Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels with Introduction by Gareth Stedman Jones

ISBN: 0140447571
Published: August 7th, 2002 (first published in 1847)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Read from June 7th to 14th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Originally published on the eve of the 1848 European revolutions, The Communist Manifesto is a condensed and incisive account of the worldview Marx and Engels developed during their hectic intellectual and political collaboration. Formulating the principles of dialectical materialism, they believed that labor creates wealth, hence capitalism is exploitive and antithetical to freedom.
This new edition includes an extensive introduction by Gareth Stedman Jones, Britain's leading expert on Marx and Marxism, providing a complete course for students of The Communist Manifesto, and demonstrating not only the historical importance of the text, but also its place in the world today.


I'm giving this book five stars on Goodreads, but that's for this edition itself and not the Communist Manifesto. I don't think I can rate (or even review) the actual Manifesto. How would I go about that? There are various ways to rate it, and I'm not sure which I would focus on. There's the impact it had politically, and I could focus on whether or not I agree with what it says. Or I could think of it purely from a literary standpoint. Instead, I can't get away from the fact that it's an important historical document, and I can't bring myself to rate things like that. It certainly affected the world in a way that puts it in a different league for me. One that I can't come up with a good way to rate.

I enjoyed this edition and the introduction in it though, so I'm giving that five out of five stars. While I'd read the Communist Manifesto several times for different classes already, I feel like the introduction in this edition told me significantly more about the sort of climate that Marx and Engels were writing in than I had ever known before.

I didn't know most of the information presented there. I didn't even have a good understanding of how Communism fit in with the other political movements of the time, namely socialism. I enjoyed getting that information and understanding more what led Marx and Engels to write the Manifesto in the first place.

Since in my classes I read either this edition or just the Manifesto with no introduction or anything like that, I can't actually compare this edition to other editions that are available, but I can say that I found this one helpful. The introduction material is actually longer than the Manifesto itself, and being me, I found that really enjoyable and interesting. I think it's definitely beneficial to most people who, like me, wouldn't have a great understanding of that historical context.

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