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Marx's Das Kapital: A Biography (Books That Changed the World) Hardcover – November 10, 2007

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Product Details

  • Series: Books That Changed the World
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (November 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139707
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139702
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[An] exhilarating read, and a healthy corrective to those brought up to think of Marx's work as rigid and doctrinaire." ---The Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Francis Wheen, an author and journalist, was named Columnist of the Year for his contributions to the Guardian. He is the author of several books, including How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World and a highly acclaimed biography of Karl Marx that has been translated into twenty languages. His collected journalism, Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies, won the George Orwell Prize in 2003. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for his narration of Theft by Peter Carey. A twelve-time Audie finalist, Simon has won three Audie Awards, including one for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and the 2008 Booklist Voice of Choice Award. He has also been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Wheen discusses Marx's correspondence with Engels about the book.
This is a short book (120 pages, with well-spaced text), and can easily be read in 6-7 hours.
Sanjay Agarwal
The story of how it came to be makes up this much shorter book's first two chapters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By P.K. Ryan on February 8, 2008
Format: Audio CD
If you're anything like me, you have neither the time, nor the patience to delve into Karl Marx's monstrous Magnum opus of political economics, Das Kapital. Fortunately, Francis Wheen has done us a great service by giving us this fantastic "biography" of a book that changed the world. The book is superbly written, and the audio version, eloquently delivered by Simon Vance, is equally good. It is a concise work; the CD version is 3.5 hours, while the printed format is only about 144 pages. My CD version is separated into three sections. The first section details Marx's life and the circumstances that led him to write such a groundbreaking book. The second section is a succinct exposition of Das Kapital. Wheen aptly outlines and dissects the basic principles of Marx's revolutionary economic theory, objectively pointing out both Marx's errors, as well as his numerous insights, many of which have proven true. While his prophesies of the collapse of the capitalist system have obviously not come to pass, Marx offers more insight into the "nature of the beast" than anyone else before, or since.

The final section deals with the book's lasting influence and Marx's legacy. Wheen points out that in most "Marxist" countries, Marx's ideas were never thoroughly researched and interpreted, their leaders simply took their own interpretation, made it an unquestionable dogma, and that was that. Ironically, it's been in western capitalist societies where Marx, due to the freedom of scholars to study him, has been more thoroughly understood. "Marxism as practiced by Marx himself," Wheen writes, "was not so much an ideology, as a critical process, a continuous dialectical argument." More simply put, Marx was not a Marxist.

Wheen clearly has a great amount of respect for Marx.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Marx's Das Kapital" is noted Marx-sympathetic journalist Francis Wheen's contribution to Atlantic Magazine's series on book biographies. It's short, merely 120 pages of actual text, but it does the job well. Relying strongly on prominent secondary literature about Marx, such as David McLellan's excellent biography (Karl Marx, Fourth Edition: A Biography) and S.S. Prawer's equally fascinating study of Marx' use of literature and literary references (Karl Marx and World Literature (Oxford Paperbacks)), Wheen summarizes the background of Das Kapital, how it came to be, as well as its content and its reception.

Wheen is at his best in the journalistic parts, when he can give colorful and well-done descriptions of Marx's life and activities, his relation to Engels, his trials and tribulations while working on the magnum opus, and in commentary on Marx's books and style. On the other hand, his grasp of Marx's economic theories is very weak and likely to make things more confusing, especially since he misses the point and meaning of Marx's Theory of Value entirely. Also dubious is that he appends a chapter on 'afterlife' of the book, which is mostly an attempt to summarize all of the later Marxist tradition (from an anti-Leninist viewpoint) in a few pages, a task so impossible that its attempt is fruitless and uninformative.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Karl Marx. For some, those two four letter words elicit hissing recoils and vicious claw swipes. Just one glimpse of the man resembling Santa Claus' evil twin can send them into a relentless conniption of fury. They may equate Marxism with communist, socialist, Leninist, anti-American claptrap. After all, weren't the Soviets America's diabolical enemy? Didn't they breed Bolsheviks in our washrooms? Inject anti-capitalist fluid into our drinking water? And didn't they derive such sinister plots from their hoary prophet of doom, Herr Marx? Surely the mighty bearded one inspired the killing fields, the Gulag death camps and the Red Square parades? So why drudge up this hateful mess?

After the Berlin Wall and the USSR collapsed, and especially after the September 11th, 2001 attacks, which put the focus on Middle East terrorism, Marx has acquired a more innocuous aura. Nothing cools old passions like new enemies. This new era has allowed Marx to crawl out from under those who have claimed him as their ideological messiah. And many have claimed him. But why did they claim him, an impoverished exiled German journalist? And were those countless communist regimes of the past two hundred years accurate reflections of Marx's ideas? Where did those ideas come from?

This small book explores the origins and fate of those ideas through Marx's maniacal magnum opus, "Das Kapital." As spiraling, towering, and dizzying, and as incomplete, as Gaudí's cathedral, this sprawling tome usually goes unread. A reputation for Tolstoyian verbosity, Proustian opacity, and Gödelian complexity preceded it into the twenty-first century. Not only that, at some 1000 pages, the book's physical presence alone would intimidate anyone but the most recklessly courageous bookworm.
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