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Marx's General


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About the Author

One of Britain's leading young historians, Tristram Hunt is a lecturer in history at the University of London. The author of Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, he writes political and cultural commentary for The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, and the London Review of Books, among other publications.


British historian Hunt (Building Jerusalem) does an excellent job unraveling the seemingly contradictory life of Friedrich Engels, textile magnate and coauthor of The Communist Manifesto. A child of German mercantilists, Engels used his income from cotton mills in Manchester, England, to support Karl Marx and his family for many years. An ardent beer drinker and profligate lover of women, Engels was also an intellectual founder of communism and strove to calculate the human cost of capitalism by faithfully documenting the plight of the working class in slums and textile mills. Hunt's well-researched biography features extensive notes and archival material, but it remains eminently readable. Verdict This welcome book brings Engels out from Marx's shadow and reveals that Marxism would not be Marxism without Engels.-Leslie Lewis, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

With strong scholarship in Marxist history and theory, a fluent style and some healthy doses of irony, Hunt (Building Jerusalem) traces the coauthor of The Communist Manifesto from his pious Prussian roots through his apprenticeship in the family textile firm in Manchester, England, early years at the forefront of revolutionary upheavals throughout Europe and his subsequent return to the family industry to support Marx's family and writing. Engels is characterized as a gregarious yet committed theorist and activist, providing considerable financial and intellectual resources to Marx while accepting his own role as "second fiddle" in their joint battle for socialist ideological dominance. Though the book makes a strong case for the value of Engels's own writings on working conditions and defends against reductive readings that would align him with the rigid orthodoxies of Leninism and Stalinism, the author is clear-eyed with regard to Engels's less savory, sometimes "deeply chilling" ideas and his divisive manipulations of organizations and party politics. This is an impressive biography of a fascinating figure whose attempts to synthesize his own contradictory roles as arch-capitalist and seminal communist, embody the very notion of dialectics so central to Marxist theory. (Aug.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"Greatly enjoyable... A perceptive tour not just through Engels's life but through philosophy and political thought in the nineteenth century." --The New Yorker"Brilliant." --The Economist"A vivid and thoughtful biography... Hunt artfully flushes out Engels's human side." --The New York Times"Hunt is remarkably good at distilling an epoch and conveying a sense of place, and he perfectly judges the pace of his narrative." --The Wall Street Journal"A splendid biography... Hunt's vivid prose captures Engels's idealism, generosity and foibles. That is to say, it makes him recognizably human." --The Plain Dealer"Written with brio, warmth, and historical understanding, this is more than the best biography of one of the most attractive inhabitants of Victorian England, Karl Marx's friend, partner, and political heir. It is also one of the most accessible and persuasive studies of how the arguments of young philosophers in the 1840s grew into the movement that shook and changed the world in the twentieth century." --Eric Hobsbawm, author of The Age of Revolution and The Age of Extremes"Vivid and sharply observed... Tristram Hunt brings to the fore the extraordinary pressures which shaped Engels's personality and made him a virtuoso of the double life. In this novel and refreshing account, Engels is as last freed from the condescension of posterity." --Gareth Stedman Jones, author of Outcast London"Does an excellent job of bringing Engels out from the shadow of the man he served so devotedly." --Alan Ryan, The Literary Review (UK)"A splendid, gripping biography... Tristram Hunt's witty, humane and sharp-eyed portrait of Engels does justice to the complex chemistry of the relationship with Marx, but also sets the 'junior partner' at the centre of his own life and intellectual evolution." --Christopher Clark, Standpoint (UK)"Excellent... The partner who willingly played 'second fiddle' to capitalism's Jeremiah receives his due." --Robert Service, The Sunday Times (UK)

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