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"Marx's spectre may return" Jonathan Clark reviews Ellen Wood's Liberty and Property for the TLS

Alex Doherty 8 February 2013

Who would have thought? Jonathan Clark has just reviewed Ellen Wood’s Liberty and Property for the TLS. It may be that the TLS intended mischief. Clark is, after all, a pretty conservative, if idiosyncratic and iconoclastic, historian. He’s been called probably the most distinguished ‘revisionist’ historian of the long 18th century who has made it a personal mission to attack Marxism, and Marxist historians in particular. But here he is, telling us:

‘This is a notable book, wide-ranging and perceptive, by an eminent North American Marxist scholar…. I disagree with much of it. But that is not the point.’ 

Wood’s book may signal the rebirth of Marxism, hitherto, he tells us, definitively dead. It shows us that Marxism still has much to offer on questions like ‘interactions between property and the state, how self-interest worked alongside professions of principle, how material goals marked out social constituencies, why polities differed in their long-term political trajectories’. Wood, it seems, not only represents a major challenge to the dominant school in the historiography of political thought, the so-called Cambridge School. More than that: ‘there is now the nagging fear that Marx's spectre may return to be the ghost of revolutions yet to come.’ Well, whatever it takes…

Visit the TLS to read the review in full.

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