism', commonly referred to as Marxism. Personally, his `Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts 1844' is really a very nice reading because it renders a very attractive insight into Marx's early intellectual and psychological fight against Hegel's Phenomenology to form the basis of his theory later on. Also included is: Critique of Hegel's works and A Poverty of Philosophy (critique of Proudhon) which are excellent readings. Recommended to everyone; quintessentially to anyone trying to get an insight into one of the greatest intellectual minds of all time.
St. Cross College
University of Oxford
on February 2, 2016
Although McLellan himself is an academic rather than a Marxist, he has put together an excellent selection of Karl Marx’s writings, including some of the shorter writings in full, as well as extracts from the longer works. The only problem with the book is that it is restricted to Marx himself and does not include the works of Marx’s lifelong friend, comrade and collaborator Friedrich Engels, except those which were written jointly with Marx. For this reason I prefer Robert C. Tucker’s “Marx-Engels Reader” to this volume.
In his speech at Marx’s graveside (which is included in this collection), Engels outlines the three key elements of Marxism. Firstly, there is the materialist conception of history. Engels states that: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history…”
As Marx himself puts it in “Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”:
“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.”
Secondly, Engels points out that Marx “also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production…” and particularly emphasises the “discovery of surplus value”, which is the mechanism through which the capitalist class exploits the working class (which today includes both manual and white collar workers).
As Marx wrote in “Capital”: “The essential difference between the various economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society based on slave-labour, and one based on wage-labour, lies only in the mode in which this surplus-labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer, the labourer.”
(Marx’s analysis of capitalism also makes good use of his dialectical approach and his theory of alienation.)
Thirdly, Engels shows that Marxism is the theory of working class revolution. “For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute to… the liberation of the modern proletariat…”
A revolution was necessary partly because “... the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another...” (The Civil War in France) and partly because in the process of the class struggle the ideas of the majority of the working class would change, as is shown in these two passages from “The German Ideology”:
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time the ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production...”
“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”
Finally, the democratic nature of the revolution that Marx envisaged (in total contrast to the bureaucratic and tyrannical Stalinist regimes which claimed to be following Marx, but which in fact were/are state capitalist societies) is shown when Marx writes (in “The Civil War in France”) about the short-lived Paris Commune as his model for a workers’ state:
“(The Paris Commune) filled all posts — administrative, judicial and educational - by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.”
Extracts like these make this book very useful for anyone interested in Marxism. And don’t forget that: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”.)