Although born in the early 19th century, the relevance of Karl Marx's ideas for analysing 20th and 21st century capitalism, as well as for understanding the political and economic struggles and changes of his own day, remain vital and essential.
Here, Verso present a Marx Reading List for that world-changing historical thinker, born 196 years ago today.
The Communist Manifesto
As Eric Hobsbawm argues in his acute and elegant introduction to this modern edition, in such times The Communist Manifesto emerges as a work of great prescience and power despite being written over a century and a half ago. He highlights Marx and Engels’s enduring insights into the capitalist system: its devastating impact on all aspects of human existence; its susceptibility to enormous convulsions and crises; and its fundamental weakness.
An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln
Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln exchanged letters at the end of the Civil War. Although they were divided by far more than the Atlantic Ocean, they agreed on the cause of “free labor” and the urgent need to end slavery. In his introduction, Robin Blackburn argues that Lincoln’s response signaled the importance of the German American community and the role of the international communists in opposing European recognition of the Confederacy.
The Revolutions of 1848
Karl Marx was not only the great theorist of capitalism; he was above all else a revolutionary. In Paris in 1844 he made the connection between radical philosophy and the proletariat that would guide his future work, first with the Communist League and later with the International Workingmen’s Association. Marx’s Political Writings display a profound understanding of history and politics that is still relevant to the very different conditions of today.
Surveys from Exile
In the 1850s and early 1860s Marx played an active part in politics, and his prolific journalism from London offered a constant commentary on all the main developments of the day. During this time Marx began to interpret the British political scene and express his considered views on Germany, Poland and Russia, the Crimean War and American Civil War, imperialism in India and China, and a host of other key issues. The Class Struggles in France develops the theories outlined in The Communist Manifesto into a rich and revealing analysis of contemporary events, while The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte contains equally stimulating reflections on Napoleon III’s coup d’etat of 1851.
The First International and After
The crucial texts of Marx’s later years—notably The Civil War in France and Critique of the Gotha Programme—count among his most important work. These articles include a searching analysis of the tragic but inspiring failure of the Paris Commune, as well as essays on German unification, the Irish question, the Polish national movement and the possibility of revolution in Russia. The founding documents of the First international and polemical pieces attacking the disciples of Proudhon and Bakunin and the advocates of reformism, by contrast, reveal a tactical mastery that has influenced revolutionary movements ever since.
Marx's Revenge: The Resurgence of Capitalism and the Death of Statist Socialism - Meghnad Desai
Marx’s Revenge opens with a consideration of the ideas of Adam Smith and Hegel. It proceeds to look at the nuances in the work of Marx himself, and concludes with a survey of more recent economists who studied capitalism and attempted to unravel its secrets, including Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek.
Marx and Freud in Latin America: Politics, Psychoanalysis, and Religion in Times of Terror - Bruno Bosteels
Bruno Bosteels presents ten case studies arguing that art and literature—the novel, poetry, theatre, film—more than any militant tract or theoretical essay, can give us a glimpse into Marxism and psychoanalysis, not so much as sciences of history or of the unconscious, respectively, but rather as two intricately related modes of understanding the formation of subjectivity.
For Marx - Louis Althusser
This book contains the classic statements of Althusser's analysis of the young Marx and the importance of Feuerbach during this formative period, of his thesis of the “epistomological break” between the early and the late Marx, and of his conception of dialectics, contradiction and “overdetermination.” Also included is a study of the materialist theater of Bertolazzi and Brecht and the critique of humanist readings of Marxism.
A Companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 1 - David Harvey
Based on his recent lectures, this current volume aims to bring this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.
A Companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 2 - David Harvey
Whereas Volume 1 focuses on production, Volume 2 looks at how value comes into being through the buying and selling of goods. Harvey also introduces elements from Volume 3 on credit and finance to help illustrate aspects of the contemporary crisis.
Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One - Fredric Jameson
Representing Capital, Fredric Jameson's first book-length engagement with Marx's magnum opus, is a unique work of scholarship that records the progression of Marx's thought as if it were a musical score.
The Philosophy of Marx - Etienne Balibar
Etienne Balibar provides an accessible introduction to Marx and his key followers, complete with pedagogical information for the student to make the most challenging areas of theory easy to understand.
Karl Marx and World Literature - S. S. Prawer
S. S. Prawer's highly influential work explores how the world of imaginative literature—poems, novels, plays—infused and shaped Marx's writings, from his unpublished correspondence, to his pamphlets and major works.
The Concept of Nature in Marx - Alfred Schmidt
Alfred Schmidt examines humanity’s relation to the natural world as understood by the great philosopher-economist Karl Marx, who wrote that human beings are ‘part of Nature yet able to stand over against it; and this partial separation from Nature is itself part of their nature’.
Reading Capital - Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar
Establishing a rigorous program of "symptomatic reading" that cuts through the silences and lacunae of Capital to reveal its philosophical core, Louis Althusser interprets Marx's structural analysis of production as a revolutionary break—the basis of a completely new science.
Marx for Our Times: Adventures and Misadventures of a Critique - Daniel Bensaid
Written during the mid-nineties, a period of Western complacency and neo-liberal reaction, Marx for Our Times is a critical reading of dialectical materialism as a method of resistance. Without denying the contradictory character of Marx's thought, and with a sensitivity to the plurality of theories it has inspired, Daniel Bensaid sets out to discover what in Marx remains dynamic and relevant in our era of accelerating economic change.Philosophy and Revolution: From Kant to Marx - Stathis Kouvelakis
In this ambitious and original study, Stathis Kouvelakis paints a rich panorama of the key intellectual and political figures in the effervescence of German thought before the 1848 revolutions. He shows how the attempt to chart a moderate, reformist path entered into crisis, generating two antagonistic perspectives within the progressive currents of German society. On the one side were those socialists—among them Moses Hess and the young Friedrich Engels—who sought to discover a principle of harmony in social relations, bypassing the question of revolutionary politics. On the other side, the poet Heinrich Heine and the young Karl Marx developed a new perspective, articulating revolutionary rupture, proletarian hegemony and struggle for democracy, thereby redefining the very notion of politics itself.