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Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution Hardcover – September 14, 2011
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"Mary Gabriel brings the tragic Marx family saga blazingly to life for a new generation of readers. She also makes a compelling argument that, following the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the economic meltdown of Western capitalism, the economic analysis of Marx and Engels has a continuing relevance in the 21st century."―Gillian Gill, author of We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals
"Love and Capital is a huge, often gripping book. It gives an entertaining and balanced portrait of Marx, Engels, their colorful milieu of exiles, freaks and revolutionaries, and the little-known Marx family, dominated by Karl's political obsession. It also details illicit love affairs, the deaths of children and financial struggles, all based on vast research and narrated with empathetic passion...[It's] enjoyable...because of the details of family life and family politics that Gabriel offers up - her vivid portrait of a struggling, obsessional bohemian intellectual in the capitals of mid-19th-century Europe."―Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times Book Review
"Mary Gabriel provides a fresh approach to this oft-examined topic... a gripping tale of intellectual abundance coupled with physical poverty."―Jennifer Siegel, Wall Street Journal
"Those interested in European political development of the 19th and 20th centuries will be fascinated by the story of the monocled, bearded, poverty-stricken lecturer on economics and his small, powerless audiences of refugees."―Carl Hartman, Associated Press
"Beautifully written...The particular attraction of Love and Capital resides in the book's unsparing portrait of a brilliant man who would never claim responsibility for his own failures when he could easily fob them off on financial, familial, or political obstacles."―Michael Washburn, Boston Globe
"Love and Capital, which was nominated for a National Book Award, is also a thrilling story, heroically researched, with passages on every page so startling, exact, moving or perceptive that I wanted to quote them all. Hard to imagine that a weighty book on Karl Marx could be a page-turner, but this one is."―Elaine Showalter, The Washington Post
"Love and Capital is a page turner, an erudite, sensitive look at the world-changing man and, most of all, the overlooked women in his life, who sacrificed much happiness to help him evangelize his vision of class equality."―Slate
"Absorbing, affectionate and altogether exemplary."―Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
"A magisterial account of the lives of Karl Marx and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen, remarkable for the ease with which it moves between the domestic and the political spheres...Gabriel offers us the human, family side of a character more usually seen as a calculating theoretician, and in doing so offers an intimate glimpse into the trials, tribulations, and passions of a man who, more than any other thinker, has shaped our modern notions of work, money, and social relations."―Publishers Weekly
"[Gabriel] offers a rich, humanizing portrait of the Marx family....A saga as richly realized as a fine Victorian novel."―Kirkus Reviews
"A serious and tremendously well-researched biography of a remarkable family who worked together to change the world... Mary Gabriel tells their story with great empathy and verve...to illuminate what Karl called his "microscopic world" of home and family. Gabriel also provides plenty of excursions into the "macroscopic world" of 19th-century revolutionary politics, as well as some lucid explanations of Karl's earthshaking ideas."―Mark Doyle, Bookpage
"This is the first seriously researched study of the relationship-the passionate love story-between the philosopher and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen...Gabriel draws heavily upon extensive Marx family correspondence to create a compelling story of love and heartbreak, following the Marx family across Europe through hard times and tragedy. She reveals not only the intellectual and revolutionary Karl Marx, but also the husband, father, and very human being...Recommended for serious general and specialist readers interested in understanding Karl Marx more deeply, the development of Marxist doctrine, and humanized 19th-century European history."―Leslie Lewis, Library Journal
"Gabriel blends Marx's radical political activities and summaries of his major writings into an unblinking account of his marriage in a book-lengthening strategy that eventuates in much minutiae of socialist history while still showing the causes of the Marxes' chronic marital crisis... Gabriel's comprehensive research yields a new standard work about the private Marx."―Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
About the Author
Mary Gabriel was educated in the United States and France, and worked in Washington and London as a Reuters editor for nearly two decades. She is the author of two previous biographies: Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored, and The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone. She lives in Italy.
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The book informs us of the loyalty of most of these family members to the central figure of Marx, and his power of decision in the life of his children. Nobody can question the effort and dedication Karl and Jenny show in the quest of providing their daughters with the best education. The struggle for the dispossessed and persecuted is embraced by all without fear of the consequences it may bring. But at the same time, we learn on some negative aspects such as Marx's inability to obtain a sustainable income; his addiction to alcohol leading him to suffer from liver cirrhosis, and the suicide committed by daughters Laura and Eleanor.
Few investigators have carried out such an exhaustive work as this by Ms. Gabriel, which has allowed her to clarify or question some facts stated as definitive in Marx's life. The photographs with their legends emphasize important characteristics of the individuals or places illustrated. I have read several biographies about Marx and texts on his political theories. At the end of my reading, I believe this book should serve as an excellent start for those who are beginning to take an interest on the subject.
It is well written, well researched, and a great overall picture of a family and of a man. The writer presents Marx's philosophies but spares the reader from the realities of the implementation of his ideas (as we all know how those have gone). Marx was an idea person. All of the major revolutions from his philosophies came after his death. This book focuses on his ideas and presents them in an interesting, readable form.
Not so. Not only did the two never meet, Marx died in 1883 -- over 30 years before the 1917 uprising. And the Manifesto itself was written by Marx in 1850 to little acclaim.
So "Love and Capital" was instructive on the level of getting some facts straight, as well as telling the story of Karl and Jenny Marx and their children.
Marx was a radical intellectual all his life who eked out a living writing for leftist publications and serving as a kind of clearing house for would-be European revolutionaries.
The family moved around Europe, sometimes exiled from France or Germany because of their radical ideas, until finally settling in London. They were beset with debt, at the mercy of landlords; at one point Marx writes that he can't go out because his overcoats were at the pawn shop. Jenny Marx, middle-class with typical aspirations for her daughters (music lessons, nice clothes), believed fervently that she was married to a Great Man and spent most of her life shouldering the burdens of their hand-to-mouth life so he could do his work.
Karl Marx is rightly linked to Frederick Engels without whom there might never have been a "Marx." As the son of a successful industrialist Engels ran the family cotton mill in Manchester and it is the Engels money that often keeps the Marx family from destitution. Engels worked collaboratively with his friend as well as producing important studies of his own.
Marx was a perfectionist and always learning new facts to use in his theories so he was reluctant to finish a manuscript. He left hundreds of pages of work that Engels spent a decade getting ready for publication after Marx died.
Because Marx's life was totally one of reading and thinking and writing the author had to include his ideas in writing about his life. She does a masterful job of describing the development of this thinking. The author also is very effective in setting scenes: what life was like in the slums of Victorian England; what life was like chez Marx in 2 rooms with Father at work at the one central table while 3 little girls cavort in play around him.
Much is known of Marx's life because of all the letters back and forth within the Marx family, between Marx and Engels, and between them and the revolutionaries all over Europe. The author describes succinctly what's happening in France and Germany during these years of revolutionary ferment.
I learned from this book how Marx has been badly misunderstood and misinterpreted. For example, Marx thought capitalism was a stage of economic development necessary in order to do away with material scarcity; only when that happened could it be possible for socialism to come into being. The USSR, a totalitarian state that suppressed personal freedom would have been abhorrent to Marx, in no way what he would consider a socialist state.
It's unfortunate that Marx has been so infamously connected with the Russian revolution. During his life he didn't see socialism as a likely event in Russia and he was surprised when his work was translated into Russian and was so popular with the Russian emigres is Europe.
(Alas, it is not uncommon for the ideas of Big Thinkers to be taken over to justify the actions of power seekers. Lenin, Stalin and those that followed used a twisted understanding of Marx to justify their totalitarian society just as an incomplete reading of Adam Smith is still used to justify capitalism.)
The most significant take-away from this book for me was getting a better perspective of the last 250 years. It was about 60 years from the American and French revolutions to 1848 when all over Europe there erupted rebellion and riots against the status quo. The uprisings were crushed. From then to the Bolshevik revolution was about 70 years. Another 70 years had to then elapse before the soviet world collapsed.
It takes time for ideas and movements (even the misuse of ideas) to bring forth results. I remember during Occupy Wall Street when police could with impunity spray pepper gas into the faces of shackled protesters. The import of that event is probably decades from understanding.
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